Mobility support and strategy are finally priorities in 2008

data from Forrester Research suggests that large companies are finally ready to formalize mobility support and corporate mobile strategy.

In 2008, enterprises are prioritizing mobility support for employees and looking to formalize or execute a corporate mobile strategy, according to Forrester Research.

Ellen Daley, vice president and research director at Forrester, said that until recently companies have been able to avoid broad mobility support by being strict with what kinds of devices employees could use and by not offering information workers many applications beyond mobile email.

Increased demands for mobile line-of-business (LOB) applications are driving this uptick in mobility support and strategizing, Daley said, but the technology "populism" encouraged by consumer phenomena like the iPhone is also having an effect.

"Consumers just bring iPhones and Sidekicks into firms and they're saying, 'I want support,' " she said. "I believe we're at a critical point where that groundswell just can't be ignored anymore. A CIO recently told me that it's one of her biggest problems, so IT departments are asking for solutions instead of just saying no to that groundswell."

IT organizations are responding to these demands, but they are also recognizing that they need to mitigate the risks associated with the grassroots adoption of mobile devices like the iPhone.

According to Forrester's "State of Enterprise Networks and Telecommunications 2008" report, which surveyed 995 American and European enterprise IT decision makers, 63% of companies are making mobility support a priority in 2008, including 23% that identified it as a critical priority. Another 21% of respondents said they already have support in place. Only 10% of companies said mobility support is not on the agenda for this year.

Forty-nine percent of companies said they are making the formalization of a mobile strategy a priority in 2008, and 25% said they already have a strategy in place.

"All companies say they want to do it, but other things have taken priority," Daley said. The groundswell of grass-roots adoption is finally pushing companies to act. Compliance issues are also forcing their hands, she said. "Particularly around SOX [Sarbanes-Oxley] and discoverable information assets that have to be tracked and archived. It's important that these devices – these storage carrying devices -- [have] policies associated with them. We're seeing a more concerted effort now because of these compliance issues."

Companies are also starting to recognize return on investment (ROI) proof points offered up by vendors, Daley said. The market has shown in the last 12 months that large-scale mobility initiatives can offer serious ROI in terms of productivity enhancement, which is critically important to companies that are looking to solidify their position in a down economy.

"We think that firms are recognizing that they not only have to deal with mobility because everybody is demanding it, but also because they are trying to harness some of the ROIs that are becoming clear in their industries," Daley said. "In this down environment, [formal mobility management initiatives] can help with productivity enhancements, whether that's a sales force automation application or field service."

Companies are also recognizing that a formal mobility strategy can help with top-line customer satisfaction initiatives, she said. For instance, telecoms can better serve consumers by improving overall communication among field service workers, dispatch and customers. It allows for a more personal touch.

Part of what drives that ROI potential is the rise of LOB applications. Forrester's research found that mobile LOB applications may soon reach the same level of market penetration as such ubiquitous mobile applications as email, contact management and calendaring. For instance, 22% of companies said they are evaluating or piloting field service applications, while 14% are rolling them out this year and 35% already have them deployed. Twenty-three percent of companies are evaluating or piloting sales force applications, while 11% are rolling them out and 38% already have them deployed.

"We're seeing maybe an 8% to 10% increase in people saying they're interested or piloting these applications, which isn't oh-my-gosh a critical inflection point, but we do see every year more and more people converting from interest to full deployment," Daley said.

With the rise of LOB application adoption, business executives are getting more involved in mobility decision-making. Twenty-one percent of companies said LOB executives have final decision-making authority for purchasing these applications. Another 73% have influence. Only 9% of companies said business executives are out of the loop.

"You're seeing much more active participation and heavier influence from the business side," Daley said. "Now you're seeing the vice president of supply chain, the vice president of logistics and the head of customer experience saying what the right mobile application is to make sure their employees and customers have the right information."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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