There are a variety of things that move business productivity towards a more mobile and often remote workforce. Some companies are simply "born in the cloud" and rely almost completely on remote resources working together, while others find that as they expand into new markets, it is far more cost effective to have a remote staff rather than establish an office with infrastructure. Other times it may be the result of an unforeseen situation, like a flood or fire, that pushes the workforce to mobilize.
Whatever the reason, the ability to maintain productivity amongst a distributed workforce is critical to operating your business and having a handle on how to effectively do so can give you a competitive edge.
Just as there are many different types of companies, there is an array of solutions for providing technology services to mobile and distributed workforces. And while each solution can meet specific needs, there are some over-arching aspects that should be the cornerstone of your mobile and remote workforce strategy.
While it goes without saying that communication is critical to successful teams, establishing the necessary tools to ensure that communication is effective and accessible to both employees and customers can be more complicated than just phone calls and instant messaging. Here are some key considerations:
From the internal team perspective, you should consider the need for a messaging application that provides not only one-to-one messaging but also one to many and group messaging. Additional considerations include the ability to have central storage of messages and the ability to search through messages as needed. It is also beneficial to have a messaging system that indicates user presence and, where possible, can integrate with your phone solution.
Presenting information visually to team members and customers is one of the easiest and fastest ways to convey a message. Every team should have access to a solution that can provide both presentation capabilities to others along with screen sharing and collaboration tools.
While much of the information shared amongst teams may be within core business applications, it is rare that businesses don't end up having files and documents that also have to be shared, not only internally, but often with customers. It is important to consider the level of security that is needed around documents and the granularity of access required to ensure that only those needing access to documents can gain it. Many popular services also allow for users to directly modify documents from the cloud and utilize features like file tagging for fast searches, versioning for review, and commenting on documents.
Depending on the type of organization the needs from a phone solution may vary. In any organization, consideration should be given to the ability to support remote workers as though they were just another extension on a premise-based system.
I Need Help With Mobility
Just as important as communication is the need for users to access your core business applications effectively in a remote setting. If your applications are web-based, then, there isn't much to do, short of ensuring that users have a secure mechanism in which to access those apps. However, if your applications are not web-based, you will need to consider how effective those apps are to mobile users. One of the most common methods for accessing core application remotely is through Virtual Private Networking (VPN). Most companies today take advantage of this connectivity, allowing remote users to securely access the companies network and in turn access applications.
Unfortunately, not all applications present themselves well over lower bandwidth solutions, like mobile and remote devices. In some cases, these usability issues can be overcome, but even the best application, published for low bandwidth, may not be user friendly on a smaller mobile device. To give your users the best experience, consider applications that meet your business needs but also provide versions that work well on your mobile workforce's devices.
Management and Security
A common concern around a mobile and remote workforce is how to manage the devices and keep data secured effectively. While there may be various levels in overall sensitivity of the data stored on users devices, at minimum, user devices should require either passwords or passcodes to access them, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access to company and user data stored on the device. Beyond this, there are a number of things that should be considered:
- What control of the device do I need should it be lost or stolen?
- What actions would I need to perform in the event the user suddenly left the organization?
- What types of data are users allowed to access on their mobile device?
- Should users be able to move data between company applications and personal applications?
- Do you need to lock the device down to only run company applications?
- In the case of laptops, is there data stored on it that you wouldn't want released to the public?
- Do you need to know the location of your mobile devices?
These are just a few of the questions you should answer as you release your data to your mobile and remote workforce. There are a number of mechanisms available to enforce policies on mobile devices, track location, remote wipe, fully encrypt, segregate work from personal data, as well as manage these devices remotely. A good plan up-front on how to handle mobile and remote workforces when it comes to security and management can save a lot of effort on the back end.
Mobile and remote workforces are already becoming more prevalent in today's business. Knowing how to effectively take advantage of this while maintaining security and control will help keep your business moving forward.
ProTech offers a suite of tools to help your business embrace a mobile work environment while protecting your organization. For more information, contact us.