Planning Makes Perfect

Opinion: Getting tech right means thinking ahead, not behind.

You wouldnt think Los Angeles was the place to go for a sense of reality last week, but it was. I was at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show to moderate a panel on mobile wireless in business—a discussion that was a good counterpoint to the silliness and stupidity that has been rampant in the technology business of late.

At the top of the silly and stupid pyramid is Hewlett-Packards act of engaging private investigators to figure out which of the companys board members was leaking information to the press. Im a member of the press, and Ive met my share of leakers and those being leaked upon. The range of reasons for leaking is enormous, from personal vendettas to officially blessed leaks. In this case, the information being leaked appears largely innocuous. The HP investigation was a mistake, but pinning the whole thing on (soon to be ex-) Chairman Patricia Dunn is wrongheaded. This was a systemic failure where no one along the chain of command put up his or her hand and said stop until the feds were knocking on the door. Even folks in Los Angeles, who are used to the bizarre antics of the Hollywood set, were taken aback at phone pretexting being used as a corporate management tool.

Add in more battery recalls and Dell delaying its financial report while going through its books one more time, and you have a silly season in full swing. So, I was expecting to find more of the same in Los Angeles.

Instead, I found panelists able to discuss wireless not because it was cool and the latest hot technology but because wireless applications made a lot of sense for their corporations bottom lines.

Donald Goldstein, CIO of Trammell Crow, is deploying handheld devices to manage construction projects at the companys far-flung real estate operations. The devices allow for real-time feedback of the status of the construction projects. Goldstein developed a security practice around the handheld devices before the devices were deployed rather than after security holes developed. He approached the security issue by locking down the devices and being very rigid in what data can reside on those devices. Kudos to someone who took time to think about not just the device but also the applications that the device would run.

Nelson Lin, CIO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., not only outfitted the office machine repairmen with mobile devices but also is looking to wirelessly enable the devices themselves to self-report the health of the office machine. For the repairmen, the devices were simplified for ease of use and ease of understanding the device functions. Rather than deploy complicated devices that would remain unused, Lin aimed at selecting a device that actually makes the repairmans life easier.

So, while the tech vendors were busy shooting themselves in the foot, at least the users I ran into in Los Angeles were engaged in thoughtful projects that added value to their corporations. Those projects were echoed by another panelist, Paul Daugherty, chief technology architect for Accenture. Daugherty suggested looking at the many corporate functions not currently part of the IT network, including electrical systems, heating and air conditioning, as systems that would show big benefits from being brought into a wireless corporate network. Paget Alves, the regional president for Sprint Nextel, brought up the lessons the company learned from Hurricane Katrina and its investment in making the network substantially more robust. It is hard to think of a better investment for a telecommunications company to make than a network on which its users can rely even after disaster strikes.

Our panel started right after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the CTIA event. The governor has been caught up in his own silly season of late, complete with letting slip some comments that should never have been said in the first place and possibly having his own computer hacked. Maybe he should have stayed around a little while longer to see that the way to stop silly mistakes is to think in advance rather than apologize after the fact.

Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at