Only a few years ago, Craig J. Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, would have laughed at the idea of carrying a $1,000 device around in his pocket. Today, he says, it would be almost absurd not to carry one.
“I’ve changed my wardrobe to accommodate my device,” says Mathias, noting that he used to prefer jeans. “I wear cargo pants now, and I keep my handset in one particular pocket of those.”
While the past few years haven’t seen a radical change in mobility on par with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 or the iPad in 2010, organizations are still adapting to the rapid rise of mobile devices and applications. This means making diligent efforts to outfit users with the mobility tools they need to be as productive and collaborative as possible — and recognizing that an effective mobility strategy is no longer optional; it’s mandatory.
Ensure Employees Have the Right Devices to Be Productive
Even today, organizations still deploy mobile devices via a mix of different models, with some opting for BYOD programs and others choosing corporate owned, privately enabled (COPE), Device as a Service (DaaS) or other rollout strategies. No matter what delivery model organizations choose, they need to facilitate access to devices that meet both users’ needs and wants.
“Millennials just expect [access to state-of-the-art devices],” says Andy Rhodes, vice president of commercial mobility computing solutions at Dell. “They don’t want to take a job with a company that’s not going to give them the right technology. It’s not an arrogance thing. It’s people coming to the workforce knowing they can’t get their work done if they don’t have the right technology.”
Performance continues to be an important factor in device selection. But for many knowledge professionals, portability and battery life are often just as important since these are the features that allow users to be productive all day, from anywhere. Finally, flexible design features — such as touch-screens, connectivity ports and convertibility into other form factors — can be especially important for certain job roles, such as users who work in unconventional or extreme environments, or users who need to add peripherals to their devices (such as credit card readers for retail stores).
“We see a lot of people using Surface as their primary device,” says Ryan Day, senior communications manager for Microsoft Surface. “But it really depends on the business, the individual and the space. Some professionals may be using one device for work at the office, another to brainstorm with their colleagues and something different during their commute.”
Rhodes stresses the importance of identifying different user personas throughout the organization, and rolling out solutions based on their varied needs. “If you’re a remote worker and spending your whole day at your desk, having two monitors might allow you to be more productive,” he notes. “Or, if you’re what I call an ‘on-the-go pro,’ what you need is battery life. Our customers are starting to see that it’s not one size fits all. They’re really starting to tell their users, ‘Tell me what you need, and I’ll give you the right tool,’ rather than basing it on what level someone is in the company.”
Make Collaboration Tools and Capabilities Mobile-Friendly
One thing IT leaders should keep in mind is that establishing a productive, collaborative work style requires more than just a useful mobile device.
“There’s a tendency, because we’re all consumers, and many of us are serious gadget freaks, to get wound up over the device itself,” says Mathias. “But it’s not about the device. It’s about the information we get via the device. It’s how you work. And it’s really about maximizing your productivity, both individually and as part of a team. Those are the issues you want to address.”
The way users employ mobile devices has changed significantly in recent years, and organizations should adopt collaboration and productivity tools that reflect the current reality. Many organizations are deploying application suites and mobility platforms such as Microsoft 365, VMware Workspace One and Citrix Workspace to keep users connected and productive from anywhere.
Alan Ni, director of solutions marketing for Aruba Networks, notes that the use of mobile group collaboration tools is growing in many organizations. “Several years back, I observed younger folks who came into the office that wouldn’t even want to talk on the phone,” Ni says. “You would have thought everything would go toward instant messaging or group chat. Nowadays, more and more collaboration events include remote participants utilizing voice, video and screen-sharing. The ability for a participant to take that virtual meeting on their laptop or smartphone to any number of comfortable spots in the office really promotes this idea of an open office or activity-based working.”
“The workforce has become increasingly more diverse and mobile,” Day says. “There’s been a shift away from routine tasks to those with an emphasis on the ability to communicate, collaborate and think critically and creatively. Teamwork is essential to the way work gets done.”
Networks Must Support Bandwidth-Heavy Apps
Mobility isn’t just for remote workers and road warriors. Employees should also be given the flexibility to work from anywhere when they’re at the office, and organizations must ensure that their wireless networks can support the increasing use of bandwidth-intensive mobile applications, such as video collaboration.
“Five or 10 years ago, when Wi-Fi was first installed for many organizations, it was installed viewed and designed as an amenity,” says Ni. “The enterprise put in Wi-Fi maybe for guest access and for some casual employee mobility, and to potentially enable you to work. It was a ‘nice-to-have.’”
But Ni says such an attitude is no longer acceptable. Because of how central mobility is to workflows, organizations must invest in backbone infrastructure that not only meets existing needs but also accommodates future growth. Often, this will mean replacing existing access points with ones that meet 802.11ac Wave 2 connectivity standards and investing in new elements such as software-defined policy controls.
Mathias notes that users today don’t merely expect to be connected wherever they go; they need to be connected to do their jobs. “The whole idea of working offline is ridiculous now,” he says. “If you don’t have connectivity, you’re not going to get anything done. It’s as simple as that.”
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