By Liz Dunham
There’s no escaping the rapid pace of our evolving mobile world – including the ensuing demand for mobile apps – and businesses can’t afford to take a back seat when it comes deploying mobile solutions. If you’re an IBM i organization considering taking the dive into mobile (i.e., developing dedicated apps for Apple/Android phones and tablets), you might be interested in learning what other “i” businesses think about topics related to mobile deployment, including:
- Key challenges
- Deployment obstacles
- Business benefits
- Platforms/development environments
- Budget considerations
- Deployment timelines, and much more
Sound intriguing? Well, that’s what the team at IBM Systems Magazine, Power Systems edition thought, so they decided to survey their readers to get the low down on how mobile is factoring into IBM i organizations’ strategic plans. And the results are very interesting . . .
The October 2012 special report “Going Mobile” culled responses from over 1,200 IBM Systems Magazine readers – 31 percent working in IT management – and focuses on mobile use on IBM i. While the overall results pointed to improved employee productivity and customer satisfaction as the top reasons for deployment, there were many other enlightening responses related to benefits, budgets and concerns – just to name a few. In addition to highlighting the survey results, the report is complemented by comments from various IBM i IT professionals imparting their real-world concerns and experiences with going mobile.
Survey Respondents’ Industries
Here’s a quick glimpse of the survey respondents and their associated industries:
- Manufacturing – 14 percent
- Wholesale Distribution – 6 percent
- Computer Software – 12 percent
- Banking/Finance – 8 percent
- Computer Dealer/Reseller – 6 percent
- Retail/Exhibitions – 5 percent
- Medical Healthcare – 5 percent
- Insurance – 5 percent
Mobile Deployment – Concerns, Efforts & Results
While there are some understandable deployment concerns – like security and back-end integration as well as budget restraints -- the results show that many businesses are achieving some level of mobile computing success. Of the net 83 percent of respondents that say they have deployed a mobile solution:
- 18.4 percent say the effort was successful
- 42.1 percent said they had moderate success
- 15.4 percent report that it’s too early to tell
- 22.5 percent say they had slight success
- 1.9 percent reported failures
Although 52.1 percent of respondents report that their organizations have deployed a mobile solution, 47.9 percent have not deployed. However, of those who haven’t deployed:
- 3.8 percent say they will deploy within the next three months
- 7.3 percent in the next six months
- 9.7 percent in 12 months
- 12.9 percent in 18 months
Surprisingly, the survey revealed that of those who haven’t deployed mobile, 14 percent have no plans to do so. This was especially baffling to one IT consultant quoted in the report, as he couldn’t imagine any business not having some use and subsequent benefit for mobile.
Business Benefits for Going Mobile
The survey respondents noted the following top five reasons for mobile deployment:
- Improved employee productivity – 67.6 percent
- Better customer satisfaction – 62.6 percent
- Competitive advantage – 53.5 percent
- Business-process improvement – 52.7 percent
- Greater customer retention – 37.7 percent
Budgets & Barriers
So how much is available to spend and what’s preventing businesses from moving forward with mobile?
Well, the budget picture of those surveyed looks like this:
- 9.2 percent have a budget between $25,000 and $50,000
- 9.9 percent have $50,000 to less than $100,000
- 5 percent have $100,000 to less than $150,000
- 5.2 percent have $150,000 to less than $200,000
- 5.4 have a budget of $200,000 or more
- 38.1 percent have no budget whatsoever
And, as usual with any IT expenditure, there are some obstacles and apprehension for taking the dive into mobile. In fact, the report shares one CIO’s real-world quandary regarding the realization that his company will have to develop mobile solutions at some point, and his concerns over the cost (related, for one, to a lack of skills and experience) that is preventing him from moving forward. Despite this plight, he knows mobile is the right direction to help his organization go mainstream and get ahead of the competition.
Concerns about costs also topped the list for those surveyed, followed by a shortage of in-house skills, no compelling business need and development and deployment complexity (see Figure 2 in the report for the complete list).
While cost is a major concern, it doesn’t actually have to be as the special report notes that inexpensively priced tools, including native mobile app builders, are available to help businesses quickly and easily deploy mobile apps.
How solutions are deployed and on which devices also factors into planning for mobile. The survey results revealed that tablets (37.7 percent) topped the list as the number one device for which mobile apps are being written, followed by Smartphones (34.8 percent) and laptops (15.1 percent).
Equally interesting is the number of companies that supply mobile devices to their employees (71.4 percent) and the types of mobile devices that they provide to their workforce including:
- Apple iOS devices (71.7 percent)
- iPhone (59.8 percent)
- iPad (51.5 percent)
- Android devices (50.7 percent)
- RIM’s BlackBerry (50.4 percent)
- Windows Mobile - for both phones and tablets (17.6 percent)
Key Drivers for Going Mobile
While competition didn’t score as high as other key drivers for mobile deployment, it’s definitely on the minds of respondents -- with 25.4 percent wanting to deploy mobile solutions because their competitors already have and 29.2 percent reporting that want to go mobile to become industry leaders. Other leading motives include employee, customer and business partner requests for mobile computing. See Figure 4 in the report for other leading reasons for going mobile.
Mobile Development Strategies
Besides picking a device platform, businesses need to think about which types of apps to deploy. The results for the question of which mobile development strategies are being considered are shown in Figure 5 in the report, including:
- Web apps (56 percent)
- Hybrid apps (28.1 percent)
- Native apps (24.3 percent)
- Undecided (42.2 percent)
Mobile Computing Concerns
Obviously, there are other issues that organizations must consider (as revealed in Figure 6 in the report), like security, back-end integration, complexity of deploying apps on multiple devices/platforms, coverage of wireless networks and reliability of mobile technologies just to name a few.
Usage & Real-world Benefits
Despite the concerns for going mobile, the survey results show that many businesses are forging ahead with mobile business solutions and others are planning to do so soon.
Mobile tools released to:
- Customers - 26 percent (with 35 percent expecting to)
- Business Partners – 14 percent (with 27 percent expecting to)
- Employees – 43 percent (with 25 percent expecting to)
Furthermore, 62 percent of respondents who have deployed mobile solutions reported having achieved positive ROI, and 22 percent say it’s too early to tell.
The Time for Mobile is Now
While I’ve touched on a few highlights from the special report here, one thing’s for certain – mobile isn’t going away anytime soon. So, if your business has been on the fence about deploying mobile – or (as one IT consultant noted in the report) if you’re thinking that you have 18 months from now to begin your efforts – you’ll be missing out on a tremendous opportunity to improve your applications, cut operational costs and attain substantial ROI. So, take a look at the full report and make it your New Year’s resolution to get your mobile deployment plans in place now.
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