Workers on the Move Use Mobility Tools to Boost Productivity
Mobile Workforce Transforming Business
April 25, 2005
By Terry Timm Moos, News@Cisco
Can you function without your cell phone? Can you imagine working without email? If you answered no, you are not alone. Just a few years ago, business organizations and their employees didn't rely on either technology. Nor did they rely on laptops, wireless handheld computers, or network access for broadband Internet and Wireless LAN 'hotspot' services - mobility tools that employees have come to expect today.
With a workforce that is becoming more mobile throughout the world, software applications and devices are becoming essential for people to do their jobs - helping them communicate or process information from remote locations. By maximizing access to critical information and company resources, wireless mobility networking solutions are impacting business behaviors and processes significantly.
Boosting productivity with mobility and accessibility
Mobility tools are a key to increasing workforce productivity, according to a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Cisco Systems. The survey explored primary drivers behind the increasing use of mobile devices, networks, and applications in business. EIU polled 1,500 computer users in various global industries to see how business processes and productivity levels are changing. The details are in Communications, Mobility and the Working World at http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/tln/research_studies/cisco_mobility.html.
Focusing on productivity levels in varying scenarios - the office, home, while commuting, at a customer site - workers believe they are more productive if they have access to corporate resources while doing business at remote locations (Figure 1). Further, employees who are satisfied with the way their companies help them work while on the move reported consistently higher levels of productivity.
In contrast, there is a steady drop in productivity as people move away from their desks to locations where corporate network access is limited or non-existent. "Wireless client devices and ubiquitous, secure mobile network connections are essential for improving productivity," according to Larry Lang, vice president and general manager, Mobile Wireless Group, Cisco Systems.
"Being mobile means being where customers, partners, prospects and suppliers are," said Lang. "If you can access the vital information you need for a customer meeting, you can respond quickly." Ninety-three percent of the respondents use mobility applications while traveling on business, with email and voice applications as the most popular. They credit the speed, reliability, and availability of communications tools for increasing professional efficiency and cutting response times.
Building the mobility culture
Larry Lang believes much of the shift to mobility is due to employers recognizing the value of a mobile, more productive workforce, especially in areas of customer satisfaction. Mobile workers prize the speed, reliability, and availability of communications tools for their ability to increase professional efficiency and to reduce response time to problems. "Wireless client devices and ubiquitous, secure mobile network connections are essential for improving productivity," he said.
The study results show that employers still have a way to go before adequate mobile tools and network connections are considered part of everyday corporate operations. "But they are getting closer every day," he noted. "As with most business changes, it starts as a competitive advantage, then it becomes standard."
Safeguarding business assets
"We are all striving to be more productive, and both employers and the networking community at large have to empower the workforce with robust mobility tools to reach that goal," said Lang. In building the mobility culture, businesses have to look at several factors, including the issues of security, cost controls, and how to keep the mobility tools usable.
Security is a significant issue for most organizations. With mobility tools accessing corporate networks, companies must safeguard their email, documents and other business data. Mobility devices, such as cell phones and laptops, are also vulnerable to theft. But the benefits of encouraging people to work on the move are real. "There is a trade-off," he added. "The more secure you can make your network, the better it is for your organization, but you also have to consider the convenience factor - that still has to be there for users."
Improving responsiveness to constituents
From a user standpoint, flexibility as to where and when people work improves responsiveness to colleagues, customers, and partners, and allows for faster decision-making capabilities. In a true mobile enterprise, users can stay connected and maintain high levels of productivity - from wherever they are (Figure 2).
"If you think about it, the least interesting place to be is at your desk," added Lang. "You aren't around your customers, prospects, partners or suppliers - and you really do need to get out where they are. These are the tools that help."
The poll-based Economist Intelligence Unit study complements the findings of another Cisco Systems mobility study, conducted by OMNI Consulting Group LLP, which examined government statistics and databases on how mobile data services increase workforce productivity. Data from both studies suggests the mobility movement is on, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Terry Timm Moos is a freelance journalist located in Seattle, WA.
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