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Mobile, remote workers putting strain on IT

A pair of recent studies found that many companies' IT organizations are struggling to support and manage their ever-expanding mobile and remote workforces.

IT organizations are having trouble keeping up with the needs and demands of their ever-expanding mobile and remote workforces, a pair of recent studies revealed.

In two separate studies, BPM Forum, an independent executive thought leadership group, and communications vendor Avaya, found that the mobile and remote growth has created an "IT crisis for many companies as they struggle to adapt their technology and support infrastructures to meet a new set of demands."

Furthermore, the numbers of mobile workers is on the rise. Research firm In-Stat/MDR predicts mobile workers in the U.S. alone will reach 103 million by 2008, and the following year the number of worldwide mobile workers will reach 878 million. The spike in numbers, coupled with growing security challenges, increasingly complex mobile applications and the strong demand for round-the-clock support, is leaving IT organizations in a bind, the studies found.

Chris Kenton, senior vice president at BPM Forum, described the surge in mobile workers' needs as a growing wave that's lifting up over organizations. "IT organizations are under more pressure," he said. "The big challenge they face is how they get out in front of these issues."

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BPM Forum polled 400 businesses and executives to look at IT challenges facing today's distributed and mobile organizations for its report, "The Remote Revolution, Uptime Issues, Implications & Imperatives in the Mobile Workforce." Meanwhile, Avaya, which authored "Working to Communicate Better in Business," questioned 600 end users to determine mobility challenges from the workers' perspective.

Nearly 75% of respondents in both studies predicted an increase in the number of remote workers at their businesses, while 84% reported growing pressures and demands on the IT organization due to the need to support remote and mobile devices.

Forty percent said their companies have suffered business disruptions because of ineffective support. More than half of the end users surveyed said they've missed important business meetings, customer inquiries or business leads because of missed communications, one-third of which said those missed communications directly resulted in lost revenues or additional expenses. Forty-eight percent of workers said they receive late messages at least once a week.

"We see organizations being in a crunch," said Lawrence Byrd, a product marketing director with Avaya. "They need to look at their workers and determine [their workers'] needs. The current disorganized way of doing things is not producing business results."

Addressing those needs has become more complicated, especially since the studies found that 63% of workers carry two or more mobile devices daily.

The proliferation of devices has left IT organizations "behind the ball," Kenton said, and many organizations polled don't have a strategy in place to embrace mobility.

"With more employees using more devices and applications, there's an increased complexity in support demands," he said. "Without a proactive strategy, workers are in essence defining the policy of what devices and applications can be used and assuming they'll be supported."

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