The Truth about Increasing Mobility in the Workplace

Mar 25, 2014

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

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Less than 7 years ago the iPhone was introduced to the world ushering in the beginning of the smart device (Smartphones, Tablets) era. Yet, despite the supersonic explosion in smart device use and their capabilities, many organizations have been slow to adopt change. This article looks at why this is occurring and the effects it will have.

Various research firms including Gartner and ABI Research all tell us that there over a billion new smartphones have been added in the last 4 years alone. This is more than 20% of the world population. The impact is profound as increased mobility is changing the way we live our lives.

What is Increased Mobility?

The first step to understanding what increasing mobility is and how it is being integrated (current tense intended) is to understand the growth of smart devices and how they are being used. The explanation below is intended for people who may not fully understand the technological change and implications.

To start, smart devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Android or Samsung models make use of touch screens and now voice activated commands to make calls, access the Internet, take photos, record videos, send text messages and check or send emails.

The Emergence of the App

The most alluring factor is smart devices is their ability to use applications (Apps). Apps permit access to programs on a remote, higher powered computer. An App is a web-based portal to more powerful programs.

The function of Apps can be very simple such as completing a timesheet or finding directions to your next sales call. They can also serve a more complicated endeavor such as performing inspections or completing a work order with attached blueprints or photos.

Incredibly, in just a very short period of time the total number of Apps available for personal and business use has blossomed to over 1 million with 25,000+ new Apps added every month.

Defining Increased Mobility in the Workplace

Industry or business Apps are generally designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of sales, operations and customer service. An App may have a specific purpose such as tracking maintenance or be the doorway to a complete Enterprise level solution.

A key element to their successful use is their ability to enable work to be performed, reported on and measured without being tied to a specific location such as an office or city.

Hence we arrive at the term increasing mobilityIncreasing mobility in the workplace can be defined as the use of smart devices to perform work outside of the traditional office. It is not complicated and the results are measurable.

To be clear, increasing mobility is a tool for improving how an organization functions. Like any other tool it has a cost and has a Return on Investment (ROI).

Increasing Mobility Facts and Myths

As you can see above, smart devices are not just a passing fad. They have ushered in a new way of doing business that changes the competitive dynamics in virtually all industries, organizations and governments.

But because the technology is relatively new and has grown so fast many people do not realize the impact and/or have some misconceptions about smart device use. Below are a few selected facts and myths that have evolved.

Increased Mobility Facts

  1. 90% of American adults have mobile phones, 58% have a smartphone.
  2. Your employees are already using smart devices at work whether you like it or not.
  3. 42% of adults own a tablet computer, up from nearly zero prior to 2010. Tablets are the fastest growing market for smart devices.
  4. A tablet is basically a portable computer that is smaller than a laptop yet larger than a smartphone but with greater capabilities.
  5. Approximately 80% of adults 40 and under have a smartphone.
  6. 63% of adult cell owners use their phones to go online.

Increasing Mobility Myths

  1. Myth: Employees will not work as much if they have access to the Internet on a smart device.Reality: Work productivity is a management issue not a technology issue. It always has been and always will be.
    The use of the Internet is already interwoven into functions ranging from marketing to product design to banking.
    However, a maintenance engineer is not going to be productive walking back to an office to fill out and submit a work order nor is a Salesperson unable to make spot decisions in the field.
  2. Myth: All Apps are created equal.Reality: As technology improves so do Apps. Functionality and features are plentiful BUT an App must have the mobile support organization behind it to troubleshoot problems, auto update versions, perform training, provide exceptional customer service and have minimal downtime. New Apps are often suspect in the preceding areas.The more complicated the App is the more support it will need. It is not realistic to ask your staff to use a critical operations App without adequate training and support.
  3. Myth: There is not much difference between smart devices.Reality: It is very important to know the environment in which the device will be used. The most popular smart devices may not fare well in hostile environments if they are exposed to too much dust, water or are dropped a lot.A few years ago the only real option available for harsh environments was to use a rugged device. A rugged device provided a IP rated protection from the elements, had longer battery lives and minimized downtime.This led to the belief that the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) favored rugged devices. We can now say this has completely changed.The need for rugged handheld devices can often be mitigated with a variety of external cases. In addition, smart devices have continually improved their reliability, speeds and battery life. The result is that using smart devices (with a couple of hot spares) can ensure virtually no down time with significant cost reduction.
  4. Myth: Company information is unsecure using a smart device.Reality: There will always be a risk of hackers, employee carelessness and theft. Quality devices and Apps can be secured using a multi-layered security strategy such as using good passwords, secure connections, firewalls, file encryption and authentication tools.

The Value of Increasing Mobility

The use of smart devices is one of those innovations that cannot be ignored. Much like the assembly line innovation which ushered in a new era of industrialization, smart devices are changing the way business is done.

Unfortunately, throughout history people have chosen not to accept the advantages that technology brings to the table. There is nothing wrong with this belief on an individual basis. However, the same does not apply to businesses.

It is not possible to remain financially competitive or solvent if your costs are significantly higher than your competitors. Smart devices, if paired with appropriate the App can help:

Seven Benefits of Increasing Mobility
  1. Lower labor costs by reducing unproductive time.
  2. Increase sales responsiveness by giving them the tools they need to make faster field based decisions.
  3. Lower asset and maintenance costs by automating the maintenance work management process.
  4. Enable an organization to recognize and react to opportunities more quickly.
  5. Help attract younger professionals especially in careers like maintenance where there is a critical shortage of professionals.
  6. Help train and then retain know-how.
  7. Improve the image of your organization to shareholders, customers and employees.

The truth about increasing mobility in the workplace is that deciding to enhance mobility is not really an option, it is a must have for survival.

Increasing mobility goes a long way to making sure your business is not left behind. How you go forward with increased mobility should be a well thought out decision.

Stuart Smith

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