Ask Steve: What Wireless Tools do Smaller Businesses Need?
Wireless access is growing by leaps and bounds, but what tools do smaller businesses need to make the most of this newfound mobility? Yankee Group's Steve Hilton talks wireless tools in this month's Ask Steve.
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Each month, SMB expert Steve Hilton of Yankee Group answers real reader questions about small and midsize business.
Does anyone work 100% of the time from the desk anymore? I doubt it. SMB employees become more mobile every year, and the technology tools needed to support them must change at a faster pace. If you don't believe me, just ask my father-in-law, a 60-something, "retired" freelancing theatre director. Armed with a mobile device, instant messaging, and hosted backup/restore application, he's a one-man virtual worker. Mobility and collaboration applications are front-and-center in this installment of Ask Steve.
Diane from San Antonio, TX: With all the talk about wireless, what tools do smaller businesses really need?
Steve: Let's set up the discussion with a little SMB data, Diane. There is a lot of industry talk about wireless, but are SMB employees really that mobile? In fact, they are: 44 percent of all SMB employees are mobile workers. The type of mobile working (e.g., intra-office, local travel, long-distance travel, and telecommuting) varies based on a variety of characteristics, including socio-economic characteristics of an employee and his or her job specifications and requirements.
Of the 44 percent of SMB workers who work on the go, 49 percent are mobile professionals (senior executives, managers, IT workers, consultants, other knowledge workers, etc.). Another 31 percent are field force workers -- employees engaged in sales, technical support, or other field-related services. The remaining 20 percent are a mish-mash of mobile specialty workers, including delivery personnel, drivers, factory/production staff, construction/trades people, public safety/service employees, faculty, and others.
All this added mobility requires new types of working and collaboration between employees, suppliers, and customers. And many of these types of tools come from the consumer world rather than the enterprise world. Employees need real-time, near-real-time, and non-real time communications to effectively and efficiently do their jobs. Often the SMB IT departments haven't implemented enterprise-class (or SMB-class) solutions, so the SMBs use technology tools from their personal lives for work to get the job done.
According to Yankee Group research, the top mobility- and collaboration-centric solutions for SMB employees are blogs, wikis, smart phones, WWAD-enabled laptops (EV-DO or HSDPA), and instant messaging. The best of these solutions can increase SMB productivity by 30 to 40 percent. Of note, these solutions drive employee productivity outside the office environment, which is where many mobile workers are spending upward of 50 percent of their work week. Strangely enough, these types of mobility-and collaboration-centric solutions do not increase productivity inside the office, so SMB employees that have high levels of travel are the ones who will benefit most from these solutions. In addition, many of these solutions supplement real-time communications with text-based communications, facilitating near- or non-real time communications and allowing mobile workers to multi-task and prioritize their hectic work lives.
There are many other solutions that can aid SMBs in a mobile environment. Many of these solutions are classic enterprise-based solutions, generally requiring implementation for the entire company. Solutions such as unified communications (often integrated with IP PBX or hosted VoIP solutions) fit this bill. Knowing UC adoption by SMBs has been slower than hoped, it's important for partners to understand the other types of mobility and collaboration tools that drive SMB employee productivity.
Thanks for the great question, Diane.
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