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Preparing for the mobile workforce: bring your own device and beyond

Mobile device management has moved away from restriction and is refocusing on enablement, says Niven Perumal, product manager at Vox Telecom.

The days where employees were confined to desks in front of a company-owned-and-controlled personal computer are long gone. Workers are increasingly mobile, jetting off to different locations around the country (and the globe), and they no longer keep office hours, preferring to fire off e-mails and complete tasks on the road and from home.

This was when we first saw the concept of BYOD (or bring your own device), and with it, mobile device management, enter the market, says Niven Perumal, product manager at Vox Telecom. The premise behind mobile device management was, initially, the need to control the data employees were accessing – mainly for security purposes and to curb the abuse of company WiFi.

The first phase of MDM was concerned with restricting information – and with good reason. If a CEO’s iPad, containing the latest pricing strategy, was stolen, the IT department had to be able to remotely shut down the device to prevent a competitor from accessing it. Likewise, if an employee left the company’s service, so would his/her smartphone – with all the potentially sensitive e-mails contained on it.

Since then, we’ve seen mobile device management move away from restriction and refocus on enablement. In simple terms, it’s no longer about what employees shouldn’t be doing with their smart devices, but about all the things they should be doing.

A recent study surrounding the “evolving workforce” (sponsored by Dell and Intel) has shown that the vast majority (69%) of IT leaders have one goal in mind when it comes to allowing smart devices in the workplace – increased productivity. When employees are able to choose the technology they can use, along with their degree of mobility, they become more efficient. Moreover, employees are insisting on specific devices when they enter a new job – it’s become the norm, not the exception.

Employees also feel the need to work from their personal devices, wherever they are – with less than two-thirds of global employees surveyed stating they feel they can get their work done in a traditional nine-to-five schedule. The devices the average employee is able to use, and has at his or her disposal, are becoming part of their skill-set.

This has meant companies are not only preparing for a mobile workforce, they are ensuring they get as much mileage out of mobile as they can. We’re seeing companies build more efficient apps to speed up sales processes. A banking company could, for example, send a consultant to a client’s office. There, he or she could, using a smart device, sit in front of the customer, quickly profile them, send the data off for a credit check and then complete the sale in minutes. And then top it off with a quick confidential survey to gather information for further campaigns.

Company-owned devices will have similar built-in functionality so that employees won’t have to configure their WiFi settings or set up their Intranet – they will receive their tablets with the applications in their browsers, along with Microsoft SharePoint applications so that product sheets can be viewed on- and offline for easy access during sales calls. Rather than e-mail customers information – by which time the sale might have gone cold – representatives can instantly access and present information to clients face-to-face.

Cloudware, revolutionary application delivery software, is being packaged into smart devices, so employees can load their CRM programmes (such as Salesforce.com) onto their devices and complete or update proposals and contracts on the road. Digital signatures will ensure that documents are signed off by clients right away.

The working world is on the move – and your company can’t afford to be left behind. Ensure you are putting mobile device management tools in place that not only restricts workers’ activity, but also enables them to do a lot more.

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