Research: Key trends in mobile push email

Who is using push email? How are they using it, and why, and what are the barriers to adoption? Discover the state of push email and key trends in this exclusive research by ZDNet.co.uk and research firm Rhetorik

Executive summary: />

  • Penetration of mobile email across UK organisations is high. Of all enterprises researched with some degree of mobility in the workforce, 84 percent were users of mobile email.
  • Use of handheld email devices within the workforce itself was relatively low, however, with approaching half (44 percent) of these enterprises having a user base of less than 10 percent of staff.
  • The predominant trend in usage is one of growth, with almost two-thirds of users reporting an increasing user-base, driven largely by increasing mobility and a strong business case for use.
  • Push email is now the most prevalent implementation technology, with 50 percent higher penetration than pull email within our research sample. However, pull email has stronger acceptance within the smaller (small office, home office — SOHO) organisations.
  • Key drivers in the use of push technology were: to enable staff to be constantly accessible and in touch with customers and suppliers; for users to be always in contact with the office; and to facilitate rapid and efficient communications.
  • Key barriers to adoption of push email for non-users included a lack of perceived need or demand, cost issues and, in many cases, having not yet evaluated the technology. Of less significance were concerns about security, control and reliability. Barriers to wider adoption within the existing user-base were predominantly cost and security related, although lack of a perceived business need and concerns about increased pressures on staff were also important factors. When considering broadly the types of mobile push email in use, almost three-quarters reported using solutions based on the RIM (BlackBerry) protocol. Around half had Microsoft solutions and around one-third were using email based on POP3. Many enterprises had multiple solutions in use.
  • The main push email clients in use were BlackBerry and Microsoft Direct Push. Almost three-quarters of users reported application of a BlackBerry client on a RIM handset, and a further quarter used BlackBerry on a non-RIM device.
  • BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange was widely applied and a small proportion of Lotus Notes users had the version for IBM Lotus Domino. The other main push email server in use was Microsoft Direct Push — Microsoft Exchange 2003 and higher.
  • Respondents saw clear benefits in use of push email devices to the organisations themselves and, to a slightly lesser extent, to key staff, but the desirability in use to the holders of these devices, although positive, was not quite as compelling.
  • When asked about improvements to handheld push email devices, the wish list was diverse. However, a few important themes emerged. Faster download and upload speeds or data compression capabilities were requested by 15 percent of all respondents, with other common requirements including a reduction in costs (nine percent), better handling of attachments (seven percent), improved synchronisation (seven percent) and improved spam control and filtering (six percent).

Introduction, scope and methodology

The requirement for mobile access to email is now endemic throughout UK organisations, driven by the pervasive nature of email communications and the needs of businesses, their clients and suppliers to communicate in this way. Increasing mobility within the workforce is also clearly a key factor in usage.

Suppliers have responded to demand with an increasing array of technological solutions and handheld devices, and the rate of technology advance in this area is high.

In our research, we set out to investigate the use of mobile email for business purposes throughout the UK and, in particular, to evaluate the adoption of push email as a solution of choice.

This research was carried out as part of a broader research study investigating the top mobile trends of today and their impact on UK enterprises. The study was undertaken by ZDNet.co.uk in association with Rhetorik, a specialist market intelligence organisation that focuses specifically on European IT and telecommunications markets.

The survey used web-based survey techniques with a detailed questionnaire applied through the ZDNet.co.uk research panel, as well as a broad sample of knowledgeable respondents drawn from readership of specialist CNET technical publications.

Within this research, a significant sample of 311 organisations of all types and sizes using mobile email devices was polled. A breakdown of these respondents by size of organisation is presented below.

Figure 1: Breakdown by company size

 

Q42: Approximately how many people are employed in your organisation in the UK? (Single response)
Base: All respondents whose organisations have mobile email. (Total: 311)
Source: Rhetorik 2007 

 

 

The detailed results of this research can be seen in the sections that follow

Use of mobile email

We first questioned respondents on the degree of penetration of email-enabled mobile handsets in their organisations, as well as the trends in uptake. The results were quite interesting.

