Why SMBs Need a Plan for Mobile Devices
By Bob McCool
For small and midsized businesses (SMBs), looking for new and better ways to drive growth and improve efficiency, a mobility strategy is a definite must. But what exactly does “mobility” mean? For one, it involves using a PC, tablet or smartphone outside of the office to access information remotely. But there’s much more to it than just checking email or downloading files, mobility means using those same devices to perform real work-related tasks remotely, as well.
Some recent findings should make it clear why mobility will be so crucial for business success going forward. The highly respected technology research firm Gartner predicted that in 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the single most common web access device worldwide. On top of that, a study by the SMB Group, a research and consulting firm that serves the SMB market, found that mobile Internet traffic will exceed desktop traffic in only a few short years. The same study found that 74% of respondents said mobile solutions are now a critical part of their business.
It’s clear that business owners without a mobility plan will be increasingly left behind as mobile device use continues to skyrocket. One of the biggest impacts so far has been on employee productivity and satisfaction. A study by Sage backs this up, and four out of five leaders at SMBs said mobile devices have a positive effect on productivity. Employees are not only embracing the flexibility mobility gives them, but business customers are, too. Mobile apps are giving them new ways to order products and services, and interact with customer service (with better response times). In fact, 58% of respondents to the Sage study stated that new business has increased since they introduced mobile apps for customers.
As positive as mobile technology has been for SMBs, there have been a few stumbling blocks along the way. Not surprisingly, people have strong preferences for device types and brands, and many employees are adopting their own phones and tablets for work use. This trend is referred to in a variety of ways, including “bring your own device” (BYOD), “bring your own technology” (BYOT) or
“bring your own phone” (BYOP). It boils down to letting employees use their personal devices for business use. This has resulted in a significant shift in control from a technology perspective, since IT support must now deal with making these devices serve dual purposes and securely connect to third party systems. However, even with these challenges, 62% of respondents in the Sage study said they support a BYOD policy.
It is clear that a mobility strategy is essential for most SMBs. But, with the incredible range of mobility devices on the market potentially interacting with complex business systems, there are a number of very important questions to ask before implementing a mobility platform. For example:
- Who is in charge of the physical device, and who is responsible when it breaks?
- Who controls the software on the device, such as the Operating System?
- Who controls the way the device connects to business systems?
- How do you secure corporate data accessed with BYODs?
- How secure are the backend systems access through mobile apps?
- Is your network designed to handle 2 to 3 times the number of devices it used to?
These are tough questions that must be correctly addressed from a security and operational standpoint. For SMBs with limited IT budgets and staff, outsourcing to a managed service provider may be the best option. A top-notch provider can ensure that the devices employees rely on work seamlessly with all critical business applications.
About the author
Bob McCool is founder & president of arielMIS. Since 1994, arielMIS has provided small to mid-sized businesses in the greater Boulder/Denver, Colorado area with solutions for managed IT services, custom software development, mobility and cloud-based services.