Mobile revolution? Most companies couldn't care less

Execs may pay lip service to mobile, but yet another survey shows that mobile investments don't measure up

Mobile revolution? Most companies couldn't care less
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I see the same survey results time and time again: IT organizations say their No. 1 concern about mobile is security, never mind that mobile devices are more secure as a class than Windows PCs. But they won't invest in security technology to address that claimed fear. They'll invest even less in actually taking advantage of mobile capabilities, such as mobile apps, mobile devices, and wireless access.

The latest such survey to cross my desk was from IDG Enterprise, a division of InfoWorld's parent company. These surveys are typically done for IT pros, so you can expect some conservatism in their answers -- after all, IT is paid to worry about technology deployments, as well as make them happen.

But eight years after the iPhone and five years after the iPad, you can't simply say that IT doesn't get it. At this point, if the companies themselves cared about mobile, they'd be pushing IT to get going on it -- and funding it.

Ironically, the survey claims that mobile is important to corporate execs, with 64 percent of the 510 IT decision-makers claiming it is of high or critical importance. But they're not putting their time or money where their mouth is. 

Here's the IDG Enterprise data, consistent with the other surveys I see, that shows the lack of seriousness IT -- and their companies -- take mobile.

Security: Lots of talk, little action

Security is the top concern for 49 percent of respondents and an overall concern of 54 percent. For enterprises, the numbers are even higher.

Yet only 19 percent have any form of mobile management in place across the company to secure mobile devices, and another 10 percent have it in limited (usually business unit) deployment -- although the technology has been around for years and is quite mature. A quarter of respondents say they're not even investigating the field.

Although it's true that you get basic security and management for free via Microsoft Exchange, you don't get the level that an IT organization claiming security is a top concern would require. In other words, for many companies the security fears seem to be merely excuses to do little or nothing.

Mobile apps: Don't expect that many

Forty percent of respondents said they had no plans to develop mobile apps for either their employees or their customers. That's shocking.

On average, only 36 percent of applications are available via smartphone and only 43 percent via tablets. The tablet figure is very concerning, since the tablet form factor should easily be accommodated by most desktop-oriented Web apps for when you don't want to invest in a native app.

Some of that low app availability is no doubt due to technology incompatibilities that would require rework to those existing apps: Some legacy technologies like ActiveX, Flash, and client-side Java that don't work on mobile devices, and there are some UI controls like draggable sliders and objects that mobile Web browsers don't support.

Where IT is willing to invest in mobile apps is in CRM applications, but even that top mobile app focus for IT is a priority for only 29 percent of organizations. Interest in mobile support for other enterprise apps such as ERP and sales force automation (wow!) pales in comparison. About a quarter said they'd up their spending on apps for employees purchased from the various app stores; it's not clear how much they will increase that expenditure or what it is today.

Devices and Wi-Fi: Where the most increases will come

Ironically, more than half of the respondents say they're upping their spend on tablets, smartphones, and Wi-Fi networks for them to connect to. If only they'd provide employees something to do on those devices other than email!

Clearly, some companies have discovered the value of mobile technology, especially for field forces, frequent travelers such as executives and salespeople, and for highly mobile employees such as those working in factory floors and building maintenance. But most have not.

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