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SMB Mobility An Opportunity not to be Missed
Anurag Agrawal
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Techaisle is a global IT SMB market research and industry analyst company. The company provides SMBs with industry analysis, deeper segmentation, and flexible data delivery. Thus helping them to stay updated in the ever changing market.

Mobile devices, technologies and services are perhaps the most exciting space today, remaining somewhat resilient even in a downturn. SMBs have always had a strong desire for mobile products as witnessed by the adoption of Notebooks over the last ten years. Things have gotten even more interesting since Apple released its iPhone and iPad. As smartphones expanded their empowering abilities, SMBs have strongly taken to using phones as PC adjuncts for mobile applications.

Mobility March

We all know that the march towards cloud and mobility is unstoppable. Mobility has been in existence for a long time; however, it is absolutely new in its current form with the availability of several mobile devices and other enabling technologies. With the availability of newer devices and applications and ability to work from anywhere and anytime, work-life balance also comes to the forefront. And SMB executives are now more open than ever to implement telecommuting policies.

Nearly 50 percent of the SMBs agree that allowing employees to work from home benefits their business and mobility solutions seem to not only have improved productivity, but also improved quality of work and redundant communication.

Telecommuting Doubling

What most do not know that telecommuting within SMBs has grown dramatically in the last several years. It took 10 years for telecommuting to double but only three years to double again. Techaisle’s SMB tracking research shows that today telecommuting among SMBs in the U.S. stands at 77 percent with 14 percent employees always telecommuting. Despite the fact that SMBs are typically small businesses their average number of locations has also increased from 1.05 to 1.85 in the last five years. These stunning statistics reinforce the continued growth and adoption of mobility.

The reasons for mobility adoption are somewhat like a chicken and egg story? Did the growth in telecommuting accelerate the march towards mobility or the mass introduction and adoption of devices such as smart phones, tablets, better notebooks and cloud applications hasten the mobility drive. Nevertheless, what is certain is that one would not exist without the other.

Mobility Opportunity

In the U.S. alone, Techaisle’s research study on SMB Mobility Adoption and Trends shows that U.S. SMBs spent $32 billion on Mobility Solutions in 2011. Overall, 81 percent of SMBs are either currently implementing or planning to implement some type of mobility solution ranging from simple mobile device based applications to sophisticated logistics solutions. Of the $32 billion dollar spend, 23 percent was spent on Mobile Applications including new application development and customization, 17 percent on devices and eight percent on security and management. And add to it, mobile device management and consulting assessment SMB mobility presents itself as formidable opportunity, over $10 billion in the U.S. alone. In sheer numbers there is a great opportunity for IT Vendors and IT channels to capitalize on. Digging deeper into the data we find that mid-market businesses (100-999 employees) are the early adopters of mobility solutions. Small businesses (1-99 employees) do realize the importance of such solutions but have not yet been able to develop any formal company policy to implement such solutions.

Mobility Barriers

Some significant barriers to adoption do exist. Understanding those barriers would help IT Vendors to address them upfront with SMBs and alleviate their fears. The top challenges to adopting new mobility solutions are broadly divided into four groups:

*Cost and complexity issues
* Management and employee issues
* Network and device issues
* Security issues

For a majority of SMBs price of solution is most important when selecting a mobile business application.

Mobility Applications

In today’s world of technology any application can be mobile-enabled but it does not mean that there is demand and therefore money to be made across all applications. In fact, there are some key applications that are figuring within SMBs current and planned budgets.

These are:
* Social media marketing
* Time and billing management
* Payment processing
* Business productivity suites
* Business analytics

SMBs are also tremendously interested in incorporating location based functions as well as remote device management and presence aware functions. The need for device and data security for mobile devices is an important deterrent in adoption, especially as the consumer and business apps converge onto the same devices. Additionally, a huge opportunity lies for the channels with regards to integration of mobile solutions with SMBs current enterprise applications. SMBs express a strong desire to integrate mobile solutions with line of business applications as a way to derive greater business value over time.

Device Management

Going down the route of mobility is also fraught with unexpected surprises – most important being accidental loss of device with company data, employee walking off with device or malware creating havoc with the device. Many surveys conducted by Techaisle reveal that SMBs worry about these issues a lot but fail to protect themselves adequately. For example, 69 percent of IT Decision makers in the U.S. are concerned about accidental loss of devices containing sensitive data. And nearly 1/3rd of these decision makers are also concerned about inability to manage device configurations so that they comply with company policies. To top it all, there is the issue of managing employee devices that businesses did not buy.

The need for device and data security for mobile devices may be an important deterrent in mobility adoption, especially as the consumer and business apps converge onto the same devices. However, this also clearly demonstrates the need for remote management, authentication, and remote erasure of data on mobile devices. Data no longer resides on tethered devices such as desktops but is spread across multiple devices that "move". Plan for it and mobility will be an enjoyable and productive experience. If you as a channel partner have embarked your SMB customer on the mobility journey make sure that device management is on the top of their agenda.

In Conclusion

SMB Mobility opportunity is vast and varied. Silicon Valley startups, established IT companies, VCs and Channel partners should seriously look at their portfolio of offerings whether it is cloud or managed services or even mobility and structure them to capitalize on the opportunity.

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