Optical/IP Networks

Enterprises Warm to Mobile Data

The integration of new mobile services into legacy systems, and the key matter of security, are the main concerns for enterprises that are keen to use mobility solutions, according to a survey commissioned by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). But despite these concerns, the level of use and planned use of wireless data services by companies with mobile workers is "encouraging," according to Nokia's findings, though "voice still dominates, and mobile data is in its infancy." The Finnish firm commissioned independent researcher NOP Research Group to conduct quantitative and qualitative research with companies in the U.S. and Germany. Telephone interviews were conducted with 600 "decision-makers" from a sample of small (100-249 staff), medium (250-499), and large enterprises (more than 500 employees). All 600 were for-profit companies, already provided employees with mobile devices, had some staff working away from their offices for more than eight hours a week, and were "willing to use mobile data in the future." A further 50 in-depth interviews were conducted with respondents from the pharmaceutical, healthcare, retail, insurance, and distribution sectors, as these verticals had been identified as "potential early adopters of mobile data applications." Not a random sample, then. "We weren't looking to size the market" in terms of those willing to use mobile data services, explains Janne Laiho, a market research manager at Nokia Networks. "We wanted meaningful research" about companies already deploying mobile phones and with staff on the move. And there is no shortage of such companies. The researchers estimate that 28 percent of companies in the U.S. and 53 percent in Germany meet the required criteria. So what did they discover? Well, there were no surprises, admits Laiho, and the results largely "confirmed general trends" and have helped Nokia to firm up its ideas about an enterprise mobile data evolution path. It is also useful for Nokia's handset division. "We are really concentrating on the enterprise sector in terms of development," says Seppo Kolari, a marketing director in the business applications unit at Nokia Mobile Phones. Of all the companies surveyed, the majority believe that mobile services "very much improve efficiency" (51 percent in the U.S. and 55 percent in Germany), while a further 42 percent in the U.S. and 35 percent in Germany believe there are some efficiency gains. Those that believe they do offer greater efficiency were asked how mobile services have improved efficiency. 93 percent of respondents in the U.S. and 80 percent in Germany said they saved time, while 56 percent of U.S. firms and 44 percent of German companies thought they reduced costs. So what services do they actually use? The results, say the Nokia folk, show a distinct evolution in the way enterprise users use wireless services. This begins with general business applications (such as email), moves on to customer-facing services (such as product information used by sales personnel), and then employee-facing services (access to enterprise resource planning applications). At present, 29 percent of those companies surveyed provide their mobile workers access to email using wireless devices, while 23 percent in the U.S. and 22 percent in Germany provide access to contact lists. The figures for access to applications used by sales staff (account details, stock availability, quotes, and so on) are much lower, ranging from 13 percent down to about 5 or 6 percent; access by field service staff to ERP apps (asset data, order information, work sign-offs) is even lower, ranging from 9 percent down to 2 percent. Mobile phones look set to be used more and more by such companies to access corporate data. The table below shows mobile phones to be nearly as popular as laptop PCs for data access (though the question did not specify whether this included remote fixed-line access by laptops rather than just wireless access). Table 1: Which of the following will you be using in the future for accessing company information?
U.S. Germany Small Medium Large
Laptop PC 81% 86% 78% 88% 79%
Mobile phones 75% 85% 73% 81% 79%
Smartphones 60% 42% 54% 52% 61%
Source: Nokia (note: smartphone proposed to respondents as a mobile device that has additional functionality)

The feedback on the choice between so-called end-to-end solutions and best-of-breed services is revealing. Of all respondents, 51 percent prefer the end-to-end approach, while 41 percent favor the multi-supplier strategy, leaving a puzzled 8 percent that isn't sure. Preference for the end-to-end solution is driven by "lack of confidence and lack of in-house resources," and advocates claim it provides "better integration, price benefits and fewer suppliers to deal with." Those on the multi-source side of the fence say it gives them more control and a greater sense of security, as well as being able to cherry pick to best suit their existing IT platform. The existing platform is a key issue, the researchers found. "Most respondents consider integration of new mobile services into existing legacy systems to be difficult, with a good quarter saying they believe integration is very or extremely difficult," states the findings document. "Security is also a big concern. Respondents are cautious about levels of access, hackers and fraud, corruption of data, and encryption." And for those who feel that decisions are often made within companies by clueless management types who do not take employees into account, the research found that "employee buy-in" is considered the single most important factor when considering the implementation of a "mobility solution" within a company. — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung www.unstrung.com
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