Getting your head in the cloud

Mathabo Sekhonyana
By Mathabo Sekhonyana, Head of marketing and communications at Adoozy Power, Africa’s first powerbank rental network.
Johannesburg, 28 Nov 2023
Mathabo Sekhonyana, head of marketing and communications, Adoozy Power.
Mathabo Sekhonyana, head of marketing and communications, Adoozy Power.

In my previous articles on ITWeb, I’ve highlighted how a mobile-first approach is critical to creating a competitive customer experience today. This will continue to grow in importance, and equally, so will the use of an employee mobile strategy as a way to streamline work productivity.

I believe that providing employees with the typical desktop and laptop is not enough anymore. The mobile phone needs to be considered a crucial part of the employee's work arsenal, and to this end, companies should consider remote server and cloud access for mobile as standard.

While there’s ongoing debate about whether employees will all be office-bound again within the next few years, it’s more likely that some form of hybrid work is here to stay.

According to the Flex Report, which collects insights from more than 4 000 companies employing more than 100 million people globally, work is moving toward ‘structured hybrid’, referring to a set number of days employees are required to come into the office. So, it's safe to say the future of work is still looking a lot less office-bound.

And as an extension of hybrid working, post-pandemic, there’s now a shift toward a ‘work from anywhere’(WFA) mentality. The IT industry is no stranger to this, as it was one of the earlier adopters of work-from-home opportunities, with a majority (86%) of software developers working entirely remotely in 2021 already. The pandemic only increased these numbers.

What’s been interesting to see is how the mobile phone is becoming an enabler of this WFA phenomenon, as it’s a tool that employees are relying more on to stay connected for work. Case in point: a GlobalWebIndex report highlights that since the advent of COVID-19, smartphone use is about 45% above normal levels.

Mobile cloud access pivotal for productivity

Over and above the usual features and functions required on smartphones to get work done, such as e-mail applications, teams and instant messaging apps, cloud-based apps like Google Drive, Dropbox and Google Workspace are becoming an important differentiator in employee productivity, and as a result, the customer experience.

Arming employees with the resources and tools they need to access work files from their mobile devices can have a positive impact on the level of service they can provide to the end-user or customer.

Having easy access to company servers from the mobile phone can simplify the managing and sharing of large files and data. This means employees can quickly review time-sensitive material, collaborate on documents, and respond timeously to customer requests.

But is it safe?

Security should always be a concern, but you have to weigh up the benefits versus the risks. The goal is always to provide a seamless customer experience for the end-user, which means empowering employees to do their jobs effectively.

If they are working remotely or spend a lot of time out of the office on callouts and meetings, they will need to rely on mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, to access files quickly and efficiently.

While the concerns over security, compliance and control over corporate data are valid, there are secure mobile access policies that organisations can put in place.

These policies can also be tailored to the company’s specific needs, considering factors such as industry regulations, the nature of the data being accessed and the level of risk tolerance.

Regularly updating and communicating these policies can also contribute to a comprehensive mobile security strategy.

Below are four key mobile cloud access policies and practices:

Authentication and authorisation: Multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security beyond username and password. Role-based access control ensures employees only have access to the cloud resources necessary for their particular roles.

Containerised apps: Separate corporate data from personal data on devices by creating secure containers for corporate apps and data.

VPN (virtual private network): Require employees to use a VPN when accessing cloud resources from public or unsecured networks to encrypt data in transit.

Secure WiFi policies: Mandate the use of secure WiFi networks to minimise the risk of data interception.

Striking that balance between providing employees with the flexibility to work from mobile devices and safeguarding corporate data with robust security measures is an ongoing challenge, but one that must be assessed in relation to each organisation’s risk tolerance.

In streamlining mobile cloud access, companies are enabling the mobilisation of the workforce, which can be a smart way to retain top talent and future-proof the business. Customer expectations are changing. They demand instant gratification and will move to a competitor if they are not getting the level of service they expect.

In this light, I highly recommend that companies start prioritising their employee mobile strategy, with a focus on cloud-based access to corporate data. Customer experience and brand satisfaction could depend on it.