Consultancy boosts output with wireless computing

Coopers & Lybrand's Auckland IT consultancy was looking for competitive advantage. It planned for more staff but also wanted to make those staff more productive. Brian Price, national director of IT with Coopers & Lybrand, looked to wireless computing to provide that goal. He reasoned that the firm could offer better service if its consultants were able to walk into a client's office, sit down, and start work immediately. No waiting to dial into the Coopers & Lybrand network, in the case of a consultancy team, no messing around with cables to access each other's notebooks.

Coopers & Lybrand’s Auckland IT consultancy was looking for competitive advantage. It planned for more staff but also wanted to make those staff more productive.

Brian Price, national director of IT with Coopers & Lybrand, looked to wireless computing to provide that goal.

He reasoned that the firm could offer better service if its consultants were able to walk into a client’s office, sit down, and start work immediately. No waiting to dial into the Coopers & Lybrand network, in the case of a consultancy team, no messing around with cables to access each other’s notebooks.

Sounds ideal but when Coopers & Lybrand looked around for a solution, it found that most wireless LAN products only offer speeds of up to 2Mbit/s. That was exactly what Price didn’t want.

The firm had been testing Lucent equipment and was dissatisfied with the speed. Price spoke to Auckland wireless consultant Ben Loots of Information Networks about the problem and Loots recommended a Silicon Valley start-up firm, RadioLAN. Although a start-up, RadioLAN had a fair number of network industry veterans on board, including Mike Clare, the founder of Synoptics on its board of directors.

What RadioLAN offered was wireless networking cards, and access devices which ran 10Mbit/s Ethernet. Price says he was dubious to begin with given that RadioLAN had no sites. Price says the products not only lived up to their claim to speed but proved highly reliable as well. Although the products promised reliable connection for up to 35m only, testing got that distance up to 200m.

Six consultants now have their notebooks equipped with RadioLAN wireless PC cards and another 15 will join them over the next two weeks. Price says the plan is to have all the Auckland IT consultants using the technology over the next 12 to 18 months.

“The other beauty,” says Prices, “is that we’re very keen to implement ‘hot desking’ [where staff come in and sit at any workspace, they don’t have their own desk] within Coopers. It makes our consultants totally mobile.”

A key part of Price’s criteria was that the solution chosen would allow peer-to-peer networking. With the RadioLAN equipment you can either have notebooks communicating with an access device (a wirelss hub) and the network operates as a normal LAN. Or you can have notebooks communicating directly too each other. Coopers & Lybrand consultants operate in both modes. When a team of consultants is working at a client site, they communicate in peer-to-peer mode. Back at the Coopers & Lybrand offices they communicate via the access device.

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