Requiring as critical a shift in business thinking as the Internet 20 years ago, the move towards ‘Business Mobility’ will define organisational strategy for years to come. However, unlike previous IT eras, there is often no clear roadmap for adoption.
There’s no single approach that embraces every business need – as was the generally the case when it came to automating transactions or externalising networks. The ‘right’ investment can’t be defined here by getting the best specifications for the best price. Instead, it must be driven by pre-determined, highly-specific organisational outcomes.
At its core, business mobility is not simply about supporting different devices from multiple locations; it’s the ability to support change, to allow your organisation to shift its employee engagement model as needed. The workplace has changed, usual rules no longer apply – and businesses must adapt quickly in order to survive.
To understand how to make the most out of business mobility, you need to not only break it down into its fundamental parts as they apply to your specific context, but also understand the issue as a model of employee engagement, rather than technology investment. To help do this, we’d suggest three golden rules for moving forward:
Rule 1: Put the plan in place
With business models becoming more sophisticated through the confluence of new technologies and ever more comprehensive information flows, there can be no hard and fast rule on what is the best approach for an organisation to meet its business mobility aims. Even the nature of work is changing. Organisational structures are flatter and more geographically dispersed. Teams are built, and dismantled, on an ad hoc basis, dependent entirely on the project or challenge. Employment is becoming of shorter tenure with every generation. And knowing what will be needed over the next year, five years or even decade can be a near impossible task.
Critically, organisations must spend time carefully assessing and expressing their needs, then considering the options they can take to meet them. Having a robust and strategic roadmap defined in business terms is vital. Organisations should be asking themselves some specific and searching questions:
- What are the current challenges for our workforce?
- How do these challenges vary across different groups of workers?
- What defines optimal efficiency for each individual or group of workers?
- What challenges is our business facing now? And how long will they last?
- How must the presence, function and value contribution of each user group change to meet these challenges?
- What challenges are likely to come up tomorrow? Or the day after?
Making the right investment in technologies and skills to unlock the new working practices needed to solve these issues and support a flexible, agile culture won’t happen by accident. It must be plotted carefully, with due care and attention.
Rule 2: Show value, not cost
It’s easy for organisations to fall into the trap of thinking solely in numbers, but work isn’t so straightforward. Your job is no longer somewhere you go but something you do. The role of IT in managing this transition cannot be understated – whether it is using sensors and analytics to measure and optimise performance, creating true virtual collaboration or helping people to build work into their lives, technology is driving -- and will continue to drive -- the future of the work agenda.
The difficulty comes when organisations expect to put numbers on every single investment decision. While businesses should aim to measure the success of a business mobility project, this cannot always be done immediately in dollars and cents. Any investment must balance costs against the value or benefit that will be achieved and herein lays the problem: cost is universally understood (it’s a number), but value is very context-specific. Productivity gains can drive new revenue streams or increase business service levels, but might be difficult to express as cost savings.
Likewise, staff happiness or work/life balance may not immediately impact revenue numbers but improving these factors will add value to the company. For example, if you give staff the flexibility in order to build an optimal work/life balance then you’ll find that staff retention rises, very quickly. This instantly reduces recruitment costs, builds morale as staff form strong working relationship – which can also improve collaboration – and help you attract more talent. This will of course all eventually translate on to the balance sheet.
Rule 3: Recognise when you’re winning
Organisations must be able to define their desired outcomes, right from the start. What will business mobility mean for customers, or for the C-Suite? What does it mean for senior managers or for the overall workforce? That way, they will have the mechanism to recognise success and ensure it can be continued.
Increasing the digital literacy of your organisation is crucial in order to move the conversation on from technology to lifestyle. Good CIOs are already working with employees to ensure the correct lifestyle is in place so that the entire business – from the ground up – is able to work as effectively as possible with the full range of technology capabilities available.
Ultimately, the implementation of a business mobility approach should help instill a culture of innovation so that positive change can be initiated by anyone. Employees at all levels – from the top to the bottom – should feel able to engage in two-way dialog with the IT department, bringing new ideas to them for feedback and improvement. This will be essential, because business mobility is a journey and not a destination: a culture that recognises and supports technology success will be better placed to continue succeeding.
Business mobility will take organisations to a level of workplace engagement that is unprecedented. It’s about empowering employees to work in the ways that work best for them across shifting teams and goals: it is the capacity to drive and respond to change.
Brian Gammage, Chief Market Technologist, VMware