Companies worldwide will give mobile devices to more employees in 2014 as mobility continues its assimilation into the enterprise.
TechTarget recently surveyed more than 4,100 IT professionals across the globe to learn about their priorities and get a sense of where IT trends are heading
With more devices being provisioned, the biggest opportunity is just being scratched -- and that's with applications.
mobile analyst, VDC Research
IT professionals who responded said their companies invest more in hardware, but not as much on back-end management or application development for mobility.
There's also a gap between how big and small companies implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives, and what kind of choices they allow employees to make about hardware and software.
Mobile device trends in 2014
More mobility is coming to the enterprise next year. Of the respondents to the survey, 73% said their company will give more employees mobile computing devices in 2014. It's not about the cost of going mobile, rather the cost of not going mobile, according to Benjamin Robbins, mobile analyst and principal at Palador Inc., a mobile enterprise consulting firm in Seattle.
"The [companies] that win are the ones that deploy it quickly," Robbins said.
As for which mobility initiatives companies plan to implement in 2014, smartphones and tablets led the way at 41% and 40%, respectively.
The results aren't surprising to mobile industry experts like Robbins or Eric Klein, senior mobility analyst at Natick, Mass.-based VDC Research Inc.
"The big takeaway here is that with more devices being provisioned, the biggest opportunity is just being scratched, and that's with applications," Klein said. "Applications are the way companies are going to benefit from these investments."
Designing corporate applications and data for mobility was the fifth-highest initiative in the mobile space in TechTarget's survey -- proof that the enterprise is still early when it comes to mobile application development, according to Klein.
"People are not doing enough meaningful things on devices to be more productive, but we're getting there," Klein said.
Bigger companies slow to support BYOD
Survey respondents showed a trend that bigger companies are slower than small businesses to accept BYOD as part of their mobile adoption.
When IT professionals at companies of over 1,000 employees were asked how their company will implement smartphones, 42% said a combination of corporate purchases and individual choices, 40% said all corporate purchases, and 17% said end users would be allowed to make their individual choices for smartphones.
When the same question was asked to those at companies of under 100 employees, the tables were turned: 38% allowed full individual end-user smartphone choice, 32% were all corporate purchases, and 30% were a combination of both.
Why aren't bigger companies quick to adopt BYOD?
"Smaller companies are less afraid. They can take bigger risks and potentially have a bigger reward," Robbins said.
It's also likely that many of the smaller companies under 100 employees don't have a dedicated IT function in-house to allow individuals to make BYOD choices out of necessity, Klein said.
But BYOD initiatives appear to be on the rise, as many companies said they plan to allow employees to choose their own devices -- a growing mobile device trend.
When asked what initiatives their company is either implementing or planning to implement, 54% said they'd allow employees to purchase their own smartphones, with 38% allowing them to purchase their own tablets, and 32% allowing employees to buy their own laptops or desktops to use on a corporate network.
Those numbers are all high compared to companies allowing employees to select their own data protection and transfer, applications and email, which all surveyed at less than 20%.
While being somewhat surprised by how high that figure was for laptops and desktops, Klein said the need for personal choices for how work gets done is something that isn't going away anytime soon with a whole new generation of workers.
"These devices are very personal to people," Klein said. "People want to stick to their own device; the one that is very familiar to them."
Also, when asked what the main goal is for companies that implement tablets for employees, 52% said they would be used to accommodate end users on their corporate network, 27% to implement dedicated devices for mobile workers, and 21% to reduce costs for personnel with limited tasks.