The value of the mobile workforce for any organization is clear, impacting many areas from competitiveness and workplace productivity, to innovating not only how work is done but what work takes precedence. An Enterprise Mobile survey found that 72 percent of IT executive respondents plan to spend more than 20 percent of their 2014 budget on mobility. We should see this investment grow each year.
But a major obstacle remains: the mobile technology market itself. The mobile technology ecosystem continues to be volatile, with rapid and sometimes drastic change every year. Constant and wary governance is needed for the management of many moving parts: devices, worker usage, apps and services, security, and data. All of this makes planning for the future rather difficult and messy. Organizations are trying to manage enterprise requirements that must be provisioned by a predominately consumer-oriented market, which presents many problems both at strategic and tactical levels. Even the advent of BYOD policies have not alleviated many of the challenges – they have just morphed into different problems.
While the mobile enterprise is a game-changing direction for organizations, the actual mechanics are complex and troublesome:
- Rapid pace of change for mobile devices, services and apps
- Limited IT control over how employees actually use mobile devices
- Budgetary constraints combined with the uncertainty of ongoing costs
- Security and management issues for bidirectional data access and integration
- Business process evolving to include "procedures on demand", new modes of orchestration and optimization of processes
Continuously new mobile-related technologies that leap over organizational mobile governance plans
Innovating and Disrupting the Mobile Workforce
Mobile devices matter for innovating work through: wide-reaching in-the-moment collaboration; more intuitive and to-the-point apps; opportunities for situational and contextual support; data and analytics at the fingertips of more employees; contextual and collaborative knowledge.
While many are grappling with "traditional" mobile devices, disruptive technologies also impact the mobile workforce, such as the growing world of machine-to-machine interactions (the Internet of Things). M2M data comes primarily from the infinite number of sensors in just about everything. Communications and data generated by M2M processes are transforming businesses, and also have a dynamic relationship with the mobile workforce. With contextual and situational capabilities for mobile workers, M2M opens new ways for machines and humans to communicate and interact, as well as faster means to productivity improvements and better decision-making.
With M2M technology, a vending machine business can eliminate an abundance of manual steps for checking the stock of each machine and then having to return repeatedly to the service truck for supplies. Service personnel can stay in their trucks and use a mobile device to electronically poll each machine for the needed supplies. Less time is spent at each location, enabling one employee to cover more territory. When machines are malfunctioning, sensors can also send mobile alerts to service personnel in the field, so immediate action can be taken to quickly return machines to generating income.
Striking A Fluid Balance
Software solutions for mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) are becoming increasingly important as the means to balance the ability of workers to take full advantage of mobile apps and services while allowing IT to exert better control over security and access issues. Fluidity and flexibility of management is a core necessity to keep up with the ever-changing mobile environment without impeding employee usage or the evolving possibilities for innovating the workplace.
Organizations must strike a balance between mobile workforce requirements and what it takes to deliver the right tools and access, while knowing full well that everything can change in an instant. The hardest problem to solve is ensuring that mobile costs and issues don't wipe out the productivity and performance gains mobility promises to deliver. Mobile done right can tremendously energize a distributed model for a highly motivated global workforce.
Image source: telecoms.com
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of many business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitiveand on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective