Study: IT Woes as Mobile Edges Out Desk Phones
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With sales of smartphones on a tear, it might not come as a surprise that enterprise workers are forgoing their desktop phone in favor of advanced devices like the Apple iPhone.
But by doing so, they're likely to cause new headaches for IT, researchers warn.
The number of business users who rely only on a mobile phone is expected to grow to 10 percent by next year, and to more than double to 22 percent by 2012, according to a new study from Gartner. That's a sharp spike from 2006, when fewer than 5 percent of employees used only a mobile phone, 85 percent had both options and 13 percent stuck solely to a desktop phone.
The news comes in part as a result of the increasing proliferation and capabilities smartphones, which can enable workers to get more done when away from their desks thanks to growing support for productivity and enterprise applications. Last year, for instance, the popular Apple iPhone gained new ties to Microsoft Outlook and to database, customer relationship management and business intelligence apps.
Yet while Gartner's findings may be positive for mobile phone and software vendors, they're likely to signal a fresh batch of concerns for IT, experts said.
"Mobile phones have been making their way in on an ad-hoc basis in the past few years, with no coordinated effort by IT to manage them," Phillip Redman, a research vice president at Gartner, told InternetNews.com. "But that's going to change as enterprises need to take control for various reasons."
Those reasons include security -- keeping tabs on company data that users access on their mobile devices. And with the recession encouraging IT staffs to slash budgets, administrators also have to ensure they keep communications costs low. That could be difficult to manage, considering that mobile phone devices may be cheaper to buy than desktop units, but their services costs can run five times higher than their wired counterparts, Gartner said.
In response, IT organizations need to start planning use management, support and services costs.
"Right now, most companies have employees expensing device costs but they need to assess and analyze more cost-efficient plans as those costs will keep increasing," Redman said.
Redman added that most companies have typically shied from dealing with mobile device issues because of required management time and sparse IT resources.
"What they don't realize is that there are lots of hidden costs that can be eliminated with planning and good management," he said.
Gartner said companies should look into consolidating wired and wireless services, developing mobile use policies, standardizing on platforms and avoiding duplication between mobile and desktop units to reduce costs.
That could help businesses better leverage the explosion in mobile devices -- especially smartphones, the mobile industry's fastest-growing segment. Smartphone sales grew 23 percent in 2008, according to a new IDC report, even as worldwide mobile phone sales growth slowed.
A recent Juniper research report predicts even stronger smartphone adoption ahead, with smartphones sales expected to rise to over 300 million by 2013 -- a jump of 95 percent over 2008 sales.
"It's time for companies to take control and initiate a coordinated effort around mobile device use," Gartner's Redman said.