I was talking with my mom the other day about some of the differences between what I experience in the workplace now and what my dad experienced while I was growing up. It struck me that one of the biggest changes has been in the boundary between “work-time” and “off-time.” When my dad, who was a manager at a large communications technology company, was away from his desk, he was truly away from his desk – and all of his normal work-related activities waited for his return. This was true when he was home for the evening, on weekends, on vacation, on business trips, or even sitting in meetings. If he wasn’t physically in his office, he was truly disconnected from his regular everyday activities.
In today’s connected world, this is no longer the case. I can’t remember the last time I was home in the evening or over the weekend, or even on vacation, when I wasn’t regularly checking email and responding to the ongoing demands of my job. And hardly a meeting goes by when I don’t see a handful of people responding to some time-critical request via their phone or tablet.
Mobile devices allow us to stay connected to the goings-on of our job regardless of our location – we’re no longer tethered to our desk phone or desktop computer, nor do we need to be in order to remain productive and involved. And this business trend isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan trend, either. According to Strategy Analytics, iOS and Android smartphone device manufacturers shipped a total of 21.3M units in the US in the 2nd quarter of 2012 alone. And smartphones aren’t the only mobile game in town any more. During that same quarter, Apple sold 17M iPads across the globe – and other tablet devices are appearing with increased frequency.
To the enterprise, mobile access doesn’t simply mean the ability to tweet or post an update to <insert your favorite social media site name here>; it means the ability to see what work needs to be done, respond to critical events, post updates to your tasks or projects, and have immediate access to business-related information. This is particularly true for project teams, project managers, and PMOs in general. Project status information is expected to be up-to-date at all times. Project managers are expected to have their finger constantly on the pulse of their projects. And requests for status updates are expected to be satisfied anytime, anywhere – not just at the regularly scheduled “status update briefing” meeting. Being away from your desk is no longer a viable excuse for not having the latest information at your fingertips.
In order to satisfy this new anytime/anywhere business trend, enterprises need to include mobile access in their plans for all mission-critical systems. Here are some key criteria with which to evaluate your mobile access strategy:
- Fully available from any location – Easy access is key. Any barriers to access, even as straightforward as signing on to a corporate VPN, will reduce usage. Ideally, users should have full access from their mobile device’s browser or application regardless of where they are, without heavy configuration or connection processes. Typically, SaaS solutions meet this criterion nicely, since they are already Internet-based and are not “hidden” behind corporate firewalls.
- Device independence – With the proliferation of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, the need for your solution to address a wide variety of devices, screen sizes, operating systems, and browsers is greater than ever.
- Avoid native applications, if possible – This one might sound counterintuitive, but relying on native applications puts a much greater burden on the user and your IT organization. If your corporate policy allows users to update their own devices, you’ll soon find yourself with multiple versions of each application being used by your staff. When you add the permutations of applications specifically developed for the different Android revisions and specifications, iOS applications, and tablet applications, you can see how easily this variety of targeted native applications can get out of sync or out of date from a functional and support perspective. Browser technologies, such as HTML5, are sophisticated and feature-rich and can provide an application experience that rivals any native application.
- Avoid proprietary UI formats – The use of Flash or Silverlight technologies can make an application look “cool” and modern, but they are also completely incompatible with most smartphone and tablet browsers; rendering them unusable for mobile devices.
- Security – One oft-overlooked aspect of mobile devices is their tendency to be easily lost or stolen. Be wary of any application which stores your company-confidential information on the device itself.