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Despite Yahoo decision, enterprise mobility on the rise (guest post)
by Steve Levy, CEO, Verivo Software
Even though Marissa Mayer has finally addressed the elephant in the room, the decision by Yahoo to abolish its work-from-home policy seems to fly in the face of the growing role of mobility in the enterprise. Enterprise mobile apps, after all, are all about connecting people with information and business processes wherever they happen to be at the moment.
Upon closer examination, however, we can see the differences between telecommuting and enterprise mobility. The two trends aren’t equivalent, though they share some similarities. Enterprise mobility has its roots in helping a person who must be remote — by the nature of his or her job function — be efficient and effective.
For example, sales reps and field service technicians need to access data and the ability to carry out transactions while on the road. Mobile apps have been built — both custom and off-the-shelf — to help these employees get their jobs done effectively. And these mobile apps have gotten better and better at bringing efficiency to these employees, thanks in part to a rapidly maturing ecosystem of mobile app tools, technologies and platforms.
With telecommuting, on the other hand, the primary driver for being remote shifts from “necessary by the nature of the job” to “preferred for the benefit of the employee.” Yes, to some degree telecommuting also can be seen as helping a company, such as with knowledge workers who at times would be more productive in a quiet home environment, but the primary driver of the trend is to accommodate employee needs.
While it’s worth noting these differences, let’s also face facts. For all the attention placed on the decision at Yahoo, it’s hard to envision all of corporate America banning telecommuting. Meanwhile, mobile workers and use of enterprise mobile apps is now commonplace not only for the classic “road warriors,” but for many types of knowledge workers, managers, and executives. So for companies that allow telecommuting, the focus should be on making telecommuting more effective; something they can do by taking a page from enterprise mobility.
For many enterprises, the first thing that is done to support telecommuters is to establish a virtual private network connection to many of the same apps workers would find on their desktops or laptops at a corporate office. The problem is the information technology support for teleworkers often stops right there.
Yes, you have secure VPN connection to some apps, but the company might not have outfitted the user with video conferencing capability, or apps and utilities that tell the rest of the enterprise where the worker is, or that share that worker’s schedule, or that push alerts to the user. Back at the enterprise, the IT department might not have good analytics. As a result, many telecommuters fall into an IT black hole —their apps aren’t keeping them in sync with the enterprise, and IT can’t keep good track of what telecommuters need the most.
Companies could address these shortcomings by borrowing on some of the strengths of enterprise mobility. When enterprise mobility is done right, there is close attention given to the management of the apps, to keeping users in sync with the enterprise, and on detailed analytics. For example:
- Enterprise mobile app platforms make it easy to push alerts and crucial messages to users. For example, if a customer urgently needs service on a piece of equipment, but the normal service technician is unavailable, a service alert can be pushed to all technicians within driving distance.
- Enterprise mobility platforms with built-in analytics can tell you details about which apps are getting used the most, which screens get used the most, and which device type the user is accessing the app with.
- When an enterprise mobile app user goes out of carrier network range, an effective app allows that worker to keep using the app and entering data, with an automatic sync once the device comes back into range.
Not only should teleworkers have collaboration tools like video conferencing, their apps should be more capable when it comes to factors that are table stakes for enterprise mobility — features such as geolocation, alerting, workflow and communicating user status to colleagues.
Telecommuting is a well-established trend that’s not likely to go away. In fact, according to Telework Research Network, while 2.5 percent of the U.S. employees (excluding self-employed), or about 3.1 million people, consider home their primary place of work today, there are between 20 to 30 million Americans who work from home at least one day a week, and of those, 15 to 20 million are mobile workers.
Telecommuting will continue, so we need to make it more effective — taking lessons learned from creating apps for those workers who must be mobile, and applying it to apps for employees who simply prefer to work from home.