August 30, 2017
When the light bulb was invented and the infrastructure for indoor electrical lighting and power spread, it changed the way we worked and lived. Buildings became taller and the electricity that powers elevators made getting to the top floors easy. Working at night became as easy as working during the day; the lighting inside a windowless room could be maintained at a constant brightness. It’s impossible to imagine working in an office without electricity.
Mobile technology is as revolutionary now as electricity was a century ago. Some companies were resistant to the new technology at first, banning employees from accessing corporate resources from their personal mobile devices. That isn’t the case any longer as most companies have already embraced mobile technology as a way of doing business.
Companies that haven’t taken steps to transition to a mobile workforce are likely to find themselves as uncompetitive as if they’d turned out the lights.
Too many lights make a room too bright; too few lights, and the room is too dark. But there’s no such thing as one perfect lighting level. It all depends on the task you’re trying to accomplish.
It’s the same thing with making the transition to a mobile workforce. Using mobile technology successfully depends on what you want to achieve. And companies need to find a strategy that balances flexibility and control.
Before distributing policies that dictate how mobile technology can be used, you need to identify your goals. Enterprise mobility can help companies achieve the following objectives:
Increased Employee Productivity
Enabling employees to work out in the field, on the road, or from home eliminates the 9-to-5 limits of an office environment.
Mobile devices make it easier for employees to stay in touch and collaborate through messaging and video conferencing apps.
Increased Staffing Options
By enabling employees to work remotely, mobile technology increases the pool of potential employees to essentially everyone who has a mobile device. Companies can more easily obtain the services of experts who don’t reside in their area.
Increased Employee Satisfaction
The use of mobile technology gives employees more flexibility in balancing their personal and professional lives. Employees are also more comfortable using their own personalized devices instead of employer-owned devices. Plus, it means one less device for them to carry around. More satisfied employees means less turnover, as well.
Increased Customer Satisfaction
By enabling employees to access corporate systems wherever they are, mobile technology lets employees look up answers to their customers’ questions while they’re on site (or wherever they may be when the customer contacts them). There’s no delay in responding to the customer’s concerns.
When employees use their own devices, IT doesn’t have to budget for corporate-owned devices. When the employee works remotely, the company doesn’t need to provide office space. These funds can be redirected to support other business goals. Not only that, surveys indicate that many employees are prepared to accept a slightly lower salary in exchange for a more flexible work environment enabled by mobile technology.
In order to achieve their mobility goals, businesses need to develop a strategy around mobile usage in order to provide connectivity to business resources, while protecting the corporate applications and data that are accessed on personal devices. Companies may need to incorporate a combination of mobile usage policies, training, and technology to ensure that personal device usage supports their goals.
Key Security Concerns
While mobile technology offers employees flexibility with respect to the devices they use at work and where they conduct business, companies need to retain control over the applications and data that employees access, and make sure that it remains secure.
Protecting applications and data typically starts with controlling access to the network. A mobile workforce that brings their own devices can considerably increase the complexity of that task. There is an increase in the kinds of devices that need to connect to the corporate network, and a substantial risk that one or more devices may be infected with malware.
Key security concerns associated with a mobile workforce include:
By their very nature, mobile devices increase the likelihood of physical loss or theft of data. For example, a laptop computer left in a taxi can mean exposing a spreadsheet filled with personally identifiable customer information.
Access to Applications
Companies need to ensure that the applications in use on employee’s mobile devices are accessed from a trusted source to avoid malware. In addition, when applications are made available from outside the office, all external access must be carefully controlled and monitored for unusual activity.
Companies need a means of ensuring compliance with corporate, industry and government-mandated regulations when permitting the use of employee-owned devices. Policies regarding the use of social media, restrictions on allowed applications, and password policies need to be re-evaluated.
Technology and Policies
Once a company has evaluated the above concerns, they can begin to implement the necessary policies, training, and technology to support their mobile workforce.
It is imperative that you formally define a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policy and require employees to acknowledge and accept it before allowing them to use their mobile devices for work. This policy should spell out the rights and responsibilities of both the company and the employee with respect to use of mobile devices and remote work, including:
- Which devices are allowed to connect to the corporate network and company applications
- Security policies and regulations regarding device usage, including use of strong passwords, screen locks, and antivirus software
- Black and white lists of applications that are allowed or prohibited on employee devices
- What kind of support the company will provide to remote users
- Company access to personal devices (e.g., to monitor usage or remotely wipe data if a device is lost or stolen)
Employees need training on how to work securely from remote locations. This includes standard security training, such as avoiding malware and recognizing phishing attempts, as well as explaining the dangers of unsecured public WiFi networks.
The effective use of technology allows companies to achieve the levels of control and security they need, while still enabling employees to work on the device of their choice and from the location of their choice. Technology solutions include:
- HTML5-based remote access
Enable users to access corporate desktops and applications through a browser with an HTML5-based remote access solution.
- Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
VPNs ensure the privacy of connections between remote devices and the corporate network, protecting data in transit between backend systems and the user’s device.
- MDM, MAM, and EMM software
Mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM), and enterprise mobility management (EMM) software offer varying levels of control over which devices and applications can connect to the corporate network, the access rights granted to users, and security policies applied on devices.
By understanding your company’s objectives in transitioning to a mobile workforce, you can make the appropriate policy and technology choices. This will help ensure that your mobile workforce is effective, and make mobile devices a fundamental part of running your business — like light bulbs.
Read more about building remote teams at TechCo
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