Enabling Your Mobile Workforce

The terms mobility and productivity are becoming inseparable as the driving force behind our nation’s economy shifts from manufacturing things to generating knowledge and supplying services.  And, as more and more of us spend more and more of our time dealing with information instead of things, the way we work is also changing with the times.

People no longer need to stay fixed in place to do their jobs. In fact, many studies have shown that home-based teleworkers and mobile-enabled employees are often more productive when set loose to work where they want and when they want.

So how do you facilitate this freedom? What technologies will provide you with the right mix of access and security? There is a lot to think about if you are considering a move into this new world where managers are more concerned with outcomes instead of what employees are doing and when they are doing it.

To start with you will need to have well-thought out policies that take into account the need to allow 24/7 access to sensitive business information yet maintain a level of certainty that the information is not getting into the wild. You will also need to decide if you are going to fully embrace the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend or clamp down on the proliferation of devices you are willing support.

Some security experts suggest a policy that employs two-factor authentication schemes, device-level encryption, device location and wiping technologies — a product category often referred to collectively as mobile device management (MDM) — and limiting the number of devices that your organization will support to just one or two from each category: a Wi-Fi/4G LTE capable smartphone, tablet and laptop.

Regardless of whether your mobile employees will work from the field or a home office, you will need to provide them with secure connectivity. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a tried and true way to establish a secure tunnel into your network. Since most employees will want Wi-Fi in their homes (no sense being mobile if you have to plug into the wall to get to the Internet, right?), make sure their router can be remotely managed by your IT staff and secured using WPA/WPA2 encryption. Don’t forget to change the factory passwords, as well. This is an often overlooked detail.

The next step is making sure your critical business applications are re-engineered to work with the various form factors and screen sizes your employees will be using. Also, as cheap as processing and storage is today, don’t skimp on paying for quality equipment. The payback in productivity will far outweigh the frustration people will experience because of screen freezes and OS crashes.

Now that you’ve invested in all that new “kit”, as the Aussies say, you’ll also want to spend some money on a piece of decidedly low-tech gear: a quality laptop bag to protect your investment.

Unified communications solutions could also be a big benefit if your employees are field-based or travel a lot. The presence functions allow you to know where folks are and if they are available and the find me/follow me functionality gives road warriors a single stop to check voice mail, email, and receive documents. UC is not as critical for home-based employees although setting up cheap video conferencing via Skype or Google’s offerings might be beneficial so long as you don’t mind seeing folks working in their pajamas!

Tags: BYOD,Cloud Computing,Technology