Growing Mobile Workforce Creates New IT Challenges

By Michael Pastore

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Research from Cahners In-Stat/MDR found there are more than 78 million remote and mobile workers in the United States, including frequent travelers, telecommuters, multisite workers, non-office workers and mobile office workers, and in the 21st century they all need access to data.

In a pair of reports, "Working the Wide Area: Perceptions of Internet" and "Wireless-Accessible Applications in Select Business Markets" In-Stat states that providing workers with access to business applications and the Internet will be key priorities for U.S. businesses in 2002, as the steady growth of the remote and mobile (RAM) workforce continues to affect firms' IT investments.

"Recent advances in both wired and wireless Internet access solutions have spurred faster growth of this population in the last couple of years, with hosted applications promising to open up new frontiers in the future," said Kneko Burney, a director with In-Stat/MDR. "Those surveyed viewed Internet-accessible applications quite positively, seeing them as potentially convenient while out of the office."

The biggest hurdles to hosted applications for RAM workers are security and bandwidth constraints. Workers in the largest firms are more likely to have remote access to business applications while outside of the office, with 71 percent of middle market and 77 percent of enterprise RAM workers doing so, as compared to just 48 percent and 69 percent of small office/home office and small business RAM workers.

Roughly 55 percent of the corporate market workforce will be either remote or mobile during the course of the year in 2002, In-Stat found. Roughly 63 percent of the small company workforce will be either remote or mobile during the course of the year.

Not surprisingly, e-mail is the most popular application among the mobile workers In-Stat surveyed, with more than 70 percent of respondents across size of business indicating this choice. After e-mail, accessing "word processing or spreadsheet" applications was the second most popular in the middle and enterprise markets. In smaller companies, "industry-specific or supply chain" applications came in a distant second.

ResearchPortal.com published a report that examined how mobile professionals use e-mail, and looked for patterns according to the industry the professional works in or the device used to check e-mail. It found that mobile professionals (defined as individuals over age 17 employed as full-time professionals who spend 20 percent or more of their time working away from their primary working environment) in the finance industry are the only industry that spends more than 20 percent of its e-mail time on a data-centric small form factor (SFF) device (e.g., a PDA).

Mobile professionals from the finance and IT industries are the only ones who utilize a notebook PC for e-mail less than 50 percent of the time. Mobile professionals in the education and wholesale industries are the most likely to use a notebook PC for checking e-mail. The three least-traveled groups in the ResearchPortal survey -- known as intra-facility workers, dual-office workers and shuttlers -- are the most likely to use their desktop PC for e-mail, 38 percent, 43 percent and 42 percent. More widely-traveled groups, such as metro-area workers, wide-area workers and nomads, use their desktop PC much less frequently (8 percent, 9 percent and 10 percent).

Percent of E-Mail Activity by Device
Industry Data-Centric SFF
(e.g., PDA)
Voice-Centric SFF
(e.g., cell phone)
Desktop PC Notebook PC
Finance 22% 4% 28% 46%
Healthcare 7% 3% 28% 62%
IT 18% 6% 27% 49%
Education 4% 3% 8% 85%
Utilities 11% 3% 8% 85%
Manufacturing 9% 2% 20% 69%
Retail 5% 2% 24% 69%
Transportation 7% 3% 19% 71%
Services 5% 2% 17% 76%
Construction 10% 3% 18% 69%
Wholesale 4% 2% 9% 85%
Source: ResearchPortal.com

This story was first published on CyberAtlas, an internet.com site.