Minor Detail: Wireless and IT Are Not the Same

Commonly you will discover in most government agencies and large corporations that IT Helpdesks are managing both wireless handhelds and computer workstations. But the magic question, can a Blackberry or other wireless handheld replace your computer and are today's IT Specialists ready for that transition?

A customer calls for help on her Blackberry Device…

Me: Hit Escape twice Customer: Do you mean on my computer?

Me: No, I’m sorry, I meant on your Blackberry.

Customer: I do not see the ‘escape key’ on my Blackberry.

Me: It’s the button below the trackwheel.

Customer: You mean the thing I roll?

Me: Precisely!

Customer: (excited) Oh my goodness, I see the number by the envelope getting bigger, it’s going bananas! I see all my messages coming in now. Thank You So Much! You are a patient woman.

Me: You’re most welcome and no worries, it’s my job!

Although I thought the situation was slightly comical at first that my customer would think to hit the escape button on her computer instead of her Blackberry, it dawned on me that her rationalization might not have been very far off. With her Blackberry tethered to her computer via her USB sync cable and no true expertise on the wireless or technology world, those two devices are seemingly more closely related than we think. Both instruments can receive email independent of each other. They both have QWERTY style key boards that function similar ways and the program icons are on the home screen. You can access your Outlook contacts, calendar and tasks from both devices. They are both generally sold by salespersons that aren’t very knowledgeable on product specifics and they sell them like they are selling a piece of furniture. Out of the box it seems that both are as simple to set up as plugging them up and start using them. However, it generally turns out that neither is very intuitive to set up and most Blackberry’s do not even come packaged with a user manual, so it is not like you can read the instructions even if you wanted to. A call into customer care (dependent on the wireless provider) for assistance with set up and configuration help usually means an hour on the phone walking through a lot of steps that is full of technical jargon and terminology that the layperson often does not understand. While hitting CTRL + ALT + DEL “reboots” a frozen computer, a “hard reset”, removing the battery and hold power button down for 60 seconds does the equivalent on a Blackberry. And who can live without either device?!?!?

The first decade of the personal computer was full of people buying individual machines, while the second decade of the personal computer was devoted to people connecting them. Now you cannot go anywhere and find a computer that is not connected to a network. With the introduction of the digital phone in the U.S. in 1994, the first decade of wireless had been consumers purchasing individual digital phones. The next decade of wireless will be people networking digital phones. This is becoming more evident with the introduction and emergence of the Blackberry and other wireless Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s) along with new technologies like Bluetooth & Wi-Fi enabled in the devices. Although it sometimes seems like ‘everybody has one’, wireless PDA’s current penetration is actually less than 3% of the cellular market share, according to Research Firm Strategis Group. Over the next 3 years the wireless PDA market share will grow to 20% and by 2015, like every computer, every wireless handheld device will be connected to a network other than traditional cellular network somewhere.

As this transition begins to take place, IT helpdesks that are currently managing terrestrial networks within organizations and government agencies are being given the task of managing wireless resources by default. They are coming to the realization that the wireless industry is a much different animal than the IT world they are used to. Wireless IT requires a completely different level of support and has its own set of terminology. The Blackberry or wireless PDA is not like a $600 computer workstation sitting on a desk. It is a device that costs that amount and more over the course of a year.

As senior level management reads about the great applications and services that are available on the wireless handheld, not enough of the end users are actually taking advantage of these services and features meaning that their ROI (Return on Investment) is ZERO. Due to lack of or non existent training, often end users have a difficult enough time just understanding how to program phone numbers and check their voice mail, traditional old school cellular tasks. The IT Helpdesk generally cannot help solve wireless related problems beyond the basics without a call into customer care themselves. This in part comes from the disconnect that while computers and handheld wireless devices are parallel today in many respects, wireless devices unlike computers are constantly in motion and communicating within multiple networks; the cellular network, the carrier data network, the human network, the corporate network and the Internet and therefore requires intense resource and physical management to make it do what you want it to do and take full advantage of what the device has to offer.

Support levels need to be provided at the wireless hardware manufacturer and wireless carrier level. At this time of tremendous industry growth, both have a hard time adequately staffing their customer care departments. This is where effective independent sales organizations can pick up the slack. Sales personnel who are properly trained on the capabilities of the wireless devices they are selling can be an invaluable source of support to the customer and IT Departments struggling to adapt to the new challenges of dealing with a new technology. The current disconnect is in the customer’s willingness and to pay for the extra support or paying indirectly by having their $80,000/year IT staff on the phone for three hours with carriers and manufacturers trying to resolve a simple issue with a wireless device. And just how ironic is that? Presumably no different than thinking that a Blackberry and a computer are as vastly the same as they are different. Handheld is powering off, press any key to abort. ….Now shutting down.

(c) 2005, Group Interactive, Inc. Shonika Proctor is the New ‘IT’ Girl and 14 year veteran. She is revolutionizing the next generation of wireless customer care and help desk support. Her company provides tips, tools and products that help confused and techo-phobic cellular users to overcome their most challenging wireless frustrations, www.cell-phone-account-help.com

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