Mobility allows workers to choose how, when and where they work. The result is improved productivity and happier staff. Here are six tasks IT managers must address when mobilising their workforce.
1. Talk to your workforce
The most successful mobility strategies take into account the needs of the workforce, according to Dr Megan Divett, national director of change for consultancy firm Puzzle Partners. She believes the traditional approach of managing change – where the organisation tells people how it wants them to work – runs the risk of missing the opportunity to truly innovate.
“The best outcomes are created by genuinely engaging people and their ideas from the very beginning,” she says. “Seek their help to prototype potential solutions, including mobility and collaboration tools, and refine and improve solutions based on real-world experiences. People quickly adopt new ways of working when solutions prove to be useful, easy to use and a little bit fun.”
2. Decide who owns the device
Organisations have two choices when it comes to mobilising their workforce: allow staff to use their own device, or supply a pool of corporate devices.
A bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy allows workers to use a device they like and are familiar with. The company avoids the need to purchase a pool of devices, which can cost many thousands of dollars. The device owner is also responsible for managing the life cycle of their device.
However, the downside of BYOD is that the IT department has to manage multiple device models, operating systems and software. It can also be difficult to manage the data stored on the devices, and recover or erase data if the device is lost or stolen.
Under a choose-your-own-device (CYOD) program, the company can offer between three and five devices that all run the same operating system, software and applications. CYOD eases the deployment, management and security task for the IT team. You can also implement standardised policies and processes to control how the device is used.
Consider the needs of your workforce when choosing corporate devices. For example, salespeople will benefit from tablets that can play dynamic marketing presentations. Powerful but lightweight laptops are suitable for content creators like designers, marketers and executives who need a full keyboard to be productive.
When deciding on smartphones, check if the operating system offers centralised device management and tracking. You should also determine whether the device can be integrated with existing applications and services.
The drawback of a CYOD program is cost, from procurement to maintenance and support. Corporate devices typically have a shorter lifespan, which means you will have to regularly buy new assets.
3. Take care of back-end business
For staff to work effectively while out of the office using their mobile devices, your organisation’s back-end infrastructure, systems and solutions should be developed to enable efficient, secure data and application access.
For instance, set up devices so users can only access certain corporate documents and product information through a virtual private network. Data that should never leave company servers, like product roadmaps and corporate plans, should be viewed on a virtual desktop. Some virtualisation services allow users to access information through an interface presented from a server, without having to download the data onto their device.
IT teams should develop comprehensive strategies for managing assets, particularly if there is a mix of BYOD and CYOD devices. It is also important to set out device authorisation and authentication processes, and determine who is responsible for monitoring the usage of data and corporate resources.
4. Keep assets secure
Security is critical when you have a mobile workforce. In the back-end, security patches on servers and related infrastructure must be kept up to date. The encryption process when accessing documents and applications must be quick and secure.
While IT administrators can install updates and patches on company assets, staff using their own devices must be aware they are responsible for downloading the latest security updates. As a safeguard, the IT team should set up authentication and verification systems to deny non-compliant devices from connecting to corporate resources. It is also possible to install software that tracks where and when a device is used.
5. Establish a mobility policy
Organisations should record their mobile-device policies and usage guidelines in a formal document and familiarise staff on the acceptable use of devices and corporate resources.
In addition to information on how to connect to corporate resources and secure data stored on devices, the document should include advice on what to do if a device is stolen or lost, as well as the consequences of breaches.
6. Monitor the mobile workforce
According to Divett, gathering feedback from staff and incorporating their suggestions into future initiatives is vital to improving workforce mobility.
“Good intelligence integrates feedback from people, understands what people are actually doing and monitors the impact on overall organisational performance. Are we performing better now? How might we become an even better workplace? When organisations take the time to integrate the physical setting with technology and people, they create a high-performance environment.”
To achieve this in your own business, discover the devices you'll need to mobilise your workforce.