Penetration of mobile email

Penetration of mobile email across UK organisations is high. Of all 371 enterprises surveyed in the broader mobility study, 84 percent were found to be users of mobile email. However, when looking at the degree of penetration of mobile email devices amongst the workforce, most user organisations had relatively low uptake. This is perhaps not surprising, with usage dependent on the needs of the business, acceptance of the individuals within it and the degree of mobility amongst the general workforce.

Of the mobile email user respondents researched, one-quarter had less than five percent of staff equipped with email-enabled handsets and approaching half (44 percent) had less than 10 percent staff penetration. As might be expected, the smaller businesses were more likely to have the highest proportionate levels of users. One quarter of all respondents in the SOHO sector claimed 70 percent or more of all staff as users, falling to only three percent with these levels of penetration in the large corporate sector.

Figure 2: Percentage of staff with email-enabled handsets


 

Q11: What proportion of your staff has email-enabled handsets? (Single response)
Base: All respondents whose organisations have mobile email. (Total: 311)

Source: Rhetorik 2007

 

Trends in use of mobile email

Although penetration within these organisations is still quite low, the predominant trend is one of growth. More than three-fifths of current users indicated that the number of staff equipped with these devices is increasing, with only two percent seeing a decline. Increased staff penetration is greatest within the larger organisations, with close to three-quarters of all corporates and large corporates reporting growth in the numbers of users.

Figure 3: Trends in penetration of handheld email devices

 


Q12: Is the proportion of staff using email-enabled handsets increasing or decreasing at this time? (Single response)
Base: All respondents whose organisations have mobile email. (Total: 311)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

When questioned on the reasons for growth, the explanations given were quite diverse. However, the most prevalent were related to:

  • Increasing mobility within the workforce, including flexible working patterns and home-working, as well as business travel.
  • The recognition by management of the business benefits, productivity and efficiency gains brought by the use of this technology.
  • Demand from end-users themselves as they become aware of the availability and capability of these devices, and the benefits they can bring.
  • Recent improvements in the devices and technology.
  • Falling prices.
  • Increasing availability of both devices and services.
  • Business growth and, in some cases, increasing numbers of sites leading to higher staff numbers and/or mobility.
  • Importantly, but surprisingly low on the list of unprompted responses to this question, the requirements of customer support and servicing client needs.

Figure 4: Reasons for growth


Q13: What are the main reasons for this increase? (Open resonse)
Base: All respondents whose proportion of staff with email-enabled handsets is increasing. (Total: 191)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Push or pull?

With an increasing user base of mobile email devices, we next explored the technology in use. In particular, we were interested in investigating the uptake of devices based on push, or "always-on", email technology compared with those that rely on email pull.

With push technology, emails are sent directly to the handset as soon as they are received by the mail delivery server. Immediate access to these emails requires an "always on" connection, with resultant higher connection charges. With the more traditional pull technology, the handset polls the mail delivery server and emails are only accessed at user request (or at designated intervals in time).

Our research indicated that push email is now the most prevalent implementation technology, with 50 percent higher penetration than pull email within our research sample. However, it is worth noting that a number of enterprises are reporting use of both technologies concurrently.

Pull technology has the greatest popularity with the smallest organisations. A little over one-quarter (27 percent) of respondents from the SOHO sector reported use of push email and 55 percent were using pull technology. This is effectively the reverse of the situation in all the other larger sectors. By vertical market, the finance and banking sectors appear to be strong adopters of push technology, with more than 80 percent of all respondents using these solutions.

Figure 5: Push or pull mobile email


Q15: Do you use push and/or pull mobile email technologies in the solutions applied within your organisation? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents whose organisations have mobile email. (Total: 311)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Drivers and restraints of push technology 

Both users and non-users of push email solutions were questioned on the drivers and restraints in use of this technology within their organisations.

