Your Playbook for Mobilizing Todays Workforce

That was a pleasant 20th century dream which started to dissipate at the turn of the 21st century, when mobile phones continued their rise and began to allow people to check email on the go -- remember BlackBerry? -- so when they were out of the office they could still be “in touch.”

The End of the One Computer Per Person Era

Now, instead of urging your company to give you a corporate-issued phone, you’re likely asking them to simply pay for the data you use on your personal phone which you like more and have tailored exactly the way you want it. The lines between work and play have never been blurrier, with information workers rapidly increasing the variety and combination of devices they use for work.

According to a Forrester Research study on data security and privacy, 10 percent of respondents surveyed use a combination of desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone for work. Yes, you read that right. There is a growing number of people who have their big desktop for when they’re in the office, use an ultrabook when they’re working from home, take their Microsoft Surface on a business trip all the while monitoring email as it comes in on their Apple iPhone 5S. More than a quarter of people are using three or more types of devices to do their jobs on a daily basis.

All of that is to say that the age of one computer for one person is long gone. The days of only using company-issued technology are over. The pervasive nature of technology today means that we have more access to our work than ever before -- we can be far more flexible in when, where and how we do our jobs. While this comes with benefits such as improved employee morale, there are also potential headaches for companies that are trying to ensure their intellectual property and data do not fall into the wrong hands.

The same Forrester study found that nearly half of all data breaches in 2013 were accidental in nature. Not Edward Snowden-level intent, simply placing a document in the wrong place. With myriad devices in play at any given time, it’s an unfortunate reality that an employee could mistakenly release data that can cost millions of dollars and even permanently destroy a company’s reputation.

Fork in the Road

Companies are facing a fork in today’s business productivity road. They can either bear left and ignore the fact that people are using devices they didn’t give them to access company-specific information, or they could bear right, embracing the fact that workers are using whatever technology they feel most comfortable with to get their jobs done.

I urge you to bear right, and in doing so, there is a way to support the mobilization efforts at your company to keep productivity high while accounting for the security and privacy of your data. There isn’t a silver bullet, but there are six pieces to this puzzle that you should account for when launching a mobility strategy at your organization.

  1. Integrated: Choose solutions that work seamlessly with existing content management and other IT systems. The last thing your company needs is another siloed repository of information.
  2. Usable: The tools you provide should feel like an extension of the technology employees already know how to use, designed to be fully accessible. Workers are leaving their company-issued computers in the office because they know and love their tablets better -- recognize this and don’t fight an already losing battle.
  3. Productive: Working from home isn’t an excuse to watch television all day. Your mobility solution should still give you insight into the performance of your employees.
  4. Scalable: Content is growing at an exponential rate -- and as everyone is now a content contributor, mobility solutions need to ensure the increase in data and people does not create an IT headache.
  5. Secure: Remote access doesn’t have to mean letting go of complete control over your data. Look for third-party solutions that enable you to authenticate and secure access depending on a user’s location, device, and permission rights.
  6. Private: Make sure you know where your most sensitive data is, and make sure that it stays private and cannot be accessed outside the office if that’s what your organizational policy or regulatory compliance obligation mandates.

By following these six steps, you will hopefully have the best of both worlds. You will have an open culture where people don’t feel constrained by being monogamous to one piece of technology, yet a secure culture where the company can rest assured its most important information is safe. Trust is important -- not just in relationships but also in business -- and organizations should trust their employees to do the right thing but be able to verify that they are in fact doing so. This is vital to successfully juggling employee morale with company security.

There are solutions available from vendors to address mobility needs, since this trend is not going away any time soon. Look for an integrated, comprehensive solution that can help you enforce security and corporate policies, track progress and usage, and maintain data sovereignty.

Title image by Jude Lazaro (Shutterstock)