Certainly the days of letting employees choose their own devices and connections should be coming to an end. Personal expense receipts for Wi-Fi access, usage of unapproved applications and utilizing private devices for business purposes pose significant dangers for the enterprise in terms of security and brand image. Pitfalls such as inconsistent customer communications, uncertainty as to how to contact colleagues and the ever-present security threat mean that if you haven't started already now is the time to get your mobile workforce management strategy in place. The rewards are substantial - a large enterprise has been able to close one of two closely located office buildings to consolidate on one local site through making efficient use of desk sharing, generating immediate savings of €1.1 million in operating expenses.
So where should I start?
The first thing to work out is where you are on your journey to a mobile workforce. Analyst firm Gartner has described five phases through which organizations evolve as their approach to remote working comes to maturity
and similar models can be applied to mobile workforce development. By understanding how your employees work and communicate, and how you see your business developing, will enable you to identify what tools should be put in place to progress to the next stage. If you have no official mobile usage in your business, it's time to set policies and equip workers with basic equipment and access. If you've got widespread user buy-in and three quarters of your staff are engaged in mobile working, you're way beyond the experimental stage and need to ensure that mobile working is recognized as critical and is fully integrated into your organization. The future of your business will hinge on your ability to help your workforce come together and achieve more than they can on their own and this cannot be performed piecemeal. You need a holistic approach that encompasses everybody.
How do I segment my mobile workforce?
You need to gain an understanding of the nature and requirements of your workforce. There's no point equipping a 60-year-old technophobe who spends all their time in one office location with a dual-mode laptop, smartphone and armory of wireless access options. Equally, not giving a 30-year-old IT-savvy road warrior that type of equipment will result in lost efficiency. Although there is no such thing as a uniform type of employee, there are groups that have similar requirements, and it's important to segment your workforce along these lines - but don't fall into the trap of segmenting your workforce just by job title or pay grade.
Several organizations have done studies on segmentation. Yankee Group has defined four mobile worker clusters
to help organizations segment their workforce - desk jockeys, upwardly mobiles, tech ninjas and holster nomads - each with an increasing degree of mobility and varying levels of IT enlightenment.
• Those with no requirement/need and no interest/aptitude
• Those with some requirement/need but little interest/aptitude
• Those with some requirement/need and a disproportionately high interest/aptitude
• Those to whom it is a critical business tool and have huge appetite and aptitude
What tools and access should I provide to which users?
Mobile working can be a status symbol for some employees so you need to tread carefully to avoid excluding those who feel they should be equipped. Nevertheless, it's important to confine your provision of functionality to those that will use it most effectively. Low mobility workers will probably need only a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, a voice-centric handheld offering basic applications like SMS. Workers who are more mobile will need a multimode laptop (offering both 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity), a smartphone, mobile email, a CRM web client, consumer and corporate IM and consumer VoIP, in addition to the features provided to low mobility workers. International travelers will need a mobile access solution that is device and access agnostic and chooses the most appropriate connection means for their location.
Equally, mobility is not just a productivity solution that should be confined to nomadic workers. It's applicable to the whole workforce and demands that everyone is engaged with fit-for-purpose packages.
How am I going to provide technical support to all these users?
Mobile workers by their definition are far more difficult to support than office workers. An employee travelling in a different country or even time zone trying to connect their laptop wirelessly in a hotel reception poses obvious, different challenges to a tech support enquiry regarding a desktop in your headquarters. They'll be using different devices and connectivity but will still expect the same backup from your business so you will need to set up internal or outsourced 24-hour support for all device types and access modes deployed across the mobile workforce. By defining the connectivity options for your workers, limiting device choice and setting usage policies you will be able to limit the variety of support calls you receive, but you will need to up-skill support stuff to support mobile workers and their equipment.
How am I going to provide management support to my mobile workforce?