Driving workforce productivity with enterprise mobility

In today’s business climate mobile and client technology can play a big part in and increasing productivity. But for many organisations, the promise of productivity is yet to be realised as applications and processes continue to be tied down to office locations.

Enterprise mobility changes the workforce productivity dynamic. Mobility is about having the right tools and information available so staff spend less time performing tasks that do not add any value to the organisation.

A rapid expanding ecosystem of devices, apps and technology integration options allow unprecedented opportunities to change the way we do business.

According to a worldwide study sponsored by Unisys, some 84 percent of companies that view themselves as “mobile trendsetters” cite gains in productivity as a result of mobility investments. The study also revealed mobility strategies created new sources of revenue for the organizations surveyed.

In the Asia Pacific region mobility is one of the top priorities for executives, according to IDC's C-Suite Barometer 2014 Survey.

How does mobility translate to better productivity? Some tangible benefits include spending less time travelling to work and between job sites. Having the right information available to mobile workers can also result in more business development and revenue opportunities.

Research done over the past decade indicates Asian cities stand to benefit most from reducing commute times with Thailand having the longest commute times in the work at an estimated 37 million hours spent traveling to work each day.

Include some public figures around the productivity opportunity presented by increasing workforce productivity. This could include the amount of time people spending travelling for work, including between job sites.

Asian cities stand to benefit most from reducing commute times by adopting a mobile productive workforce

Mobile, meet cloud

Until just a few years ago, enterprises were tied down to applications designed for client-server architectures with Web applications being the easiest way to bring information management outside the office.

The client-server paradigm then evolved into today’s mobile-cloud computing era where many cloud services are designed to work in conjunction with any type of client device. And in this case “cloud” can mean a private of public cloud.

The cloud itself has delivered many productivity improvements to enterprises – the ability to access

consistent sets of information among workgroups located anywhere has the potential to save time and resources – but when cloud is paired with mobile computing is the full productivity potential realised.

Mobile apps can be integrated with cloud, and other mobile apps, for a complete workflow and end-to-end user experience. For example, a transport company can use mobile devices to not only map route coordinates but also feed job schedule and other back office system data right to drivers in the field in real time or near real time if mobile service is patchy. This eliminates the need for a transport vehicle to waste time finding the most optimal route or call back for information about the next job.

When cloud is paired with mobile computing is the full productivity potential realised.

Device features drive productivity

For many enterprises delivering access to back-end applications to field staff is a big step forward for productivity. However mobilising a Web application – using responsive design or native apps – is just the first step to utilising the full potential of mobile computing.

Taking advantage of the native features of devices and integrating information with cloud systems is where mobile productivity really begins to take off. In the case of our delivery driver example, QR codes can replace barcode scanners and newer NFC-enabled devices can be used to share content and gain access to secure locations.

Another use case for mobile devices driving productivity is integration of rich media – photos, sounds and videos – into enterprise workflows. Multimedia capture, processing and playback is a standard feature of today’s smartphones and tablet devices and this information can add another dimension to text-based information in workflows.

An example use case is with any type of inspection report where imagery is required to verify the report. A worker performing an inspection – including much-maligned parking inspectors – can attach a photo or video directly into an online reporting system without having to return to an office location or work with a separate system. From there other entities can view and amend the report for a complete workflow.

Integrating the features of the device itself, like cameras and sensors, is a game changer for workforce productivity and is well beyond simply making an existing Web application accessible on a mobile device.

The power of personal productivity

User experience and getting the most out of devices and software also plays a big part in driving workplace productivity. People like using what they are familiar with and are personally productive in many ways every day. Consuming, creating and sharing content, securing files, reading email and managing tasks are examples of personal productivity which can flow into the workplace.

Enterprises should investigate the best ways to take advantage of the sea of personal apps and devices available to today’s workforce. Supporting BYOD in the workplace will always be a balance

between security and productivity, however, the many tactical options for device and app security now enable more productivity than they take away.

In addition to BYOD, the new trend of BYOA (apps) is helping push up workforce productivity as staff can complete work-related tasks with publicly available apps. Skype, Wunderlist, Dropbox, Evernote and Gmail are all good examples of personal apps which can be used for business. Enterprise mobility managers have a number of options for working with personal apps and should only ban them as a last resort. As noted, there are many MDM and MAM products and services which can manage personal apps and their data, but there are also enterprise versions of many consumer-grade apps which tend to offer more security and administration features. Before throwing the baby out with the bathwater, take a look at how your staff are already being productive with personal apps and learn from their use cases.

Table : How enterprise mobility drives workforce productivity

Mobility component
Mobilise application
Enterprise Web applications can be pushed out to mobile devices using responsive design techniques or native apps can be developed to make the information accessible.
Mobile-Cloud architecture
If apps have real-time access to cloud (public or private) systems then information can be shared and collaborative workflows developed.
Device features
Native features of mobile devices should be integrated into workflows to enhance productivity.
MEAP options
Investigate how a mobility platform designed for integrating back end systems with mobile apps can increase overall productivity.
Personal devices and apps
Look at how productive staff are with their own choice of devices and public apps. There any many options for dealing with consumer-grade apps for business.

Much about MEAP

What can tie together a diverse range of backend systems with different mobile devices? A growing number of mobile enterprise application platform, or MEAP, services. These are worth looking into for bringing together disparate systems to create custom workflows for your organization. This applies equally for desktop and mobile interfaces, however, mobile has the added challenge of many different versions of operating systems and types of devices being available.

The heterogeneous mobile environment can pose challenges for user interfaces and application support. MEAP services tend to be well positioned for doing the testing and integration work among many backend APIs and front-end mobile clients.

Today’s enterprise mobility options can drive an unprecedented level of workforce productivity – do your homework and then dive in with what’s possible.

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