Lead with mobile

Claire Govier has a headstart when grappling with the issues raised by a more mobile workforce and the demands of staff who want to use their personal devices at work.

This is just one of the upsides of being CIO of Vodafone New Zealand, she says, where work is viewed "as an activity, not a place".

"We have been embracing the real-time way of working for a number of years," explains Govier. This means staff can work independent of location.

"None of our staff have fixed phones, all have mobile phones, email and remote access," she says. While some executives have a set office space, there is a reason for this, she says with a laugh. "Staff like us to have permanent desks so they know where we are".

For Govier, the key to managing a real-time enterprise is to look at it as a "business strategy first, supported by IT and IT can help and advice on the how".

Govier says the proliferation of these mobile devices offer great opportunities for enterprises, but they need to have a mobile strategy. "Mobilising people, processes and information carries with it risks," she says. "Enterprise data is sacrosanct and it needs to be protected in the same way as it would be in the office."

"Security is always top of mind, around really making sure the company data is secure and not just technically secure," says Govier. "The reputation and the confidence of customers is important."

"The usual challenge for CIOs in a lot of organisations is getting the balance right -- to give your users a great experience on how they want to work with balancing their security and support," says Govier. "The mentality has always been uniformity, standardisation, lock it down and centralise it."

But with virtualisation, users can be assigned different access. "That is really the secret," says Govier. "Not to treat it as a one size fits all and have the smarts behind mobile device management, the piece that allows you to identify the individual role and what they have to access to what device."

As to whether this puts additional work for IT, Govier says, with a smile." Yes, it puts all sorts of stress on IT, but everything does."

"We believe in IT being responsive, being flexible, finding new ways to be different and to stand out; and creating a difference to customers and employees is really important."

Govier says some customers are also going for the approach taken by Vodafone. "A lot of the IT companies have moved to this kind of workplace," she says. "Vodafone was an early fit to it in New Zealand."

"We are seeing this growing a lot in the IT space where people are on call 24-hours a day and with IT roles [providing] support," she says. "Some are in call centres with flexi-staff working different shifts with desk sharing.

"It is not a one size fits all," notes Govier. "Within organisations some roles are really well suited to this kind of work so you get small trials or specialist roles that try this and organisations learn how to manage."

Real-time in NZ

Becky Lloyd, GM business marketing at Vodafone, says New Zealand is facing many of the challenges Vodafone had observed in the UK a few years ago around the rise of a mobile and remote workforce. "People were commuting long distances. They were early on laptops and wi-fi on the train. The whole concept of connected mobile working is a lot more mature," says Lloyd, who moved to New Zealand two years ago.

These observations have prompted Vodafone to "take a snapshot" of how New Zealand enterprises are embracing the new mobile centric ways of working.

Govier says Vodafone interviewed 1000 workers and 100 managers in July for the survey, and the respondents were split between public and private sectors, and between genders. "So we got both sides of the story."

The results indicate local enterprises are "lagging behind" the rest of the world in adopting mobile and remote working to improve productivity.

Only 20 percent of workers say they have experienced a steady shift from office-based to a more remote/flexible pattern in the past three years. More than half (52 percent) said there was "no real move" to this type of work arrangement.

The basic mobile phone was the most common device, with voice and text the most common function used. The "real productivity enhancers" such as mobile email and remote access were much less common, at 31 percent and 34 percent respectively.

The survey finds a gap between management and staff on the objectives for working remotely.

For business managers, the common benefits include workflow and productivity (85 percent); customer service (83 percent) and ease of management (81 percent).

But for staff, the main motivations are efficiency (44 percent), personal reasons (41 percent) and customer demands (37 percent).

The NZ survey finds that for those using a smartphone or tablet for work purposes, the majority (61 percent) use their personal device. Nearly a third of respondents thought their personal IT was better than their work IT. This indicates staff are "self-identifying" tools to improve their productivity and the company IT policy is not keeping pace with their needs, the report concludes.

The two-hour time bomb

An interesting insight into the Vodafone survey is the expectation on the response time of a prospective supplier to a business query. Lloyd says in the UK, this gap was called the "two-hour time bomb". If you didn't respond within that time, you lose the business, she explains. But when the survey was run a year later, it was compressed to one hour. Today, it is now 30 minutes.

The UK survey shows more than a quarter of respondents -- 27 percent -- have concerns about the longer-term survival of non-mobile enabled business. One in five said they will also be unlikely to work with this type of company in the long term.

The New Zealand survey finds enterprises here are "much kinder, much more forgiving," says Lloyd.

All the local managers expect a same day response to business queries. The majority (54 percent) expect a response within three hours. Those in government are "slightly more forgiving" with 42 percent expecting a response between one to three hours, and 26 percent within one day.

"People need the tools to deal with this," says Govier. Businesses, she says, are recognising it is a competitive advantage to be able to respond fast to these queries. The issue is also related to social media, which Govier describes as a channel to interact with customers.

Vodafone has a social media team and IT is there to provide a support role to this channel. "It really isn't a direct CIO responsibility, it is actually about how the team can deliver the frontline service and the product queries, and making sure the channels are safe," says Govier.

She notes a lot of organisations are "quite nervous" about going into this space. Her advice? "Once you are in, you have to be in."

"It is an activity and a behaviour, not just a flat message," she says. "If you get it wrong there are consequences."


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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