Building on Mobile

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Mobility has come of age, but IT still struggles to manage a tangle of devices and systems. Best-practice organizations attempt to focus on the data rather than the device. See Also: Mobile Means Business and Five Ways to Put Mobility to Work

Building on Mobile

A centralized approach to mobile management is at the core of design and construction firm Barton Malow’s strategy. The Southfield, Mich., company has a 1,000-person full-time workforce that’s about 80 percent mobile. CIO Phil Go has used laptops and BlackBerrys to connect workers in 11 offices in the United States and one in Mexico.

But the days of relying on a single smartphone platform are numbered, he acknowledges. Already, the company is testing iPads and other tablets, and it’s only a matter of time until employees will carry the smartphone of their choice, Go adds.

Coordinating and managing wireless systems is essential. Some employees use 3G cellular cards to connect to company servers and the Internet; others rely on WiFi connections set up at a building site for the duration of a project, or they use public WiFi hotspots.

Because designers, engineers and others must access data from a variety of sites and situations and the work is highly collaborative, Barton Malow uses Microsoft SharePoint and SonicWALL security appliances to provide VPN and other capabilities. The appliances have provided a high level of manageability and have made provisioning, security and other tasks simpler, Go says.

Another company that has adopted mobility in a major way is Hyatt Hotels. The hospitality giant, with 445 hotels in 45 countries and more than 80,000 employees worldwide, has turned to iPads at its Chicago headquarters and individual properties in order to address a variety of challenges.

Executives increasingly use them as laptop replacements, guests have access to tablets in some rooms and hotel staff members are using them for roving checkouts: They can step out from behind the counter and assist people standing in line. At the tap of a button, the employee can e-mail a receipt or send it to a printer.

But Hyatt’s mobility initiative also involves the usual spate of smartphones and laptops. Employees carry BlackBerrys, iPhones, Droids and Symbian devices, says John Prusnick, director of IT innovation and strategy at Hyatt. The company uses managed-services provider NaviSite to provide a secure messaging and collaboration platform for Lotus Traveler and Notes.

Employees can also enable devices for tethering with a laptop, and some use 4G connections. With an IT staff of only 43, Hyatt can maximize its capabilities without taxing its resources and infrastructure, Prusnick says.

Over the next year, Hyatt plans to introduce a series of applications optimized for the mobile arena. It’s also looking at RFID keys for frequent guests. These would allow such guests to check in via a mobile device, receive a room assignment and open the door without interacting with the front desk.

“It’s important to balance innovation with the practical side of managing devices and ensuring that they work effectively, Prusnick says. “Mobility has become a critical part of the business.”

This article was originally published on 2011-01-28
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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