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Technology And Elitism: The Key Challenges To Enterprise Mobility

The ability to work remotely is a gift to businesses - why reserve it for higher pay grades?

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The ability to work remotely is a gift to businesses - why reserve it for higher pay grades?

Opinions

Technology And Elitism: The Key Challenges To Enterprise Mobility

The ability to work remotely is a gift to businesses - why reserve it for higher pay grades?

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Mobility is one of those words that’s been in the enterprise vernacular for years, refusing to go away, but only just going mainstream. In its humble beginnings, ‘going mobile’ meant checking emails on a laptop outside of the office walls, or taking a business call from home.

However, in the last decade we’ve seen businesses choosing cloud as a way of bringing stability to constantly changing business models, increasing connectivity and a rise in acceptance of the “always on” employee.

All of these factors have contributed to a fertile breeding ground for mobility to flourish – or so vendors tell us. But who within the business is benefitting – and what functions are they actually carrying out from a mobile device?

The attraction of mobile working is often touted as not restricting employees to their desks, giving them greater flexibility to carry out key business functions wherever they are. For example, if a sales representative needs to wait until they’re in the office to check stock levels, they won’t be able to make as many same day sales due to lack of real time data.

A vast number of employees, particularly in operations, still find themselves chained to their desks on legacy software. For the UK’s manufacturing companies, while many have digitised supply chain and customer relations, shop floor data capture is still done manually with clipboards – when this could be an obvious area where mobility could increase profitability.

By contrast, you’d be hard pressed to find a C-level decision maker who didn’t travel with a mobile phone, laptop or tablet. Indeed, business leaders such as Ulrik Nehammer, GM Coca-Cola, and Larry Page, CEO and Co-Founder of Google, are boldly professing that they can run global businesses from their mobile phones.

The emergence of the IoT

Embracing “mobility” does not just mean being able to join a conference call, answer an email or chat to colleagues on Whatsapp. The emergence of the Internet of Things has also spurred on mobility within the enterprise, and changed the way we think of devices.

Whereas 5 years ago, a mobile device was a laptop or phone, today, a device can mean anything that’s connected to the internet, from sensors, to wearables, to cameras, to clothing. The number of internet connected devices are rapidly increasing, as businesses and consumers alike are embracing the opportunities they can offer.

Gartner has predicted that 20 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020, with a significant proportion of these being found in the enterprise.

Now, employees have an array of opportunities to work and collect data remotely. Gas metres connected to the internet can be read without a technician needing to visit a premises.

Similarly, vehicles can now be manufactured with built-in sensors which will be able to predict and report mechanical problems before they occur. In some instances, these issues will be also be solved remotely, again, saving everyone both money and time.

Moving away from legacy, towards innovation

Business process management software is another area where technology has evolved to support mobility. And yes, these include the likes of ERP and CRM, which are still shaking off their reputation of being legacy systems, largely due to overblown and overspent projects in the 1990s.

In the last few years however, a vast amount of innovation has happened in response to customer demand, opening them up to external developers with APIs . One key enhancement is that we now have the ability to sync the software to a myriad of devices, allowing for real time business process management and integration of IoT data.

It’s not just the developers who are able to create bespoke applications. Rather than each employee accessing the entire ERP system from their mobile, it’s now possible to create tailored applications from mobile devices in a matter of minutes, which just include core job functions.

This development has given employees the ability to perform business processes away from a computer. For example, a customer support agent stuck on a bus in traffic will still be able to respond to customer queries even if they’re not in the office.

Similarly, a CIO can analyse real-time threats and monitor the cost-effectiveness of newly implemented tools. This, and other improvements, have leveraged business process management systems to be valuable investments for companies of all sizes.

If the technology exists, what’s the hesitation?

And yet even though a whole host of technologies that foster a mobile working environment are widely available, many senior decision makers are not choosing to invest in it. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious is that people simply aren’t aware of the new developments.

Technology is evolving quicker than ever, and it can be hard to keep up with all the new tools on the market, let alone assess or trial different systems within the workplace.

Implementing these tools also takes time, and the prospect of undergoing a laborious process of data migration and on-boarding will be off-putting for many, especially smaller companies who don’t have a dedicated IT team. Thankfully, many vendors make provisions for this, offering technical support to ease the on-boarding process, and training for employees.

However, challenges brought by technology aren’t the only hurdles standing in the way of business mobility. Historically we’ve always gone to a place of work from Monday to Friday, 9-5, and it’s a habit of working that’s developed the line of thought that we’re more productive when in the office.

Given this, employees may experience a general atmosphere of distrust, especially from more traditional senior decision makers, when they try and make a case for working remotely. Because of this, they’re reluctant to invest in the technology that will allow of mobile working.

The caveat however, is that more trust is often given, the more senior you are.

The likes of Ulrik Nehammer and Larry Page are able to run some of the world’s biggest businesses from their mobiles because they hold senior management positions, make important decisions, and are therefore seen as committed members of the workforce who are unlikely to slack off.

The same may not be said for Joe Bloggs in accounting. And yet, there’s no hard evidence to back up the claim that those in lower level positions are more likely to be less productive when they’re working remotely.

Mobility isn’t a fad that’s just going to disappear; the potential benefits of increased productivity and reduced costs are too significant. As the technology continues to advance, and traditional working values are replaced with savvy, adventurous minds, companies will have to invest in mobility, in order not to get left behind.

Andres Richter is CEO of Priority Software.

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Technology And Elitism: The Key Challenges To Enterprise Mobility

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