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Rising Mobile Data Costs Cause Major Concerns for 57 Percent of IT Managers


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February 06, 2013

Rising Mobile Data Costs Cause Major Concerns for 57 Percent of IT Managers

By Tony Rizzo, TMCnet Senior Editor

Global Wi-Fi services provider iPass (News - Alert) and mobile device management vendor MobileIron released this morning their new 2013 Mobile Enterprise Report. The report is based on a survey of globally located IT executives and was conducted between December 2012 and January 2013.

The panel of respondents was selected from a combined list of iPass and MobileIron customers and resulted in 477 total survey respondents - sufficient to draw conclusions with a high degree of confidence. Approximately 75 percent of respondents at the time the survey was taken were employed IT professionals at the director level or above. In addition, 50 percent of respondents worked for companies with more than 1,000 employees.

The survey explored a number of enterprise mobility issues, but placed particular emphasis on the issue of BYOD and its continuing disruption of all the things enterprise IT has long held near and dear - especially relative to control over hardware and the difficulty of controlling wireless-driven costs. For example, the report uncovered that IT is concerned about rising mobility costs and feeling frustration and loss of control over BYOD. The majority of survey respondents - 57 percent - thought their mobile data roaming costs would rise in 2013, and a significant eight percent believe that costs will rise more than 25 percent.

The report manages to cram a lot of detail and many charts into its 21 pages, and we won't try to summarize everything the report uncovered here. It is well worth downloading and reading in its entirety. The two companies did, however, build out a special graphic that highlights the reports key issues, which we provide directly below.

As the graphic above makes clear, BYOD continues to create new challenges for IT. The top two sources of frustration, according to the survey's panelists are onboarding and in then dealing with the significant support efforts required by the increasing number and variety of personal devices. Interestingly, these issues outrank security concerns - which we might have anticipated as the number one enterprise IT concern.

A particularly interesting issue that was uncovered is panelist claims that IT is progressively losing control of mobility budgets as more departments and groups assume greater responsibility for mobile initiatives. The report notes that the number of enterprises in which IT manages the mobility spend have dropped to 48 percent, down from 53 percent in 2011. Non-IT departments in fact now manage a substantial 40 percent of enterprise mobility budgets. This is not necessarily a good thing - and in fact could prove to be a "sleeper" issue that enterprise IT needs to make very visible to upper management.

A lack of centralized security and overall enterprise mobile management exposes the enterprise to numerous potential security, enterprise data and privacy lapses. Different mobility budgets inside of an enterprise mean a lack of security mobile management standards is probable. Granted, not all businesses will fall into such traps, but many - probably the majority of most businesses - even at the Fortune 1,000 level probably have such traps lurking everywhere. The survey results show that 55 percent of the companies surveyed reported some form of security issue over the past year, primarily with lost and stolen phones.

The iPass and MobileIron report also points to another potential side effect of departmental budgets - a lack of cost containment and control. Barbara Nelson, chief technology officer at iPass puts it this way: "As more personal mobile devices with multiple platforms and operating systems are used for work, IT managers are challenged to safeguard corporate data and keep roaming costs low. And when mobility budgets are managed by departments rather than IT, data roaming costs can be hard to control.”

Rising Data Costs

When asked about rising data costs:

  • 44 percent of IT managers named the growing number of devices per mobile worker as a factor
  • 41 percent highlighted expensive 3G and 4G data plans
  • 22 percent pointed to an increase in the number of mobile workers as major cost culprits

The report notes that on average IT departments spend $96 per month on data fees alone for each mobile worker. North American mobile workers rack up the highest fees - $97 per month - and clearly expose the expense of mobile broadband.

Keep in mind that Wi-Fi is both abundant in North America and is easy enough to find numerous low cost options for traveling employees. In fact, according to the report, more than half - 55 percent - of IT managers are using Wi-Fi connectivity apps for work purposes, and Wi-Fi apps were named as the most widely used apps out of 10 different types of enterprise mobility apps.

What this means is that the "expense of mobile broadband" clearly points to costs directly associated with 3G and 4G. Employees bringing cellular and LTE (News - Alert)-enabled tablets (especially iPads) into the enterprise can drive up connection costs for enterprises in significant - and in typically unanticipated and unbudgeted - ways. We often refer to this as the "tablet time bomb."

The workforce, of course, doesn't think in terms of such costs - they see productivity benefits and do not want to be limited by cost issues - which can serve to lower the overall BYOD user experience. "Delightful" user experiences are essential to successful BYOD strategies. Such additional workforce productivity however is more often than not outweighed by having to deal with those unbudgeted wireless data costs.

Ojas Rege, VP strategy at MobileIron - and someone we often discuss these issues with - notes that, “BYOD is more than just shifting ownership of the device to the employee. It has a number of implications for which a central strategy needs to be defined in advance of implementation. This becomes even more critical as enterprise mobility evolves from simply securing e-mail on mobile devices to delivering apps and content to employees anywhere at any time. An effective BYOD program starts with good preparation, but its long-term sustainability will depend on the ongoing quality of the employee’s experience.”

Regardless of these issues, IT must step up its BYOD game. The survey clearly demonstrates that BYOD continues to gain ground - it's a no-brainer of course that this is the case, but it's always good to have hard evidence. As the chart above shows, a majority of 56 percent of respondents - up from 47percent in 2011 - have changed their corporate guidelines within the past year to be more accommodating of BYOD and for employee preferences for using personal devices.

Obviously it should then come as no surprise that 54 percent of those surveyed say they have formal BYOD policies in place. Nor should it be a surprise that North American companies are more likely than European companies to have done so.

Though the survey shows that 81 percent of respondents state their company now accommodates personal devices in the office - the above results also point to the fact that 46 percent of respondents - a dangerously high number at this point in the mobile enterprise continuum - do not have formal BYOD policies in place. Clearly IT and senior management needs to take action within these companies.

And though 72 percent of enterprises surveyed claim they have enterprise mobility strategies in place (whether or not BYOD is a part of those strategies), only 37 percent of IT managers thought their own company's mobile strategy was effective, and 35 percent felt that their company had an insufficient approach. This is a particularly important set of numbers that suggest mobility within the enterprise still has a long way to go relative to ensuring that enterprise data, privacy issues, strategic information, and a host of other security data points remain potentially compromised.

As we noted earlier, the report goes into many other issues and delivers many charts with important data points. We'll bring our coverage to a close at this point but here are a couple of other interesting stats to serve as an example of what else the report delivers:

  • IT is more bullish on Microsoft's Windows Phone (News - Alert) 8 handsets than on RIM's BlackBerry 10 phones. Only 34 percent of IT managers plan to support BlackBerry 10, compared to 45 percent who plan to support Windows Phone 8 devices going forward.
  • Tablet adoption is rapidly becoming mainstream within the enterprise. Between 2011 and 2012, tablet usage increased in all non-executive departments. Legal, human resources and administrative departments saw the biggest hike - 14 percent year-over-year - in tablet support. This was followed by finance and accounting - with13 percent year-over-year.

That last bullet point is interesting - we would not have guessed that this would be the distribution for tablets. We would have expected greatly increasing use among sales people.

The complete iPass and MobileIron 2013 Mobile Enterprise Report is available for download at no charge. It is well worth the effort to download and read.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

Technology Marketing Corporation

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