I have been researching mobile device management strategies for the past several weeks for a story. Today, I came across a useful Forrester Research report that suggests too many IT organizations still equate mobility strategy with laptops computers and aren’t yet asking the right policy questions about tablet computers or, in particular, smartphones.
Forrester’s new report is called “Does Your IT Department Support the Needs of the Mobile Workforce?” It suggests that businesses need to think more about the role of the mobile workers it is trying to serve — and what those workers are doing with their technology — in order to better manage mobile technologies as part of an overall IT infrastructure strategy.
By 2016, the research company predicts that 63 million U.S. information workers will telecommute at least part of the time, meaning that they will need mobile technology in order to stay connected. But what technology? The most important platforms for the time being are the notebook computer and the smartphone, although more organizations are raising questions about tablet computers for obvious reasons.
Based on its study of close to 5,000 U.S. information workers, Forrester Research suggests that IT organizations can divide potential mobile workers up into these 5 categories:
- Back-office employee: Even though these sorts of workers only work from the office during the week, they have emerging mobility needs. For example, Forrester discovered that approximately one-quarter of this population uses a notebook or laptop computer for work, while another 13 percent use a smartphone at work.
- Hypermobile professional: As you might expect from the word “hyper,” this is the group that spends the most time using some mobile technology — ANY mobile technology. They work from home, the office or even while in transit. Close to 90 percent of this group uses a laptop (wait, not 100 percent?); and almost 70 percent of them use a smartphone while at work.
- Part-time telecommuter: Someone who splits their time between the office and a work setting. Almost 60 percent of them use a laptop computer, but only 27 percent use a laptop more than a desktop. Forrester suggests that some of these workers might actually be overprovisioned — getting both a desktop and notebook — when just a mobile device, properly managed and secured, would probably suffice.
- Connected consultant: This is the sort of person who isn’t necessarily on your payroll, but who is definitely on your team. The nature of their position means that they split their time between being in an office (not necessarily your company’s office) and being on the road. Almost 43 percent use a smartphone at work.
- Remote-based technician: These workers spent almost all of their time working outside of a corporate office. It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that almost 60 percent of this group use a laptop; almost 40 percent use a laptop more than a desktop. (That latter statistic was the highest percentage for all of the mobile workers that Forrester Research studied in its report.)
Based on its study of the usage habits of these workforce types, Forrester Research suggests that IT organizations are missing the boat when it comes to strategies and policies that support mobile workers. Specifically, it suggests that companies look at the following:
- Do you have an adequate smartphone policy? Given the high numbers of smartphone users that the survey uncovered, businesses might do well to look at their policy and decide whether it is better to manage the devices that employees bring in or to deploy a “business-liable phone” that is more within the IT team’s sphere of influence to manage.
- Are you provisioning too many notebooks? When it comes to certain workforce types, such as a remote-based technician, companies may be better off deploying desktops with remote networking and virtualization technologies along with a smartphone for more flexibility. That’s because even though they are remote, these sorts of workers are often at a secured site in an office — even if it is not your company’s office. At the same time, it may be worth looking at whether certain people need two devices: maybe a notebook computer with the proper peripherals should serve as more individuals’ primary system.
- Consider paying for wireless services. This might encourage more engagement outside work hours AND better control costs that employees might be submitted as travel expenses. If nothing else, workers might consider this as a perk, especially if they are using a smartphone more on the company’s behalf than on their own.