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I just finished working with my colleagues on the latest forecast of the mobile workforce in the U.S., defined as workers who require mobility to manage their daily workload. Unsurprisingly, we are forecasting that mobility will grow as a strategic business priority within companies of all sizes. That said, workers from companies with less than 1,000 employees now represent over half of the entire U.S. mobile workforce, and we think that will grow to over 60% by 2018. Enterprise mobility is no longer locked up in large enterprises. Why?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and increasingly Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA) has driven basic access to enterprise mobility services across all company sizes. Mobile operating systems are more sophisticated when it comes to incorporating advanced device management capabilities, giving IT managers at even the smallest companies the ability to provision and secure devices and basic applications like email. Because of this, it’s a commonly held belief that device management will become increasingly based on a self-service model. For smaller businesses with less than 100 employees, I’m already seeing many mobilizing their basic communications functions, namely email and calendaring, along with access to game-changing apps like payments.

On the other hand, corporate owned and liable devices will most likely represent a more advanced layer of enterprise mobility access and usage, more aligned with larger midmarket firms, or any company operating in IT intensive industries. Many midmarket firms are already in the midst of planning, test-piloting, or deploying mobilized core business software – whether it is ERP, CRM, or more specialized functions like HCM. Mobile application development models favoring agile, purpose built apps built on public clouds can be quickly deployed, driving mobile maturity at the functional level.

Industry watchers should expect to see Healthcare become quickly mobilized, as legislation and an aging U.S. population consumes more healthcare resources, necessitating firms operating in this industry to be much more agile than in the past. On the other hand, mobility will have an adverse effect on broad retail employment, as eCommerce capabilities reduce the need for scaled-out headcount, and mobile storefronts and payments make the sale and delivery of goods much more efficient.

Regardless, vendors and channel partners who can offer advanced capabilities in a self-service model will successfully unlock the larger market for SMB mobility.

Chris Chute is a Vice President with IDC’s Small and Medium Business Practice, providing strategic guidance to IT vendors and buyers regarding the development and deployment of cloud and mobile IT solutions. Mr. Chute’s research often centers on market disruption, such as the impact of hosted applications and infrastructure on small and medium business IT consumption, and how BYOD has reshaped IT policy requirements. Follow Chris on Twitter: @chrischute

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