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Work Without Wires

For some 1,500 employees and contractors working for Capital One Financial Corp., the desk has gone the way of other office dinosaurs, like typewriters and Rolodexes. The first wave of knowledge workers to be outfitted with Wi-Fi-enabled laptops, voice-over-IP software phones, and portable printers can do business from anywhere within the company's 24 buildings in the United States and the United Kingdom.

These employees are the first in a program Capital One calls the "Future of Work," which CIO Gregor Bailar defines as a necessary step in keeping the $1.5 billion-a-year bank and credit-card company competitive. "The Capital One story has always been to look for the game-changing opportunities," Bailar says. Capital One's staff uses a Web portal that automatically routes work processes to employees, making it easy for mobile professionals to do their jobs from wherever they are. "The big push for Future of Work is [that] this is hugely a knowledge-worker environment," Bailar says.

The people that Capital One took from its 15,000-strong workforce to participate in the program, which was launched last fall, work in information-intensive areas such as finance, human resources, and IT. Bailar expects 1,000 more employees to become mobile users by the end of next year. Already the company reports that the program is helping it achieve the three critical goals it was designed for: keeping employees--called associates--satisfied with their jobs, improving productivity, and reducing costs related to real estate.

Wireless access helps Capital One stay competitive by making its huge staff of knowledge workers more productive, CIO Bailar says.

Wireless access helps Capital One stay competitive by making its huge staff of knowledge workers more productive, CIO Bailar says.

Capital One stands out for its aggressive embrace of a wireless infrastructure that extends across buildings and borders and does away with the concept of a traditional desk job. Businesses that require constant mobility on the job--such as hospitals, manufacturers, and retailers--have been gradually adopting wireless networks for daily work for several years. But for companies where desks and work cubicles are the norm, going mobile generally stops at giving salespeople a cell phone and maybe a laptop they can use in public Wi-Fi spots, or equipping some conference rooms with wireless-access points for guests or contract workers to use.

Capital One's deployment is more ambitious, extending from standalone buildings to a 360-acre, eight-building campus, with wireless-access points covering coffee rooms, cafeterias, and more traditional workspaces such as offices and conference rooms.

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