by August 1, 2010 0 comments

The mobile penetration in India is a phenomenal success story. Everybody,
right down from people at the ‘bottom of the pyramid” to its pinnacle today own
a mobile or a smartphone. It has become a part and parcel of everybody’s lives.
So much so that mobile phones and smartphones have become a potential channel of
communication, which can be leveraged in a big way. On the other hand, the use
of laptops and netbooks by Indian enterprises is also growing. Both mobile and
laptop are a formidable combination that can truly enable a mobile enterprise.
But is that really happening? Are organizations truly embracing these two
products along with other solutions to make their employees productive on the
move? We surveyed 70+ IT decision makers from large Indian enterprises (having
500 or more employees) to find out, and unfortunately, the results were not very
encouraging. The results clearly indicate that Indian organizations have a long
way to go before they achieve true mobility.

We analyzed the usage trends of laptops/netbooks and mobile/shartphones
across Indian enterprises, the challenges being faced, and what they’re planning
to do in the future.

Mobility Strategy
First the good news–at least 70% of our survey’s respondents had a mobility
strategy in place. Given the fact that laptops and smartphones have become so
cheap, one would have expected a resounding and loud “Yes” from a majority of
the crowd, but that’s ok. Even the 70% figure is decent enough. Hopefully, the
remaining 30% would eventually follow.

We focused on two key aspects of a mobility strategy-laptops/netbooks and
smartphones. No mobility strategy can be formed without factoring in these two
product categories.

Encouraging the move toward mobility with Laptops/Netbooks
Having a mobility strategy is one thing, but what are those 3-4 key things
you could do to encourage mobility in the workplace? We asked our respondents
and got some very interesting responses, some go in favor of a mobility
strategy, while others are a complete washout!

a. Replace Office PCs with laptops/netbooks: One way to increase the
adoption of mobility is to replace office PCs with laptops, so that more
employees are able to work from anywhere. We found that a majority (nearly 42%)
of large Indian enterprises have some sort of a plan to replace at least 10-12%
of their PCs in office with laptops or netbooks. Another 21% were slightly
bolder and were ready to replace anywhere from 25 to 50% of their existing
office PCs with laptops and netbooks. Unfortunately, a good 33% didn’t have any
plans of doing so, but the bottomline here is that there is a tendency to
replace office PCs with laptops amongst a majority of large Indian enterprises.

using Netbooks?

Netbooks have been around for quite some time now, and
they started off as a low cost alternative to laptops, meant largely for the
mobile workforce. While the good thing is that nearly 47% of the
organizations we surveyed had issued netbooks to their mobile workforce, the
interesting thing is that netbooks have also become the upper management’s
toy! Nearly 33% of the respondents had issued netbooks to the upper
management of their organization. While it’s good for the management, as
they can easily use a thin and light netbook while traveling, it shouldn’t
end up becoming a status symbol only, and the people it’s actually meant for
are deprived of the privilege of owning these low cost babies!

b. Encourage personal laptops to work: Another way to enhance mobility
in your enterprise is to encourage employees to bring their own personal laptops
to work. This would transfer the cost of these assets to your employees, thereby
saving you some capex. But are you ready to support these laptops if you do
that? Apparently not. In our survey, 61% of the respondents said that they don’t
allow employees to bring their personal laptops to office. Another 28% allowed
personal laptops in office, but didn’t support them. Only around 8% fully
supported their employees’ personal laptops.

c. Encourage working from home/anywhere: The true meaning of mobility
is to facilitate employees to work from home or anywhere. Unfortunately, Indian
enterprises are still not as forthcoming in doing so. For instance, the most
basic requirement to work from anywhere is to provide a high-speed data card
along with the laptop to your employees. Surprisingly, only 55% of large Indian
enterprises provide this facility. With the most basic requirement not
fulfilled, how can one can expect other techniques to be widely adopted? Only
39% of the respondents to our survey said that they bear a part of their
employees’ home broadband bill, while another 24% helped their employees
purchase a PC or laptop for their homes. A mere 6% of the respondents said that
they actually incentivize their employees to work from outside the office.
There’s still a good 21% who don’t even encourage working from home for their

With such low adoption for even basic requirements of working from anywhere,
the more bolder techniques can be comfortably considered to be a distant dream.
Apparently, Gartner predicts that enterprises will gradually shift the ownership
of their IT assets (PCs and laptops) to their employees over the next few years.
Well, it doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen anytime soon in India at least.
Only 7% of our respondents said that they’re likely to shift the ownership of
their employees’ PCs/laptops to employees in easy to pay EMIs.

Smartphones/Mobiles and enterprise mobility
There have been enough debates and counter-debates on the pros and cons of
using smartphones in the workplace, and just about everybody is aware of the
same today. We all know that there are so many different phone models, each with
a different OS, screen size, and features. We all know that there are very few
common apps across all smartphones. But handing out official smartphones and
PDAs to the upper management is not the answer. It’s now high time that all
these debates are put to rest and this potential channel is put to some good use
instead of being wasted like this. We’re saying this because the results of
official smartphone usage in the workplace was not very encouraging. Let’s have
a look.

