UK small business not getting the mobile message

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O2 survey reveals UK small businesses failing to mobilise

The UK’s small business sector (employing between 1 - 99 employees) are predicted to invest £7.3 billion in mobile technologies in 2004, but are failing to use this investment to harness the full benefits of mobile working according to a new survey launched today by O2.   

The survey, the most extensive undertaken in the UK into business mobility, reveals that UK small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) will commit 16% of their total IT spend to wireless projects this year, which is a significantly higher investment than that of corporates as a proportion of total IT spend. However, they are failing to use the investment to harness the benefit of true mobile working, with most using the technology at a superficial level to store data as they work rather than taking advantage of wireless connectivity.

An analysis of those SMBs with a live wireless project underway or complete, highlighted a lack of synchronisation between mobile technologies.  The core objectives driving mobile investment were not to harness connectivity but to provide access to more static functions such as an electronic calendar or power point presentation on the move.  Mobile functionality, such as improving access to email or remote working, was much lower on the list of priorities. For example, the primary driver for notebook deployment was to allow greater flexibility for working location, with email and remote working the fourth and fifth priorities.  Similarly with PDAs, email was the third priority but access to data like calendar and addresses was the top concern.

However, whilst small businesses are not using mobility to its full potential, most of the projects they are investing in are meeting or exceeding their expectations.  85% of SMBs who have invested in PDA deployment and 93% of those who invested in notebooks state that the projects met or exceeded their expectations. This suggests that if they did wire up for true mobility they would really see a positive impact.

Commenting on the research, Paul Tollet, Head of Business Markets, O2 UK said: “Due to the time pressures of running a small business or concerns over technology know how, many small businesses are failing to utilise their mobile investment to its full extent. They use mobile devices such as PDAs or notebooks to access static data (such as calendars and address books) on the move, but are not getting the benefits of connectivity. However, their uptake of wireless has been impressive and the good news is they are satisfied with their investment.  This reflects the potential for small organisations to capitalise immediately on the benefits offered if they started to synchronise technology together.”

One reason behind the apparent lack of active wireless network deployment is security, which is the number one concern with PDAs. The survey reveals that small businesses feel uncomfortable about rolling out and using local organisation wide wireless networks.  This suggests that they are going to be even more concerned about connectivity outside the office on the move.  This will prevent them from harnessing the last mile of their mobile investment.

Paul Tollet concludes: “We feel there is the need for the mobile industry to work more closely with businesses employing between 1 - 99 employees and take responsibility for addressing security concerns as well as providing more hands on supervision to help them get up and running so that they get the full benefits.”

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