SMBs’ mobile needs: A U.S.-Canada comparative analysis

Two different research studies show some interesting similarities and contracts around what small and medium-sized firms expect from IT

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They may be small but the way they’re moving to mobile could have a huge impact on the entire technology ecosystem.

I’m talking about small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). A recent study from U.S.-based SMB Group shows that they continue to embrace mobile technologies. While that in itself is no surprise, the report contains some revealing details about how SMBs are going about this and its impact on their overall IT spending.

Although SMBs have smaller budgets than their enterprise counterparts, they collectively leave a large footprint on the tech sector as a whole. Gartner predicts that annual IT spending by SMBs – which accounts for 44 per cent of total IT spending worldwide – will surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever this year.

That’s why this new study made me wonder: how might these SMB mobile trends trickle down to affect IT managers, app developers, solution providers and hardware makers in the next few years ahead?

To add some Canadian context, I also delved into the most recent study out of this country, the Sage Canadian SMB Survey on Mobile Devices. First, we’ll look at the SMB mobile data from both sides of the border. Second, we’ll consider how those figures might impact various parts of the IT industry in the years ahead.

Mobile spending

– American SMBs spent about 16 per cent of their total IT budgets on mobile technology and solutions in 2014, up from 12 per cent in 2013

– in Canada, 78 per cent of SMBs don’t allocate a budget for mobile devices, purchasing on an as-needed basis instead

– 63 per cent of Canadian SMBs buy mobile devices for workers, down from 71 per cent in 2013

– only 54 per cent of U.S. SMBs supply employees with mobile devices

Mobile motivations

– according to the U.S. report, “mobile applications are becoming more important to SMBs, not only as a complement to traditional business applications but even as a replacement in some areas. For instance, mobile access has become the preferred interface for collaboration social media apps for a significant percentage of SMBs.”

Mobile management

“Adoption of mobile management solutions is rising,” the U.S. study says, with 45 per cent of American SMBs now using mobile device management (MDM) solutions and 36 per cent using mobile application management solutions.

Hardware preferences

– almost 70 per cent of Canadian SMBs feel laptops and smartphones have a positive impact on productivity – but only 45 per cent feel the same about tablets

OS options

– iOS usage among Canadian SMBs slipped four percentage points in 2014 while Windows 8 usage jumped 14 and Android jumped nine

What do these numbers indicate? SMBs are fuelling further opportunities for providers of mobile security and management solutions. As SMBs flock to free or low-cost cloud-based apps, however, larger vendors of more traditional business solutions may be missing out on that party.

For hardware vendors, it’s a mixed bag; SMBs still see laptops and smartphones as crucial but now feel lukewarm about tablets. App developers, take note: Windows 8 is surging among SMBs while iOS is slipping.

Although SMBs are spending more money on mobile, too few of them are doing it in a planned, strategic way. This creates opportunities, too: for unpleasant surprises (and unexpected costs) to spring up involving security, interoperability and other device management issues. Perhaps SMBs need a gentle reminder that going mobile means the ability to do business on the fly, not flying haphazardly by the seat of your pants.
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young at

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