The Needs of the Modern Mobile Workforce

Mobile Man / Thursday, July 2, 2015

When you compare the workplace of today to the workplace of 5 years ago, you may not think a great deal has changed right? Think again. 3D printing, the gradual demise of office phones, those new ‘break -out’ areas, the ever increasing role of the cloud, a new wave of enterprise focussed apps on every device, shared workspaces and the consumerization of IT… that’s to name a few. We haven’t even mentioned wearables, remote working and artificial intelligence!

Technology moves at such a fast rate that it’s hard to remember what the last version of Windows looked like, or how we put up with a mobile work phone that was slow, ugly and ergonomically flawed. We accept and consume these new technologies and ways of working so quickly. Manufactures both lead and adapt, they identify what works, what doesn’t and define what the future will look like. The companies we work for then introduce and share what they believe will improve how everybody works.

Now if you were to sum up the needs and wants of the workplace and workforce of today, one area would stand out - Mobile. The role it plays in our daily work lives is enormous. The rise of mobile devices has quite simply revolutionized our approach to the workplace. So, given its importance, we pose the question - what are the needs of the modern mobile workforce?

1. A seamless experience

Patience isn’t a virtue. With the constant evolution of new features and updates and the introduction of innovative new products, we expect technology to allow us do the job we want. We want to access that document on the train or in between meetings. We want to review, add comments, share with others and collaborate in real time. If the tech doesn't do that instantly, it has failed. With the modern workforce spending more time working outside of the office - be it at home, on site with a client, or travelling overseas - the importance of a seamless experience is essential to staying productive, keeping employees engaged and ensuring work doesn’t grind to a halt.

2. Offline capability

Could you imagine a world without apps? Neither could we. The stats are so overwhelming when it comes to app usage and acceptance that 85% of smartphone users are now more comfortable using apps than mobile websites. Whether you’re a developer or IT Director, you will certainly use at least a handful of apps to help in your day job. It could be OneDrive for Business or it could be JavaScript Anywhere - both allow you to work on the move. An extension of many apps is the ability to work offline. For the modern workforce it’s crucial that an app doesn’t just freeze or shutdown as soon as Wi-Fi or a network connection is lost. For the on-the-go salesman, entering data into a CRM app, or the construction manager who needs quick access to a project plan after an unseen disaster, offline access should certainly be seen as a ‘must have’ feature for every enterprise.

3. Cross-platform functionality

Since Apple released the iPhone in 2007, the landscape of smartphones and tablets has changed hugely. With a recent report from Ericsson suggesting that by 2020, 90% of the world’s population will have a mobile phone, BYOD numbers will undoubtedly rise within the enterprise. For employees wanting to maximize what they can achieve from a smartphone or tablet, cross-platform functionality of applications is a must.

Let’s take an example in the simplest form. You create a Word document at your office desktop, you access it later that evening on your iPad or Surface 3, then give it a final edit on your Android phone the following morning during your commute. Cross-platform functionality makes this achievable and provides a unified experience for today’s employees.

4. Consumerization of IT    

The popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and consumer-oriented file sharing and storage apps like Dropbox have made their way into the enterprise over the last few years. ESNs such as Yammer, Beezy and Jive have taken the concept of Facebook and provided businesses with a new way of answering the employee engagement quandary by creating social interactions with communities and groups. Consumers loved Dropbox so much, that Dropbox For Business evolved into a fully-fledged product of its own.

For the modern workforce, the emergence of the ‘consumerization of IT’ means employees are used to great features, an intuitive feel, good looking interfaces and a simple UX which allow them to ‘get stuff done’. As a result, they expect nothing less when it comes to business applications and software.

5. A sense of security

Security may not be the top consideration when it comes to the needs of the modern mobile workforce but it’s certainly important for the IT department! Every user wants to be sure that the data they are working on is safe and secure. If they’re working on the road, have made recent changes to some code or to a spreadsheet and have the misfortune of losing their laptop or tablet, is there a threat of the data falling into the wrong hands? Without the correct security in place, the risk is real.

Adapting to today

The modern mobile workforce doesn’t necessarily expect or want more than previous eras, but does feel they should be able to do the job at hand considering the resources and technology available. More than ever, there are apps which can boost productivity further, more efficient ways of working, due to cloud and mobile technology and new best practices. For any enterprise looking to succeed, keeping up-to-date with employee needs by utilizing the technology out there, should be seen as a first thought, not an afterthought.

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