Mobility Boosts Worker Productivity, Customer ServiceBy Guy Currier | Posted 06-12-2008
Mobility Boosts Worker Productivity, Customer Service
Mobility isn't what it used to be. Once a tool reserved for executives and outside salespeople. mobile devices are now used by many white- and blue-collar workers, who need the ability to reply to e-mails, access documents and use company applications from anywhere, anytime. That makes mobility, which had been a telecom issue, an IT concern.
CIO Insight's 2008 Mobility Survey uncovers significant penetration of mobile devices in the workplace, with nearly half of employees equipped with cell phones and nearly one-fifth with smart phones. It also shows how this increase in the use of mobility devices in the enterprise has affected IT organizations, as they invest in new infrastructure, train and retrain support staff, and address heightened compliance requirements.
Most of the CIOs we surveyed don't perceive heightened security issues as a result of mobility. However, 41 percent acknowledge that security is a top challenge in developing and executing mobile strategies.
With all the infrastructure and support investment required by mobile technologies, you might think they don't deliver much cost savings. And you'd be right--for the most part.
The CIOs we surveyed cited the process-related benefits of mobility: the ability to work anywhere, to be responsive to customers and to be more productive. But with rising gasoline prices, a growing number of employees are more likely to work from home at least some of the time, so investment in mobility technologies may provide cost savings in the end.
As corporate applications that go beyond e-mail are increasingly developed and deployed on mobile devices, the demand for more data that's delivered faster will increase. As a result, IT will face growing challenges in security, integration, compliance and support. CIOs will have to meet these challenges to keep their organizations competitive and profitable.
Mobility Demands a Shift in IT Support Costs
Workers have become astoundingly more mobile over the past three years, and IT departments have responded. Mobility-related training for IT staffers has increased significantly, along with hardware and internal staffing costs. These increases correspond with a growing number of IT support requests on mobility: IT executives say about one-sixth of all requests deal with mobility. Half of corporate employees have IT-supported mobile devices, and of those, half have access to 24/7 IT support.
Enabled by new high-speed wireless and mobile technologies, an increasing number of employees are working remotely. Forty-six percent of our survey respondents report a more positive attitude toward part-time telecommuting, and 34 percent are upbeat about full-time telecommuting, though a majority of those polled discourage full-time telecommuting.
The trend toward a more mobile workforce will continue to put pressure on IT to ramp up support and development skills--and possibly pursue outsourcing.
Finding 1.2 and 1.3
Process Benefits--and Maybe Oil--Drive Mobility
Businesses see a bevy of benefits from remote access, including an increased ability for employees to work away from the office, faster responses to customer queries, and more balanced work and personal lives.
Businesses appear to be more willing to provide remote access during business travel and off-hours work, as opposed to allowing full- or part-time telecommuting, though telecommuters do receive significant support. Half of the survey respondents say the recent rise in transportation and commuting costs will increase the number of days employees work from home.
Finding 2.2 and 2.3
Smart Phone Is a Primary Corporate Device
Popular gadgets like BlackBerries, Treos and iPhones have a growing presence in the enterprise. Overall, smart phones rival cell phones as IT-supported mobile devices. They may even approach the penetration level of notebook computers, which virtually all organizations support. These devices have overtaken traditional PDAs in terms of support levels.
Wi-Fi and 2.5/3G Wireless Enable Mobile Access
With the rise of high-speed wireless networking technologies on mobile devices, companies support remote access through these technologies nearly as frequently as they enable them through the wireless LAN.
Meanwhile, WiMAX may have reached its plateau at a relatively low level, as newer high-speed technologies, such as 4G, are primed to take the stage. Remarkable also is the level of support--largely concentrated in larger companies--that still exists for older connectivity technologies, such as dial-up and low-speed cellular.
In the long run, support costs for these slower technologies will begin to outweigh the upgrade costs, pushing even more companies into Wi-Fi, 2.5/3G and successor wireless solutions.
Compliance Is the New Risk
The rise in mobility hasn't jeopardized corporate security, and IT shops continue to devote substantial efforts to make sure it won't. It has, however, made regulatory compliance more of a challenge. Besides securing mobile access, businesses are grappling with the need to integrate mobile devices with internal systems, as well as to support various types of mobile devices.
To batten down the hatches, IT departments are taking more control over configuration, and requiring VPNs and password protection.