What is the future of mobile working?
Mobile working can help housing providers deliver a more engaging, customer-centric service based on the principles of convenience and self-service. For example, mobile technology can reduce the amount of time tenants are left waiting for repairs and home improvements, by giving workers the ability to diagnose tenants’ problems remotely, and then calling for the required professional assistance. In addition, mobile also has the potential to improve payment methods, with mobile devices being able to be used as POS systems. Mobile working could also drastically improve housing providers’ internal operations by providing workers with a more effective communications channel.
All three of these possible applications have the potential to increase the efficiency, and productivity of housing providers’ staff while also working to increase tenant satisfaction levels, and thus having reputational benefits for the provider.
What are the benefits of employee-owned mobile devices (BYOD) vs. dedicated devices?
Enabling employees to use their own mobile devices has a number of primary benefits, both for the employee and the organisation. In terms of employee benefits, BYOD (bring your own device) enables worker flexibility, giving them the opportunity to interchange between working remotely, and within their organisation with great ease, again allowing for gains in both efficiency and productivity. Recent figures indicate that the average employee can save 80 minutes per week in productivity by using a personal device at work. Similarly, allowing employees to use devices they are already familiar with can help organisations become more agile, by reducing the amount of time needed to issue new devices and applications.
However, perhaps most importantly, the main benefit of using employee-owned devices would be that it can help housing providers cut costs. Market statistics indicate that enabling employees to use their own mobile device at work could save businesses up to £1,000 per employee per year, with those savings then redistributed to other areas.
Yet, as in any other sector where employees can use their own devices, the issue lies in how these devices are secured. Allowing a privately-owned device the ability to connect to a corporate network immediately raises concerns for the business, with the possibility being that malware on the device may spread to the company servers. On the flipside, employees using their own devices for work may want guarantees that any productivity monitoring tools in place aren’t going to steal their sensitive data and share it with their bosses.
As a result, housing providers need to make decisions regarding the extent to which individuals are allowed to have their own information available on devices, whether this means shutting devices off completely so that they run in ‘kiosk mode’ or only allowing certain applications to run.
How can housing providers make better use of mobile devices?
It is crucial that housing providers wanting to make better use of mobile devices ensure they are easy to use. Improving mobile device usage is driven by the user experience, and as a result housing providers should focus their efforts on making sure their mobile devices are easy to deploy, and that the installed applications are easy to access and easy to use. For example, apps such as MobileIron’s Mobile Threat Defense work in background mode; once the application has been downloaded to a device, the user doesn’t need to take any further action to activate the application. The user can then use their own device from anywhere, safe in the knowledge they are not putting corporate data at risk. Making sure the user experience isn’t too complex is key to fulfilling the potential of mobile devices.
For housing providers that are too small and/or slow to adopt mobile devices, why and how should they move to mobile?
The benefits of adopting mobile devices are irrespective to a housing provider’s size. For those that have been too slow to adopt mobile devices, it is probably due to either a lack of in-house expertise or a failure to realise the potential business value of adopting mobile devices. In either case, these organisations should engage with a trusted partner – somebody that understands the housing market, understands the technology and, most importantly, understands the organisation’s specific goals.
Even for those organisations that may be better placed to adopt mobile devices, partnerships can be extremely valuable. By enhancing and supplementing in-house knowledge, partnerships can save housing providers time and money, making them more agile, and as a result making them better equipped to adapt to whatever comes next.
How can housing providers better integrate mobile into internal business operations and external tenant activities?
It’s important that housing providers acknowledge the ‘future of work’ – the convergence of people, processes and technology. Therefore the best way to fully integrate mobile technology would be to use the technology, and ensure that employees understand not only how to use the technology but also the benefits of using the technology.
Once organisations have thoroughly integrated mobile into their internal business operations, the process of integrating it into their external tenant activities should be relatively painless. Much in the same way that in a hospital, a doctor or nurse would update a patient’s case in a way that is clearly visible in real time for the patient, housing providers can use mobile to keep tenants up-to-date on their case, subsequently enabling the tenant to see that the organisation is leveraging the technology with their best interests in mind.
What are the cultural challenges of mobile in housing?
The greatest challenges are based around a phobia of using the technology. This may be in a literal sense, with people being wary of using expensive devices in vulnerable areas, or it may be that the culture of the people being charged with using the devices is not particularly ‘tech savvy’. In fact, a recent survey found that the greatest barriers to digital inclusion in social housing were a lack of motivation among tenants about going online, and limited resources on the housing providers’ side to set up, manage and provide training for digital platforms.
The key to tackling these problems lies with making sure mobile services are easy to use, to the point that they become the preferred channel of communication for tenants. While for housing providers, it’s imperative that they provide training for their staff to use mobile devices, and that they trial the technology to the extent that both tenants and staff can see the benefits of going mobile.
David Critchley is the regional director for the UK & Ireland at MobileIron.