Mobile solution providers need to understand how people's business and personal live are converging, and deliver flexible solutions to meet their needs.
The fact that business and personal lives are converging is evident in the multi-faceted and flexible mobile solutions that companies offer to their employees.
Within an employee group, though, there are varying needs, and mobile solution providers need to assess these requirements so they can respond appropriately to what businesses and their staff want from a device and an application.
In its third Convergence Monitor Survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed more than 7 400 of its own partners and employees in 22 countries, including South Africa.
"The objective of the survey (in which we featured ourselves instead of our clients as is usually the case) was to determine what devices and applications professionals are using today, how they are using them in both the business and personal context, what they would like to have in the future – and how various suppliers can respond" says PwC Southern Africa's communications leader, Johan van Huyssteen.
High-usage staff members, being 24% of PwC respondents, are typically aged 30 to 45 years old, more likely to be early adopters of technology and tend to be concentrated among partners and the manager group. They spend at least 12 hours a week on a mobile phone – likely to be a Smartphone or Blackberry. Their personal monthly expenditure on mobile devices and services, after company reimbursements, is R600.00 ($60.00) or more. They use at least 80% of all services their devices offer such as voice, email, sms, video games, music, GPS and internet access.
The majority, two-thirds of the respondents, fall into the "medium usage" category. This includes younger people, but is spread more evenly among age groups and staff levels in the firm. They are slower to adopt new technologies and tend towards conventional mobile phones; speak for two to 12 hours a week; incur personal expenditure of R210.00 to R590.00 a month ($21.00 to $59.00); using anything between 20% and 80% of all available services.
Low usage and a cautious attitude come with age. This group of 45 years and up comprised only 14% of respondents and they speak for two hours or less a week on mobile phones, personally spending less than R200.00 ($20.00) a month, using less than 20% of available services.
Van Huyssteen says the survey found some sharp regional differences in usage. "Respondents in the Asia-Pacific region are clearly more advanced in the use of most Web applications. They are more avid gamers, photo managers and social networkers, and use their mobile devices much more frequently for online shopping, micropayments and money management. This may be driven in part by the maturity of technology in Asia-Pacific, but there could also be a direct correlation to the use of mass transit in the region, with people having more time while commuting in trains and buses."
He adds that the growing convergence between personal and business mobility can give rise to some privacy and security problems.
"Lines of distinction become blurred, and corporate-imposed limitations could cause employees to obtain a second device purely for their own personal use. The survey shows that our employees are highly concerned about privacy and prefer service plans that will not indicate the device location to the employer. In contrast, employers would naturally want a facility through which they can locate the device or employee."
As one single converged device becomes the preferred route, security concerns are heightened, with 55% of respondents agreeing that password protection is important. Again, in contrast, employers would want the unrestricted ability to be able to wipe clean a lost mobile device, even if it means the loss of personal data belonging to the employee.
Not unexpectedly, the survey also found that attitudes towards marketing messages on these mobile devices differed according to age. Younger and therefore more price sensitive respondents are more open to receiving advertisements, welcoming discounts in return for receiving these promotional messages.
Mobile phones and MP3 players are the most popular mobile devices with PwC staff. About 85% of respondents have one or more mobile phones and the BlackBerry and other smartphones (37% of respondents) ranked highly. "All this reflects a need or desire to have multiple devices for multiple needs and it will be interesting to see how the introduction of converged devices such as the iPhone moves this behaviour over time" says Van Huyssteen.
The choice of mobile device is partly a function of age and middle-aged people are more likely to possess utilitarian equipment such as smartphones, PDAs and GPS devices. Younger groups are more attracted to entertainment devices such as MP3 players and handheld game consoles. Gender influences choice as well, with men having a higher propensity for smartphones, while women favour mobile phones. For all other types of mobile devices, however, ownership by men outstrips that by women.
As expected, the survey found that voice calls are the most commonly used mobile application. High-usage respondents are keener on practical applications, such as e-mail, calendar and Internet access as they view their devices as productivity enhancers. In contrast, medium and low-usage respondents had more interest in entertainment features, such as camera and music, with quality issues cited as major inhibitors for camera and video applications.
Cost, design and battery life are the key attributes PwC staff look at when buying a new mobile device, regardless of how much they use the device. For high users, design is most important and cost less so, perhaps supporting the notion that high users are part of the segment that is supported most by corporate policy. Cost is the top priority for 31% of female respondents, and the second most important attribute for another 16%. Men seem more focused on design and on what the device can do.
Mobile users also have a very clear priority in choosing a service provider – the quality of network coverage. For 49% of the PwC population, this was the most significant attribute. More than 23% considered value for money to be their top priority, while 14% considered brand to be the most important attribute when choosing.
On their aspirations for future mobile services, respondents cited many new features they would like from their mobile devices – remote file access, calendar reminders, time sheet completion, meeting venue directions, and using the device as a security access pass into the office. They also want banking products, access to social networks and VoIP calls. Their social and entertainment needs are numerous and security features – such as encrypted passwords, second identifications, and call banning – are also required.
Van Huyssteen says that developers, manufacturers and service providers, should pay great attention to these preferences revealed by this professional market, also taking into consideration corporate subsidisation schemes which heavily influence choice, and the increasing need for a single device which accommodates both business and personal needs.
"Consumer focused devices are being adapted for business use through upgrades to compatibility, security and robustness. In turn, the more corporate devices such as Blackberries are being modified to meet private needs. Competitive suppliers will be the ones listening to their customers and responding innovatively to the increasing trends of convergence."