Worker mobility comes with the assumption that modern mobile devices are able to deliver on promises of high productivity and out-of-office performance. This hypothesis falls into the category of a “no-brainer”. It stands to reason that if a worker has unfettered access to voice and digital communications, productivity will certainly rise. Expanding on this theory, any reasonable person would conclude that access to corporate information will also accelerate productivity.

Since the advent of the smart phone (iPhone One in early 2007 to be specific) mobile devices have certainly given rise to the potential for increasing mobile productivity without a large monitor and keyboard nearby. But the magical productivity that some businesses and enterprise workers experience is not determined solely by the device, nor can mobile software alone account for mobile success. To truly understand how mobile productivity is achieved, we must investigate a combination of factors including the general IT climate, mobile operating systems, mobility training, and app selection.

Ultimately, mobile productivity is gated by apps – software designed to compel and assist enterprise workers to perform with precision and effortlessly while in and out of the office. Indeed, society and businesses have become app-centric and because of this, global businesses of all sizes have recognized the advantages of well-designed mobile apps as a key business driver in sustaining enterprise worker productivity.

The summary of a recent study by EMC2 showed that Federal employees gain nine hours of productivity per week as a result of using mobile devices for work-related tasks which translates into a $28 billion savings per year. 

In another study, also aligned with federal workers, Fierce Government IT’s poll indicated that workers across all categories claim weekly productivity improvements of 3 to 7 hours additional work time available. But an interesting data point emerged as well. Poll results show that those who use a tablet and a smartphone are significantly more likely to feel more productive than those who just use a smartphone – 92 percent versus 78 percent, respectively.

But there’s a hidden side of mobility that can dash the promises of better productivity and potentially counter the positive impact of modern mobile technology altogether. Threats to sustained mobile productivity come in many forms that are typically based in enterprise apps. These threats include but are not limited to:

  • Security and information accessibility issues
  • User interface designs that are inconsistent with desktop versions
  • Lack of simplicity and laser-focus on the problem domain
  • Concurrent editing and process control over information assets

To ensure that workers avoid the hidden costs and threats to mobile productivity, IT and business leaders must collaborate to strike a balance across many aspects of the mobile landscape to provide agility, access, and security.

With a little effort we can justify a focus on five key elements that influence mobile productivity. These are intended to be guideposts for creating a highly successful mobility strategy. Implementation options in each of these guideposts are numerous and no single approach can be considered ideal for all companies.
In a BYOD climate, workers are more confident about performing mobile tasks because they are intimately familiar with their own device. Embracing a provisioning model that is sublime and unlikely to impact the freedoms mobile users tend to seek out, are critically important. Securing and maintaining mobile devices on the enterprise networks must not impinge the known performance attributes of the employees device.
If apps in the field look familiar and work in similar ways, users are not distracted from the experience and are more able to focus on their work. This includes even the simplest of app mechanics such as security and login processes. And it encompasses the most complex aspects of processes such as the ability to comment on topics in precisely the same context that is already a known aspect on the desktop.
IT Climate
App selection is impacted significantly by the IT climate of the enterprise. All too often, mobile workers are given the freedom to pick and choose apps they prefer. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this behavior, IT has a duty to understand the most important business requirements of its mobile workforce. With this understanding, IT must locate and provision best-in-class apps, and gently guide users into the most productive use-case scenarios. But foundational to this objective is the need for operational harmony amongst the apps selected, and adequate training.
No other aspect of mobile computing interferes with productivity more than information latency; it must be eliminated. Real-time access to data and documents is essential while in the office, but absolutely critical in the field.  Organizations make huge investments in time and money to position people in locales that provide them with competitive advantage. When data is unavailable to these workers or untimely, the monetary and human capital impact is far greater than for an office worker inconvenienced by a server outage or latency in updates.
Operational Harmony
The best apps, by definition, are simple, elegant solutions designed with relentless attention to the mobile context; these apps require little or no training. The app market model prescribes a natural division of tasks into smaller chunks, resulting in the average business user accessing and employing 8 to 10 apps every day. These apps, and the business artifacts they create, must work in harmony; they must (for the most part) interoperate without friction. In a contextual sense, training is essential to establish a level of mobile productivity where apps must be used in a combined process to achieve mobile work objectives. Workers must be provided with effective training resources to ensure they know how to utilize their apps in the context of other apps, cloud services, and corporate content repositories.