What’s been dubbed the ‘bring your own device’ trend is just the latest example of the influence of the emerging ‘smart generation’, people who will happily switch between PC, tablet and smartphone and see no need for a desk phone or, indeed in some cases, a desk.
In many companies, these employees are driving real changes in IT infrastructure, expecting as they do ready access to data and applications regardless of which device they are using or where they are using it. They fully expect to be able to communicate via instant messaging, video, web conferencing, and social media.
These expectations have a particular resonance for housing providers whose highly mobile workforce, diverse client base and budget constraints make ‘smart’ mobile working particularly compelling.
Mobile working priority
This was recognised earlier this year in Housing Technology’s 2011 report, ‘The Blueprint for IT’. The report concluded that mobile working, “should remain the highest priority, covering field-based workers such as maintenance staff and surveyors with smartphones and handheld devices as well as enabling flexible and remote working for in-house staff through VPN and web-based services”.
So what are the benefits and how do you go about enabling this way of working?
There are benefits across the board:
- Improved working environment – with staff working in the way that they prefer, they will be working at their best. In addition, because they will have immediate access to all the information they need, they should be working at pretty much 100 per cent efficiency.
- Cost savings – using standard consumer technology rather than ‘business’ IT will reduce capital costs. And with staff often out of the office, the need for desk space will be reduced as hot-desking can be introduced.
- Enhanced application management – mobile working tends to require more open IT architectures which means that changing user requirements can be addressed faster and more easily.
Perhaps the most important benefit comes from mobile working’s chief enabler – cloud computing. With its pay-monthly voice and data services and its promise of budgetary certainty, business agility and greater productivity, cloud computing already offers many benefits. For mobile working in particular, it brings important management and scalability benefits through software-as-a-service, with hosted applications readily available to employees whether they’re in the office or working remotely.
So if you’re still not sure what cloud computing is, or if recent disasters related to the flaky, insecure public cloud have made you wary of the rock-solid enterprise-grade cloud too, now is the time to brush up your knowledge and find out the difference. The era of real mobility is just around the corner. Look at just one key indicator – smartphone sales which have more than doubled from 54m to 110m between the first quarter of 2010 and 2011. Plus media tablets are selling in huge numbers, with 19.5m iPads sold in the last year alone. And, against that backdrop, PC sales are down by almost 25 per cent over the same period.
It is not fanciful to suggest that in many companies, it’s the end users who are driving business change and it is entirely possible that a company’s technology is going to be a real factor in recruiting and retaining good staff. Housing providers who can find a way of marrying the ‘smart generation’ with cloud computing may well find themselves with a rosier future than those whose IT remains deskbound.
Richard Quine is divisional product director for voice & unified communications at InTechnology.