Microsoft NZ: Trends in workforce mobility

We’ve all seen it – employees working at home, individuals working on laptops and tablets in cafés, workers triaging emails on their mobile phone.

A more mobile, internet-connected workforce is a reality, and some clear trends are emerging.

Anywhere, anytime is the new normal. The reality of the modern workforce is that people work from multiple locations and from multiple devices.

According to Forrester’s 2013 Mobile Workforce adoption trends:

• Nearly 80% of workers spend at least some portion of their time working out of the office.

• 29% of the global workforce can be characterised as ‘anywhere, anytime information workers’, up from 23% in 2011.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is growing and going mainstream. More employees than ever are bringing their personal mobile devices, smartphones and tablets to the office, or are using them to work from home.

Research shows that 62% of companies either already have BYOD allowances in place, or plan to by the end of 2013. And finally, mobile app development is outpacing other app development projects. Today, around two-thirds of organisations are investing in mobile app development projects.

Looking ahead, some estimates show that by 2015, mobile application development projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1.

This dynamic, connected, global environment creates new opportunities for companies to drive new business. However, it also creates tremendous challenges around how to enable the mobile professional securely and efficiently.

From an IT management perspective, organisations first need to ask themselves where they want to be on the control spectrum; either a fully locked-down environment at one end, or a fully BYOD-enabled workforce at the other.

So what are the short and long term business benefits of each approach?

Assuming most organisations do see the benefits and indeed the inevitability of supporting the growing trend towards workforce mobility, further questions then emerge:

• What are the back-end technologies that will best support delivery of applications to a variety of devices?

• How do they best provide line-of-business apps that can work across platforms and devices with different form factors, input methodologies, operating systems, and browsers?

• How do they ensure that users have a consistent experience, regardless of what end device they are using?

• How do they ensure corporate data is kept separate and secure in BYOD scenarios?

• How do they avoid their employees’ work data mixing with personal data?

• What are the best technologies to manage, track, patch and update across a plethora of different mobile devices?

It is clear the era of highly mobile workforces is upon us, and it is accelerating. What is also becoming clear is that it will be the organisations that consider the issues now, and put in place well thought-through policies and supporting infrastructures to support workforce mobility and deal effectively with some of the challenges it poses, that will be best placed to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce.

By Dean Edwards, Windows & Surface business group manager, Microsoft New Zealand

Dean Edwards has 16 years of experience working in a variety of roles within the IT&T industry. He is currently responsible for managing the Windows & Surface Business Group for Microsoft New Zealand.

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