Experts agree that the need for mobile technology support is out of proportion to smaller companies' level of adoption; even consumer solutions can help bridge the gap.
Posted Feb 6, 2008
Small and medium business (SMBs) need better mobile technology to enhance productivity and compete effectively, according to a pair of recently issued reports. The technology itself is available today rather than still in development, but is underutilized by SMBs, according to analysts from Yankee Group and IDC Research.
The SMB work environment has not changed in the past 30 years, even though ubiquitous connectivity is changing the work/life balance of both enterprise and SMB workers, says Steve Hilton, vice president of Yankee Group's enterprise research group. Yet consumer technologies can increase productivity outside the office 30 percent to 40 percent, especially for the least empowered employees. "The SMB ecosystem has four basic needs: to grow, protect, simplify and support the business," Hilton says. "SMBs need to look at the solutions that enable the mobile professional."
While the mobile solutions, such as smart phones and PDAs, were once severely limited by lack of connectivity, a growing number of free and fee-based locations with cellular and Internet connectivity along with wireless connection cards available from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and other providers is making ubiquitous connectivity a reality, Hilton says, who points out that SMBs now can be as productive on the road as in the broadband- and landline-connected office.
Blogs, wikis, smart phones, wireless-enabled laptops, instant messaging and online travel services have the greatest impact on SMBs, increasing productivity 25 percent to 50 percent for SMB mobile employees, according to Hilton. While the most important, highest-paid employees are almost always supported by IT, SMBs have to make sure they extend this support to the least empowered employees, he adds. "Those least empowered can have a large positive impact on a small business if given the technology tools to succeed."
Some SMBs are recognizing the productivity enhancements, according to IDC, which predicts that technology spending growth for this segment will slow down in 2008 compared to 2007. Yet SMB spending growth for the year will still exceed that of larger firms by 2 percent.
"SMBs around the world are increasingly interested in the productivity gains made possible by advanced technology," said Raymond Boggs, vice president of SMB research for IDC, in a statement. "New mobile communications solutions, enterprise applications, and the latest server, storage, and network communications will be on SMB shopping lists more than ever before."
Hilton adds that SMBs will seek outside vendors to help with data protection and support services, while looking to more unified applications to help simplify the technology needs of their companies.
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