Introduction to mobile workforce
Internet, smartphones, tablets, apps, self-service, touchscreens...
Mobility is far more than using laptops, smartphones and tablets in an organisation. Mobility is a change of mindset that rewards rapid, agile and flexible thinkers, and is a cornerstone in the development of more modern business practices.
The mobile wave that has swept across the world during the last decade is best described as mind-blowing. It is hard to remember the time before smartphones, tablets and constant cheap – if not free – Internet access.
Before 2007, even though individual people and companies could call and text their networks, the mobile phone was still a relatively simple communication channel. But in 2007, there was a radical change. Before then, various manufacturers such as Nokia, Ericsson and BlackBerry had all experimented with phones that could go online to access e-mail. But the user interfaces were clumsy, so that users never really embraced these technologies.
At a conference in January 2007, Steve Jobs introduced Apple's first iPhone to the world. This was a pioneering step in several respects. Firstly, it was a software-based smartphone. All of the competitors' phones were based on the phone's hardware – including the obligatory keypad buttons that took up a lot of space. The iPhone, on the other hand, consisted solely of a large screen, operated using an innovative touchscreen technology. Shortly afterwards, Apple introduced the iPhone 2 and the Apple App Store, and with them an entire ecosystem of apps, which would lay the foundation for all technological Mobility innovation. Secondly, the iPhone was extremely easy to use compared with the alternatives in the market at that time. The iPhone made it fun to interact with your phone, and as soon as something is fun to use, it will be used more.
Boost to productivity
As Internet access became better and cheaper, more and more people acquired smartphones. An opinion survey by YouGov in January 2014 showed, for example, that three out of four Danes today have a smartphone. For the 18-49 year-old survey respondents, the ratio was as high as nine out of ten. The popularity of smartphones in the consumer market slowly began to spread to the business field.
Previously, company practice was for every new employee to be immediately allocated a corporate mobile phone and a corporate computer. Yet the new generation in the workforce – often called Generation Y – is by no means happy to accept this type of control. They want the freedom to decide for themselves which device they work on. On the other hand, they often pay this back by being online anywhere, at any time. This more flexible approach to working, which means that with the right devices and rapid Internet access we can work at home, at the office in Ballerup, or in a hotel in Beijing, has given an enormous boost to productivity. As a consequence, not many companies today complain about the new mobile opportunities and the security headaches they entail. These companies realised a long way back that a mobile workforce is an extremely effective workforce.
Re-defining work processes
In 2010, there was another vital new development in the Mobility market and, once again, Apple was the main architect. Since the early 1980s and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, various manufacturers had marketed rudimentary versions of tablet computers. These were very basic, and therefore not very successful. Tablet computers did not become generally available until the iPad was launched in 2010. Like the iPhone, the iPad combined user-friendliness with a world of customised apps that enabled individuals to define their own use. While the iPhone supported a world that was automatically becoming more and more mobile, thanks to the availability of the Internet, in many respects the iPad not only supported the ongoing development, but also re-defined Mobility. With the iPad as a bridgehead, more companies started to become aware of new ways of working, and today tablet computers have generally helped to automate, streamline and ease the everyday lives of thousands of people in many different industries. It must also be said that, as was the case for mobile phone producers after the iPhone was launched, since the birth of the iPad many tablet manufacturers have also launched products that, as a minimum, challenge the "original" in terms of price, design and functionality.
Winners and losers
The market for Mobility solutions has dictated a whole new agenda – for both the business community in general and internally within the IT industry. Giant players in the IT market never made the transition to a more mobile world, or made it too late, and have today, at best, lost significant market shares that it will take them many years to win back. At worst, this has lost them a place among the global IT elite.
For companies, the transition to a more agile organisation has in the same way helped to allocate the winners and losers to their respective sides of the mobile dividing line. The winners have already implemented mobile solutions in their IT infrastructure, enabling their employees to work faster and more effectively. The losers are embedded in the obsolete belief that their companies can manage without Mobility solutions and that it is too expensive and/or uncertain to convert their work processes to a more mobile practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today's large companies quite simply cannot afford not to have a short-term and long-term mobile strategy that can facilitate new and better work processes.
Hop aboard the mobile train
From a consultant's viewpoint, the mobile revolution is a big opportunity to hop aboard a train that will just keep on running for the next many years. The development of customised apps for very specific purposes is an expanding area that demands sustained innovation, as more and more types of companies, and consumers, acquire mobile devices. Within just one or two years, these mobile devices will probably contain more functionality than we can imagine today.
The rise of the tablet
A Gallup survey in 2013 showed that 44% of Danish households had at least one tablet computer, which was twice as many as the year before.
Mobility no. 1 and 2 on Gartner's Top 10
Mobility not only headed analysis firm Gartner's annual Top 10 for the most important strategic technology trends in 2014, but also came in second; with "Mobile Device Diversity and Management" as number 1 and "Mobile Apps and Applications" as number 2.