Citrix’s Robert Gratzl on the evolution of flexible working within the SMB sector and how this is influenced by BYOD

ITProPortal queried Robert Gratzl, managing director, VP and GM EMEA for online services division for Cloud and Networking company Citrix, about a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the company which looked at the growth of flexible working in 1,250 small and medium sized businesses (SMBs), across the UK and other countries worldwide.

Are businesses seeing any measurable gains in productivity by introducing flexible working?

Half of the senior UK executives surveyed said that they are seeing measurable productivity gains of up to 30 per cent as a result of allowing staff to use their own devices for work purposes. Even more impressively, for a further 14 per cent of businesses the resulting efficiency improvements have been even greater.

Are these benefits more tangible or measurable than they were two years ago?

These results show a significant improvement on a similar survey undertaken in 2011, when only 35 per cent of SMBs saw gains of up to 30 per cent and a further 11 per cent seeing bigger increases. This is reinforced by the parallel finding that, in 2011 more than one quarter (27 per cent) of those questioned were unable to point to any identifiable improvement in operational efficiencies as a result of greater flexible working. Two years on, the number of businesses still unable to point to any measurable gains has halved, to just 14 per cent.

Is the pressure for change coming more from with the business or from external sources (such as commercial competition or legislation)?

As in other countries, the greatest pressure is coming internally from employees. In the UK, 29 per cent said that staff were a main source of pressure for change, compared to 27 per cent pointing to competitors, 14 per cent to legislation and only eight per cent to the environment. Cost benefits also feature strongly in the decision to introduce flexible working practices, with budget considerations such as reduced travel up from 11 per cent in 2011 to 17 per cent in the latest survey.

Internally, which staff are most keen to use their smart devices for work as well as personal purposes?

Not surprisingly, individual external-facing departments such as general management (cited by 30 per cent of survey respondents) and sales (25 per cent) continue to exert most pressure here. However, in 40 per cent of SMBs, pressures is uniformly coming from across all departments, as employees generally see the benefits of using their personal devices for both personal and business purposes.

What benefits do SMBs see as most important in enabling personal devices in the workplace?

Almost a half (42 per cent) of SMB bosses support the use of a single device for all purposes as they believe it makes their employees’ lives easier. This compares to only 21 per cent who point to the greater functionality of consumer-focused devices, 16 per cent who prefer the look and feel of their personal device and just 13 per cent to their greater flexibility.

What are employers’ greatest concerns in allowing staff to use personal devices for business purposes?

Security concerns continue to figure most strongly, though at a lower level than two years ago. For example, 29 per cent are worried about allowing application and document downloads (compared to 32 per cent in 2011) and 26 per cent about allowing remote access to the corporate network (29 per cent in 2011). Productivity concerns over employees being distracted by using their phones for personal reasons during working hours has also dropped, from 31 per cent in 2011 to 25 per cemt today.

How many UK firms are seeing staff use their own devices at work?

Again, almost one in two SMBs (47 per cent) are already seeing their staff use personal devices for work purposes, irrespective of whether or not there is a corporate usage policy in place. However, this was the lowest of all countries surveyed, where an average 59 per cent confirmed this trend and reached 68 per cent in the U.S and 65 per cent in and Canada.

In allowing employees to use their personal devices for work, how are UK businesses doing in terms of network security compared to other countries.

The UK is leading the way here in ensuring staff work securely in the area of bring your own device (BYOD) strategies, with 34 per cent of decision-makers saying their businesses have policies, procedures and/or IT systems in place to manage the use of personal communication devices for business purposes. This compares to an average 25 per cent in Europe and the rest of the world and only 19 per cent in the U.S.

Do businesses agree that latest collaboration tools such as HD video and video make meetings more effective?

As we all know, meetings are a part of business life. One quarter (25 per cent) of decision-makers say they spend more than five hours a week in meetings, with 22 per cent spending more time in meetings now than they did five years ago. It’s therefore not surprising perhaps that two-thirds (63 per cent) of those using video-conferencing at work use these tools more than they did a year ago, pointing to improvements in technology and the ability to work remotely with customers and partners as key reasons for this.

Are more UK businesses now supporting the use of consumer-based tools with remote access software and other IT tools?

SMBs in the UK are providing greater support for personal devices in the workplace. For example, 19 per cent now provide remote access software, compared to 11 per cent two years ago, and 18 per cent have adopted remote IT diagnostic tools, again up from 15 per cent in 2011.

Does increased collaboration help SMBs get over the drop in productivity over the summer?

A quarter (25 per cent) of UK SMBs suffer from a dip in productivity over the summer holiday period, significantly less than other countries such as France where 59 per cent see a seasonal drop in operational efficiency. In the UK, 24 per cent of those experiencing a decline believe that a mobile working strategy reduces its impact.

So how would you sum up the findings of the Citrix survey?

Overall, it is clear that collaboration has become central to the creation of an effective, agile and flexible working environment, one which will deliver benefits to the business, its staff and its customers. At the same time, SMBs have to recognise that enabling the use of personal devices also presents a formidable challenge to the IT support team, in looking to both maintain secure access and business continuity, at the same time taking full advantage of a more tech-savvy, self-help workforce.