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IT Execs Need to Embrace Mobility, Stat

Fri, 04/06/2012 - 11:52am
Jason Parry, Force 3

Any IT executive who hasn’t spent the past few years living in a cave knows the truth: The integration of personal mobile technology into the workplace is happening, and nothing is going to stop it.

But knowing the truth and facing up to it are two very different things, and many IT executives are refusing to accept the inevitability of mobility. For any business that cares about remaining competitive in an increasingly mobile world, this is a problem. To solve it, IT execs have got to stop looking at the influx of personal technology in the workplace as a nuisance and start recognizing it as an opportunity to create more efficient systems with happier and more productive employees.

Yes, there are hurdles to overcome. Believe me, I hear about them all the time from IT executives who are dragging their heels instead of creating systems that allow employees to use personal mobile devices to do their jobs.

There are security issues, they say. There are acceptable use issues. And above all, there is no funding.

It’s time for IT execs to be honest with themselves. The security and acceptable use issues are real, but they are eminently solvable by a company that is determined to embrace mobile technology 

And the money? Typically, the money isn’t there because the IT department itself has failed to make the business case for mobility.

That failure has consequences. As employees bring more personal iPhones, Android tablets and MacBooks through the front door every morning, lack of support for those devices is going to start costing the company money and depriving it of a major competitive advantage.

The reality is that people do work remotely, and making it easier for them to do so both creates efficiencies and provides potential for the kind of work-life balance that increases employees’ job satisfaction.

For example, a couple of years ago, networking giant Cisco polled nearly 2,000 of its employees around the globe about its teleworking policies.

The company learned, among other things, that 83 percent of its teleworkers found that their communication and collaboration with other employees was either the same or better than when they worked on site. Three-quarters of respondents said that the timeliness of their work improved, and another 67 percent said the quality of their work improved.

What’s more, productivity increased and workers who no longer had to commute reported spending approximately 60 percent of that recovered time on company business, reserving only 40 percent of the time savings for themselves 

Is that the sort of advantage you want your competitors to have while your company’s outdated IT policies make it impossible?

But productivity and employee satisfaction aren’t the only benefits to mobility. Welcoming personal technology into the office can help you get the right employees on board in the first place.

I often hear companies complain about the difficulty of attracting top talent in the hiring process. Now consider this: A recent survey of new college graduates and young professionals found that, faced with the possibility of losing either their wallet or their smartphone, nearly half said that it would be worse to lose the phone.

If your company is competing for a talent pool made up of young people who are that attached to their personal devices, is setting up roadblocks to mobility really the way you want to go?

A smart CIO understands that, and will take that business case to management when it’s time to ask for funding.

Now, to be realistic, even once the business case for mobility has been made, there will be pushback -- often from executives uncomfortable with technology or with the concept of employees working from anywhere except their desks.

This has led many IT departments I have worked with into another problem. The dreaded “pilot project.”

Rather than invest in enterprise-wide mobility, companies will authorize a small test project that authorizes mobility for a limited number of users.

These projects almost inevitably fail because the employees chosen to participate in the pilot are typically...wait for it...in the IT department.

Here’s the thing: The fact that mobility creates efficiencies and competitive advantage is only going to be apparent when it is happening in the business environment.

So, if mobility has to prove itself through a pilot project, don’t launch the pilot in the IT department. Launch it on the front line – somewhere the benefits will be obvious.

And just maybe, identify one of those resistant managers – the higher up the food chain the better – and get him or her a shiny new iPad with remote access to the company network. After a few weeks, you may find that mobility has simply sold itself.

Jason Parry is the practice director of collaboration at Crofton, Md.-based Force 3.

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