Mobile Devices Making Small Businesses More Efficient: CDW

Small-business owners are realizing the benefits of deploying mobile technology in their workforce, but management issues remain.

In an effort to make their companies more competitive and productive, owners of small and midsize businesses (SMB) are turning to mobile devices to ramp up efficiency, according to technology provider CDW's 2012 Small Business Mobility Report, based on a survey of 752 mobile device users and IT professionals from U.S. small businesses across five industries. Three-quarters of mobile device users agreed that their use was critical to their job, while 67 percent agreed that their company would lose competitive ground in today's market without mobile devices.

The survey found that 94 percent of the small-business users surveyed believe their mobile devices make them more efficient, which may explain why IT managers polled report that 89 percent of their employees use personally owned mobile devices for work. The report noted that there is some risk to adopting these technologies, with just over half (51 percent) of IT managers saying their company has an effective strategy for managing and securing all those additional devices.

The report focuses on trends in small-business use of mobile technology, such as bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives and the use of productivity-enhancing applications, the challenges of mobility, including the management of mobile device security and the risk these devices pose to company networks and data, and what small businesses can do better with the advanced capabilities of today's mobility solutions. Email and calendar applications, as well as GPS and navigation apps, were among the most useful features of mobile devices, slightly ahead of social media apps and file-storage apps.

More than a quarter (28 percent) of small businesses surveyed offer Websites optimized for mobile use, 23 percent offer text message marketing, 17 percent offer mobile coupons and 14 percent offer custom mobile apps. While few IT managers report using mobile-device management (MDM), those who did said it gives them a better grip on mobile devices and applications, including benefits like improved security, reduced management costs and improved workforce productivity.

"CDW's report says that small-business users consider productivity and business apps on mobile devices to be game-changers that make them more efficient and competitive," Jill Billhorn, CDW's vice president of small business, said in a statement. "They want still more apps to help them manage unique aspects of their businesses, and the prospect is for dramatic growth in tablet use. That expanding demand, though, also means growing need for solutions to manage and secure mobile devices, as only a fifth of small-business IT managers say their company has deployed or even plans to deploy such a solution."

The report found that mobility benefits extend beyond small-business employees to owners and customers alike, with 60 percent of users surveyed believing that mobile devices lead to improved communication between field and office personnel as well as increased availability to customers, which resulted in better customer service. The report includes findings specific to five industries: construction, food services, manufacturing, professional services and retail, and offers perspectives on top benefits, how mobile devices have changed the ways small businesses operate, the mobile offerings small businesses use to communicate with customers, and deployment/use rates of laptops, tablets and smartphones.