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The mobile worker: Connectivity and convergence in Asia Pacific

We hear a lot about the “mobile working,” and recently the term “workplace of the future / for tomorrow / next-gen workplace” has evolved into the enterprise mobility vocabulary. The question really is:

  • What does this mean?
  • How do we leverage it?

In this first post of a 10-part series, we’ll have a look at how the modern mobile worker runs their work and personal life, identify the convergence of these and highlight both some of the benefits and challenges for an organisation in enabling and supporting this style of working – many of whom are senior and high value assets to the organisation, and are increasingly leveraging the tools and devices in the “twilight” zone of IT.

I’m an example of the modern mobile worker, and a typical working week for me encompasses at least six different places of work.

Let’s look at last week for example:

  • I spent Monday morning in the office in Singapore in meetings with my team, then headed off to Changi airport lounge to catch a flight to Hong Kong.
  • Took a couple of calls in the taxi, followed by an hour or so in the airport lounge catching up on the emails I’d missed all morning.
  • Spent the next four hours on the plane to Hong Kong editing some presentations and preparing for the rest of the week’s meeting before catching the MTR to finish some edits off in my hotel room. That’s five different work locations in 12 hours.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on client sites, interspersed with taking calls and emails from various coffee shops between meetings, and time spent with our local team in our Hong Kong office before the reverse commute back to Singapore.
  • Include the time spent on Thursday and Friday in Singapore, and that’s more than 20 working locations in five days.

Disappointingly for me, I’m definitely not unique with this sort of schedule.

IDC suggests there will be 1.3billion mobile workers by the end of 2015. That’s over 37% of the total global workforce, with around 880million of them in Asia Pacific, the fastest growing region, and Japan.

The number of ways I communicate is equally varied: phone, email, SMS, video and of course apps like WhatsApp and LINE. Asia is leading the way in adoption of mobile messaging with over 1.4billion active users of various services. Maybe it’s because people are mobile, but it certainly seems like WhatApp is the default way to reach me these days (even during the weekends, which we’ll explore this in a later post), replacing email and phone calls as the first options.

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I’ll also use at least three devices on my travels: an Apple MacBook, a tablet, and my Android smartphone. Different devices with different operating systems for different functions, but all are connected, all are owned by me, and all need access to my corporate data and applications for me to be productive.

It’s this access to data and applications that forms the key to mobile working. Obviously this has major implications from an IT perspective. With an expected 5.4billion connected devices in APAC by 2020, this blurring of the personal and corporate environments is going to continue to evolve, bringing serious management headaches for IT departments across the region. After all, once I have enabled my personal devices for work, I then start using my mobile applications to communicate with people and enhance my productivity.

How is IT supposed to support me? Is it their responsibility to support the integration of these apps with corporate systems? How do they do that when they no longer have control of the underlying operating system? Furthermore, nine of the top 10 non-game based mobile application downloads in 2014 were social media based, and all enable the sharing of information, whether it’s photos, files, videos or simple communications between employees over WhatApp or LINE.

It’s this shift away from traditional consumption and provision of IT resources that is driving the steady but unrelenting decoupling of applications, data and devices, to enable the segregation of our business and personal technological lives.

With this form of communication becoming ubiquitous across lives are business, family and social, and the growth of cloud storage – Dropbox has over 300 million users globally, with 98% registered as consumer rather than enterprise, there is also significant security and compliance concerns for the corporate IT department.

With more than 65 different versions of data protection laws around the world, and Asia Pacific having some of the most demanding regulations, particularly in the financial services industry, the biggest challenge is often finding the balance between ensuring compliance and leveraging the benefits of employees having access to the information they need, wherever they are. How can an organisation ensure the security of data, both at rest and in transit, whilst retaining the ease of use of consumer services like Dropbox and WhatsApp?

Mobility as means of productivity is not going away any time soon. KPMG reported recently that 54% of business say mobility increases in employee productivity and 43% say enabling mobile working increases in revenue growth. Citrix tell us that 63% of enterprises believe mobility to be the biggest factor in helping to drive competitive advantage, and CIOnet research shows a truly enabled mobile worker to gain around 240 hours of productivity a year – that is 30 8-hour workdays.

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It’s no surprise that organisations are seeking the keys to unlock these benefits. In our next few posts, we’ll be exploring each of these concepts and challenges in greater detail, digging into the world of the mobile worker, and identifying the key areas of focus for both IT and business leaders to enable them to drive real value from their modern mobile worker.

Dave

Dave is the next-generation of mobile worker and is on the journey to enabling work-life freedom for other next-gen...