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Why mobile is driving the digital workplace

08.24.2013
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Here is an article I wrote for Intranets Today recently:

When intranets started around 20 years ago they were mainly used by people working with desktop PCs in offices.  People used intranets to find the latest news, up to date policies, reliable content and most importantly find and be able to contact other people in their organisation.

Now, as intranets are transforming into digital workplaces we see a wider range of information and tools available for people to use e.g. room bookings, online training and collaboration tools to share ideas and find out answers to work problems.

But there is a bigger factor why work is shifting from the physical workplace and the digital workplace is taking off.

The people who are increasingly using the digital workplace more can be categorised as mobile workers or home workers.  These people rarely spend time working in their organisation’s dedicated office space.

They will use a range of mobile devices when they have a need to use the digital workplace to help with their work.  These will include laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

More and more digital workplaces have to meet the needs of these mobile users.  Content and apps need to be designed so they can be used with these devices when they are needed.  And it is the point of need which is vital.

One of the biggest potential benefits of the digital workplaces for organisation is improved productivity.  One of the best ways to start achieving this is for people to be able to use the digital workplace when they need help with their work and not have to wait until they are back at home or in the office.

The time that is saved can benefit the organisation in several ways.  Firstly their employee is able to carry on with their work; secondly their work may help solve a customer problem more quickly helping customer service; thirdly it can give an advantage over competitors with a quicker sale; lastly it enables the person to do better quality of work and service.

There are also benefits to the person.  It is less stressful if you can complete a work activity while you are away from your normal place of work when you need to.  It means you don’t have to remember to do this when you back at your physical workplace or even worry about doing it.  Completing the task when you need to probably means you will do a better job than later when you may be tired, have forgotten something, or not feel you have let anyone down because of the delay.

The overall work/life balance can be more easily achieved when you can use the digital workplace when you need to with a mobile device.  It’s not just clearing a backlog of emails that you need to do.  There are many activities such as approving expenses claims, completing a survey, sharing your ideas on a discussion group to help other people, which benefit you if you can do them when you need to with the device you need.

For the people who own and manage the digital workplace for organisations it is vital the needs of mobile workers are considered when planning for the future.  You need to plan how content is presented; what key functionality is needed for tools; creating fewer steps in processes that need approval; designing navigation that helps people quickly get from A to B in the digital workplace using any mobile device.

It also means organisations need to address the growing demand for people who want to bring their own devices (or BYOD as it is more commonly known).  Using your own mobile devices, whether it is a laptop, tablet, smartphone or all of these – will increase productivity because you are familiar with how to use them.

The issue is making sure security is maintained when using an organisation’s digital workplace.  You need to have the right policies that mobile users can follow to authenticate accurately and quickly.  The culture and values need to be consistent with trusting mobile users to use their devices when they need to.  It is also about treating people to be responsible for their actions, enjoying the benefits but being aware of the risks they need to avoid.

Making sure the needs of mobile workers are central to your organisations’ digital workplace strategy will mean you are focusing on the right priorities to help to gain the biggest benefits.

My next post will be on barriers to adoption of mobile use by organisations.

Published at DZone with permission of Mark Morrell, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)