7 Considerations for Mobilizing Your Workforce: Building a Technology Program for Success

Written by Ron Charity. Posted in Social & Mobile Workplace

Companies are mobilizing their workforce to better serve clients. As a result, the corporate office space is being adjusted for touchdown type work activities, which include quick meetings, planning the day and doing paperwork such as expenses. While on the road, airports, hotels and the local coffee shops have become regular work and meeting locations. To be successful in this new work style, mobile professionals must have access to key applications, information and contacts.

In this article, Ron Charity explains key considerations and options, and how to build a roadmap for mobilizing your workforce from a cultural, office and technology perspective.



Traditional Office Culture of Good Ol' Days

The traditional corporate culture is based on the workforce working from and interacting face to face in the office. Remember when people would arrive to the office around 9am and work through the day having face to face meetings and participating in water cooler conversations? The office setup consisted of pre-allocated desks, filing cabinets and printers. Some had video conferencing systems and many used the in-office phone to contact people. Working with multiple time zones outside of your local 1-3 hour difference wasn’t the norm. When you finished up at 5pm you were disconnected from the job for the evening and weekends. No surprises, many of us worked this way and still do – depending on a job function.

Work and management styles were based on having a line of sight to co-workers, and managers had a line of sight to their reports. The employee tether, as Forrester (July 2006) called it in one of their reports, tied staff to their desks.  It was mostly unheard of, or frowned upon, to work from home or a location that has Wi-Fi.

Mobile Office of 2013

With companies expanding their presence globally through M&A and partnering with outsourcing companies to reduce costs, the need for flexible work arrangement has increased due to the differing and wide time zone coverage. Also, organizations have reduced their office space footprint to minimize costs associated with real estate, office furniture and supplies.

airportThe mobilized corporate culture is based on people that work from where they need to in order to service clients, and collaborate with coworkers and business partners. Working from airports, hotels, cars, coffee shops and home is now very common. Some job functions, such as consultants and sales people, must work this way most of the time. Meetings over the mobile phone or video are more common, though still have not fully replaced face to face meetings, or participation in lunchroom conversations. Some job functions are better suited to be in the office – distance hampers productivity. The office setup now consists of shared and pre-allocated desks, filing cabinets and printers. Some have video conferencing systems and many still use the office phone to contact people, but not necessarily as their primary device.

The use of mobile devices can extend the employees’ workday a few hours on occasion, and to cover multiple time zone coverage, without lasting negative impacts – but is a management headache. Traditional management styles are challenged to adjust their views on how to measure employee performance and trust employees that are mobile. Some managers view performance as their employees sitting at their desk to carrying out job tasks and activities to achieve their goals. For example, I’ve heard of cases where the office managing director would take attendance every day and maintain a list. In the mobile world this is a dead managing approach.

Today we are more connected than ever and there is an expectation that we’ll be available to cover multiple time zones beyond our continents and that we’ll respond almost immediately at any time. Trends show that mobility will continue to grow as companies learn to manage the culture and continue to mobilize applications as best makes sense.

7 Considerations for Mobilizing an Office

A few years back, I was fortunate enough to watch the transformation of a company I worked for. They were a traditional corporate office, had mobile sales staff, administration, and each employee was assigned a desk (cubicle with storage space). Growing through acquisition, they had several offices with some well utilized and not so well utilized space. With pressure (from both M&A and market) to reduce cost structures, they had to rethink their real estate strategy, office space and how to support a corporate population it couldn’t afford (perhaps didn’t want to) to house in corporate offices.

Realizing they required a real estate / office rethink, the company hired a consultant to assess the situation and develop a program to optimize workspace utilization and mobilize staff. When speaking with the hired consultant back in 2005 about what he was doing for the company, and the consulting services I offered around collaboration, I learned we had similar goals. With both our perspectives combined, it enabled me to better understand why companies are taking this route. It also helped me understand why several employees and managers that have not worked in such an environment pushed back when they heard about this new program. For example, the most common push backs were statements such as, “you’re pushing me out of the office – you want to fire me,” or, “allowing employees to work from home or on the road will lead to productivity loss”. Yes, remote teams will lose productivity in some cases. If you separate people, they will lose productivity, but how much? How does it impact overall cost?

