Traditionally, a mobile workforce is defined as one that does not have a fixed place of work or one which moves between work locations and is linked to the company and its resources through virtual private networks, the Internet, and mobile networks. It was this set of people that initially necessitated workforce mobility support and although they were limited in number, the mobility support was usually optional.. It was limited in terms of the number of people to be supported, the numbers of business processes to be supported and the number and type of platforms to be supported.
However, with rapid strides made by technology the concept of workforce mobility has undergone a paradigm shift. With the proliferation of mobile devices, especially smart phones, and the decreasing cost of mobility services, the days of 9 to 5 work are long gone. Workers today have the ability to stay connected to their organization 24X7. The estimated number of the new mobile workforce is expected to cross the 1 Billion mark by the end of 2013.
Hence, the need to support workforce mobility is no more optional but essential for organizations. If it needs to engage its workers and help improve their productivity, it needs to reach out to them using the platform they prefer the best. A few key factors that need to be considered while providing workforce mobility support are:
- Identifying Business Processes – An organization has to first identify which business processes should be provided on mobile, given the obvious limitation of smart phones – the screen size. Therefore not all business processes, especially those which require heavy data entry or complex steps, are ideal candidates to be taken mobile. Every business process needs to be designed and if required tweaked to fit the mobile landscape. A guideline for choosing the appropriate business processes could be:
- Approvals – The first set of business processes that can be taken mobile are Approvals. Approvals usually do not need heavy data entry or complex steps per approver; hence they are the ideal candidates for mobile adoption. Moreover, there can be nothing more frustrating for an employee than delayed leave or expense approvals just because their supervisors are travelling and do not have access to their systems.
- Frequent Self Service Transactions – The next set of business processes to be taken mobile could be frequent self service transactions like leave application, time booking, expense claims etc. Enabling an employee to perform such transactions on the go using their mobile devices boosts their productivity while in office.
- Dashboards – The leadership of the organization, which is often on the move, should be provided mobile access to intelligent dashboards which helps them gauge the health of the organization and take corrective action as and when required.
- Cross Platform Support – The days of Blackberry being synonymous with enterprise mobility are history. We are in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) era now. iPhoneshave taken over the mantle of leadership with Android devices in hot pursuit. Employees prefer to use their own mobile devices, even if they are provided one by their organization. The bottom line being that whether an organization likes it or not they need to provide cross platform mobility support. Even in a single platform they have to contend with varying form factors. Hence an organization should always be on the lookout for products or services being provided using technologies like HTML5 or cross platform tools like Sencha, Appcelerator etc.
- Tablet Support – Providing cross platform support was just playing catch up. To be future ready, an organization needs to ensure that their mobile designs are tablet ready too. With the cost of tablets coming down it is estimated that 58% of mobile workers will rely gradually on tablets by 2013.
These are just few of the factors an organization needs to consider before going mobile, there are other things to consider like native apps vs. cross platform apps vs. HTML5 apps, mobile device monitoring, mobile application security etc... The factors to be considered may be many but there is no running away from the fact that a mobile enabled enterprise is no longer an advantage but a necessity.