UK SMEs are increasingly likely to see their workforce as ‘mobile’, with more than four in every 10 (42%) now classing them in this way.
The figures come from Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of more than 900 UK small and medium enterprise owners and senior management across a range of sectors.
“As mobile technology develops, it’s becoming increasingly easy for workers to remain connected with the office,” said Ian McVicar, CEO, Close Brothers Technology Services. “This brings with it a number of advantages, including access to critical work applications at all times, the ability to access content from anywhere, and more engaged employees that comes from increased location flexibility.
“As always, however, it’s important to strike a note of caution because, along with the upsides of mobility, there comes a number of crucial challenges, the most critical of which is security. UK firms do not see better online security as a priority – according to our research, 63% of companies have made the decision not to invest in better online security in the next 12 months.
“The truth is that businesses of all sizes should be aware of their responsibility when it comes to online security, but we’re finding that this message is perhaps not getting through as clearly as it could, with nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents saying that mobile security is not a concern for their business, with only 27% of the opinion that it is. This is surprising considering the number of high-profile data breaches that have received extensive coverage in the mainstream media.”
But a large minority (39%) of business owners are of the opinion that increased mobility does not necessarily bring with it increased productivity.
“There isn’t necessarily the implied expectation that mobility is a tool to increase productivity,” Ian said. “Being mobile is not the perk that perhaps it was in the past, meaning it doesn’t come with the implicit expectations that it used to.”
Planned levels of investment in mobility during 2017 are low, with only 15% answering ‘yes’ to the question ‘is your business intending to invest in mobility in 2017?’. Fifty-two per cent answered ‘no’ while the remaining 33% were unsure.
“Many businesses will already feel they’ve invested significantly in mobility, so these results should not come as a surprise,” said Sean Callanan, director of technology and services. “What you are likely to see, though, is businesses dedicating more and more of their IT spend to keeping their workforce both mobile and safe.
“What we are starting to see is a move towards alternative ways of acquiring hardware, including a move away from mobile network operators for their hardware to other sources, including leasing. This gives them more flexibility to, for example, make changes without being tied into long-term contracts.
“We’re seeing this trend within our own business as well as with our customers.”
On the theme of investment, 71% answered in the negative when asked ‘has your company invested in a mobile application that gives them access to company data on the move?’.
“Although many companies have invested in applications for customers, what we haven’t seen as much of is the same level of focus on apps for employees,” continued Sean. “This is potentially the next growth area, and brings with it an increased need to ensure data security and integrity.”