Todayâ€™s mobile workforce creates a new set of demands, meeting those needs is an opportunity for businesses embracing new technologies.
The smartphone and tablet computer have changed the workplace as a new breed of worker demands more flexible and mobile tools to carry out their work. This creates a new set of demands, and opportunities, for CIOs and IT departments.
In its 2015 Digital Lives report Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found mobile devices are becoming the main way people access the internet. â€œAlmost a quarter (22 per cent) of online Australians used a mobile phone as their main device, while 12 per cent nominated a tablet,â€ wrote the authors about their findings.
Much of that mobile usage is driven by younger adults, the survey found with just under half of those aged between 18 and 34 nominating their smartphone as the main way they accessed the internet while the 35â€“64 nominated tablet computers as their preferred method.
The mobile, digital workforce
ACMA also found around 5.7 million adult Australians were â€˜digital workersâ€™, around half of the workforce, most of whom use the internet to work away from the office outside â€˜standard working hoursâ€™ and many being â€˜teleworkersâ€™ who work away from the office, substituting coming into the office for part or all of the day.
With the adoption of mobile technologies by the workforce, itâ€™s little wonder organisations are now focusing on the benefits and challenges of allowing staff to connect their smartphones, tablet computers and personal laptops to their corporate networks.
The benefits of allowing workers to bring their own devices are well documented with organisations finding communication is faster and more efficient when employees are allowed to use their personal devices, IT productivity rises as users tend to support their own equipment and a workplace with Bring Your Own Device policies tend to attract younger and more tech savvy staff.
For organisations with BYOD policies are also downsides Ââ€“ particularly for those who manage sensitive information â€“ due to the lack of a unified device platform and standard operating environments with security management, acceptable usage control and data management becoming issues.
Due to these challenges businesses have been slow in adapting to a mobile centric workplace with Charles Reed Anderson, Head of Mobility and IoT at IDC Asia Pacific warning, â€œThe Asia Pacific market for mobility is in very early stages with 80% of organizations ill equipped to harness 3rd platform technologies, including Mobility, Cloud, Social and Big Data Analytics, to compete in the market.â€
Managing the mobile shift
One organisation dealing with this shift is the Queensland state governmentâ€™s investment agency QIC which simplified management of the more than 620 smartphones and tablets used by its employees. This delivered immediate benefits for both the users and managers.
â€œThe biggest change has been for the users themselves,â€ says Cecilia Ireland, one of QICâ€™s infrastructure analysts. â€œEmployees have fewer issues, which means they donâ€™t have to call for support as much.â€
The ability to wipe a device comes in handy when employees lose a device or leave the company. â€œAn employee left his phone in a taxi and we needed a way to remove the information from the phone since we do not track GPS location,â€ says Ireland.
As crowdsourcing, contracting and part time working increases and even full time staff increasingly spend more time out of the office, organizations are being forced to consider new approaches and tools for managing a dispersed workforce.
Catering to that change are startups like Workday and Zenefits that give supervisors the tools to manage their workforces. Increasingly these cloud services and apps are going to be working together to give executives and stakeholders visibility on the real time performance of their organisation and individual staff.
While those workforce tools are extremely valuable for connected businesses the confidential and personal nature of the data in those services illustrates the technology risks for companies as a lost smartphone or tablet could expose workersâ€™ private data along with other suppliersâ€™ and contractorsâ€™ critical information, another aspect that will focus the minds of many CIOs and IT managers.
To address those security concerns that may hamper companyâ€™s adoption of mobile technologies, services like Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) have become serious issues for technology focused companies.
Despite the security concerns the shift to apps and mobile devices within the workplace is going to increase, particularly given the expectations of younger workers now entering the workforce.
For businesses the challenges lie in attracting that new generation of skilled workers while retaining the best of the tech-savvy older workers. Increasingly itâ€™s going to be the companies that have embraced mobile workplaces that will be the winners in the war for talent.
By Paul Wallbank,
 â€œAustralians embrace a digital lifeâ€ published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, 27 March 2015. http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/engage-blogs/engage-blogs/researchacma/Australians-embrace-a-digital-life