Workforce Going Mobile, Smartphone Use Surging

In the next three years, more than half of employees will be using smartphones in the enterprise, and along with the increased use comes the need for more comprehensive management tools that cover security and cost issues, according to a study out today.

The report, "Mobile Device Diversity: Taking Control," was commissioned by mobile management company BoxTone and conducted by Forrester Consulting, which leveraged its Business Data Services (BDS) Q3 2009 Enterprise Hardware Survey of IT decision-makers at large enterprises in multiple industries across North America and Europe. Forrester supplemented the analysis with custom questions of 67 IT decision-makers regarding their organization’s mobile device use.

As 2010 gets underway, Forrester says the work force is becoming ever more mobile, with 32 percent of companies reporting that at least one-quarter or more of their employees are in the field more than half of their working hours, with another 30 percent saying that a quarter or more of their staff travel away from the office at least one day per week. Twenty-six percent have part-time telecommuters; 10 percent have full-time telecommuters.

The challenge for IT? Keeping everyone connected to the enterprise while managing diverse mobile devices operating on different platforms.

Nearly 50 percent of IT departments currently support and manage two or more mobile operating systems, but more devices -- company-owned and individually-owned -- are trickling into the office, according to Forrester.

"As mobile device and mobile application choices proliferate, workers are rapidly mobilizing roles and tasks, especially those related to sales, inventory, and logistics, helping to drive productivity gains," the study says. "Beyond role-specific applications, Forrester found that 42 percent of companies surveyed allow mobile devices to connect to corporate e-mail, contacts, and calendars."

With more devices, new applications and the increasing complexity of devices, Forrester states that organizations need to go beyond basic provisioning and configuration tools and deploy ITIL-based technologies that can actively monitor mobile performance and use. (ITIL is the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, a directory of best practices for IT). This helps ensure maximum productivity at the most reasonable cost, regardless of ownership or device type, says Forrester.

The study also found that security is priority for mobile -- nearly half of the companies surveyed need increased security and control over mobile devices and data.

Specifically, 33 percent of companies ranked "better control over security of information on devices" as their top method of improving IT's ability to support and manage mobile users; 21 percent would like to see more control in order to optimize mobile service quality; and 19 percent believe management tools to accommodate multiple device platforms are necessary to improve the support mobile users receive.

As the trend of managing a fragmented mobile landscape continues into 2010, many firms specializing in mobile management software -- BoxTone, Zenprise, Good Technology and MobileIron, for instance, -- are adding support for more mobile operating systems and rolling out more comprehensive features to meet demand.


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