Anyplace can be a workplace

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Anyplace can be a workplace

Mobiles are becoming more powerful, wireless transmission speeds are increasing, network coverage is improving, and applications are delivering more functionality.


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Published: Sun 3 Jun 2012, 10:24 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:23 PM

As a result, mobile workers are now able to access the same applications as office-based employees, albeit perhaps in a different form factor and context. In fact, the percentage of employees that are considered office bound is shifting, and industry analysts estimate that 60 per cent of the workforce would now benefit from some form of mobile collaboration.

Mobile collaboration is all about productivity. It is about enabling employees who are working out of the office or remotely to create, find, and share information and documents among all of the different desktops, devices, servers, and services to which they have access.

Information workers, service engineers and sales-force agents working in the field can routinely spend a great deal of their working day looking for the information they need to complete a task. For many of them, a significant amount of time is also spent managing these tasks, whether it is updating schedules and status reports or chasing others for information or decisions. This is a little like workers on an assembly production line having to fetch each component from the stores, or asking when the next batch of parts is going to be delivered.

With mobile collaboration systems, a company’s employees are able to work with colleagues or suppliers through secured ‘shared workspaces’ that can either be hosted on the company network or delivered as a managed service from the cloud. They can then work across different locations, such as home, hotels, and offices, and across and within different businesses, organisations, workgroups, and projects. They can also work across and between different IT regimes, business processes, and corporate policies.

Differing from traditional PC-based collaboration suites, mobile collaboration uses wireless and broadband connections to support collaboration independent of location. Where chat, presence and web conferencing has so far been limited mostly to the desktop and HD video-conferencing limited to boardrooms and telepresence suites, recent technology advancements have extended these and other collaboration features to hand-held mobile devices.

Mobile collaboration is actually changing the way employees interact between themselves and with their customers, especially where organisations have upgraded their collaboration infrastructure to get the latest ‘social’ and ‘mobile’ facilities. Businesses that have started to push the boundary of collaboration to embrace mobile devices like smartphones, tablets and mobile broadband enabled laptops, have discovered it helps reduce business latency. Thanks to high-speed mobile communications and powerful handheld devices, the ‘workplace’ can now be ‘anyplace’ with business conducted at any time.

Market analysts have recommended business consider several types of mobile collaboration systems, which can be deployed to good affect. These include:

Email and calendars — which synchronises images of desktop systems with mobile device, and allows people to access their messages and diary entries.

Document sharing — which allows secure storage and the sharing of documents online, between employees and/or suppliers.

Business blogs and wikis — these are secure community networks that allow employees to share various details, and view a variety of indexed information categories online.

Web conferencing — which allows conferencing events to be shared among employees, at different and remote locations.

Video-conferencing — which adds video to the above.

Enterprise chat — helps employees share details, insights and customer leads, and businesses interact with customers via a web application.

Presence — shows status information and indicators that show the availability and willingness of an individual to communicate.

Employee expertise directories — these allows employees to find colleagues with a specific type of knowledge or skill set using an on-line HR directory.

Among some of the most popular mobile collaboration systems are offerings like Cisco’s WebEx. With more than than one million mobile attendees and15 million+ mobile meeting minutes carried out every month, WebEx is now available as a native mobile app on iPhone, iPad, Android (including the Cius tablet), and RIM BlackBerry smartphones.

Roughly 200 million files a day are uploaded to Dropbox servers, which is another collaboration option that allows workers to store document, drawing or photo files securely using Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service, and transfer them safely using secure SSL web encryption. And everyone is aware of Skype’s audio and videoconferencing service, which also provides inbound and outbound dialing to fixed-line and mobile phones, and supports presence and chat, file sharing, and Wi-Fi access services.

Increasing numbers of organisations are also experimenting with other types of ‘business social software,’ with an increasing number evaluating cloud-based solutions and services such as Jive, Socialcast, Socialtext, Tibbr, and Yammer as a means of promoting employee collaboration. There are good reasons. According to an IBM 2010 Global Chief Human Resource study, 57 per cent of companies that have invested in social business tools like these have outperformed their peers, citing collaboration as directly impacting their organisations’ growth.

The mainstream adoption of social media and ‘smart’ mobile devices is changing the way businesses think about information work and this in turn is changing the very nature of enterprise collaboration solutions and technologies.

To date, enterprise collaboration solutions have helped organisations improve internal efficiency.

Mobile collaboration is definitely good for business, but it does require the support of an organisation’s IT management. Internet connectivity, both mobile and tethered to desktops, now provides information workers with unrestricted geographical reach and the ability to work with various organisations — whenever and wherever they want. However, productivity can be constrained by the collaborative range of office productivity tools and ingrained working practices.

Experts believe the time has come for enterprise collaboration to move on from simple collaborative exchanges to sophisticated collaborative experiences that encompass presence, proximity, and awareness through the use of multiple communication channels and mediums. In whatever form it may take, collaboration is an integral part of every business process. An organisation that can collaborate effectively, efficiently, and diligently will be one that outperforms it competitors.

The writer is chief commercial officer, du. Views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy

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