by Bryan Cruickshank

Enabling the productive business

Jan 24, 2011
IT LeadershipIT StrategyMobile

Gone are the days when worker productivity was counted by the number of hours employees spent in the office. As the power of mobile devices becomes more evident, and the heady combination of connectivity, processing power and end-user interfaces come fluidly together, business leaders will increasingly acknowledge that employees can be just as productive outside of the office as in.

Already, the widespread use of mobile devices means that many organisations and their employees are constantly linked. And as the convergence of work and home time continues, employees will not only become more productive, but also more responsive, completing tasks as and when necessary, regardless of location and time zone.

Across the business world, the resistance to using consumer technology to enhance workforce efficiency is rapidly dissolving as business users begin to demand the same functionality in the workplace that they now have at home. In response, many CIOs are increasingly focused on further enabling parts of the workforce that can achieve even greater productivity through the increased adoption of mobile devices.

For CEOs and their Boards, one of the greatest challenges over the next few years will be in understanding how new business models can help them capitalise on this consumerisation of IT. For many CIOs, the unpredictability of new technology is a core challenge.

“If you think more than a year ahead,” said Matt Brittin, Google’s CEO in the UK, “you’re going to be dramatically wrong.”

Indeed, even as today’s technology investment decisions are being made, far better applications and devices are already being introduced.

This leaves many CIOs wondering how best to design an IT environment that provides the flexibility required to adapt to the pace of technological change with the pressure to deliver real business value through the utilisation of new business tools.

While developments in smart devices and applications may be difficult to predict, there are a number of key considerations that should guide IT leaders in this area:

Build mobility into strategy For business users to be able to access applications using a variety of different devices, a radical shift will need to occur in the way IT systems are engineered. Traditionally, organisations have tended to build their enterprise IT environment based on the premise of running a secure network, which is accessed through equally secure devices — usually laptops or desktops.

As companies move towards greater levels of IT consumerisation, controls will increasingly be built directly into the applications and data itself, allowing workers to access a suite of business applications underpinned by centralised information architectures.

Provide greater device flexibility For a growing number of organisations, the concept of a personal IT budget is increasingly gaining popularity. Rather than the traditional one-laptop-for-all approach, individuals will be encouraged to choose the device that best suits their specific role and delivers the most business value for their function.  

Eliminate cultural illogicalities Many organisations allocate company-owned assets such as BlackBerrys on the basis of status and seniority rather than necessity and value. In reality, it is often the field employees and functional staff that gain the greatest productivity growth from mobile devices.

Indeed, many IT leaders may be justified in wondering whether their corporate culture poses a more significant limitation on creating a mobile workforce than technology.

Encourage tactical opportunism In the linear world of the past, applications were created and released in coherent suites and at set intervals. In today’s world, however, technologies and applications develop and mature at different rates and follow a variety of paths. IT leaders should be prepared to test and implement new technologies as the opportunities arise and where a compelling business case exists.

There is no doubt that businesses are already witnessing a surge in the productivity of workers outside the office environment. For CIOs, the challenge will be in finding sustainable ways to capitalise on the latest mobile productivity tools at a time when the supporting technology is moving forward in leaps and bounds. It will require CIOs to hone their ability to catch up quickly to market shifts, whilst continuously making wise investment choices in the face of an uncertain future.

And whilst some mistakes will certainly be made, CIOs who get it right will find themselves with a more productive workforce and – hopefully – more time out of the office.