It’s hard to pick up a (virtual) newspaper and not see an article about how our lives are going mobile for us as consumers as well as for us as workers. On the consumer front, most of us already use our smartphones to read email, text-message, use Facebook and Twitter, as well as to get sports, news, weather, and traffic information. Sometimes we even use the phone to talk to friends.
As workers, the situation is completely different. With all the talk about BYOD (see "Tips for Making Sure ‘Bring Your Own Device’ Doesn’t Blow Up in Your Face"), you would think that smartphones and tablets are already critical productivity tools in the workplace. But it’s not happening. At work, the best we can do is read emails and maybe see our list of contacts. Why is this?
There are a host of reasons businesses are finding it hard to fully go mobile. First of all, mobile at work means a lot more than having access to a smartphone or tablet. A true mobile enterprise is a company in which people are completely productive, anytime, anywhere, in the office, and on the go. And that means having a business strategy, a technology strategy, as well as a people/worker strategy to achieve business results. Ignore any one of these key elements at your peril. So here are the concrete steps you need to take on your journey to becoming a mobile enterprise; steps that address the business, technology, and staffing considerations.
Define clear business goals for the mobile initiative. Specific goals quantify how the project impacts business' bottom line.
Some examples of business goals include the following:
Focus initially on collaborative activities. Getting people to work together anytime, anywhere, will uncover nascent potentials for the mobile enterprise, thereby justifying the investment in the mobile initiative. Easy steps can focus on sharing documents and email messages.
Meet compliance guidelines for government directives or industry regulations, thereby avoiding expensive penalties.
Deliver products or complete services faster and with less staff, thereby increasing revenue while cutting costs.
Increase sales by efficiently sharing important business documents and email messages, thereby increasing revenue.
To help achieve these goals, publicize them so everyone in the company knows what the project is trying to achieve. Putting up posters, creating a website, and scheduling internal PR events are all good ways to get the word out.
And brand the initiative to make it your own. Seeing the company logo on mobile apps, websites, and desktop applications makes people feel they are supporting the company, not some third-party vendor. Furthermore, seeing the logo on the app makes people aware they are part of something important, not just being asked to use IT’s latest productivity tool.
Let people use whatever mobile device they already know and love, by supporting all the popular mobile devices on the market; iOS, Android, and BlackBerry. With the ubiquity of BYOD programs, most workers already have a smartphone or tablet at work, so forcing them to adopt a single company-sanctioned platform is a formula for failure. Also, build apps using HTML5; this is a good way to reduce the development and support costs for apps that run on many different platforms—mobile, desktop, and cloud.
Create an adaptive user experience for all devices, namely, mobile, desktop, and cloud interfaces. Make sure each app provides the appropriate level of information and service for the task for which it was intended. For example, employees may want to edit documents on desktop applications, while they may just want to see who is working on those documents using a smartphone or tablet.
Provide an appropriate level of security for each business case. For example, an app that allows employees to share customer information may require a different level of security than an app for approving purchases or viewing work tasks. Options for remote security include creating data-less mobile devices, providing VPN access, building secure mobile platforms, or using an MDM/MAM solution for accessing information. Overdoing security complicates the user experience and lowers the chance of project success. Remember that ease of use trumps security every time.
Don’t make people change the way they work. The less people need to change their daily work habits, the higher the odds the mobile initiative will succeed. Leverage popular incumbent collaboration products such as email, SharePoint, and instant messaging tools. Don’t replace these tools with a new mobile app or workflow; rather, embrace them by incorporating them into your mobile initiative.
Train workers appropriately. Invest in your team with training and instruction because they determine the success (or failure) of the initiative. Also, identify connectors in IT departments who can bring technical and business users together to talk about common interests. Use lunch-and-learn meetings or webinars to let IT folks explain how mobile technology can help achieve business goals. Create an environment where people can ask questions in a relaxed environment. Consider using incentives to get people to use the new tools in order to get the ball rolling and creating a critical mass of users.
Start slowly and create easy wins. Make it easy for people to gain confidence with working on mobile devices; then build on the successes and extract additional business value. For example, start by letting people collaborate on shared documents, thereby eliminating the document chaos created by email document attachments to save valuable time and avoid costly mistakes. Also, highlight successes by promoting early-adopter experiences among peers. People respond positively to experiences of their peers.
[Image: Flickr user Keith Ellwood]