You can’t stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere.

When I left the IT security space and moved into the mobility space, I got a lot of strange looks.  Many people wondered why I was moving away from cloud and security and abandoning it for nice, shiny gadgets like tablets and smartphones.  I still get the odd looks from people trying to figure out the correllation, and it’s only after sitting down with them that they realize that cloud has a LOT to do with mobility. In fact, if it wasn’t for mobility, some of the greatest innovations that are coming from cloud methodology wouldn’t exist.  It’s thanks to mobility that the next wave of employee enablement is going to exist.  Here’s why.

Mobility is a funny thing.  Most people still think of it as a consumer trend that has no place in the workforce, yet if you look around you at every meeting, and if you are a commuter like myself, just about every businessperson seems to be glued to their smart device.  We’ve become obsessed with being connected at all times, whether good or bad.  Customers and employees have now started to prefer electronic communication over traditional methods, and it’s time business start to really embrace that this will forever change the way they operate.

Let’s start with employees.  Employees are a demanding bunch, I’m no exception. We have our unique workstyles, and if you enable them by giving them the preferred tools, the sky is the limit.  Gone are the days when we needed chunky laptops with high performance, instead employees are looking for sleek ultrabooks, convertible tablets and smartphones that allow them to better access resources. The problem is that even with these devices, there is a huge bottleneck when it comes to enablement.

First, back-end systems need to evolve to support new workstyles.  Better applications that support mobile platforms, easier access to resources, and virtual desktops are great examples of how you can ensure that no matter which workstyle your employees prefer, they can effectively do their jobs without being tied down by old, ineffective legacy systems.  Imagine your sales teams being able to spontaneously present to customers without the need of a laptop and projector.  Today’s interactions are focused on solution selling and storytelling, not the old ball and chain presentations.  Getting resources off the old systems and into new, easy to access repositories means less Dropbox and more employee enablement.  After all, the easier you make it for employees to use different platforms, the less likely they will go around your controls to make it happen.

Second, and this one is one of my favorites as it often gets overlooked: Mobile, as in cellular based, devices can be more secure by default than wi-fi connected devices.  Yes, you read that right.  Why are tablet and laptop manufacturers now starting to embed LTE and other cellular modems into their products?  Simple, the market is realizing that aside from the benefit of allowing employees to work from anywhere without connecting to a wi-fi network, it eliminates a lot of the security headaches that comes from managing these devices.  For every wi-fi device that needs to meet corporate security requirements, there is a wealth of work that needs to be done.  While all devices should have some form of encryption, wi-fi devices are especially vulnerable since they not only need to be protected when connected to public and unsecured wi-fi, but in order to manage all the devices that use the corporate wi-fi, security folks need to implement a WEALTH of back-end solutions to manage the integrity of the wi-fi itself.  Think of all the rogue devices trying to get onto your corporate wi-fi, that is a lot of points of entry!  What about when these corporate devices get connected to unsecured public wi-fi?  It’s clearly a corporate security nightmare.

Cellular-enabled devices on the other hand, leverage their own spectrum to connect to the internet, making them inherently more secure.  It’s a lot harder to crack cellular than wi-fi, and the need to connect to sketchy third-party public wi-fi is practically eliminated.  Not to mention the reduction in wi-fi complexity required for the corporate network.  Plus, when your sales reps are talking with customers, there is no need for them to figure out how they will connect to the corporate network.

Lastly, for folks who work in industries which consist of remote locations, it just makes sense.  Instead of setting up office environments to facilitate business communications and collaboration, why not just leverage mobile networks?  Rugged tablets and laptops with cellular connectivity mean remote workers can have the full functionality of an office with devices that can stand up to harsher work conditions.  No need to mount wi-fi and other network connectivity, not to mention the staff to maintain it, meaning lower overhead costs and more flexibility for workers and companies alike.

I know its tempting to think that mobile devices are really a placeholder for corporate devices, but in reality, thanks to business simplification we are seeing emerge from the adoption of cloud, mobility in the workplace is going to become more critical if you want to enable your workers to be more productive and innovative.  After all, the happier and more productive your employees are, the happier your customers will be, and the mroe innovative your organization will become.

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