First it was desktop computers. Clunky, rooted, desktop computers.
Then came laptops (which several customer service representatives have informed me are no longer called laptops, hence the extreme heat felt while using the computer on my lap was my own misuse of the tool and not a defect of the battery. But that's a story for another day).
Then came smartphones and not too long after tablets, many of which belonged to the employee. A much abbreviated timeline of employee's computer workstations, sure, but suffice it to say that companies still struggle with how to meet employee expectations for mobile.
Rocky Mitarai, senior product marketing manager for Adobe Connect, took some time out to explain where the potential lies when you provide workers with the right technology and why mobile should no longer be treated as a second-choice.
Global, Mobile and 24/7 Workforces
Fagan: What are the biggest drivers pushing the enterprise to be mobile?
Mitarai: We are definitely seeing mobile usage grow across enterprises. One of the drivers is the growing breadth of features and functionality available on smartphones and tablet devices. In line with this trend, people are becoming used to using their mobile devices in their own personal lives for email, social media, viewing videos, collaborating with others and many other specific uses. This has led to the (bring your own device) BYOD phenomenon and raised expectations in the workplace that these types of activities -- typically done on the desktop -- should be able to be done directly from a mobile device.
In addition, one of the things we’ve observed is that mobile devices are no longer seen as a second-choice, feature limited experience to engage in certain activities (especially collaboration or training). The expectation is to be able to use the mobile device as the go-to option, with all of the features and functionality found on the desktop, in an experience tailored for mobile use.
Fagan: What benefits do businesses receive from a mobile workforce?
Mitarai: It depends on how a mobile workforce is defined -- and there are a number of technologies that are available on mobile devices that can be used for business. One of the biggest trends is that it is becoming less common for workers to be in the office from 9 to 5. Sales teams are on the road or at client sites and workforces are global, meaning that business continues 24/7, with teams dispersed across time zones.
A mobile workforce, with the right technology, can help facilitate information exchange and connectivity across the enterprise and external teams to address this trend – with the key benefit that productivity does not lag despite the fact that workers are not all in the office or in front of their computer at the same time, but likely have their mobile device handy. Another common scenario is that workers may need access to insights, content or information to complete their job, but are not sitting in front of their computer. Technologies that enable them to access this information quickly and securely from their mobile device help ensure that they can get their job done more efficiently.
Fagan: Do mobile options benefit the employee and if so, how?
Mitarai: Employees can benefit in several ways -- related to the above, the ability to effectively collaborate and connect with others without being in the office enables employees with more flexibility. For employees who travel or spend time in the field, being empowered with the right tools to access information (perhaps training), join a virtual meeting in progress, or get work done more conveniently from their mobile device can help reduce downtime -- and get things done that would otherwise need to be taken care of when they are in front of a laptop.
In addition, for those that are in the office, it is often commonplace to be attending a variety of meetings throughout the day, and lugging a laptop from conference room to conference room. With the right capabilities, a mobile device can take the burden away from lugging around the laptop, enabling things like sharing and presenting slides, or annotating on a shared document with a finger or stylus.
Fagan: What other trends do you see crossing over from the consumer mobile world to the enterprise?
Mitarai: In addition to what is noted in my first response, another trend we’ve observed is that workers are comparing the mobile experiences of business mobile apps to the rich, high quality experiences that are available with popular consumer apps – such as Netflix or YouTube. As mobile usage in the enterprise increases, there is an immediate expectation that business applications match this level of quality from a functional as well as a UI perspective.
Fagan: What role does m-learning play in the enterprise?
Mitari: There are several trends we’re seeing here, but one of the key use cases we see is for field or channel enablement. We have heard our customers in the pharmaceutical space, for example, are providing iPads to their sales force as their key tool to use in the field. These people may need access to information or content ahead of or during their interaction with the client. Another example is with major auto manufacturers who are pushing training out to their dealer networks across the globe, with employees who are often on the shop floor but need access to information on a certain process with only a moment’s notice. In these types of cases, these people must be able to leverage a system that can provide access to content at their moment of need, from a mobile device.
In addition, making training available for mobile access means that it can be consumed at the convenience of the user, especially when there is downtime -- when commuting to the office or waiting for a flight. Being able to effectively take training during that downtime means that the time in the office can be spent on other things, improving productivity and bolstering training satisfaction and completion rates.
With Adobe Connect, we see our customers not only making training available from mobile devices in live and on demand formats, but also delivering live training from mobile devices. With Adobe Connect mobile, we’ve seen our customers conduct a virtual field trip -- including a canoe expedition down the Florida Everglades that was broadcast live via Adobe Connect to elementary school students in their classrooms. < /p>
Fagan: What does web conferencing offer to mobile workers and enterprises?
Mitarai: A key benefit of mobile devices is that they can leverage software to enable rich, real time communication in the form of not just voice but video and content sharing. As noted above, with teams being dispersed around the globe and across different time zones, mobile web conferencing can provide the key capabilities required to efficiently share information wherever attendees may be located. While not all web conferencing vendors are equal, the right web conferencing technology can be extremely beneficial in offering:
- Not just the ability to join a virtual meeting from a mobile device and share the webcam, but initiate the meeting, upload and share content (maintaining all animations and formatting), present content (advance slides), use emoticons or whiteboard -- which are all critical if trying to interact and share information virtually.
- Setting up a persistent meeting room and URL for immediate mobile collaboration. Collaboration often happens when you may not have your desktop or laptop handy, which is why collaboration from a mobile device is beneficial. One of the biggest challenges with mobile collaboration -- especially if sharing content and files is critical -- is ensuring that all of your content is available. A good habit is to know where your documents are at all times and be ready to access them. A best practice with Adobe Connect is to set up a meeting room at a memorable URL (e.g. my.adobeconnect.com/rockys-office). Load content, documents, presentations, demos, images, videos, etc. into the room; or store them in your general content library. This helps with two key issues: 1) Meetings do not need to be scheduled -- you and your attendees only need to join your URL, which is easy to remember, and available 24/7; and 2) Content is already there so you can immediately begin collaborating, without wasting time trying to find your files.
For example, the US Dept. of Defense uses Adobe Connect mobile extensively for collaboration, battle planning and emergency response scenarios (e.g. coordination with medevac, relief orgs, etc. as they arrive on scene at a disaster zone – such as the Haiti earthquake and other more recent tragedies). With the emergency response use case, mobile web conferencing enables key stakeholders to jump into a meeting room at a known URL at any given time, with important content and procedural information pre loaded in advance, and instantly begin addressing the disaster from any device. They can also coordinate with others who may be en route to the disaster zone but can still fully interact while mobile.