Can you handle the office of the future?

By Thuthuka Mhlongo, Portfolio Manager: End User Computing at T-Systems SA

1221
0

The workplace of tomorrow will look very different from the average set-up in most South African corporates today.

As the notion of “work-life balance” ascends into everyday business lexicon, virtualisation and mobility solutions hold the key to a better workplace. In fact, the key opens the door to one’s office from anywhere, at any time. No longer are employees bound by physical infrastructure such as desks, workstations and fixed-line connectivity. “The office”, and all the enterprise services needed, are available from anywhere.

Enterprise mobility solutions extend corporate applications and services down to laptops, tablets and smart phones – creating a secure office environment for employees who are working at home, at client sites, or traveling. They allow for more flexible working arrangements that fit with individuals’ lives.

But the workplace of tomorrow isn’t just about moving from fixed, physical, “9 to 5” locations, to a state of any time, anywhere productivity. New mobility solutions enhance collaboration between colleagues – allowing teams to form quickly and documents to be instantly shared wherever the team members may be. By implementing smart policies such as choose-your-own-device (as opposed to bring-your-own-device), the organisation is able to restrict the number of different handsets and mobile operating systems that need to be catered for. This helps ensure a standardised quality of service for all employees, and contains the costs of having to support a myriad of different devices.

As users look to technology to foster closer working connections, enterprise services are increasingly taking on the characteristics of social media tools that have exploded onto the scene over the past decade. Yammer, for example, includes many of the tagging, sharing, multimedia and news stream features popularised by Facebook. Microsoft Lync is now available in a mobile environment and resembles the corporate equivalent of messaging giants like Whatsapp and WeChat.

Increased ease of mobility breeds a stronger innovation culture within the organisation. Managers and executives can use these ‘always-on’ collaboration platforms to crowdsource new ideas, create incentives and competitions, allow people to rank each other’s’ ideas, and then find ways for inventors to share in the profits of implemented ideas. Virtualised and mobilised workplace environments also create the platform from which new technologies can be swiftly integrated into the organisation. As concepts like wearable technology show the promise of adding real business value – albeit in specific niche areas – those organisations already embracing mobility are far better positioned to rapidly adopt new technology.

Enterprise mobility means the organisation can more easily interface and integrate with partner companies, suppliers, distributors and any other parties in is ecosystem. The IT department is empowered with accurate statistics around things like bandwidth use, server capacity use, and service and application usage. So they can start designing accurate billing models for consultants, contractors, freelancers or partners that are benefiting from the organisation’s resources. In this way, the IT department gets closer to the ultimate goal of becoming a profit centre rather than a cost centre. However, as the organisation embraces the concept of mobility, two major concerns often come to the fore. Each one needs to be approached in the right way, in order to mitigate risks and contain costs.

1. Escalating development across multiple platforms

The reality is that most SA corporates are emerging from a Blackberry-dominated era where basic services like email and instant message were made available on the user’s device. The demands are rapidly shifting, as users’ trend towards platforms like Android, iOS and Windows Phone – and develop appetites for richer corporate services.

Organisations do not necessarily have to develop fully-native applications for each of the three or four predominant mobile operating systems. Hybrid approaches wrap a web app within a native skin, and responsive “pure-web” solutions mean that all development only needs to be done once. The right approach generally depends on the extent to which an enterprise mobility application needs to call on native device capabilities like accelerometers, GPS etc.

2. Security and privacy concerns

With mobility policies such as choose-your-own-device or bring-your-own-device, there is often a tension between how the device is controlled and used, for work and for play. The organisation requires high levels of security to be associated when she is using the device for work tasks, but the employee needs privacy and control when it comes to personal use. With the effective use of EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) capabilities, the IT department can create a healthy separation between the two environments. Employees can easily switch between corporate and personal use, and the integrity of sensitive data is preserved.

Enterprise mobility gives the organisation an inventory view of all devices within the organisation. Real-time analytics reflects on employee’s service utilisation patterns, such as the adoption of an in-house mobile application while end user analytics allows organisation to carefully prioritise such productivity apps for a more efficient ways of working. The benefits, therefore, extend to the enterprise and the employee. In short, true enterprise mobility means a more personalised, more collaborative and more productive workplace for all.