SAN FRANCISCO — Holding the torch for CIOs and mobility managers in enterprise, executives that head up those respective departments at United Parcel Service Inc., HealthSouth Corp. and The Western Union Co. kicked off this morning’s keynote in a roundtable format. “Mobile and wireless is changing the whole role of the CIO,” Bob Evans, SVP and Global CIO director at InformationWeek, said as he introduced each of the panelists. “It’s an extraordinary change taking place in the market today.”
While there are unique challenges that exist for enterprise, wireless technology, networks and devices are enabling more firms to overcome those problems and even cut some costs in the process. Still, when the trio was asked to identify their biggest wireless pain, coverage was the unanimous response. Wireless carriers still don’t have an absolute vote of complete confidence on that front. Western Union Coverage not withstanding, mobility is making an incredible impact on the role of CIO. John Dick, SVP and CIO at Western Union, said his job is “much more market facing” and objectives dictate that he be more like “a business strategist.” While Research In Motion Ltd’s BlackBerry devices are still the predominant choice in enterprise, CIOs are facing greater demand from employees who want to deploy devices running on Apple Inc.’s iOS and Google Inc.’s Android platforms. “We’re still a BlackBerry shop,” Dick said, but adding that Western Union plans to deploy other devices next year. “Usually our most ardent new technology innovators tend to be executives who want new standards and technology for their employees,” he added. “I do see that pressure there.” UPS Jackie Woods, systems manager at UPS, said that use cases and business objectives are the most important factors of mobility in enterprise. Device choice is a “constant struggle for us… we have several dozen that we support today,” she said. “We definitely try to have our devices last five to seven years.” Liability is another concern, she added, “so we want to make sure we support a minimum number of devices so we can get through that repair cycle faster.” As for tablets, she reiterated that use cases is most important. “If you need to pull up a Word document, you might need a keyboard for that,” she said. “Cool is one thing … and it’s great to be forward looking, but you have to look at what you’re trying to accomplish and focus on the task at hand,” she said. “Make sure you’ve got a solid business case to support your infrastructure,” she continued. “The last thing you want to do is deploy a wireless infrastructure that bears no fruit at the end… We can’t let the wireless infrastructure or technology get in the way of (our employees) doing their jobs.” HealthSouth Rusty Yeager, VP and deputy CIO at HealthSouth, said his company first got into mobility back in 1998 when it built an app that ran on 5,000 tablet PCs, which helped to free up clinician’s time in the field. “We’re also looking at a clinical system that will run on a wireless network” that will work internally and externally via tablets, smartphones and computers on wheels, which he called “COWs.” The health care provider is using its new facility in North Virginia as a lab to test functionalities that it hopes to eventually deploy throughout the workforce. “One of the challenges we have is coverage… we’re in some rural areas,” he said. Another challenge, which is common throughout enterprise today, is a shift that taking place from company-owned devices to individually owned devices. "We were BlackBerry predominantly for many, many years,” he said, but now they’re just starting to look at iOS and Android devices. "I liken it to the middle ‘90s when we were first working with IT,” he said. "Right now we’re kind of caught up int he conundrum of non-standardization.” Finally, he said tablets are also going to have a “huge impact for us,” with one caveat: security and manageability has to be right.