And no, hes not talking about them using their highly secured laptops, either. The iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy and their ilk are invading corporate briefcases, pocket books and backpacks with a vengeance.
Indeed, a recent survey by Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services found that while around a third of large and medium-sized organizations currently provide some sort of handheld device access to the companys financial jewels, by 2012 roughly three quarters will be providing such access.
And it isn't just a handful of users. The 1,004 survey respondents from the U.S., Asia, Europe and the rest of the world indicated that more than half of their senior executives and middle managers were being given access to sales, budget, customer order s and other mission-critical information.
As you can see in the table below, email access via a handheld device is already almost ubiquitous among the suits. The big shifts are coming in the percentage of companies providing access for financial functions:
Top corporate smartphone app categories
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services
Before you panic and run into the game room to pound a ping-pong ball, a few caveats are in order. First, the data just indicates which apps will be available to handheld users, but it isnt clear how much access to budget numbers middle managers will have, or need, while theyre in a cab on a street in Mexico City.
Second, the rate of adoption of this enhanced access depends in large measure on where your company is located. European and Asian companies appear much more eager to provide this access. The more advanced mobile broadband networks in Korea, Japan, Scandinavia and elsewhere make an ambitious handheld data access experience a lot more realistic.
"There's been a tremendous update of devices in Japan due to the 4G broadband wireless capabilities there," notes Mark White, CTO of Deloitte Consulting.
Third, at this point were just talking about access to data, not doing major OLAP routines while using a Blackberry with a screen not much larger than an airmail postage stamp. Pre-configured reports and other static info, coming to the handheld device has been the current state of the art.
However, in the past few months the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated and powerful handheld device operating systems and apps and the ever-growing expectations of end users and their supervisors (Im talking about the CEO and CFO as well as the department managers) offer a new level of performance that can handle more dynamic tasks.
My earlier column has more information about the tools that enable mobile devices to access business intelligence applications and data sets.
White says that handheld device users now have the ability to take data and manipulate it to discover important insights. And ultimately you'll see users with these devices collaborating with colleagues about the data.