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Employee use of mobile devices gives small businesses a competitive lift, a new study shows. But employees mostly provide that lift by bringing their own smartphones, tablets and even laptops to work, putting pressure on IT managers to keep up with the workers. While small businesses see big benefits from mobility, they struggle to manage and secure mobile devices.
Nearly all small business mobile-device users surveyed (94 percent) said mobile devices make them more efficient, and 75 percent agreed that mobile-device use is critical to their job, according to a survey of 752 mobile-device users and IT professionals from U.S. small businesses in five industries with a high potential to benefit from mobility — construction, retail, professional services, food services and manufacturing.
The study was conducted by CDW, a technology provider.
Mobility has also become a game changer for small businesses in terms of their ability compete, the survey found. Two-thirds (67 percent) of mobile-device users agree that their company would lose competitive ground in today's market without mobile devices.
The top mobility benefits are improved communications between field/office workers (60 percent), increased availability to customers (60 percent) and increased employee productivity (55 percent), CDW found.
The move to mobility is also leaving desktops and laptops in the lurch, the survey found. More than a third (36 percent) of IT managers said some employees have replaced their work desktop or laptop computer with a smartphone or tablet. And an additional 20 percent expect that some employees will do so in the next two years.
But managing all these mobile devices is one of the top challenges for small business IT departments. They report that 89 percent of small business employees use their own personal devices for work. But just half of IT managers believe their company has an effective strategy to manage mobile devices.
"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," said Jill Billhorn, CDW vice president, small business. "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."