As we continue to embrace more and more technology in our everyday lives, the way we work changes as well. Going way back, Palm Pilots and Blackberry’s first introduced the concept of mobility, and gave us the ability to stay on top of work, to a degree, even when we weren’t at work. I guess if you really want to stretch it, you could even say the beeper had a pretty big impact and offered some that unique level of flexibility.

Now, a surgeon with a beeper is a bit of a far cry from the powerful computers we carry around in our pocket every day, but it’s interesting to trace the lineage of what is now one of the most popular, and crucial, aspects of a business; I’m of course talking about the concept of mobility.

Cloud computing, Hosted PBX, and mobile phones taking over the work place, and an abundance of enterprise mobile apps has made mobility a major staple of how we work today, or at least it should. If your business has yet to embrace mobility, well it might be time now to play catch-up.

What is Enterprise Mobility?

Like many topics we discuss on this blog, the overall concept is a fairly simple one — but the benefits can go a fairly long way in revolutionizing the way we work every single day. Mobility can be seen as an entirely new approach to the way we do business, and complete our work.

No more do employees need to sit in front of the same desk, and use the same computer everyday. If you wanted to put a clean definition on it, mobility is the ability to work anywhere any anytime, using the devices we already carry around everywhere. With mobility, we can use our smartphones, tablets and laptops to complete our work and do our jobs from anywhere in the world.

That’s kind of an all-encompassing definition, and if we want we could break it down even further. According to a report done by Citrix way back in 2013, there’s a spectrum to how different businesses will define mobility:

Now, this is a bit of an older report, and times have changed quite a bit in the last four years, but I think this still stands as a fairly strong basis for how we can define mobility, and the different levels of mobility that a business can choose to introduce into their workflow.

All of our technological advantages including cloud computing, persistent team messaging, Unified Communications clients, VoIP soft phones and even features like Find Me, Follow Me call hunting have allowed for us to completely break free from the constraints of our desk, and a single desk computer that is necessary to access our data and company networks.

Why Embrace Mobility – What’s in It for Me?

Well for one, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest technology, and the trends that this technology brings, to give your company any edge it can over the competition, period. Mobility introduces an entirely new level of flexibility, and a completely new way to work. This alone can help provide a productivity boost, as well as help to attract the best talent possible.

But that’s really just the tip of the ice burg. Enterprise mobility isn’t just a new, cool trend — it is the new way we work, and it’s how the world will continue to work as the future brings to use more technology. The days of always sitting behind the same desk are long gone.

1. Increased Employee Flexibility will have a massive positive impact on your overall business. Employee motivation will improve as teams have the chance to work where-ever or how-ever is best for them. This can range from allowing employees to work remotely and from home, or simply supplying them with the tools to access the information they need at a moment’s notice in their meetings with clients, or during periods of travel. This improved flexibility can lead to improved satisfaction, which leads to improved productivity.

2. Prevent shadow IT with an accepted policy and plan on how and when to use mobility. Shadow IT rises up when teams feel the need to replace the tools they have at work with their own tools. This generally means employees will end up relying on consumer level apps and solutions, which can lead to a massive security nightmare for the entire business. Establishing a policy that allows teams to use their own devices with remote access kills two birds with one stone: it allows the flexibility they want, while ensuring a protective net is still cast over the business and its network.

3. Improve Business Reliability and Responsiveness by enabling employees and teams to always stay in touch, no matter where they are. Mobility isn’t just a new way to work, its how we live: many of us are always on the go, and we rely on our smartphones to stay connected with family and friends. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to say the same for work. Enabling a mobile-first business allows teams to always have access to the communications and data they need, to respond to customers and clients as soon as possible; instead of having to wait until they finally get back to their desk.

4. Teams Gain a Huge Collaboration Boost because they can always stay in touch with each other, with their clients, and with the data and files they need at their disposal to get the job done. With an ever-growing list of mobile based enterprise apps and solutions, there isn’t any reason your employees should be forced to sit in front of their desk to respond to that latest email, edit the latest proposal, or add their insight into the latest draft of the presentation. Always connected, anywhere in the world mobility allows us to collaborate anywhere at any time.

5. Cut Unnecessary Costs with a BYoD policy that allows employees to utilize the devices they already have, and are already familiar with. This way your business doesn’t have to front the cost of purchasing devices for every single user, and every single team. Sometimes the free version of solutions and apps is enough to get things done, and each team can decide which works best for them — or it might even be worth putting everyone under the same umbrella of one solution to help keep costs down and less fragmented.

6. Attract Top Talent by offering a better way to work, and a more even work and life balance. The flexibility introduced by enterprise mobility allows us to stay connected, but it also allows us to balance out or personal life with our work life. Working remotely can be a great happy medium between asking for a day off, and having to come into the office. Employees will appreciate the flexibility that this provides, and will allow them to feel comfortable, allowing them to deliver better results.

