Breaking down barriers to business mobility

By Andres Richter, CEO, Priority Software

Enterprise mobility is often used to describe working habits, when digital transformation enables employees to spend more time away from the office, using cloud-based applications and mobile devices to do their work. The notion that employees experience a digital divide between the tech they use in the workplace compared to more innovative personal applications has spurred on many businesses to “consumerise” their IT applications – allowing for effective collaboration from any location. It’s now more popular than ever. In a survey of 500 senior business decision makers  in UK companies, 88 per cent said that their business permitted mobile working with 95 per cent of those surveyed believed it increased productivity.

While there’s clearly a desire to go mobile, and the benefits are tangible, the unfortunate reality is that many companies both large and small are still lagging behind in the technology stakes. 72 per cent of 500 UK business leaders said they did not find it easy working from a mobile device, and over a third said they did not have the right technology to fulfil the potential of on-the-go working, evidenced by 43 per cent unable to access business critical applications from a mobile device. In fact, delving deeper into the data reveals a surprising number of processes are still carried out on a computer, in the office. For example, 47 per cent of business leaders said employees could only check customer data, input a sales order or submit expenses from a desktop or laptop.

Overcoming mobility elitism in the workplace

If not managed properly, introducing mobility into the workplace can create a culture of elitism. Senior management are more likely to work remotely – almost three quarters – compared to a quarter of customer service reps and production staff.  To avoid creating a toxic environment of technological and workplace mobility inequality, it’s important that SME leaders research where innovation is happening with traditionally legacy business critical applications.  ERP and CRM systems have struggled to shake off their reputation of being rigid and inflexible, but thanks to an enormous amount of innovation over the last few years, we now have the ability to open up the software to a range of devices.

Similarly, there are tools such as mobile application generators which allow users to create a range of mobile applications, and use them to perform core business processes no matter where they are. These can be created in a matter of minutes, and don’t require high levels of IT expertise. For example, if you’re a sales rep, you can perform transactions, check factory stock levels, and reach out to the delivery drivers, without having to be at a computer. Similarly, a CEO would be able to see revenues, forecasts, and access real-time analytics, straight from his mobile. So with the right vendor, companies should find it relatively straight forward to access the technology that will allow their employees to work effectively, without being chained to a desk.

Making the case for investment 

We also need to see more of a shift in companies investing in this technology. The most likely reason is that they’re unaware of what’s available to them on the market. For many companies, especially the smaller ones, there’s a desire to stick to what they know as investing in new technology can be seen as daunting task. Not only would employees have to be trained, but the concept of migrating data can be seen as an arduous process which many would rather avoid. Thankfully, many vendors realise this, and understand that not all companies will have a dedicated IT team, and not all companies will have tech-savvy employees. Because of this, they’ll often provide support with on-boarding to ease the process.

Mobile working may currently be a nice option that’s available to a certain calibre of staff, but it’s soon going to become a necessity – and a point of contention for employees who do not have access to it, or a decent work/life balance. As technology continues to advance, companies of all sizes will have to embrace going mobile if they want to grow, attract new employees, and stay ahead of their competitors.