by January 8, 2010 0 comments

IT has made it possible for today’s enterprise workforce to become
increasingly mobile. The term, ‘Anywhere Office’ is a reality now. Whether it is
a senior executive or a sales personnel, everybody is working on the go now. The
office-bound employees are decreasing as most of them are able to connect to the
information they require for their daily work productivity on notebooks or
mobile phones, thanks to the all pervasive Internet connectivity. With the
advent of wireless communication, the employee is not bound to his office
premises for work; instead he can deliver his work from anywhere. A worker can
work from locations that were never thought of before, like airport lounges,
coffee shops, hotels and even while commuting by train or a car. Thus, helping
the employee to be more productive.

According to an IDC report, across the world 30.4% of the workforce will be
mobile in 2011. With mobile workforce expected to account for more than a
quarter of the world’s population, IT has been a great enabler for that, but
along with the benefits that an organization can have from mobile workforce
there are issues and challenges that are critical to be resolved to achieve
success. At the recently concluded PCQuest Infrastructure SummIT 2009, mobile
workforce management was one of the sessions that was taken up by the prolific
speaker Nina Godbole. She has authored books on Information Security Management
and Software Quality Assurance. At her session on mobile workforce management
she talked about key issues and challenges that come with it.

"Mobility is not just about technology, it is about choosing the right
applications for the right people, to be deployed in a mobile and a remote
manner. If that happens I am sure it will increase and support the
productivity and open the opportunity for many unprecedented things that we
have ever thought about. "

Nina Godbole
, Independent Researcher

Mobile Workforce isn’t new
The workforce has always been mobile, for instance the sales personnel had to be
out of office to meet vendors and prospective customers. What has changed now is
that now field workers can use handheld devices to get access to business
information held on back-end databases of their organizations. Thus there is
need to deal with the requirements of such employees who are always on the move
and need access to an organization’s business information. The employees would
be using their notebooks or smart phones to access the organization’s
information. If employees lose their devices then such sensitive information can
be compromised. Therefore IT managers of the organizations have to consider
automated tools that provide proactive monitoring and desktop management
capabilities to ensure compliance with IT policies. Also, organizations have to
implement stringent IT governance, regulatory compliances and security policies
to ensure that their information assets are safe beyond their premises.

Enabling a mobile workforce
There isn’t any other industry that has seen such tremendous growth as witnessed
by the Indian telecom industry. Fuelled by increasing mobile networks providing
wireless Internet connectivity, and also with notebooks becoming affordable, the
Indian workforce is also morphing into a mobile workforce. Organizations are
setting up their VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) to enable their employees to
work from remote locations. Handheld devices like PDAs and smart phones are also
becoming more powerful, and replacing notebook usage for most of the work. As
government is also releasing wireless spectrums for technologies like 3G, this
will also help in enabling mobile workforce.

Its not just technology that has been the driver for employee mobility, but
also the factors of globalization and changing nature of work. Organizations are
implementing policies wherein they ensure that the employee does not have to
spend most of his time at work away from his family, hence providing a work-life
balance, which in turn has also been a reason for organizations for enabling
employee mobility.

Challenges faced
Managing mobile employees also termed as untethered workers creates some
difficult challenges for an organization. The foremost of them being the
information security issue. With so much of information flying around beyond the
organizational premises, how can one secure the information? Another issue that
organizations face is of keeping tabs on all the wandering devices that are
being used by the mobile workers. Also integration of personal mobile phones and
employees’ home WLANs with organizations firewalls is also a technical
challenge. Not only the firewall integration, but also application integration;
for instance, will the PDA be able to accept communication from a particular
business application. Such issues are common while an organization opts for
enabling a mobile workforce.

Since, security is the primary concern; organizations should enforce password
policies at the device level. The user authentication should always be through
SSL to ensure secure communication. And software like remote management can
track and monitor policies of notebooks as well as some compatible smart phones.

In case the user misplaces the device, such software allow the IT manager to
destroy the information stored in the device or make the device unusable. Also,
the device can be traced, thus limiting the possibility of any misuse of the
organization’s information through that lost device.

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