What About the Downsides?

Mobility brings along with it a massive benefit to your business in multiple ways, as we just saw. However, there is really just one major issue that needs to absolutely be addressed before mobility can be as effective as it needs to be; and that is security.

BYoD and Mobility aren’t exactly the same, but they definitely go hand in hand. When we took a look at how to implement a BYoD policy in your business, our biggest challenge discussed there was security as well, and there is quite a bit of overlap here. Some of the biggest security worries of mobility include these few aspects:

  • Mobile devices may not be as secure and protected as desktop computers and on-premise networks, which may leave company resources more open to attack in new ways.
  • Some businesses aren’t so keen on storing their important information in the cloud, with a third-party provider, and would rather keep everything in-house. They don’t want to have to trust this third-party with their crucial information in case something goes wrong.
  • Mobile connections made on unsecured networks could potentially leave important data and communications vulnerable to snooping and attack.
  • Out-dated computers and operating systems are more susceptible to attack. For example, the WannaCry Ransomware attack started by infected older Windows XP and Windows 7 systems, and it only spread from there.
  • When we rely on mobility, our data is fragmented. Instead of data just being available and accessed on desktop PC’s in the office, it can now be accessed and shared by mobile devices. IT teams need to secure the data itself, as opposed to securing just the network, since the data is being transferred and accessed in so many different locations.

Depending on what level of mobility your business employs, there will be different levels of security measures that must be taken. For example, if you go for an all out BYoD approach, and allow teams to work remotely whenever possible, then it will be crucial to provide these employees with the necessary tools to ensure a completely secure connection — this is where the help of a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, would come in handy.

How To Make Mobility Work For Your Business

Just like most things in life, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all businesses. Each and every business has its unique needs, its unique structure, its unique team layout, and every business generally needs its own unique solution to fit right into that puzzle properly.

Ignoring the concept won’t make it go away, and as I’ve stressed before, mobility isn’t just the coolest thing in fashion right now — it’s a major paradigm shift in both how we live our lives, and how we get work done. We’re always connected, and our businesses can absolutely benefit from this always connected lifestyle.

1. Introduce a BYoD Policy

First and foremost, the best way to get started would be to introduce a Bring Your Own Device policy. Establish guidelines for your teams: what devices are accepted, what apps are accepted, what forms of connection are accepted. By allowing your teams to use their own devices, productivity will see an immediate boost simply due to their familiarity with their own devices. This policy could go even further to limit users to specific apps and actions with set guidelines. This  will help keep your teams happy, and keep your data safe by limiting access to only specific apps.

2. Introduce EMM Tools

Enterprise Mobility Management is a complete concept in of itself, and it’s just one approach to securing and enabling mobility in the workplace. These tools include:

  • Mobile Device Management, which can be used to lock down mobile devices by allowing IT to remotely wipe devices, as well as enforce the use of passwords or blacklist/whitelist accepted apps.
  • Mobile application management tools are a simpler touch, limiting just what data users can access with their apps.
  • Mobile Information management tools go even more narrow to only allow approved applications to access and transmit your organization’s crucial data

3. Introduce and Utilize a VPN

Virtual Private Networks offer a direct, secure “tunnel” to your organization’s network. Supplying your teams with access to a VPN — and there are many to choose from — allows them to tunnel into the network, and create a secure connection wherever they are. VPNs aren’t the be all-end-all approach, but are an incredibly useful tool for ensuring everything is secure, and that crucial data is protected from unwanted eyes. Just about every business should be using a VPN if they allow for mobility, and remote connections into the organization’s network.

4. Utilize Security Focused Apps

Slack is great and all, but many have pointed out that their security lacks a bit. They’ve been beefing up their efforts, but this still pails in comparison to the Fort Knox that is Cisco Spark. Spark has also been recently updated to allow for remote device wiping, and other incredibly useful enterprise security measures. BBM Enterprise might seem like an old dog trying to learn new tricks, but the security is absolute top notch, as well. Both of these solutions go a long way in encrypting messages and files, helping to keep your data protected and secure.

Mobility Is The Future

Without a doubt, mobility is the absolute future of how we live, and how we work. Everyone has a smart phone, most of us have tablets, and we pretty much all have laptops. Cloud computing, Unified Communications, VoIP telephony, soft phones, Enterprise smart phone apps — these all have changed the way we do business, and all have enabled us to become a far more mobile workforce.

This level of agility doesn’t only improve our day to day lives with a constant flow of information, or the flexibility to work where we are most comfortable, it has put the entire knowledge base of the human race at our fingertips. Now, we need to use this amazing technology to put every aspect of our business at our fingertips, no matter where we are in the world. Mobility isn’t going anywhere anytime  soon, except straight forward.