It is no longer just consumers who are eagerly embracing mobile solutions. Smartphones and media tablets may have gained initial traction as 'leisure' devices, but enterprise use is rising at a rapid rate as a more defined role is carved out for them. Employees, recognising the value mobile technology can add in the workplace, have been eager to use handheld devices in a business setting. And company leaders, appreciating the potential cost, efficiency and productivity gains of mobile technology, are also switching on to the benefits.
In more and more organisations, bring your own device (BYOD) schemes are enabling workers to carve out a role for smartphone and tablets in the workplace. And in those firms where BYOD remains prohibited, budgetary resources are being set aside for the purchase of handheld technology. The result of this is the growing ubiquity of mobile technology in business. Company leaders have identified a strong case for adoption, and are quickly reshaping the IT function to account for the benefits of mobile technology.
Working productively on the move
Research conducted by telecoms firm Vodafone suggested that 43 per cent of corporations had embraced mobility at the end of 2011, up from 38 per cent 12 months earlier. When figures are published for 2012, a further surge in adoption is likely to be reported - particularly with 4G services launching in the UK during October. The advent of super-fast mobile connectivity has given businesses and organisations further incentive to invest in smartphones and handsets - with faster data transfers, more reliable networks and greater handset functionality now at their fingertips.
As such, IDC has predicted a significant increase in the number of mobile workers globally over the next four years. The growing functionality and affordability of smart devices is driving adoption, and ensuring a greater proportion of professionals are able to work on the move. The IT analyst expects this number to tally 1.3 billion by 2015 - 37.2 per cent of the global workforce.
Working productively with mobile devices
There are a number of main reasons why businesses are embracing mobile solutions, of which the potential for more productive working on the move is one. Equipped with smartphones, tablets, notebooks and other mobile solutions, employees are empowered to work as and when they choose. They can spend less time in the office during the day, safe in the knowledge that emails can be answered or calls made from home later that evening or on the weekend. Files and shared documents are readily accessible in the cloud, allowing employees to work collaboratively even when they are based in different locations.
According to research conducted by Good Technology, 93 per cent of employees now work away from the office for at least some of the time. Providing they have a web-enabled device, sufficient connectivity and battery life, there are few opportunities for 'dead time' in the working day. Almost always there is some task an employee can be getting on with when in transit or based in another location. The physical ties with the office have been broken, helping to ensure each member of staff can make the most of their working day.
Driving business efficiencies
Mobile technology can help businesses work more efficiently in a number of ways. First and foremost, if a company's employees are making regular use of smartphones and tablets, there may be less of a need for costly, energy-using and space-consuming desktop PCs. Should demand for fixed internet connections diminish over time, the organisation may even find itself with a surplus of floor space - raising the possibility of moving to smaller and more affordable premises.
Mobile solutions can help streamline individual business processes, particularly with a wide variety of sophisticated applications at a company's disposal. It is now possible to conduct entire business transactions using mobile technology alone - right from the planning and negotiation stages through to the exchange of contracts and payment. Deals can potentially be sealed while workers are on the move between sites, ensuring they maximise productivity rates for workers with connected devices.
Boosting customer satisfaction
The use of mobile solutions can also have a positive impact on customer satisfaction rates, since employees are able to respond quicker to enquiries and potentially converse with customers outside of working hours. This is particularly important given the rising expectations of UK customers. As reported by Mesmo Consultancy, 25 per cent expect a response to emails within an hour, and more than a third within two hours.
In an ever-more competitive business environment, it is vital that companies are flexible in terms of how they communicate with customers. If a company is unable to meet the specific needs of individuals and groups, there are likely to be plenty of rival firms that can and will.
Improving employee morale
With employees eager to use mobile solutions in the workplace, it is apparent that organisations must meet such demands or risk alienating their staff members. As businesses battle to keep hold of their top performers, and reduce the amount they need to spend on recruitment and training, there is a clear economic case for allowing the use of mobile solutions - either through BYOD or corporate investment in web-connected devices.
Employees are likely to deem an anti-mobile working policy irrational, given the clear advantages mobile connectivity offers. Faced with ever greater daily workloads on the back of a lengthy economic downturn, employees are eager to capitalise on any advantage they can identify in the workplace. Anything that can make their daily lives easier and improve performance is certainly worth considering - and mobile solutions fit into this category. Workers do not want to be tied to their desks all day - they are eager to work in a way that best suits them in their particular role, with maximum flexibility, agility and freedom to express themselves.
Improving business continuity
On a practical level, the adoption of mobile solutions can help businesses maximise revenues and avoid losses when faced with unexpected events. For instance, heavy snowfall in winter can - and does most years - prevent thousands of employees from making it into work. Historically, this may render them redundant for the day as they are unable to carry out their normal employment tasks. But with web-enabled smartphones and tablets, such individuals can carry on working - whether they are snowed in, stuck in a traffic jam or left without childcare following a school closure.
This year's Olympic Games also highlighted the benefits of mobile technology from a business continuity perspective. According to the London Chamber of Commerce, 1.5 million of the capital's five million employees worked from an alternative location during the sporting summer, in order to avoid gridlock on the roads and London Underground network. Mobile solutions enabled employees to either work from home, or do something productive during a longer-than-normal commute - helping companies to keep productivity and output high at all times.
Posted by Alex Boardman