The new business market is pushing workers toward increasing mobility and availability, regardless of work location. IDC estimated that by the beginning of this year, “mobile workers” would comprise one-third of the world’s working population. According to the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF), a non-profit alliance of technology vendors:
“one important driver for the growth of unified communication is mobility and the remote worker. No segment is growing faster than mobile communications, and virtually every smart phone will be equipped with video chat, IM and other collaboration features within just a few years.”
Additionally, IT managers have been tracking the consumerization of IT by identifying the increasing trend of independently owned and managed mobile devices. Vast numbers of workers are purchasing smartphones and tablets; Gartner reports that 1.2 billion of the devices will be purchased in 2013. Additionally, Gartner forecasts that business tablet purchases will climb to 13 million in 2012 and reach 53 million in 2016.
The demands of the new virtual workplace
The pervasive use of mobile devices is creating one of the biggest shifts in business today: the steady move toward the virtual workplace. Employees now regularly work in home offices, coworking spaces, airport terminals, coffee houses, client sites or anywhere that suits their need. Geographic boundaries erode as project teams connect with members from around the world and as employees increasingly explore new ways to communicate with each other from a variety of devices. According to a survey of U.S. companies conducted by The Yankee Group, many businesses have begun prioritizing investments in mobile technology over traditional IT projects. In a report published in partnership with Mobile Enterprise magazine, the analysts also note that mobility is becoming more pervasive throughout the entire enterprise. Mobile Enterprise’s “Mobility Outlook 2012” observes that field workers currently represent just under a third of all mobile computer users within U.S. firms. Today’s mobile worker is just as likely to be an intra-office mobile worker, telecommuter or frequent business traveler.
For today’s workforce—which is increasingly called upon to work offsite, travel for business, manage remote teams and telecommute—unique challenges are becoming the rule rather than the exception. This new class of mobile workers requires savvy work approaches that parallel those they are accustomed to delivering to consumers—including high quality interfaces, instant availability and uncompromised security. To remain responsible stewards of corporate data and corporate property, mobile workers must not only engage in collaborative tasks remotely, they must do so securely and according to compliance. The following simple equation for remote workers and their technological interaction with the workplace sums up the new dynamic:
Employee + Mobile Application + Device + IT Manager = Productive Collaboration
What to look for in mobile collaboration tools
Over the past several years, an increasing number of companies in diverse industries have discovered the advantages of mobile collaboration: improved efficiency, increased productivity and expanding customer bases. However, several obstacles have limited full-scale mobile technology deployment within some organizations, including security, device management concerns and technological limitations. As businesses and employees evolve to this new virtual work style, analysts suggest the following requirements for successful mobile collaboration within the enterprise:
- Align collaboration tools with your work environment needs
- Select collaboration tools that correspond to employee needs
- Adjust your IT network to manage the specific demands of mobility and mobile users
- Plan for and measure the impact of your collaboration tools
Naturally, how each of these adjustments is evaluated and accomplished depends on the size of your business, the variety and demands of devices available and the security measures in place. Executives who recognize the benefits of working with the right partners and tools stand to improve not just their business offerings, they will also see gains in client relationships, customer experience, cost efficiencies, productivity gains and employee satisfaction. Organizations that embrace the growing trend toward mobile work and how it transforms the way people work, leverages technology and embraces the present cultural evolutions will also realize the bottom line benefits of a telecommuting work force.