AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) has announced that 72 percent of businesses expect to migrate mobile voice and data applications to an Internet Protocol (IP) network by next year, according to a global survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on behalf of AT&T.
The global survey of 395 senior executives reveals that mobile use is most extensive among senior management in Europe, with 91 percent of respondents reporting common use. By 2010, the business use of mobile phones and other devices by management and sales staff will be nearly universal and is expected to escalate among customer service, information technology (IT), marketing staff and field workers.
The research shows that in all regions, increased workforce productivity is viewed as the key benefit of mobility. But executives also recognize a broad range of other advantages, from improving customer service and reducing operational and infrastructure costs to enhancing business continuity readiness.
Realizing the desired productivity gains requires clear thinking by management as to how the migration of mobile technologies and applications to IP is to take place. Companies in Europe and Asia-Pacific could do well to look to the U.S., where 76 percent of companies indicate that management has developed a strategy for the integration of mobile technology with the IP network. Also, more than 70 percent of U.S. companies have already set guidelines for employees who use mobile technology and work remotely. Compared to these numbers, only a minority of surveyed firms in Europe and Asia-Pacific (35 and 38 percent, respectively) have outlined a clear strategy to achieve integration.
Although enterprise mobility promises significant gains in employee productivity, it also poses tricky network- and employee-management challenges. According to the survey, the cost of acquiring and deploying mobile technology is cited as the biggest obstacle to implementation (reported by 33 percent of the respondents). Some companies are also struggling to integrate mobile applications with the existing IT infrastructure and to make sure that security is tightened, because far more corporate data will be circulating beyond the boundaries of the workplace. To complicate matters further, informal knowledge-sharing between remote workers must be maintained as employees congregate less often.
Executives at most companies are seeking to establish a balance. Priority must be given to protecting corporate data, but a regime that is too strict will stifle productivity gains.
The combination of mobile voice and data applications with IP convergence means a considerable expansion in the reach of the enterprise and its workforce. As the survey reveals, enterprise tools are the wireless data applications that will expand the most within corporate networks over the next three years. These include CRM and customer information databases. Sales force and field force automation applications will also be implemented much more extensively. Although only modestly deployed at the moment, within three years these applications will have penetrated 73 percent and 67 percent of firms, respectively.
“The integration of mobile applications into the IP network is the next step on the pathway to convergence,” said Lloyd Salvage, AT&T’s sales vice president for the U.K. and Nordics region. “The push toward wireless/wireline integration is driven by the need to provide a unified customer experience across multiple networks. The key to success is a comprehensive integration strategy.”
The full results of the survey are published by AT&T in a white paper entitled “Enterprise IP Goes Mobile”, which was written using research conducted by the EIU. Copies of the white paper can be downloaded from the AT&T Web site at http://www.corp.att.com/emea/insights/whitepaper/mobility_series4.html.
Other white papers from AT&T and the EIU in this series are available at http://www.att.com/emea/insights/whitepaper.