Magazine Article | March 27, 2012

Enterprise Mobile Workers: Tracking Tomorrow's Mobility Opportunities

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By David Krebs, VP of mobile and wireless, VDC Research,

The nature of the mobile workforce is changing, and you should be ready.

In VDC’s most recent report, we project that the mobile workforce will grow to 1.2 billion workers by 2014 — roughly 1/3 of today’s overall workforce. No other workforce segment is as large or growing at the same rate. In addition to this major workforce shift, the GEN Y/millennial generation, who have a very different relationship from older generations with mobile technology, are now entering the workforce. This generation is driving expectations regarding what types of mobile solutions are available from prospective employers and how they want to communicate and interact with coworkers. We expect that these two fundamental workforce trends will substantially drive demand for mobile solutions within commercial and government organizations and will also shape the look and feel of these solutions.

Despite Growing Mobile Worker Population, Enterprise Mobility Penetration Still Low
The dramatic advances we have seen with respect to mobile devices and the wireless networks they connect to have made the notion of a nine to five deskbound employee a dated concept. Mobile technologies are becoming more and more ingrained in today’s workflows. According to our research, more mobile devices are connecting to the Internet today than PCs. Combining these trends with more liberal enterprise data access policies (e.g. BYOD [bring your own device]), enterprises are increasingly untethering their workforce from their (stationary) PCs.

VDC has tracked the impact of mobile technologies on the workforce for many years. The gains in overall workforce productivity, real-time decision-making accuracy, and improvements to customer service have been consistently strong. However, even considering these attractive dynamics, the penetration of enterprise mobility solutions among this vast mobile worker population remains relatively low. Although shipments of smartphones and tablets are exploding — VDC estimates there are expected to be approximately 300 million smartphone users and 25 million tablet users in the enterprise in 2012 — only 10% of mobile workers today are running enterprise mobility applications on their mobile devices (VDC defines enterprise mobility as applications that support real-time distributed transaction processing).

Understanding Today’s Mobile Workers
To better understand the mobile worker dynamics and how best to apply key demographic trends to an organization’s enterprise mobility development strategy, it is critical to evaluate and track these workers by regional market, industry, environment, and worker type. In terms of worker type, the basic segmentation is between line or task workers and knowledge workers. Today, approximately 52% of all mobile workers are line workers. However, when projecting mobile worker population growth, the outlook for line mobile workers is stagnant, if not contracting, whereas the knowledge worker population is expected to grow in excess of 15% through 2014.

Another important segmentation is regional market. While the Americas region is home to the fewest total mobile workers in comparison to other regional markets, it is the only regional market where over half of the workforce (55%) is considered mobile. Moreover, enterprise mobility solution penetration is also significantly higher, with over 22% of mobile workers in the Americas having access to mobile enterprise applications. Consider the following regional meta trends: The Americas market has one of the most established mobile worker populations with a higher than average penetration of mobile solutions. The EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) mobile worker population is expected to exceed 410 million by 2014. Western European economies account for approximately 25% of EMEA mobile workers. The Asia-Pacific mobile population is the largest worldwide and represents approximately 45% of global mobile workers. The majority of these are lower-skilled workers, and the delta between knowledge and line workers is the highest in comparison to other regions.

Enterprise Mobility Market Development: The Devil Is In The Details
The mobile workforce and the extended enterprise they enable represent a clear shift in how today’s organizations operate. Understanding these mobile worker nuances will be critical to any successful enterprise and government mobility development strategy. Moreover, identifying and correlating the leading applications driving mobility investments will be equally important. These details will provide the necessary intelligence for enterprise mobility solutions providers to not only prioritize market opportunities but also develop more scalable development plans.