I recently had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at the 2014 Intel Solutions Summit with panelists Bob Moore, Founder, RJM Strategies LLC; Jeffrey R Zavaleta, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Graphium Health, an integrated, mobile electronic medical records (EMR) platform; and Dave Bucholz, Director of Enterprise Client Strategy, Business Client Platform Division at Intel. We chatted about how companies are adopting and using mobile solutions in their businesses, and some of the challenges they face.
Our conversation was very interesting, as mobile is one the fastest growing technology trends in small and medium business (SMB). Because mobile devices and apps are so user-friendly, SMBs can deploy them quickly. As a result, mobile solutions are quickly revolutionizing how SMBs get work done. In fact, 91% of SMBs already use mobile solutions in their businesses, according to 2013 SMB Mobile Solutions Study, and 67% of SMBs indicate that “mobile solutions are now critical for our business,” as shown on Figure 1.
Figure 1: SMB Attitudes About Mobile Solutions
As we discussed during the panel, SMBs understand that mobile solutions not only help improve employee productivity, but also enable them to improve customer experiences and fuel business growth. In fact, 70% see mobile apps as a “complement to current business applications”, and 55% think that mobile will replace some of their existing business applications.
So it’s not surprising that mobile solutions are gobbling up a growing share of SMB technology budgets. SMBs currently spend about 11% to 20% of their technology budgets in the mobile space, and 68% expect they will need to spend more on mobile solutions next year.
However, panelists also agreed the rapid and explosive growth of and reliance on mobile solutions has caught many SMBs off-guard, resulting in some key challenges, as we also found in our study (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Top Challenges to Using Mobile Solutions
SMBs often find it difficult to manage the growing plethora of mobile apps for employees, especially as SMB adoption of “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies for employees doubling over the past year to 62%. SMBs also have more customer-facing mobile apps and mobile-friendly websites to manage as well.
With adoption of and reliance on mobile solutions rising, SMBs are looking for management solutions to help them to:
- Remotely install, update and remove managed apps from devices.
- Track and view installed/approved/blacklisted apps at the user/device level.
- Authenticate, manage and deploy apps based on user groups/roles and restrict content access.
Security concerns are behind many of these requirements. SMBs want solutions that enable them to:
- Lock devices when devices are lost or stolen, or the employee leaves the company
- Provide data encryption on devices
- Partition/separate business-related data apps from personal data and apps
In addition, rising adoption of mobile payments and other apps that collect personal information is spiking SMB security concerns on the external app side as well.
SMBs look at mobile solutions and like the value that see from them. Consequently, they plan to increase investments both for employee apps, and for external-facing mobile websites and mobile apps.
At the same time, BYOD shows no signs of abating. Employees want to use the devices that they’re most comfortable with, and some SMBs view BYOD a way to trim voice and data service costs. But at the same time, BYOD ushers in additional security and management challenges that can result in added costs can change this equation.
As our panelists discussed, this means that SMBs need to be more strategic upfront about using mobile in their businesses. Think not only about the devices and apps you want to use, but who will use them. Consider both the business outcomes you need from mobile solutions–and the management capabilities you’ll need to have to safeguard corporate and customer information.
Mobile management, security, and consulting services spending categories will see significant spending increases as SMBs endeavor to reap more value from and do a better job managing an increasingly complex assortment mobile devices, services and solutions. Given that many SMBs lack adequate IT resources and mobile expertise, we expect that they will increasingly turn to external solutions providers to get the management job done.
For more commentary on this, see the follow-up video interview.