Smartphone Use Will Tax IT Administrators, Says Report

Smartphone use will increase dramatically in 2010 and beyond, according to Forrester Research. In a new report, the firm offers enterprises advice on managing the onslaught of devices, from iPhones to BlackBerrys and Droids, and who should pay for them.

Smartphone use is about to surge, and enterprises should begin preparing for the deluge, states a Jan. 6 report from Forrester Research.

While 11 percent of U.S. consumers, and 14 percent of the U.S. "information work force" currently has a smartphone, Forrester expects those numbers to begin steadily climbing in 2010 and not stop until smartphones are in the hands of more than 70 percent of information workers.

When asked about the tools they would be interested in, were their company to support them, smartphones led the pack by far, with 64 percent of workers saying they were interested in one, versus the next highest-ranking tool, instant messaging, which 26 percent of workers were interested in having.

"That means you will see a surge in personal smartphone adoption and a rise in employee and executive demand to support iPhones, Droids, Palm, Symbian, Windows Mobile devices, and of course more BlackBerry devices," states the report.

According to Forrester, IT professionals expect to "increase smartphone levels to 30 percent of their workforces in the next three years." The upside, for CFOs wondering how to budget and pay for all those devices, according to Forrester, is to plan to support more employee-owned devices.

Forrester found that 46 percent of enterprises already support, to varying degrees, the personal mobile devices of their employees. That number climbed to 61 percent among smaller business.

Forrester found that employees with BlackBerry devices were most likely to have corporate-liable plans, meaning that the company pays the monthly bill. iPhone and other smartphone owners, however, most often have personally liable plans, in which the employee pays for some or all of the monthly bill.

"How much of the smartphone cost should be borne by employees, and how much by employers?" Forrester writes. "Our contention is that firms should consider a comprehensive funding model that includes corporate-liable plans for business-critical employees and shared personally liable plans for everybody else. This model should be based on a segmentation of your mobile workforce."

Forrester recommends that enterprises create a smartphone strategy that includes a sliding a scale for mobile cost reimbursement, based on whether individuals or employees benefit more from the device, as well as creating a "smartphone strategy council" that brings together various members of the organization to discuss ideas, including the balancing of risks and rewards.

Finally, pointing to the successful smartphone strategies of companies such as Kraft Foods, the Forrester report offers seven ways to handle the coming growth of smartphones, sure to face enterprises in the coming months and years. These include subsidizing smartphone plans for 50 percent of information workers and investing in mobile device management and experience tracking systems.