By Chris Schoenwetter, American Technology Services, Inc.
The concept of a mobile workforce is not new as most organizations have adopted some form of BYOD bring your own device (BYOD) policy. There has been a two to three times increase in the size of the mobile workforce. Furthermore, the majority of employees that have the ability to work remotely take advantage to the tune of 30 extra hours a month. Forward-thinking organizations can observe a profound impact on their productivity and profitability by adopting a mobile friendly approach to running their business. Here are a few guidelines you can consider in your process of becoming a truly mobile organization.
1. Mobile Workforce as an Approach to Cost Reduction
A strategic mobility plan reduces your organization’s dependency on office space by enabling staff to effectively work from anywhere. Once your employees have the right tools for productive remote collaboration, you can create a schedule to coordinate their time in the office. For instance, they may spend a few days per week in the office and the rest remotely. This way, every seat can be home to more than one person, resulting in major cost savings without adversely impacting productivity.
2. Effective Tools to Promote and Support a Mobile Workforce
You may have noticed the influx of mobile-ready solutions built to meet the growing demand for workforce mobility. From virtual private networks (VPNs) to cloud storage to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) soft phones, there are a plenty of options. A right combination of these mobile technologies can significantly enhance your workforce’s mobility and collaboration. Let’s take a closer look at these tools.
a. Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPNs allow remote users to securely connect to your organization’s internal network to use resources in the same manner they do in the office. As VPNs play a pivotal role in enhancing staff’s mobility, flexibility, and productivity, selecting a solution that works for your requirements is important. Dell SonicWall, Cisco, WatchGuard, and Barracuda are among the popular solutions; but each offers slightly different features. Make sure you carefully consider security, scalability, maintenance, and usability, all of which can affect the success of your mobile initiative.
b. Cloud-Based Collaboration
Having access to files from any device, anywhere, is another “must-have” in your quest for mobility. Cloud-based solutions such as Dropbox, Box.com, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint, and Google Drive (to name a few) allow users to store, share, and collaborate on documents in real-time. When selecting a cloud-based solution for your organization, address the questions below in details:
· Is the timeline for implementation, integration, and training aligned with your organization’s strategic timeline?
· To what extent does it provide security and whether you can customize the settings?
· Is multi-platform support available (will the solution work on Suzie’s Android, Josh’s iPhone, and your MacBook)?
· How well does it integrate with the existing business-critical apps or programs?
c. VoIP and Softphones
I have seen many organizations leverage Microsoft Lync® and software-based VoIP phones (commonly referred to as a softphones). Microsoft Lync® is a user-friendly, well-integrated tool for internal communications via instant messages, voice calls, file sharing, and video conferences between multiple people. Integrated with Outlook, it provides a consistent, familiar interface of the Microsoft-based environment and encourages greater user adoption.
For external communication, a softphone allows employees to make and receive phone calls from their laptops (or tablets) with the same phone number they use at their office desks, creating a level of transparency between your organization and clients.
3. Tablets as an Integrated Organizational Device
Every mobile workforce needs a device that strikes the balance between performance and mobility. Laptops have been the answer for many years, but as users demand more functionality and portability, tablets are emerging as the next generation of office devices. Some tablets can also run the same applications your desktop does, enabling you to avoid costly custom application development or drastic workflow changes. Choosing a device platform that meets the mobile needs of its end users without sacrificing performance is vital to becoming a truly mobile organization.
A truly mobile organization focuses on a strategic goal, then plan and implement processes that promote a high adoption rate among employees. Clearly communicating any procedural changes and having a support system in place are pivotal to ensuring your mobile workforce successfully uses the tools you’ve set in place.
IT Consultant, American Technology Services, Inc. (ATS®)
Chris is a versatile, client-centric IT Consultant at ATS. He has extensive expertise and experience in helping clients with improving their network infrastructure, LAN/WAN administration, as well as implementing system assessment and conversions.
American Technology Services, Inc. (ATS®)
American Technology Services, Inc. (ATS®) is a leading provider of comprehensive IT services. Founded in 1994, the company has a strong track record of providing high-quality services including IT consulting, managed services & network support, web design & development, and hosting & cloud services. ATS is headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices in Chicago, IL, Baltimore, MD and Bethesda, MD. ATS is also a member of the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Learn more at networkATS.com.
 “Gartner: Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2014.” Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterhigh/2013/10/14/gartner-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2014/
 “80% of Americans work an extra 30 hours a month on their own time.” TechCrunch. http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/02/80-of-americans-work-after-hours-equaling-an-extra-day-of-work-per-week/