Written by Jill Billhorn
Small businesses are recognizing big benefits through their employees’ use of smartphones, tablets and laptops. The Small Business Mobility Report by technology solutions provider CDW found that 94 percent of small business mobile device users agree that mobile technology makes them more efficient. The report surveyed employees and small business IT professionals from five industries and found that mobile devices are changing the way that small businesses operate – despite the challenges associated with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies and managing a mobilized workforce.
Small Business Mobile Benefits by the Numbers
Employees and small business IT managers alike realized multiple benefits associated with mobility. From increased efficiency – thanks to the anytime, anywhere capabilities of mobile devices – to improved responsiveness, mobile devices help small business employees work in real time, regardless of their physical location. In fact, 60 percent of mobile device users identified both improved communication between field/office personnel and increased availability to customers as top mobility benefits.
Breaking Down Small Business Mobile Use
But mobile devices do much more than facilitate efficient communication. According to CDW’s report, small business employees use their mobile devices in the following ways:
- 50 percent create documents
- 36 percent manage processes
- 34 percent collaborate with remote workers
- 25 percent view customer records
- 24 percent purchase materials/services
- 21 percent join Web conferences
The Mobility Report also found an increased opportunity for small businesses to benefit from mobile apps. The number of available business apps will continue to grow exponentially as mobility picks up speed, but the study found that the most useful apps employed by small business employees include email apps (80 percent), calendar apps (76 percent), GPS/navigation apps (69 percent), document reading apps (56 percent), social media apps (45 percent) and file storage apps (40 percent).
While 55 percent of the smartphone and tablet users surveyed noted use of work-related mobile apps, only 20 percent of respondents said that their companies offer purchased/proprietary apps, and just 15 percent knew of any available custom, internally developed apps. There is a significant opportunity for small businesses to do more with – and to benefit from – business apps, and small businesses must keep up with mobile-savvy employees and customers.
Managing Mobile Devices
A mobilized workforce is great, but it does not come without management challenges. Of the small business IT managers surveyed, only 51 percent agreed that their company has an effective mobile device management (MDM) strategy. And while BYOD can be a more economical way to embrace mobility, it also presents additional challenges for IT managers who must consider the implications of business data that's stored on an employee-owned device.
MDM solutions provide a great way to address the management and security concerns tied to mobility. The report found that while only one third (33 percent) of IT managers are familiar with MDM solutions, those who have deployed MDM solutions are realizing improved security, improved workforce productivity, improved back up/disaster recovery, improved ability to quickly deploy apps and reduced management costs.
Although mobile technology is constantly evolving, its benefits for small businesses are clear.
Jill Billhorn is the vice president of small business at CDW.
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