Friday, November 3, 2017

Digital Workplace Concepts 101: Mobile

Jeremy Williams, Sr. Director, Modern Workplace
Mobile / Platforms / Technology

Welcome to the next installment in the Digital Workplace 101 series; this week we’ll be covering the impact of properly supporting mobile devices in your Digital Workspace. In case you missed some previous installments, we’ve covered Personalization and Search. As a reminder, the goal of these posts is intended to be equal parts of definition, benefits of each capability, and some of the pre-requisites to properly support each capability. Without further ado, let’s dive in to Mobile.


Supporting mobile devices in your digital workplace is all about enabling your fellow coworkers to be equally productive no matter what device they’re on and no matter where they’re at – be it the office, on the road, in a plane, or in their home.[i] This [capability] is something that we all expect to work in our personal lives. For example, If I need to do some online banking, I can do that from my laptop, or my phone, or my tablet – and if my bank things something looks different about ‘me’ accessing my accounts (e.g. I’m accessing from a new device or from a new location), they’ll proactively apply more security before granting me access to my information. Regardless of what device I’m accessing, there’s a really good chance that I’ll be able to accomplish everything I wanted.

However, once we’re out of the consumer-world and into our enterprise, it’s oddly common to see very little mobile capability. It’s far more common to see scenarios where I need to access certain functionality through legacy applications that only run on corporately deployed hardware, or internal websites that aren’t mobile-ready (nor friendly), or I need to sign in to a VPN or VDI to gain access to the most basic of information.[ii]

While there are a variety of ways to enable your digital workplace for mobile, most initial strategies employ some mixture of responsive-design principles and/or native mobile applications. The key difference between these two approaches is how a user accesses the capability.

  • Responsive Website: Users access the same URL on their desktop or mobile device and the experience modifies according to the screen-size. This may be an attractive starting point for some organizations as it has a low overhead cost (no need to maintain or keep pace with an app and multiple app stores).
  • Native Application: Users launch (after the initial download) a native app on their mobile device, which then controls the entirety of the experience. These native apps may be provided by your platform partner, or you may choose to create your own custom native app(s) too as well. This is an attractive option for organizations that have a desire for functionality that isn’t otherwise (easily) available in responsive websites (e.g. rich notifications and deep device integration)

There are a myriad of other ways and strategies to supporting mobile in your enterprise, though I’ll keep those off the table until our 200 or 300-series posts.


Bottom-line, here’s why should you be fighting for a digital workplace that works anywhere, anytime, and on any device.

  1. Increased productivity: Mobile isn’t just about being able to work away from the office, it’s about remaining productive when you’re away from a full desktop experience. For knowledge workers, this could allow them to be productive between meetings (or even in meetings), for front-line workers, it can support them through Customer interactions (ever been in an Apple or Microsoft store), or it can completely replace the concept of bulletin boards and phone-trees as a means of communication.
  2. Your users expect it: Similar to our search discussion last week, this is a capability that the majority of the workforce has in their personal lives – it’s a capability they’re familiar with and providing the capability in the workplace sends a strong message that you’re (at least) keeping pace with technology. In today’s competitive-workplace, every little bit helps when considering employee retention, your mobile capability could be the thing that makes the differences for some of your employees.
  3. It can support larger workplace initiatives: Perhaps you have a flexible work policy, but due to a lack of easy mobile access people aren’t able to be productive when they’re not in the physical building. Or perhaps you have a green-initiative and you’re looking to reduce the vast amount of paper announcements/schedules/etc. posted in your breakrooms and common areas.

Here are some things to consider before embarking on implementing or improving mobile-access in your digital workplace:

  1. Security and compliance: The promise of being productive anywhere and anytime is powerful, but it increases organizational risk. Once going mobile, your IT stewards will likely have at least double the number of devices to manage (probably more) as well as having to manage and increased number of potential areas for breach. Thankfully, there’s a myriad of technologies out there to help secure the mobile workplace. [I won’t get into all those platforms and technology, but if you’re interested feel free to reach out - our Cloud and Infrastructure team can help]
  2. Be mindful of nonexempt employees: Given the regulations of your jurisdiction, there may be limits and/or impacts to providing mobile access to an exempt employee when they’re not actively working. There are controls around this (e.g. only allowing certain employees access when they’re on a shift.)
  3. What’s the core/initial workload to publish? If you haven’t made movement with mobile yet, consider what will be the easiest to achieve and will have the greatest impact – this will allow you to show value quickly, for a lot of people, and for a minimum of effort. Perhaps it’s a simple approval app experience for travel requests, or maybe it’s to provide access to open enrollment information…Regardless, consider the pilot-cases that can allow you to show success and expand from there.

Parting Thoughts:

Mobile, like all of the other capabilities of your digital workplace, can quickly turn into a vast landscape that can seem overwhelming. To mitigate this, consider the stepwise progression you can consider for your workplace – perhaps you can start with adding responsive design principle to your current key experiences, then move into native apps provided by your software vendor, then consider if there are key line of business systems that could leverage their own (or an aggregate) app. One thing is clear, in today’s ever-competitive markets, it’s easy to become complacent – and equally as easy for your competitors to surpass you due to limited tools and capabilities available to your employees – don’t let mobile access become your Achilles heel. As always, if you’ve got questions or need help with any of this, let’s talk.

[i] Yes – I recognize that it’s rare to (in an academic-sense) be equally productive on a phone and it’s challenging to get 100% feature-parity on mobile vs. desktop due to a myriad of challenges (device-capability, user capability, reasonable-usage in differing form-factors). As forward-thinking institutions and digital leaders, we should aspire to start with this capability by covering off on the most common use-cases, and expand from there.

[ii] IT Security and Compliance people, if you’re reading this – I completely understand your challenge to securing the enterprise. For the otherwise uninformed reader, there’s huge risk and high-expectations for protecting data, processes, and other information entrusted to our various institutions. My point around access is that we should consider how to best support our user’s ease of access of information while simultaneously applying the best amount of control to secure that information.

Jeremy Williams is Senior Director, Productivity & Collaboration, at Rightpoint. Follow Jeremy on Twitter and LinkedIn.