For many IT departments, the explosive growth of mobile technology in the workplace is a bit of a professional nightmare. It was already difficult to keep those rows of laptops all running the same software, but mobile puts the final nail in the coffin of controlled IT. Mobile creates a work environment in which the job, not the organization, defines the tools. Personal devices and preferences — independent of the rules and practices of administrators — roam free, with sharing and communication at the will of the user and no one else.
OK, maybe I’m dreaming a little, but I believe that companies who are either unable or unwilling to incorporate this mobile revolution into the workplace will suffer the
Now that mobile is here to stay, how do you embrace it from a business communication standpoint?
Employees Are Mobile Already
You would be hard-pressed to find devices as personal as smartphones and smartwatches. They’re practically an extension of the body, shaping how we interact with the world and one another from moment to moment. For instance, my kids won’t come down for dinner unless I notify them via WhatsApp; our family stays connected through Google Hangouts when I’m traveling; and I keep notes from my church meetings in Evernote.
This behavior shouldn’t (and doesn’t) change just because someone enters an office. A naïve idea exists that employees aren’t mobile unless a company provides them with officially sanctioned technology. But the truth is that your employees have been using mobile IM, Apple FaceTime, and Skype for years. Keeping an overly tight handle on the infrastructure is just driving them to seek workarounds. Your team is already mobilized, even if your workplace isn’t. Embracing mobile means becoming a part of the conversation instead of trying to block it out.
So how do you go about truly embracing mobile and incorporating it into the workplace? That answer, too, requires a change in the way infrastructure is approached.
Communication Is About Users, Not IT
A common mistake is to think mobile is just a smaller, portable version of the status quo — that it can be run and controlled by IT just as computers were in the old days. But to truly capitalize on the communication advantages of mobility, you need to focus on how people actually behave and not simply go for what gives your IT department the most control. Here are five ways to move forward into the mobile future instead of getting left behind:
#1. Buy, don’t build
Mobile apps have an average life span of six months. Every aspect of life will eventually be mobile, and it just isn’t possible to keep up with the pace of the market by building your own solution. Mobile apps can be a resource drain to build but even more costly to maintain. Just as you don’t build your own enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, or email solutions, you shouldn’t waste time building mobile apps.
#2. Embrace the moment
While the total daily time spent on a phone may be a lot — the average American smartphone user spends almost five hours a day on their devices — each individual interaction is often only a matter of seconds or minutes at most. Mobile can be not only a channel for information, but also a way to get things done. To be productive in the moment, you need to provide everything in context with the ability to bring closure in just a moment. That can be as simple as delivering information at the right time (e.g., the new leads in the morning) or the right context (e.g., regional data based on GPS coordinates).
#3. Aggregate and concentrate
On average, people have about 27 apps on their phones; that number covers both business and consumer apps. In order to reach meaningful adoption, you’re not just competing with other business apps — you’re competing with every app, including Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and others that employees use day to day. The best way to capture attention is to consolidate key business values into one company app that aggregates tasks, information, social interaction, and metrics.
#4. Make mobile a leadership priority
The smartphone is bringing about the most crucial technology change we’ve seen since the invention of the Internet. Don’t leave this to a small group of IT experts. This is not a technology shift — it’s a cultural shift. Every business leader should be at the forefront of this change. You need to understand how it works, what it does to your organization, and how to turn it into a competitive advantage.
#5. Have a BYOD strategy
IT may never like it, but the fact is that nearly every employee has a smartphone and uses it to discuss work matters. Research firm Gartner found that 45 percent of workers who weren’t required to use personal mobile devices for work were doing it anyway without notifying their employers. Mobile is the only way to reach all your employees. Your strategy should focus on the reach, and while security is important, it should never be an excuse. If you don’t accept it, communication will always be fragmented or, worse, altogether invisible to business leaders.
The beauty of mobile is that it can be useful in virtually any industry. From Hershey’s to Illinois Brick, countless companies have discovered and embraced the beauty of our new mobile-first world. You just have to be willing to take the first step.
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