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Enterprise Mobility is About Enabling Value Not Value Engineering

Mobile Only: Week 46

Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.

The consumerization of IT has liberated the workplace. It has freed users from the tyranny of IT command and control. Each and every one of us who has a capable mobile device can act as our own IT department. We can add and remove apps and services at our own discretion. We can also easily procure and maintain our own devices.

The downside of this trend is that many of the costs associated with mobility have been pushed down to the end user, the employee. This could be anything from the cost of the device, to apps, to the monthly bill. The myth of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) as a cost savings measure has many senior executives salivating over the dream of reduced technology budgets. Shifting the burden of costs to the employee, besides being an accounting lie, is a dead-end strategy adopted by shortsighted organizations that will eventually find themselves on the losing end of workplace satisfaction and financial
success.

Besides cost savings, another common argument for BYOD is that through mobile enablement you will get more hours worked per employee; 2 hours a day, 460 over the course of a year says a recent study. But this too is really a shortsighted approach to mobility. While you may get more overall hours, you will also have the introduction of personal activities, such as checking Facebook, during the day.

Approaching mobility as way toward value-engineering the IT budget or extending the reach of business into our personal time is a proverbial sideshow and doesn’t fully leverage the power of the platform. The value that mobility provides organizations is that it enables a custom-tailored work experience that can maximize human capital.

Technology has enabled many aspects of our lives to go from a broad, one-size-fits-all experience to a narrow, targeted experience. For example, in the US, we used to only have four television channels—ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. You had limited options and everyone basically had the same broadcast experience. Now the amount of content and media at our immediate disposal is overwhelming (Pink Floyd had no idea how many channels of sh@# there would be to choose from).

Like a pair of designer Diesel jeans, one size does not fit all. The web, combined with just-in-time manufacturing, has conditioned us to expect the ability to custom order the products and services we consume. What just-in-time manufacturing has done for goods, mobility will do for the workplace; custom tailor your work experience to the right mix of apps and devices on demand.

Why should an organization put effort into anything beyond a company standard? Because, just as in education, everyone approaches learning from a slightly different angle. Providing the ability and flexibility to adapt to individual needs produces good long-term results. Imagine if you applied the same thinking to your place of work. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for standards, just that the approach to mobility should account for variation.

A PC doesn’t allow for that custom experience. Applications generally need to be installed and maintained by IT personnel. With mobile devices, individuals can install and uninstall apps on their own; no IT required. Individuals can find that right mix of devices and services that expose their full work potential. This has never before been possible—a custom-fit work experience. We are in a transition of going from a broadcast to a narrow-cast work experience.

Yet, too many companies have their IT spending priorities backwards. They view mobility solely as an IT expense. It’s a burden rather than an opportunity. Even worse, they view it as a chance to squeeze every last minute and work effervescence out of their employees. But let me be very clear on this point—the opportunity at hand is not a financial or time card issue, it is an enablement issue. Mobility offers the means to enable the workforce in a way never before possible.

People (specifically salaries) are often the largest expense in an organization. Why would you not wield those resources to their fullest extent? Why this cutting-corners approach to mobility? Businesses need to stop stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime (10c).

Smart organizations will develop a strategy to provide employees with capable devices, apps, and services. Information will free-flow through the organization (with the right security context, of course) and adapt to the way employees want to access and manipulate it. As well, smart organizations will develop healthy guidelines for a good work/life balance. Companies that embrace the value of mobility rather than value engineering will lead in the next era of computing.

Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://remotelymobileblog.com

One Comment

  1. Posted January 22, 2013 at 11:50 | Permalink

    Good stuff, Benjamin. I think the key point that usually gets glossed over is the need to maximize the production from your people.

    Lots of folks get hung up on your points at the top of the piece – do you really get an extra 460 hours annually from your employees? How much should we subtract for in-day mobile distractions? Let’s put a number on this and calculate the ROI!

    You gotta take a step back and recognize that when employees are enabled to go mobile, their satisfaction skyrockets. They aren’t tethered to their desk, which means they have the opportunity to work anywhere as needed. It’s stressful to ignore other parts of life while you’re in the office from 9-to-5, and mobility helps to cure that.

    Are your weak employees going to get weaker, as they are tempted by the distractions of mobile? Sure. But you should be cutting them loose anyway. Assemble a team of “A” players (thanks Steve Jobs) and mobilize them – you’ll be blown away by the production and loyalty you can build.

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