A ‘Mobile’ Workforce Isn’t a Cost — It’s an Opportunity
The tendency is for managers concerned about protecting their company’s bottom line to look at plans to outfit employees with smartphones and tablets as a death-spiral of mounting costs: The costs of the phones themselves, the voice and data plans, the new security risks, the necessary IT support, and so on — and that’s before you even get to things like unforeseen overages and roaming costs.
But, as InfoWorld columnist Galen Gruman pointed out in a sharp piece Tuesday, focusing on the costs of going mobile misses a bigger, and much more important point: What about the benefits?
By his own, back-of-the-napkin projections, Gruman says that giving employees the ability to work remotely should actually boost most companies’ bottom lines by over 10 times the cost of giving them mobile devices.
That’s because workers who have access to their email, contacts, and work on a smartphone or tablet tend to work a lot more: A report from Good Technology indicated it was as much as seven extra hours per week (that’s 336 hours a year, per person). Add those “hard” costs to the more intangible ones — better customer support, greater operational efficiency, etc. — and going mobile starts to look like a great deal, even factoring in the upfront costs.
Further, companies that think about mobile plans “proactively, not simply trying to manage (read: control) it,” have the opportunity for an even greater return on their investment. Mobile Device Management products, Gruman writes, can actually add indirect costs to mobile plans, as workers slip around the controls IT puts on their phones and tablets. But if companies employ a more “holistic” approach to managing workers’ tools, rather than simply imposing strict limits on what they can and can’t do, they can start to encourage workers to actually use their mobile devices in productive (and conversely, not use in counter-productive) ways.
“MDM is a ‘no’ technology approach that limits what users can do and access,” Gruman says. “There’s definitely a need to manage information, but MDM is a blunt instrument that should be part of a more nuanced, policy-oriented management framework.
“Users work around ‘no’ technologies; they work with ‘yes’ technologies.”
Visage Mobile’s MobilityCentral is that sort of “yes” technology, Gruman writes. By giving employees and managers (and IT folks) an ability to look at patterns of mobile device usage, they can begin to tailor plans and behavior to get the most out of their mobile program.
“Such empowerment through information is an approach alien to many companies that centralize expense reporting and hide from employees and departmental managers the gory details until something really goes amiss,” he writes. “But it should be the norm: If employees and managers don’t understand or can’t even see the implications of their decisions, how do you expect them to make the best choices?”
Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user Marco Arment.