Export Development Canada, the country's export credit agency, had about 150 "orphans" on its payroll.
These included account managers, financial advisors and accountants who traveled extensively in Canada and around the world, often spending 50 percent of more of their time working onsite with clients to arrange financing, insurance, bonds and letters of guarantee. But once they stepped outside of the agency's headquarters they were largely cut off from its enterprise network and the network-based resources essential to their work.
"We did a situation analysis and found that the dependence on remote and mobile connectivity was the weak link," say Dave McNulty, the agency's telecommunications and desktop services manager. "We didn't have wireless enabled on mobile devices, for example, even though some of the laptops might have it. We needed more connectivity."
Also needed were more robust and productive client hardware and software. Most of the employees were set up with a typical networked desktop PC at headquarters or a regional office. Some were assigned a laptop, and some had access to loaner laptops. But none of them had anything like the access and tools available on their desktop PCs.
EDC decided to create a true mobile office for these workers: giving them the hardware, software and connectivity via multiple network interfaces to link their work on the road and at client sites with enterprise-based applications and data.
They did it via a five-step process, which started in mid-2007. The first stage of the actual deployment began March 17, 2008, and was completed three months later.
Almost a quarter (250) of the agency's 1,100 employees are mobile, many of them spending more than half of their time outside of an office. Of these, 165 have been outfitted with the new mobile office platform
Step 1 -- Create a cross-disciplinary team, give them project ownership
McNulty pulled technology experts from various areas of the agency, a task force given responsibility and authority to make the mobile office a reality. Most knew each other and had previously worked together for years. Some specialists were brought in as needed. Areas included IT infrastructure, database services, applications, the client service center, and the learning and development department.
One of their first actions was to commander a meeting room as home base. "It had a very anchoring effect, and we jelled very quickly," says Craig Doyle, EDC's senior network analyst and the team's technical lead. "Most of these folks operated behind the scenes. But this project was different. We were creating a high-visibility mobile office that would be right in the clients' hands. That really fired them up."
The cross-discipline team quickly identified a number of independent projects that were, without coordination, tackling various parts of the mobility problem. These included the planned corporate desktop PC refresh, a project to support teleworkers, and a pandemic-preparation plan to enable staff to work remotely in case of an outbreak such as the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis in Toronto. The team leveraged elements of these projects.
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