IT Leadership

CIO Survey Shows Mobility Going Mainstream

Competition is pushing all types of businesses toward greater mobility as companies ready plans to adopt mobile applications for core business activities.

Business mobility has gone mainstream, according to a global survey conducted by Nokia and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in cooperation with the CIO Forum.

Nokia and EIU polled more than 500 global executives across a range of industries to find out how their organizations were using business mobility. The survey’s finding revealed a keen interest in mobility technology that CIOs recognize as reducing operating costs, improving workforce agility and collaboration, and attracting and retaining the best talent.

Well over a third of executives reported that at least 20 percent of their employees can be considered mobile workers, defined as those who spend at least one day a week away from the office. Far from being a requirement for just a few specialized technology firms, business mobility is now seen as broadly applicable to companies in many industrial sectors, the survey showed.

“These results are mostly what we expected to find. One area that surprised us was the perception by the workforce that mobility was a tool to attract customers,” Tom Libretto, director of strategy and portfolio management for Nokia, told TechNewsWorld.

Mobility Trends

As business mobility continues making headway into organizations and more advanced applications and processes are mobilized, the reasons behind companies’ mobility adoption can vary from hard-core return on investment (ROI) benefits to softer values such as employee retention, the survey concluded.

The survey results indicate that mobility strategies are fundamentally changing the ways people are working. For example, companies are increasingly implementing mobility to offer greater collaboration, responsiveness to customers, and better work-life balance for their staffs.

“This new direction for corporate mobility is driven by the need to be more connected and more responsive to the customers,” Libretto said. “It’s a competitive drive that is putting the sales force closer to the customers. Mobility provides access to more data on mobile devices without computer connectivity.”

Having greater flex time and achieving higher levels of productivity were two responses CIOs made more strongly than Nokia expected, he said.

Competitive Benefits

Executives responding to the survey cited competitive benefits of business mobility solutions that included quicker response time to customers (36 percent), improved collaboration within the enterprise (27 percent) and the ability to work with multiple partners and suppliers (12 percent).

The survey also showed that activities occurring in the field are increasingly core to the success of a business, and companies can no longer rely on information merely being captured in the field. Respondents said they also planned to increase their use of mobility solutions over the next two years.

Executives’ responses showed that their companies are more likely to make greater use of mobile communication in four key areas: remote network access (41 percent), customer relationship management (34 percent), collaborative applications such as mobile groupware (21 percent) and sales force automation (17 percent).

“This research clearly demonstrates that business mobility has arrived and is viewed as a fundamental part of being competitive regardless of the industry,” said Olivier Cognet, vice president of strategy and business development for enterprise solutions at Nokia. “We have resolved a great deal of earlier mobility industry ‘teething problems’ related to infrastructure, and the need for business-optimized devices and complete solutions. Now is the time to fully reap the far-reaching benefits that business mobility has to offer.”

More Accountability

The survey also revealed that along with advantages, corporate executives recognize that business mobility brings challenges such as managing a mobile workforce (19 percent) and maintaining a cohesive culture across a dispersed workforce (18 percent).

Respondents also noted that business mobility requires companies to develop the ability to measure the impact of business mobility on a company’s competitiveness (12 percent).

“By enabling decision-making on the move, business mobility solutions let organizations respond more quickly to customer needs, develop ideas for innovative products and services and attract new talent,” said Nigel Holloway, research director in the Americas at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “Although it presents new managerial challenges, the long-term trend toward greater business mobility is clear.”

The global study was conducted in the first quarter of 2007 as part of the Nokia for Business Executive Forum, an initiative focused on competitiveness through business mobility. More information on the report, entitled “The Quest for competitiveness: Business mobility and the agile organization,” is available online.

Changing Perspective

Based on the survey’s results, Nokia may need to adjust how potential customers view its mission.

“The feedback shows that we are uniquely positioned in this space. The challenge to us is to get out of the shadows of being thought of as a cell phone maker only,” said Libretto.

That process will involve Nokia becoming a thought leader in this space so customers will see Nokia as a mobility company more than a cell phone company, he clarified.

The mobility trend is escalating. The leaders in the mobility space will have to achieve the equivalent of what the computer industry itself has mastered in becoming a little bit bigger and better than the competition and perform like equipment that is smaller and faster, Libretto said.

“We want to duplicate the desktop on the handheld device. The devices will become more like a form factor computer,” he said.

Business mobility still has more to accomplish. The process is a broadly-based convergence of more capability. Companies are realizing the fixed costs of office space can be better spent with talent in the mobile workplace, Libretto concluded.

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