How mobile technologies are changing the way we work (part 1 of 4)
Mobile is all the rage these days. A plethora of articles are written everyday about how smartphone penetration continues to grow, the battle between Apple and Google, billion-dollar mobile app acquisitions, the power of location-based marketing, and everything else in between and beyond.
Most of these articles focus on how mobile is impacting the consumer, but there is an equally impactful yet much more complicated mobile storm brewing in the enterprise space.
Workforces are becoming increasingly mobile, and long gone are the days where employees need to wait to get to their laptop and login via a secure server to get work done. More and more work is executed on tablets and smartphones, and employees, IT departments, and entire businesses need to constantly adapt to this changing landscape.
In this series, we’ll:
- Outline the typical use cases of mobile in the enterprise (we’ll do so in this post)
- Dig deeper into the emerging use of mobile technology for process improvement (see our subsequent posts on how mobile is impacting the manufacturing, construction and energy industries)
- Highlight the issues that companies face when managing enterprise mobile initiatives (see here)
Use Cases for Mobile in the Enterprise
The primary uses of mobile in the enterprise can be broken down into 4 C’s and a P:
- Connection – includes email, calendar, contacts, and voice, video and instant messaging
- Creation – includes office productivity suites and note taking applications
- Collaboration – such as file sharing and team collaboration and communication
- Customer and Business Analytics – customer relationship management (CRM) and customer and business intelligence
- Process Improvement- applications that help employees perform mission-critical, process-based tasks and increase productivity
Connection is the most obvious use of mobile in the enterprise and these applications were the first to move from the desktop to mobile devices. Back in the day, employees would connect their Microsoft Outlook email, calendar, and contacts to their Blackberries. Now it’s easier than ever to sync your work email to your iPhone or Android with no security issues. And with the immense computing power of smartphones, employees are connecting via instant messaging (such HipChat) and video conferencing (Skype, Adobe Connect) apps to communicate in real-time.
The office isn’t the only place where employees are creative; actually, people are probably least creative when holed up in their cubicles and meeting rooms. Ideas are generated anywhere and at any time, so companies must allow their employees to document and develop these concepts when they’re on the move.
Note-taking mobile applications are great for documenting those impromptu ideas. Tools like Evernote, SimpleNote, Google Keep and a plethora of others allow employees to jot down their spontaneous thoughts and refer to them later. Most of these sync to the web or desktop and tablet applications, allowing the employee to access notes on any device.
Taking creation a step further, many office productivity suites are now fully functional on mobile devices. There are iOS, Android, and mobile web applications of the ubiquitous Microsoft Office, and complementary apps like Documents To Go and QuickOffice which let you access and update MS Office documents from mobile devices. Google Docs/Drive is big on mobile now as well. So no matter where you are, you’ll be able to create to your heart’s content.
The growth of the cloud has ushered in a new era of employee collaboration, and file-sharing applications have been the catalyst for this movement. Mobile versions of Box, Dropbox, the aforementioned Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and many others allow employees to easily access and collaborate on documents on the go without emailing them back and forth. Gone are the worries about version control and the accidental forwarding of an email with a confidential attachment to an outsider.
Another key driver of mobile employee collaboration has been the advent of the enterprise social network (ESN). Apps like Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Jive, and many others identified how easy personal social networks like Facebook are to use and applied these characteristics to build tools suited for business. These ESNs help companies communicate and collaborate much more efficiently than via email, so much so that Deloitte Consulting predicts that 90% of Fortune 500 companies with have at least partially implemented one by the end of 2013.
Customer and Business Analytics
Sales reps and marketers are executing more and more work outside of the office, and in order to keep up with the mobile nature of their customers, their data needs to be just as mobile.
All of the top Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools like Salesforce, Zoho, SugarCRM have smartphone and tablet apps to ensure that sales reps and marketers have all the customer data they need when they’re on the go. With these tools, employees can easily and quickly access customer contact data and interaction history to deliver relevant, personalized messaging in any situation, anywhere.
There’s also an increasing amount of activity in mobile-first business intelligence and analytics, ranging from the big boys like IBM and SAS to startups such as Roambi and Domo. These companies offer tools that allow executives to aggregate data from multiple systems across their companies’ departments and access that data on their tablet or smartphone to make critical business decisions in real-time.
Enterprise mobile applications that help process-driven employees increase productivity are becoming more prevalent. Age-old industries like manufacturing, logistics, and construction are being disrupted by mobile apps that sync with companies’ back-end systems to deliver important data to employees about inventory, location, schedules, and more. Many of these apps are either built in-house or by software development shops to companies’ exact specifications, as every organization has different processes and systems.
Mobile is changing how enterprises run their businesses and how employees communicate and execute. In our next post, we’ll dive deeper into some examples of how innovative companies use mobile technology to run their processes more efficiently.
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