Drivers of use 

When current users of mobile push email solutions were questioned on the main benefits of using this technology, around two-thirds were united in pointing to three areas of improved communications that always-on email could provide:

  • The ability for key mobile staff to remain constantly accessible and in touch with their customers and suppliers, and hence to offer rapid response to their requests and requirements.
  • The ability for key mobile staff to be always in contact with staff and management at the office.
  • The more general point of facilitating rapid and efficient communications with and for mobile staff.

Figure 6: Benefits of using push email

 

Q17: Which of the following would you consider to be the main benefits in the use of push mobile email technology within your organisation? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Barriers to adoption

When considering barriers to adoption, we first questioned mobile email users who had not selected push solutions to explore the main reasons for this decision.

Lack of perceived need within the enterprise was clearly an important factor. 45 percent of all respondents reported satisfaction with their existing communications solutions and 28 percent said that there was no demand from their end-users.

One-third of non-users said that the company had not yet evaluated the technology, clearly leaving open the possibility that these solutions could be adopted in future.

Cost was another factor high in the minds of non-users. Thirty-eight percent of the respondent base thought that the use of push solutions was too expensive.

Other important factors focused on issues around security, both of the devices themselves and the network and information contained. Importance was also attached to issues of reliability and control.

Some respondents simply said that they had too few mobile workers to make use worthwhile. This response probably links to the low proportion of users adopting this technology in the smaller SOHO category.

Other reasons given were generally related to the end-user "remaining in control" of access to his/her messages at different times when away from the office.

Some interesting comments that typify the desire of some personal users of mobile email to remain in control follow.

"Do not want to get distracted, if in a meeting, by worrying about an email that I can see has arrived — would rather download when I can read them and have time to do something about them."

"I want to be in control of communications. I don't want my time cluttered by other people's demands. I like to decide when to check and not the other way around."

Figure 7: Reasons for non-use

 

Q16: Which of the following would you consider to be the main reasons you have not yet decided to use push mobile email technology within your organisation? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents whose organisations have mobile email but are not using push technology. (Total: 69)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

When we asked existing users of push mobile email solutions about any constraints on wider rollout of these devices, the predominant factor noted was one of cost. More than half of all respondents mentioned this as an important barrier, and a further quarter identified existing price structures in this respect.

Security concerns also featured highly as a barrier to wider adoption, with companies clearly wishing to restrict usage for this reason.

Business- and management-related issues were also important. Almost one-third of respondents said that there was no perceived business need for wider adoption, and about half this number said that management policy was a barrier.

Perhaps surprisingly, the fact that use could put increased pressure on staff was a concern for more than one-quarter of respondents, and almost one-fifth said that there was simply no end-user demand for wider rollout.

Another important barrier to further investment was the speed of technological redundancy in this fast-moving sector. Today's hardware investments could be obsolete in the very near future.

Figure 8: Barriers to increasing use

 

Q18: Which (if any) of the following would you consider to be the main barriers to wider adoption of push mobile email technology within your organisation? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Push email solutions and technology 

We next explored the actual push email technology and solutions in use.

Mobile push email solutions

When considering broadly the types of mobile push email in use, almost three-quarters reported using solutions based on the RIM (BlackBerry) protocol. Around half had Microsoft solutions and around one-third were using email based on POP3. POP3 was most widely applied within smaller organisations, with almost half of SOHO respondents and over one-third of SMEs from our study claiming use.

When looking at these results, it should be noted that many respondents reported the use of more than one solution within their enterprise.

Figure 9: Mobile push email solutions in use

 

Q20: Which of the following mobile push email solutions are in use in your organisation? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Push email technology

The main push email clients used were BlackBerry and Microsoft Direct Push. Almost three-quarters of these respondents reported use of a BlackBerry client on a RIM handset, and a further quarter used BlackBerry on a non-RIM device. BlackBerry was most prevalent within larger organisations, and less popular, but still significant, in the SOHO sector.

A wide range of other clients were acknowledged in use but few had any prominence in the overall survey. Most significant of the others were GoodLink and Seven, with Seven used for Java-based devices. RoadSync was used by around two percent of our sample together with the Palm operating system. Others of less significance included Chattermail for Treo, Oracle Mobile Push Mail, Vodafone Business Email and Intellisync.

