In 2009, we are in a new era of enterprise mobility. So says Andrew Borg, senior analyst at Aberdeen Group, who notes that, in just the past couple of months, new trends on the mobility front have sprouted, driving new interest and blurring the lines between an employee's personal and work lives.
Although Borg says he's hesitant to liken the mobile revolution to the phenomenon surrounding Apple's iPhone, he does note that the "pro-sumer" demand for on-the-go work began to flourish around that time. According to Aberdeen research, as a percentage of total technology spend, best-in-class organizations plan to increase mobility budgets by over 27 percent in 2009. "Their I.T. budgets [are] shrinking, so that means they're taking budgets from other initiatives and moving them into mobility," Borg explains. "Productivity to their workforce is that evident to them."
Borg notes that a November 2008 Aberdeen benchmark report states that best-in-class companies revealed the following benefits with mobility:
- 40 percent increase in employee productivity;
- 35 percent improvement in customer satisfaction; and
- 25 percent increase in employee retention.
Aberdeen’s March 2009 report on Enterprise Mobility shows the following adoption statistics:
- 84 percent of respondents had a mobile initiative in place or under way;
- 78 percent of them had a mobile initiative in place for two years or more; and
- fewer than 2 percent of respondents had no plan to implement mobility now or in the future.
Nevertheless, Borg says, despite the rising demand and clear benefits, technology budgets are being cut in many organizations. To cope with cost-cutting measures, enterprises are responding to mobility in new ways. Borg reveals that the growth of "employee-liable devices" is evidence of the shift. The recent phenomenon has employees procuring their own smartphones for use within the enterprise. Borg describes the spread of this usage as rapid -- employee-liable devices have seen a fourfold increase within enterprises in the past year.
Use of these devices presents a double-edged sword, however. "By accommodating employee devices...[the enterprise] continues to expand mobility throughout the organization without expanding the capital budget," Borg says, explaining the beneficial side. Models of phones by companies such as LG and HTC provide "enterprise-class" capabilities as well as consumer capabilities, driving interest for use in the enterprise. "It's created a very rapid change in the device landscape and this has had a big impact," Borg says. "It's positive in driving down equipment costs."
Conversely, Borg says, employee devices can pose risks for an enterprise, including the following three:
- As the number of devices proliferate, the organization moves away from standardization. The greater the variation of devices, the more complicated the support required. The welcome decrease in equipment costs may directly lead to an increase in support costs.
- Compliance regulation begins to overtake standards regulation. Once upon a time -- in 2008 -- enterprise technology departments standardized mobile deployments. All employees used the same device on the same platform on the same network. However, as enterprises accept more devices, they may face managing multiple platforms. Borg contents that enterprises will begin working with the notion of compliance -- focusing on supporting a specific platform rather than just one type of vendor or model. To cap the "chaos factor," Borg says he expects enterprises to look increasingly to mobile device management options -- whether outsourced or not -- to handle the wider variety of mobile devices.
- Billing will become an issue. As employees procure their own devices, billing from wireless carriers becomes fragmented. Historically, the servicing was all centrally managed with one billing source, giving the enterprise leverage. "They could be losing that leverage," Borg says. "Carrier costs could all of a sudden start skyrocketing."
Borg says that the user-defined application strategy presented on the iPhone was game-changing. He notes that consumers adding work-productivity applications on their devices will change how those people once viewed the lines between work and personal life -- a change that could actually benefit enterprises. "If you give the employees the empowerment to find a healthy balance between work and personal life, their work hours actually get extended," he says.
In terms of mobile CRM news, Salesforce.com recently made a splash with its announcement of "Salesforce Mobile Lite," a free partial version of its mobile client for RIM BlackBerry, Apple iPhone, and Windows Mobile devices. Although Borg says it's good marketing to possibly interest clients in paying for the full mobile software down the road, he contends that a limited version isn't great for enterprise use. "The 'freemium' model actually makes more sense for the consumer market," he says. "No one wants to be stuck with an underpowered tool when doing a professional job." Borg notes that Salesforce.com is likely hoping that SMB's get hooked by uploading customer data and subsequently upgrading to a license. "There ultimately isn't a cost savings for the enterprise that I can see, unless [Salesforce.com] offers a fully capable mobile client for free, in which case it could very well become a driver for wider enterprise adoption."
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