The use of mobile technology, including smartphones and tablets, has its fair share of problems -- and not every business is willing to deal with it.
Giving employees mobile devices or instigating bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes does have the potential to boost flexible working, an "on call" mentality and allowing data to be available at your fingertips -- but this type of flexibility does cause issues. Allowing corporate information to leave centralized networks can increase the risk of security breaches, the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots can leave devices vulnerable to infiltration, and using different mobile devices and operating systems can give IT departments compatibility headaches.
The mobile technology trend is simply the latest issue businesses have to tackle. As information in the West becomes freely and instantly accessible through web-connected mobile devices, not only do customers expect a higher degree of connection to businesses, but employees often also expect their employers to accommodate smartphones and tablets, especially if they have job roles which keep them on the road.
But are all businesses on-board with the trend?
Apparently not. Symantec's recent 2013 "State of Mobility Survey" (.pdf) suggests that corporate leaders can be separated in to black-and-white categories. Businesses are either "innovators" who are keen to embrace mobility in their quest to remain competitive and reach out to as many customers as possible, or "traditionalists" who are shying away from incorporating mobility into their business strategies.
3,236 businesses from 29 countries were included in the report, and the survey respondents either members of the IT department, senior enterprise staff or technical members of staff among SMBs. Businesses included within Symantec's research were sized from five employees to over 5,000.
Symantec says that those who are considered "innovators" and are ready to implement mobile technology within business strategy are motivated by business drivers and the need to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 84 percent of "innovators" are moving ahead with implementing mobile technology, whereas "traditionalists" are less keen -- and as a result, are only grudgingly joining the trend due to consumer demand.
However, it may be that only implementing mobile device policies because users demand it may be hampering potential profit and benefits. Among companies actively using mobile technology, 66 percent said that the benefits outweigh the risks, whereas 74 percent of traditional businesses say that they are seeing few positive outcomes.
This appears to be linked to the rate of mobile device adoption in the workplace. Among "innovators," 50 percent more employees said they use smartphones or tablets for work-related purposes than within "traditional" firms, and in addition, 55 percent of innovators said they were taking control of the purchase of mobile devices for employees, in comparison to 44 percent of traditional companies.
However, mobile technology in the workplace doesn't stop there. In opposition to traditional firms, 60 percent of innovators more often have mobility policies, and are far more likely to use technology to enforce these policies. Only 33 percent of traditional firms have considered this when it comes down to the risks associated with mobile devices.
Where innovators are seeing more benefits than traditionalists when using mobile technology -- including increased productivity, speed, brand value and overall competitiveness and customer happiness -- they are also seeing an increase in data breaches and associated loss of revenue, as well as an overall rise in operational costs.
This may be enough to cause firms to shy away from mobile technology in itself, however, the report says that 44 percent of innovators are experiencing revenue growth rates nearly 50 percent higher than 30 percent of traditional companies. We can't place this all at the door of mobile technology, but the willingness to try and use it for competitive gain could be part of the larger picture -- being willing to embrace new technology to drive a business will ultimately mean you are more successful, and mobile technology can be a part of this.
"Few issues command the attention of IT today like mobility," said Francis deSouza, president of Products and Services at Symantec. "The difference in attitudes and results between the organizations that actively embrace mobility and those that are reluctant is significant. Organizations taking a proactive approach benefit much more than those that put it off until they eventually find themselves trying to catch up to the competition."