Figure 10: Mobile push email clients in use

 

Q21 Which of the following mobile push email clients are in use? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

Of the servers in use, BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange predominates, with Microsoft Direct Push – MS Exchange 2003 and higher following in popularity. BlackBerry Enterprise Server for IBM Lotus Domino also has a following for Lotus Notes users. The only other server of significance is delivered as part of the Oracle Collaboration Suite.

Consistent with the findings for BlackBerry clients, BlackBerry Enterprise Servers are particularly popular with larger organisations.

Figure 11: Mobile push email servers in use

 

Q22: Which of the following mobile push email servers are in use? (Multiple responses)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

BlackBerry also has particular prominence with users in the finance and banking and government sectors for both enterprise servers and clients.

User perceptions 

To help establish how use of push email is perceived within user organisations, we asked relevant respondents to rate their agreement with three key statements.

To summarise, respondents saw clear benefits in use to the organisations themselves and, to a slightly lesser extent, to key staff, but the desirability in use to the holders of these devices themselves, although positive, was not quite as compelling.

As can be seen in figure 12, there was a particularly strong accord with the statement "Access to work email for key staff anywhere and anytime through push email devices is of great benefit to my organisation", with 92 percent of respondents in agreement.

Benefits to the staff using these devices were also well recognised, with 88 percent agreeing that "Access to work email anywhere and anytime through push email devices is of great benefit to key staff".

However, the percentage of respondents in agreement with the statement "Staff like having access to work email anywhere and anytime" was a rather lower 67 percent. This perhaps reflects some of the perceived disadvantages for the staff in never being out of contact with work at any time, day or night.

The benefits to key staff and the desirability of these devices to the users themselves were most apparent in the smallest organisations. This result is perhaps because the users in these enterprises were most likely to be the principals and senior managers of the company, who made the decision to deploy the technology for their own use.

Figure 12: Perceptions in use of push email

 

Q19: How far would you agree with the following statements? Please rate each statement on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is "strongly agree" and 5 is "strongly disagree".
Base: All respondents using push mobile email techology. (Total: 170)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

User wish list

The final question in this area was an interesting one. We asked users of push email solutions: "If you could make one major improvement/enhancement to the push email devices in current use in your organisation, what would it be?"

A total of 87 respondents answered this open question and, in some cases, at length. As you might expect, the responses were particularly diverse and often related to the particular circumstances of the enterprise, the devices in use and the way they were being applied.

However, a few important recurrent themes emerged. Faster download and upload speeds or data compression capabilities were requested by 15 percent of all respondents. These users clearly saw the need for the communication of large data files and sources of information speedily and efficiently. Other common requirements of a specific nature included a reduction in costs (nine percent), better handling of attachments (seven percent), improved synchronisation (seven percent) and improved spam control and filtering (six percent).

Other improvements to technical features of the devices were noted in almost one-quarter (23 percent) of the answers given, and a range of improvements or upgrades to the systems or network were requested by eight percent. Access to other particular applications was noted in 10 percent of responses. However, this still left more than one-quarter of all improvements suggested that were too diverse to analyse in this way.

Figure 13: Push email improvements 'wish list'

 

Q23: If you could make one major improvement/enhancement to the push email devices in current use in your organisation, what would it be? (Open response)
Base: All respondents using push mobile email technology who noted improvements. (Total: 87)
Source: Rhetorik 2007

A few interesting examples of improvements noted in the open responses may help to illustrate the diversity of requirements and needs uncovered by this question:

"Have devices that are lighter and more aesthetically pleasing."

"Unify all devices onto one solution to ease burden of management."

"Typing more than one line of text is laborious. To be able to dictate the message verbally and for it to be converted to email text would be really ideal."

"Increase capacity of the devices to store and access files and mail/documents."

"In-built read and edit of Microsoft Office documents."

"Single handset remote management platform to adopt the same security policy and remote device management to any platform-enabled mobile email, irrespective of device, operating system and email enabling platform."

Copyright © Rhetorik Limited (2007)
All rights reserved

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