An Empirical Examination of the Impact of Wireless Local Area Networks on Organization of Users

An Empirical Examination of the Impact of Wireless Local Area Networks on Organization of Users

Lei-da Chen (Creighton University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-094-3.ch021


In recent years, the concept of nomadic computing has received considerable attention from the business community. As an early form of nomadic information environment (NIE), wireless local area network (WLAN) has gained tremendous popularity with organizations. Using mostly anecdotal evidences, WLAN equipment manufacturers and practitioners claimed that WLAN brought dramatic improvements in the forms of productivity gains and attainment of convenience, flexibility, mobility, and time saving to organizations and their employees. However, very little academic research has been conducted to verify these claims and further our understanding of this new phenomenon. By surveying end users and managers, this study investigates the impact of WLAN on users and their work. Finally, recommendations to researchers, managers, WLAN technology providers, and equipment manufacturers also are provided.
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Improvements in wireless communication technologies have spawned interest in nomadic computing. Nomadic computing refers to an environment in which nomad users have access to computing resources; communication capabilities; and services that are transparent, integrated, convenient, and adaptive (Kleinrock, 2001). Such an environment offers users unprecedented capabilities to access and to distribute information, when they are on the move. While consumers are embracing some of the new wireless connectivity technologies, such as WiFi, for their homes, the biggest demand for these capabilities is likely to originate from the business community. Nomadic computing promises to enhance the level of mobility in computing and communication for employees both within and beyond organizational boundaries. Business organizations are quick to take notice of the value created by these capabilities. Key benefits of this unfettered computing include improved employee productivity, quick response to inquiries and requests, and enhanced customer services.

Growth in nomadic computing is driven by incessant advances in wireless and mobile technologies and the business need for mobility. Industry experts are predicting a growing trend toward a new way of doing business based on wireless and mobile technologies—mobile commerce (m-commerce). According to Balasubramanian, Peterson, and Jarvenpaa (2002), m-commerce refers to communicating and conducting business transactions using mobile devices. While many wireless technologies promise to revolutionize the conduct of business, organizations often fail to make a business case for investing in these technologies (Goldman, 2001; “Use Tech as a Tool,” 2002). In addition, the rapid technological innovations in this field have left many IT managers still trying to sort out the different technology platforms and the type of business applications that these technologies would support effectively. Many questions remain to be answered in the area of nomadic computing providing researchers with ample research opportunities, as outlined by Lyytinen and Yoo (2002).

It is imperative to understand the business value of nomadic computing. Balasubramanian, et al. (2002) suggested that mobile technologies relax spatial and/or temporal constraints of activities. For example, with mobile technologies, a worker in the field can check e-mail at any time. Without the technologies, this activity would be limited by both spatial and temporal constraints (i.e., one can only check e-mail when one is at a location where a computer and a network connection are present). In the same vein, Chen and Nath (2004) proposed a model that helps managers to determine the value of mobile and wireless applications. The model stipulates that the value of mobile and wireless applications is a function of the user’s immediacy of information needs and user mobility.

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