Down with the Desk: How Enterprise Mobility is Reshaping the Office

If you had asked most people at the turn of the millennium what the next 20 years would bring as technology evolved, most assumed that we would be zipping around in flying cars by 2017. They envisioned that we would float to our offices in human-size vacuum transit tubes—like checks entering a bank—unlock our offices with a retina scan, and get to work at our massive digital switchboard of holographic computers.

However, the reality of the last 20 years has seen a push toward the elimination of the office altogether, and perhaps with it the disappearance of the conference room culture and desk-bound workers. Employees value the freedom that the advancements in mobile technology have afforded them, and the emerging companies responsible for bringing these solutions to market first are rocketing ahead of their legacy-burdened competition. The formula is simple: if you allow your workforce to serve your customers and product more efficiently—and on a flexible schedule—they repay the company with higher productivity and higher earnings.

In next decade, we can expect to see a further explosion in mobile-first enterprise management environments, and the reasons make a lot of financial and HR sense—it allows you to eliminate the overhead of the traditional office, it gives your employees greater freedom and job satisfaction which leads to greater productivity, and it allows you to find the very best people to do the job, no matter where they’re located in the world.  So how could it benefit your company, and what are the greatest hurdles to overcome when implementing these systems? Here are a few elements of the process to consider.

Mobility and the Mythical Millennial Worker

The first swing for many industries’ at attracting millennial workers was remaking offices from cube farms into, well, cube farms with shorter walls and more bean bag chairs. The idea was that younger generations are looking for better accessibility to their co-workers, faster and easier collaboration, and a much more casual approach to business culture.

Most were half-right, but they were about 10 years ahead of what modern workers increasingly want—the freedom to do their jobs where the best work happens, and instant access to their co-workers when necessary. It’s not just limited to millennial workers either—mobility-ready enterprise solutions benefit everyone in the office hierarchy, from freedom-seeking younger generations, to busy parents, sales professionals, or anyone who wants to stay connected while on vacation to prevent backlog.

Last year, 43 percent of employees surveyed said they work outside of the office at least part-time, and enterprises saw a jump in the number of managed devices as these employees make their office exit. Increasingly, employees want to work where they’re allowed the freedom to work where their best work happens, but with same ease-of-use as walking over to a co-worker’s desk when they need to collaborate. Now it’s possible, and mobile readiness is dividing the business world between enterprises that are adapting to the change with mobile-first solutions and those chasing diminishing profits as mobile-ready outfits dominate the market.

Baby Steps Toward Mobile Maturity 

The number-one hurdle facing CIOs and IT teams is having to work with some kind of legacy industry system that cannot be changed. The necessity for keeping these systems in place can hamper your options when choosing to move your team to a cloud-based office management system. But even the smallest first step in the process — implementing the basics PIM tools like calendar sharing and remote email access — can boost productivity as much as seven percent. Moving along the “timeline” of mobile preparedness and maturity boosts productivity every time your company moves forward in the lifecycle toward total mobile capabilities.

But most companies still lag far behind the industry standard for mobile preparedness, and are getting quickly eclipsed by companies offering diverse mobile experiences for both customers and employees. That means that as customers get access to cheaper and easier to use consumer-focused mobile products, they have begun to bring those devices into their workflow. The average employee uses multiple devices to accomplish work tasks, and iOS has become the dominant mobile platform as Apple consumer products have taken over the market.

Both customers and employees demand a more intuitive user experience and enterprises are looking to catch up to that demand, the iOS platform is a great place to start. It is the mobile leader across all vertical industries, and chances are, most of your future employees already have at least one iOS device they use daily. Integrating with a system that most of your workforce is already comfortable with will save you time as they adjust to using the mobile system.

Security & Troubleshooting 

When it’s time to arm your workforce with corporate-issued mobile devices, nothing will be more important to secure than the protection of data being exchanged between your employees. The most common means to accomplish this is to deploy password enforcement, as most corporations do when issuing devices. Almost all devices coming to market have the capacity for a robust password system, so it’s a fairly straightforward process to enforce the use of passwords with the help of your provider.

As your mobile enterprise system becomes more robust and requires more layers of security, you should anticipate more time lost as your users troubleshoot the new system. However, that rule mostly only applies to mid- and late-stage implementation of mature mobile security needs. Nonetheless, time spent on the phone with IT is part of the adaptation process, and should be considered especially in highly mobile-diverse markets like Europe and the Middle East, where there is the greatest diversity of corporate-issued devices.

The Payoff

 Benefits of investing in mobilityThe lack of industries actively investing in moving toward a robust mobile enterprise is surprising, given the amount of research that states that the modern office is actively disrupting productivity and profitability. While the open office plan was intended to create greater collaboration, the interruptions to workflow caused by answering questions from colleagues can crush an otherwise productive day.

The new definition of “productivity” is one where employees have the freedom to find the spaces where they work most efficiently. Writers can find their quiet spaces to write, managers can stay in the loop even when they’re on vacation, and sales professionals can meet clients when and where it’s convenient for the client—fostering a stronger relationship and ease of buy for the customer. All of the bottlenecks related to gathering certain people in certain places disappears, from office space rent to flight and hotel expenses.

Mobile-ready enterprise solutions will be the deciding factor in the survival of many businesses in a post-digital world, and freeing your workforce from the outdated style of cube farms and conference rooms will likely propel your company to a new level of competition.

Photo Credit: luciouslyon0101 Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.