The current state: The state of smartphone/PDA usage in the workplace
for official use is even more depressing than the results of enabling tele-commuting
with laptops and netbooks. Organizations still largely issue ‘official’
smartphones/PDAs to the upper management (49% of our respondents said that),
while another 22% don’t use any apps at all for smartphones and PDAs. A mere 19%
said that they use a mix of official and personal smartphones in the workplace.
A dismal 3% of the organizations had extended productivity apps to personal
smartphones of employees, while another 3% had issued official smartphones and
PDAs to most employees in their organization. Considering that just about every
employee, right from those at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ to those at the
pinnacle, owns a mobile/smartphone today, these statistics are anything but

Accessing current business apps over smartphones: Whatever little
extension of apps has happened of business apps to smartphones has happened
largely for internal employees. 43% of the respondents said this. Another 27%
didn’t have any apps support for smartphones. 29% had extended apps access to
their customers, vendors, and partners. As expected, email is the most popular
business app on smartphones, with 46% of the respondents having extended access
to it. The next most popular application is miles away from the first
one-productivity apps like Office Suites. Only 11% of the respondents had made
it accessible on smartphones. Another 18% had made their ERP and CRM apps
accessible over smartphones. The rest are too low to mention, but you can check
out the graphs to get an idea.

What sort of security related issues are you facing
while managing mobile devices in your organization?

“Since it’s challenging to implement uniform security
code across mobile devices, the smartphones are more vulnerable compared to
other devices. Loosing these devices can be a major security threat to the

M Chellanamasivayam, CIO, iGATE Global Solutions

“Support to mobile users will become more difficult as
the number of users using mobility solutions increases.“

Niranjan Bhalivade, Ceat

“Non-availability of ISPs and resources in the last
mile to charge mobile devices”

Suresh A Shanmugam, National Heas – BITS & CIO,

“Content management, download restrictions, WAP
browsing restriction”

Atul Kumar, CTO and Sr. VP, Ispat Group

Moving forward, how else are you planning to leverage
mobility in your organization?

“We are making applications that are used for decision
making, “mobile aware”. This will help in faster decision making and improve
approval process time.”

M Chellanamasivayam, CIO, iGATE Global Solutions

Mobility apps deployed: The state of enterprise mobility deployment is
even worse than extending current apps to smartphones. 36% of the respondents to
our survey didn’t have any mobility apps deployed at all. Another 16% had done
sales force automation, while another 13% had done field force automation.
Another 20% had deployed fleet management, supply chain automation, and location
based services. The rest had done other types of deployments.

Mobility apps planned: Usually, when I’ve done these surveys in the
past on other aspects of IT, I’ve received a very encouraging response to the
future deployment scenarios of that area. Things in enterprise mobility however
are a little different. For one, 27% of the respondents had no plans to deploy
enterprise mobility apps. Another 21% had plans to deploy sales force automation
solutions, while location based services were of interest to 13% of the
respondents. The rest can be seen in the graph. Possibly as the usage of
smartphones increases in the workplace, organizations will take more interest in
these areas. Another possibility is that organizations don’t understand or
realize the potential benefits of these mobility applications.

The future of smartphone usage
All this made us wonder whether smartphones in the workplace had a future at
all? Thankfully, 85% of the organizations said that their usage is likely to
increase in their organizations. Hopefully we’ll see a light at the end of the

Issues and challenges in enterprise mobility
Bringing enterprise mobility to the workplace has its own set of challenges,
as we found out from the responses to our open ended question on the matter.
Here’s a summary of the thorns you’ll have to pluck from your path to bringing
enterprise mobility in the workplace. Most of these are pretty much
self-explanatory, and have therefore been given as points.

Security Issues
The first concern that’s often highlighted while discussing enterprise
mobility is that of security. So we asked our survey respondents to list down
the security concerns they’re facing in bringing enterprise mobility in their
respective organizations. Here’s a list of the hurdles you could face:

  • Securing physical devices and the information on them
  • Access control of endpoints
  • Implementing uniform security standards across mobile devices
  • Controlling applications on mobile units
  • Identity management issues
  • Stolen/misplaced/lost devices
  • Data loss prevention
  • Wiping off data in lost/damaged devices
  • Training users to password protect their mobile devices
  • Authentication issues
  • Data transfer through Bluetooth
  • Connectivity to PCs through USB or other ports.
  • Multiple OS/mobile platforms
  • Malware on mobile devices
  • Timely deactivation of logins for employees who quit the organization
  • Monitoring access logs through VPN
  • End to end encryption of data
  • Challenges in implementing a uniform security code across mobile devices

Service Providers Issues: Support from region-wise service providers
for mobility services; connectivity issues-speed and reliability, GPRS services
availability and cost; non-availability of ISPs and resources at the last mile
to charge and empower connectivity to activate devices.

Applications Issues: App compatibility across so many mobile devices;
apps are not user friendly; Version management of apps and OSs on various mobile
platforms; lack of clarity on which apps can be used well in the field or are
required to be used in an “always on” mode; Screen size of mobile devices, e.g.
fitting a large ERP screen onto a small smartphone screen.

A few enterprise mobility software/solutions being
used by Indian enterprises

  • Blackberry Enterprise Server

  • Cisco ASA 5510 Firewall for VPN

  • Windows mobile

  • Custom Open Source software

  • Office

  • SAP Mobile Infrastructure

  • NAVmobile

  • Citrix mobility solutions

  • Sybase Afaria mobile business intelligence software

  • Websense Remote Filtering software for laptops

  • Lotus Notes

Users Issues: Gaining user acceptance, Supporting mobile users as
their numbers grow, people treating it as a status symbol instead of a gadget of
convenience, determining the eligibility criteria and business requirement,
Budget constraints in providing mobility to such a huge staff, educating Sr.
managers on device usage

Infrastructure and support Issues: Upgrades to infrastructure
required, like firewall, Windows AD, BlackBerry Server, etc to support
enterprise mobility, patch management; turnaround time for service/repairs,
supporting device diversity, Synchronizing connectivity between devices and
server, handling uncertainty in technologies, cost of replacing lost devices,
resource tracking and accountability, high cost of obsolescence.

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