To mobilize office, what must you do? Here are the 7 key areas to think about:

1. Cultural impact to plan for

  • Perception and reaction to workplace change
  • Enabling and supporting mobility
  • Human resources and communications
  • Changes to management styles


2. Management adoption

  • How to measure management adoption
  • Cultural and attitude roadblocks
  • Retraining requirements
  • Monitoring and reporting


3. Staff performance management

  • How to measure performance of mobile staff
  • Changes to performance management plans
  • Measuring productivity


4. Office redesign / optimization

  • Changes to office, desks and equipment (supplies)
  • How people touch down and get productive webinars
  • Access cards, badges and keys
  • Shipping, receiving and mail (e.g. process and who to contact)
  • Coffee & catering (e.g. coffee stations, venders to contact)
  • Customer and visitor hosting


5. Mobile devices costs and justification

  • Measuring productivity loss and impact to cost structure
  • Employee retention – reduction in turnover
  • Cost of mobility program and ROI


6. Mobilizing applications / technology costs

  • Which to mobilize and how?
  • Using off the shelf applications
  • How to maintain the applications (e.g. Having an app store, distributing updates)
  • Device provisioning and management (e.g. managing settings, distributing applications)
  • Justification – cost / benefit – desired outcomes


7. Security risks

  • Device loss and / or damage (e.g. ability to wipe data)
  • Data loss or corruption from virus’s (e.g. backup and recovery)
  • Mobile device management (e.g. report on location)


Though not the focus of this article, there are many aspects of mobility - office design and cultural change - that must be addressed before mobile technology will be adopted on a wide enough scale to deliver the expected outcomes of maintaining or improving productivity while reducing costs and inefficiencies. For more information, Gartner has some excellent articles and reports on the subject.

Enabling Your Mobile Office with Technology

Conducting a Feasibility Study

Before diving into the mobile technology aspects of your mobility program, I suggest you first conduct a feasibility study. This study helps you obtain the organizational support you require in the form of cooperation from key areas of your company and appropriate levels of funding to support your program.

The study would include interviews with:

  • Target users of mobility
  • IT departments (e.g. project management, architecture, infrastructure, applications)
  • Third-Parties (Outsourcing companies)
  • Compliance and security offices
  • Financial analyst

The outcome of the report should identify the user community, cost / benefit of mobility, risks, and applications they need to access to achieve the expected results. Also, the report would contain a first pass at estimating cultural, office, device, technology gaps and options, security and third party contract impacts to name a few.

Specifically, you will know the following as an outcome:

1.  If there is merit in mobilizing the target users

    • Reduced travel costs
    • Increased work time for billing
    • Reduce time looking for information
    • Greater productivity – can work anywhere

2.  What use cases / scenarios offer efficiency gains and which office cost saving opportunities

    • Can work longer at a client’s office
    • Reduce need to travel to office
    • Reduction in office space

3.  The applications required by the users when mobile to achieve the expected outcomes

    • A list of applications (e.g. billing, CRM, knowledge systems, time entry, travel and expenses to name a few).

4.  The mobile devices that must be supported (e.g. iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and Android)

    • OS types and versions to support
    • Devices and features for support

5.  Gaps in current technology infrastructure

    • Security access for mobile devices
    • Mobile device management
    • Applications ability to be mobilized (e.g. just need UI or complete rethink) - Mobile Web Apps vs. Native apps - How to make the right choice (Lionsbridge White Paper 2012)

6. Gaps in application development, testing, provisioning and maintenance

    • Whether you require a MEAP (e.g. Kony, Antenna)
    • To build in house or contract to an app factory
    • Using of the shelf applications
    • Procedures and policies for SDLC

7.  Security requirements for infrastructure, applications and devices

    • Mobile Device Management (e.g. MobileIron)
    • Infrastructure components and changes
    • Operational changes such as monitoring and reporting

8.  Impacts to third-party contracts (if you have outsourcing agreements)

    • Infrastructure or services you have outsourced that touch mobility


Managed by the Project Management Office (PMO), your Mobile Program must have formal project management disciplines applied to ensure quality, timely delivery and manage risks. Specifically, under your mobility program you will have several work streams such as office renovation, human resources and communications, infrastructure, applications and device provisioning and management.

