Managing the mobile workforce

According to a recent study, 60 per cent of global workers believe being in the office is no longer needed to be productive. Is this the death of the workplace as we know it? And how should CIOs respond?

Mobile management

It's an increasingly common challenge for IT departments: how to manage information across an infrastructure that increasingly extends beyond the boundaries of the enterprise.

Consumer hardware such as smartphones, tablets and netbooks have become common currency within the enterprise, while communication tools such as Skype and social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn have rapidly advanced the cause of the mobile worker.

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The demand to work anywhere and at any time is stronger than ever before.

But the changing nature of the way employees interact with information is causing chief information officers (CIOs) major headaches not least in Europe where the use of smartphones and other such mobile devices is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years. The global smartphone market alone is estimated to reach $258.9 billion in 2015 from about $85.1 billion last year, according to US-based research firm M&M.

Highlighting this shifting dynamic, Cisco recently issued the results of an international workplace study that discovered three out of every five workers around the world feels they do not need to be in the office anymore to be productive.

The report findings reflect the fact that remote and mobile workforces are now considered business-as-usual for most firms, according to Dave Evans, futurist and chief technologist for Cisco's internet business solutions group.

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"Employee mobility is a fact of life, and the business advantages are clear across many industries," he says.

"While this report does identify real challenges for businesses, it also spotlights an opportunity for IT to enhance its relationship with employees and its role as an adviser and educator."

Evans believes the report provides real-world insight into how the expectations, demands and behaviour of the global workforce are influencing the way information is accessed, as well as how business communication is changing.

However, not everyone is rushing to embrace the mobile revolution. Indeed, almost half of the IT respondents in the Cisco survey said they are not prepared from either a policy or technology standpoint to support a more borderless, mobile workforce.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, security is the top concern. Certainly, as workforces become more distributed the potential for data loss increases: a staggering one in four IT respondents said a quarter of the devices issued to employees in the past 12 months have already been lost or stolen. And as workforces become increasingly mobile, security and risk management concerns inevitably grow.

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"The companies that figure out how to unleash user know-how and consumer technologies while managing the risks will win this high stakes game," suggests RSA chief operating officer Tom Heiser. "This is the moment for information security teams to step up and be the most valuable players."

The findings indicate the real need for better corporate policies, end-user education and stronger, trusted relationships between employees and IT departments. How well IT brokers these relationships will impact a company's growth, productivity, competitive advantage, as well as its ability to effectively manage and mitigate risks.

"Simply put, this report serves as a call-to-action for IT organisations," says Evans. "Work is not a place anymore. It's a lifestyle, and the IT profession's role is only going to get more strategic as it tries to help businesses stay agile and increase productivity."

The changing nature of information management and other key IT priorities will be top of the agenda at the CIO Summit Europe 2011 which takes place at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin from 24-26 May 2011.

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This closed-door summit, hosted by GDS International, also features some of the leading voices in the European including Neil Dyke, GE Corporate CIO for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Sauro Nicli group CIO of AXA, Patrick Vandenberghe group CIO of ArcelorMittal, and Michael Terhorst BP's CIO of Europe & Africa FVC.

Along with the mobile workforce, other key topics for discussion include the role of IT in social media, enterprise mobility, data centre optimisation and maximising enterprise IT security protection.

The CIO Summit Europe 2011 is an exclusive C-level event reserved for 100 participants that includes expert workshops, facilitated roundtables, peer-to-peer networks and co-ordinated meetings.

For more information visit www.ciosummiteurope.com.

GDS International is a business-to-business events company. It offers financial, healthcare, IT service management, telecoms and oil and gas summits for senior executives throughout the Asia Pacific, Africa, China, Europe, North America and Russia markets. For more information, visit www.gdsinternational.com

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