More and more workers are bringing their own devices to work, often to the chagrin of IT types who will then have to manage numerous devices running often divergent operating systems. However, there is another category of employee that relies on accessibility and simplicity from his work tools: the mobile worker. This is essentially anyone who regularly travels for a job, and has moved beyond the realm of keeping life on a laptop. These days, it is more convenient to compartmentalize aspects of work and distribute that workload to the devices that best handle it. According to the iPass Global Mobile Workforce Q1 2012 Report, the average mobile worker now carries approximately 3.5 devices whilst traveling for business. This is up from 2.5 devices on average in 2011.
This reveals several compelling trends regarding the devices that workers carry with them. Obviously, items like tablets are a staple of the mobile worker’s repertoire, but more interesting is the fact that workers are not consolidating their devices. Rather, they recognize inherent strengths and weaknesses of the various platforms, and instead of sacrificing functionality, they sacrifice the convenience of only carrying one device.
So, what does this mean for businesses? To begin, it is important to recognize this desire for increased functionality from mobile workers. In a way, this segmentation helps to refute the argument that mobile devices are a distraction, because if that was the case it would be unnecessary to carry multiple devices for functionality. It also means that businesses need to recognize the comparative benefits of software, communication, and any internal business tools commonly used by their mobile workers as they relate to specific devices.
For instance, many workers might consider the laptop as a “home base” device that will be set up in a hotel room and left there until the evening after a big tradeshow when it’s time to write a report on the day’s activities. If a company communicates primarily through an instant message platform that is incompatible with a smartphone, the company will have limited ability to collaborate with a worker, or will inconvenience the worker as he fidgets with multiple devices.
It is important to consider what these various devices mean for necessary company data programs that might require updating on the road with a requirement for accuracy and ease of entry. For instance, Microsoft Dynamics AX provides a mobile solution for sales people who may need to update a database after a customer visit or while at a conference meeting with prospects. This can significantly reduce entry errors as users can input data directly to the program rather than metaphorically “jotting it down on a napkin” and updating a database later.
A little foresight when selecting and implementing tools will allow mobile workers to serve the company more effectively. Enabling and encouraging the use of devices that increase productivity, especially in the case of mobile workers, offers numerous benefits for the business as a whole. They have chosen functionality over convenience, and it is time for companies to make the same choice.