SMBs Mature with the Mobile Cloud
AMI-Partners research indicates that SMBs are steadily turning to mobile applications to cut down on computing costs and address the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce.
Posted Dec 2, 2010
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According to research by Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, 39 percent of small businesses (fewer than 100 employee) and 84 percent of medium-sized business (100-1000 employees) can be described as having a mobile workforce that, on average, spends at least four days per month out of the office.

Karen Nielsen, senior consultant and telecom analyst for AMI-Partners, remarks that smart phone penetration is 77 percent among medium businesses (MBs) and 31 percent among SBs--but is growing fast. Nielsen's research indicates that SMBs are turning to cloud applications run over mobile devices to extend their business processes and tap into the ease of computing hosted by third-party providers. She adds that she has seen particular interest in syncing programs such as calendars, email, and CRM programs to mobile devices. "We are seeing the SMBs add new IT-type capabilities because the cloud makes those more affordable," Nielsen says. "CRM keeps coming to the top of the list."

[Editors' Note: For more on mobile, be sure to check out the November 2010 issue of CRM, which includes multiple features on how mobile efforts are faring within CRM.]

AMI's broader SMB studies show that 54 percent of MBs report having CRM systems in place. Whereas, only 30 percent of SBs have implemented CRM. Thanks to cloud computing, AMI predicts growth in business applications by the SB segment in particular. She points out that some of the early research is showing that CRM, payroll, and accounting are the leading applications used by SMBs. Looking forward, AMI anticipates that SMBs will be inclined to add business intelligence and Web conferencing applications to their software suites.

In terms of mobile, CRM is a hot application, Nielsen insists. It is being used SMB salespeople to track sales, improve time management, and better communicate perhaps via email. "The big benefit to small and medium-sized businesses is that the data resides in the cloud so that information isn't hogging the bandwidth of the device," Nielson says. SMBs are beginning to find see the benefit from mobile cloud email; however only 13 percent of SBs report usage, and an even tinier percentage--8 percent--of MBs report use of mobile cloud email. 

Nielsen relays that although not as commonplace as tasks such as calendar organization and email, SMBs are also beginning to enable mobile access to their CRM databases or other business process information so that employees can have access to data wherever they may be. The vendor side of things may be more ready for usage growth than the SMBs themselves. "Inertia is always a roadblock," Nielsen admits. New systems require both time and resource--neither of which SMBS have a lot to spare. Even though down the road mobile applications and mobility programs will aid an organization with efficiency, taking the initial plunge is difficult. "It does take a while to get going, and it takes a while to customize," Nielsen says, adding that on the upside, cloud-based apps offer subscriptions that enable companies to truly optimize their spending.

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