Small Business Is Mobilizing - Are You Ready?
New Report Shows Mobile Devices Make Small Businesses More Competitive But Pose Management Challenges
November 09, 2012
Jill Billhorn
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Today’s small businesses are getting a competitive lift thanks to mobile devices, according to a new report by technology solutions provider CDW. The Small Business Mobility Report found that almost all small business employees (94 percent) who use mobile devices believe those devices make them more efficient, and most (75 percent) agreed that mobile device use is critical to their job.

The 94 percent figure is impressive. That number is substantial in part because small business employees are using mobile apps and mobile devices to move faster than they have in the past – which makes their companies appear larger, gives them greater reach and enables them to react to customers and market trends faster than they ever could before.

In fact, CDW’s report found that 60 percent of mobile device users believe that mobility leads to improved communication between field and office personnel as well as increased availability to customers – resulting in better customer service and happier customers.

It’s a BYOD Party

The biggest challenge of mobility is managing the multitude of devices that employees use for work. CDW’s report found that 89 percent of small business employees use personally owned smartphones, laptops and tablets for work, and that small business IT professionals expect employee use of tablet computers to more than double – and smartphone use to increase by a third – over the next two years.

It’s a great thing that so many employees are willing to use their own devices to their employer’s benefit, but each unmanaged device that touches a company’s network represents risk of intrusion, data loss or other compromises – and IT managers surveyed by CDW specifically pointed to challenges associated with securing mobile devices, as well as controlling the increased need for storage and servers to support those devices.

While today’s employees are more sophisticated than ever about mobile technology, it is important to have policies and IT safeguards in place to manage it: a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy.

Ideally, IT managers should keep track of both the devices used and the applications that run on them. The goal is to create synergy from use of common applications and to balance the employee’s autonomy and productivity with the company’s need to secure its network – not an easy balance to strike. Despite the importance of managing the mobile devices that access the business’s network and data, CDW’s report found that just half of small business IT managers said their company has an effective mobile device management (MDM) strategy.

As we move toward a more mobile workforce, there is no doubt that all small businesses will need MDM in some form. There are many MDM solutions available, and it can seem daunting to sort through all of the options to decide what is best for your business. A trusted solutions provider is a great resource to help any small business decide which MDM solution best fits its unique needs.

There’s an App for That

Beyond MDM, it is also important for your small business to have a realistic understanding of which applications are most important to your business. The speed at which developers continue to launch new mobile applications is blinding. A small business might put a great deal of time into studying which apps they want for their business today only to find out three months later that there is something bigger, better or faster. It can be a challenge to weigh the apps that are most important to have against the apps that are most interesting or exciting to have.

Try to approach it this way: If a mobile app is not core to your business and it does not drive your business toward new customers, focus on the apps that do – the success of your business should take priority over using an app simply because it is “cutting edge.”

The easiest way to guarantee that your small business reaps the benefits of mobile apps is to ensure that those apps are properly managed. Small businesses taking advantage of mobile apps should consider mobile application management (MAM) solutions, which encourage consistent use of apps across an organization while providing targeted security around them – this simplifies collaboration, protects your company’s data and reduces employee resistance to MDM in a BYOD setting.

A mobilized workforce has its management challenges, but the benefits are even greater. When it comes to mobility management, remember that an MDM or MAM solution can simplify policy, security and other facets of management. Speak to a trusted solutions provider to find out which MDM/MAM solutions best fit your small business and its unique mobility needs.

ABOUT Jill Billhorn

Jill M. Billhorn currently serves as vice president of small business at CDW. Prior to joining CDW in 2010, she held a number of leadership roles at various organizations, including Holden LLC, Metropolitan Planning Council, AT&T, Ameritech and MCI. Ms. Billhorn is a graduate of the University of Illinois in Champaign.

CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 32 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies and No. 270 on the Fortune 500, CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,900 co-workers. For the trailing 12 months ended June 30, 2012, the company generated net sales of more than $9.9 billion.

Related Links:

CDW Small Business Mobility Report

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