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What did we do before the tablet?

Andrew Millard , 19 Aug 2011

Andrew Millard

The explosive growth in the adoption of personal communications devices in the workplace, known as consumerisation, is having a positive impact on businesses as they look to take advantage of the benefits offered by a more mobile workforce.

Individual employees are keen to use these tools for business as well as personal use, as they are intuitive and easy to use. In many cases, they are also seen as offering more sophisticated and useful functionality than those provided by the business.

More than one in ten small and medium sized firms in the UK are already successfully integrating the use of personal communications devices such as iPads, iPhones and Androids in the business. Those who have embraced this more flexible style of working are already reaping the rewards, as they report productivity gains of 30% and more.

These were among the key findings of a recent YouGov survey of more than 700 senior SME managers undertaken on behalf of Citrix Online, which examined how consumer-focused communications devices are supporting the drive towards a more flexible workforce.

More than one in five businesses are under greater pressure to increase workforce flexibility than five years ago. Yet surprisingly, by far the greatest driver for change is no longer external commercial forces or operational imperatives to cut travel budgets and other costs. Rapidly overtaking these has been the internal demand from employees looking to improve their work/life balance by using personal communications tools for both business and social purposes.

For staff, this gives them the ability to work in a way that best suits them, by enabling them to work equally effectively and securely out of the office - whether on the move, at home or in other remote locations. And the survey found that this bottom-up pressure was continuing to gain momentum, as over 40% of UK firms had seen this increase over the past 12 months.

Not only is such a move seen as making their lives easier but, for half of those surveyed, the personal device was seen as offering greater flexibility or functionality than that supplied by the employer. Tellingly, among senior executives themselves, the use of such communications tools is already almost ubiquitous, as only six per cent of respondents did not own a personal communications device.

This is a huge change, with major implications for the business. As the boundaries between office hours and personal time become less distinct, managers are losing control of how people work as individuals want to prioritise what they do. Little wonder then that there is so much resistance to 'workshifting', as managers have to adapt to evaluating performance on results over time rather than on the basis of physically seeing them working at their desks.

Consumerisation should be viewed as a positive trend, as these consumer-led technologies enable employees to take charge of their time, by self-prioritising in an effective and controlled way.

The role of collaboration

Though staff can realise the benefits of consumerisation immediately, SMEs have a long way to go in achieving better, more controlled device management. However, as the survey made clear, there is clear movement in the right direction. Many businesses are already adopting secure and proven remote access software, web conferencing solutions and remote IT tools, in supporting the changing way people work.

Looking ahead, more than two-thirds of businesses agreed that the dividing line between business and personal devices will become increasingly blurred, as part of the broader shift towards a more flexible, agile workforce.

In seizing the opportunities which this 'work anywhere, with anyone' approach offers with the support of affordable, easy-to-use collaboration tools, the business can drive improvements in customer satisfaction, productivity and staff satisfaction. Properly monitored and implemented therefore, the result of integrating and supporting personal devices in the work environment is that everybody wins.

Andrew Millard (pictured), senior director EMEA, Citrix Online

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