IT: Transforming Business, Part II
The integration of mobile devices, wireless networking and "mobilized" software is revolutionizing whole industries. Mobile computing solutions are now being used in non-traditional locations such as factories, warehouses and hospitals. This creates a profound effect on productivity and the ability to compete in a fast moving world.
At Intel, for example, workers at the fabrication facilities face the daily challenge of getting their work done in a clean room environment with absolutely no dust. This means the company must find an alternative for the workers to communicate and efficiently do their jobs without paper or desks.
As a solution, the company recently gave each worker a PDA so they can communicate wirelessly through LAN and cellular wireless systems. Wireless capabilities gave the fab workers the ability to have real-time email and network access on devices that they could safely bring into the clean room.
Intel has also rebuilt critical fab applications allowing employees to troubleshoot and resolve problems remotely on PDAs. In the first year, the program increased productivity, reduced mistakes and saved at least $3.2 million in one fab alone.
Mobility has also changed the way Intels electronic design automation (EDA) engineers work. EDA engineers were using both desktop computers and individual servers to provide the massive computational power required for microprocessor design. This caused them to be, literally, stuck at their desks. The engineers often also needed notebook computers to run standard computer applications.
In a joint effort with a computer manufacturer and a vendor of electronic design automation, Intel created a pilot program, which equipped engineers with new mobile work engineering workstations. These Linux-based notebooks deliver the high-performance processing capacity required to run powerful design software.
The new flexibility allowed engineers to work in the traditional connected model, an unconnected model, or an enhanced connected environment where interactive and graphics-intensive applications are processed and displayed locally with no network overhead.
As a result, Intel saw an estimated 10% increase in design engineering productivity last year and its expected that the project will generate $94 million in business value over the next three years.
Whether its implementing wireless mobility, deploying VOIP solutions or moving toward a service-oriented enterprise model, where flexible and dynamic services respond automatically to demand from employees, customers or suppliers without the intervention of IT the key strategy for IT today is to exploit new technology capabilities to deliver business results.
Companies need to learn that ongoing evaluation, adjustment and innovation are just as important as choosing the right strategic IT solutions and executing them well. Continuing to adopt new technologies will stave off reverting to business as usual and keep companies at a competitive edge.
Stacy Smith is vice president of Finance and Enterprise Services and CIO of Intel Corp. In this role, he is jointly responsible for leading Intels global Information Services and Technology Group (ISTG), which provides technology solutions to more than 75,000 Intel employees in 50 countries as well as 17,000 Intel engineers worldwide and Intel's manufacturing divisions.