Mobile device management missing in small businesses

Nonetheless, CDW survey finds that 35% of SMB execs believe mobile device use has improved work and life balance

A new survey of 753 mobile device users and IT professionals in U.S. small businesses revealed that most are unfamiliar with mobile device management (MDM) technology, even though 79% have deployed smartphones to at least some workers.

The survey, conducted by CDW from July through September, found that despite the overwhelming use of personal devices, 67% of IT managers are unfamiliar with MDM software. Only 22% of those who were familiar with MDM tools have deployed or plan to deploy it.

CDW's report found that almost all small business users surveyed (94%) believe mobile devices make them more efficient despite security and management challenges.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly said mobile devices are important to fulfilling company tasks -- 75% said they are "critical" to their job. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said their companies would lose competitive ground in today's market without mobile devices.

Survey respondents included users in a number of markets, including manufacturing, professional services, retail, construction and food services.

CIM said that 50% of respondents were professional end users, including CEOs or COOs, vice presidents, business directors and managers. Meanwhile, 11% of respondents were CIOs or CTOs, 10% were IT directors or supervisors, 16% were IT managers, and 13% indicated they were IT professionals.

When asked how mobile devices help them do their jobs, 60% of respondents said it improved communication between field and office personnel and the same percentage said they increased availability to customers.

Additionally, 35% responded that mobile devices improved work and life balance, and 34% said the technology streamlined business processes.

While some mobile phones are company owned, 89% of small business employees who use them for work use a personal device.

CDW said that 55% of respondents reported that their companies have deployed tablets to some workers. Thirty-six percent of the IT managers surveyed said some employees have replaced their laptop or desktop computer with a smartphone or tablet.

When asked how much employee use of tablets and smartphones would increase over the next two years, IT managers said 117% and 33%, respectively.

Smartphones are by far the most popular mobile device of respondents -- 81% said they currently use a smartphone for work two hours a day on average. By comparison, respondents said that laptops are used by 65% of small business employees for an average of 4.1 hours per day and tablets used by 25% for an average of 1.7 hours a day.

Mobile device users surveyed listed "providing better customer service" as a top benefit from using mobile devices though most small businesses surveyed are not yet offering their customers mobile-friendly service features.

While 63% of IT managers surveyed said they believe that their company is taking full advantage of what mobile devices have to offer, only 28% said their company's website optimized for mobile use. CDW said 23% of respondents offer text message marketing, 17% offer mobile coupons and 14% offer customer mobile apps.

"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."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Read more about mobile device management in Computerworld's Mobile Device Management Topic Center.

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