Tech Success: Senate uses iAnywhere everywhere
Sybase's mobile division helps lawmakers roam at will
- By Joab Jackson
- Jul 02, 2003
Ojas Rege is senior director of mobile solutions for iAnywhere.
Few government employees spend more time away from their desks than members of Congress. They're always on the move, often racing between meetings with committees, constituents and colleagues. Keeping them abreast of the latest schedule changes, memos, press meetings and volumes upon volumes of policy updates is a challenge for their staffs.
Senate Republicans look to technology to stay in touch. The personal digital assistants of the GOP senators and their staffs are automatically updated with pertinent information whenever they stop by the office, thanks to the iAnywhere m-Business Studio from Sybase Inc., Dublin, Calif.
The software came from AvantGo Inc., which Sybase purchased in February for about $38 million.
"It is a convenient way for senators not to have to carry reams of paper or binders from meeting to meeting," said Tim Petty, director of information resources for the Senate Republican Conference. "AvantGo took that information and placed it on a PDA."
For integrators, iAnywhere software can extend the systems they build into the field. Any organization that has workers collecting information or requiring information when away from the office would benefit, said Ojas Rege, senior director of mobile solutions for iAnywhere, the Sybase subsidiary for mobile solutions.
Petty's office is in charge of distributing information for Republican senators. In 1999, he surveyed his customers and found most were using PDAs and wireless e-mail readers. These devices, made by Hewlett-Packard Co., Palm Inc. and others, stored addresses and appointment details. Many senators and staff also used handheld Blackberry e-mail pagers made by Research in Motion Ltd., Waterloo, Ontario.
Petty saw that by using AvantGo's software, the PDAs also could be loaded with documents, which then could be read while out of the office. The policy updates and other pertinent information senators need could be downloaded automatically whenever their PDAs and e-mail pagers were docked to their personal computers.
So Petty diverted some of the funds set aside for a server upgrade to purchase the solution. Today, AvantGo's server software, now residing on a Windows 2000-based Web server, sends documents to the PDAs from the Senate archive via the Republican Senate's private intranet. Users sign up for the kinds of content they want to receive.
Such automatic updates not only keep the GOP current, but also save money. Petty estimated the Senate saves $1,800 each recess now that fewer documents are printed for outside reading. The software costs from $100 to $900 per user, depending on capabilities needed.
Surprisingly, Rege finds that the best sales pitch for iAnywhere's software is not the mobility it offers, but rather the greater return on investment it can give to enterprise systems already in place.
"Organizations have made investments in the last 10 to 20 years on systems that didn't solve the problems they were trying to solve," Rege said. In many cases, these systems come up short on getting the right information to the right people on time.
For example, contact details from a customer relationship management system are of little value to the field worker who can't refer to it while on the road. Similarly, an enterprise resource planning system will provide users with outdated intelligence if data gathered more recently still sits on a clipboard somewhere.
Working with its partners, which include Cisco Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc. and Stanley Associates Inc., iAnywhere incorporates its software into their larger solutions to insure they remain relevant to their customers. Using iAnywhere m-Business Studio, integrators enable mobile computers to tap into Web-based, back-end systems that don't already have mobile extensions.
The client software takes up about 1 megabyte of space on the end device. End users see the applications as a set of channels: one for filing expense reports, one for policy or one for field data, for example.
"Users really like that, because they can go to one place and get all the different things they need," Rege said.
The pervasive applications market that iAnywhere competes in is a competitive one, crowded with players such as IBM Corp., SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc., according to Jack Gold, vice president for mobile solutions for research firm MetaGroup Inc., Stamford Conn.
"The application companies want to be included in the mobile space," Gold said. AvantGo carved a market niche by providing the connectivity tools for applications with no mobile extensions. Sybase, which already sold database tools for handhelds, purchased AvantGo to extend its mobile solution set.
AvantGo originally used its technology to provide an Internet-based news downloading service for consumers. That customer base is still in place, with more than 8 million users, Rege said. It serves as a powerful marketing tool.
"When agencies ask about scalability, we tell them our software runs the largest PDA application in the world," Rege said. "That makes them feel comfortable." *
If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Joab Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.