Proof of Concept

The proof of concept will help you prove whether your mobile program will deliver on its expected outcomes and if your deployment and operational plan will sustain it. It being all the components, whether they are office, technology or people related.

Specifically for the proof of concept, you must focus on the following:

  • Governance program – linking stakeholders to steer the program and agree on changes as required – creates alignment and agility, optimizes IT spend and quality of service offering
  • Human resources and communications plan – changes to people management required
  • Office readiness – changes to the office to enable mobility
  • Application development – you have your MEAP and SDLC process in place or have chosen an App factory for outsourcing your development
  • Operations and support – changes to help desk and operations to support the new office layout, technology infrastructure and devices
  • Device Management – mobile device provisioning, application store and ongoing management
  • Risk management – throughout your planning process you identified risks and a plan for addressing them

Full Deployment

Your proof of concept delivered the expected outcomes and you want to deploy your solution fully within the organization? The full deployment leverages the lessons learned from conducting the proof of concept. Before deploying you will most likely have to address potential issues with your plan and address unforeseen risk. You might also decide to make changes, such as outsource application development, since you might have a need to build hundreds of mobile applications. The details of a full deployment are beyond the scope of this document and are specific to the realities of your company. But, my advice is to leverage the learnings from your proof of concepts and plan.

The following are goals to keep in mind:harmonie-mobile

  • Enable productivity
  • Are pleasant and comfortable
  • Safe and well-utilized
  • High energy environments – collaboration hubs
  • Support various work styles and needs
  • Facilitate individual work and collaborative
  • Are flexible for continuous evolution
  • Worthy of high employee satisfaction ratings

Remember, your Mobile Program must be established and managed by the PMO and will have several work streams such as office renovation, human resources and communications, infrastructure, applications and device provisioning and management. Before tackling the above, it’s important to do your homework and not get caught up in the hype – make sure you can achieve the expected outcomes your company requires.

SharePoint Applications for iPad and iPhones

For applications, consider off the shelf products for usage scenarios where your staff requires access to SharePoint content.  A variety of options are available for accessing Microsoft SharePoint on the iPad. In this related article I provide insights on using the native iPad browser as well as the top 4 SharePoint Apps for iPad and iPhones.

Further Reading

For those that want to read more on this subject the following are materials available through various channels:

  • Erica Driver, “Untethering Information Workers,” Forrester Research, July 2006
  • Herman Miller, Inc., “Working at Home,” Herman Miller internal research report, June 2008
  • IDC, “IDC Predicts the Number of Worldwide Mobile Workers to Reach 1 Billion by 2011,” IDC press release, January 15, 2008
  • Andrea Coombes, “Seeking Loyal, Devoted Workers? Let Them Stay Home,” Wall Street Journal, September 11 007
  • Debra Moritz and Jennifer Samuells, “Gaining Buy-In for Alternative Workplace Strategies,” Jones Lang LaSalle, 2005
  • SharePoint 2013 Capabilities – Mobility
  • What’s new for mobile Devices in SharePoint 2013
  • Hype Cycle for Mobile Device Technologies - Gartner July 2012
Ron Charity
Author: Ron CharityWebsite: http://ronjcharity.wordpress.com/
Ron has worked with SharePoint since its Tahoe beginnings and has done a variety of work for clients in different industries and countries. Currently Ron works for a large US bank designing and deploying scalable and versatile SharePoint solutions.


# Boston 2015-01-01 22:10
I did the later.
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