Ask Steve: Mobility Needs for SMBs

What Do SMBs Want?

Ask Yankee Group analyst Steve Hilton. Send your questions to Please include your name, city, state and a phone number. Only first names and locations will be published.

Picking up my children from school recently I noticed a girl in my daughters class talking on her mobile phone. When I was in school, I was excited when I used a public payphone, but I have a feeling this little third-grader using her candy bar phone wasnt nearly as excited about her telecommunications experiences as my dropping that dime in the slot and listening for the dial tone. Mobility and wireless access are hot and that is our topic this month in Ask Steve.

Q: What is driving businesses to adopt more and more mobile phone (smartphone) solutions?

Terry, Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: Does anyone remember a time when we didnt have cellular phones? How did we live without them? Not to be flip, but according to Yankee Group data, almost 50 percent of businesses with 100 to 499 employees believe mobile access to business applications through Wi-Fi, EV-DO or smartphone technology is the top strategy that will impact future business applications decisions. We are just at the beginning of a powerful transformation of our workplaces driven by ubiquitous connectivity to computing resources and applications.

Mobile access and the drive to comprehensive connectivity have two primary impacts on SMB employees. First, these improving tools like smartphones and wireless wide-area devices (e.g., EV-DO or HSDPA) foster productivity increases primarily outside the office. Employees log more customer and prospect interactions into CRM applications, dispatchers deploy field forces more quickly to resolve customer problems, and employees collaborate during non-standard working hours while on the road. While productivity increases vary by work-related venue (e.g., airport, hotel, coffee shop, etc.) and by device, the instances of productivity increases are stunning.

Second, mobile access helps SMB employees better balance their work and home lives. As age-old saying dont work harder, work smarter comes true, mobile-enablement tools increase levels of realtime and non-real-time communications. Increases in communications afford employees an opportunity to better balance work-related activities with non-work commitments.

Q: What are the most important mobile-related business applications for small and medium businesses?

Chris, Tulsa, Okla.

A: Lets move away from the world of ubiquitous connectivity and talk about the top applications used by SMBs in a mobile environment today. Looking at Yankee Group data, the top five business applications for SMBs are CRM, business productivity suites like Microsoft Office, sales force automation, field service and e-mail/personal information managers (PIM) (see chart below).

Many SMBs use these applications on laptops equipped with wireless wide-area deviced or Wi-Fi access. However, if you believe most SMBs dont have access to these applications on smartphone devices, youre absolutely correct. Besides e-mail/PIM applications made popular by BlackBerry, Treo and other smartphone brands, very few applications are smartphone-enabled for SMBs and adoption is abysmal. However, we expect some serious traction soon. Yankee Group forecasts a very robust market. By way of example, in the U.S. health care and social assistance sector, Yankee Group predicts $3.3 billion in mobile enterprise applications spending in 2010.

Unfortunately, IT vendors, mobile device vendors, ISVs, channel partners and service providers arent singing from the same hymnal. Solutions for SMBs generally lag those for large enterprises, but were starting to see some traction in the space. Research in Motion Inc. recently announced the BlackBerry Unite! solution, one that empowers the very smallest businesses with e-mail and messaging solutions on a BlackBerry device. These and similar solutions are the industrys initial attempts to drive mobile applications deeper into the SMB mass market. While Unite doesnt have the breadth of applications needed for SMBs, its certainly a start in offering an SMB-friendly solution.

We need more focus from the vendor and service provider communities on mobile-enabled applications for SMBs, and seeing the money on the table, well get the industry placing serious bets within the next 12 to 18 months.

  Steve Hilton is the vice president of Yankee Groups Enterprise Research Group with an expertise in converged solutions for SMBs. Hilton manages a team of analysts delivering consulting, research and programs to help vendors and service providers better serve SMBs, midmarket enterprises and large enterprises globally. Visit Yankee Group online at

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