Thoughts on How Mobile Tech will Change Our Work
This post was originally written by Jeanne Roué-Taylor
When we think of mobile technology and the workplace, it’s very easy to go down one of two paths:
- I can be reached 24 x 7 and never get a break thanks to my smartphone
- I can work from anywhere and have freedom thanks to my smartphone
Both of these paths are a real part of our increasingly mobile journey, but there’s a great deal more to what mobile brings to the workplace. Here are a few ways that mobile computing changes the workplace in ways that aren’t just about working hours or location:
Information at our fingertips
It was a very short time ago when the answer, “I don’t know but I’ll find out,” was considered a smart response in a meeting. Today, with analytics on tablets and even on phones, the better answer is, “One second and I’ll have that.” The ability to bring along everything necessary to make decisions whether in a meeting, on the street or at home is remarkably productive. If you want to boost your career, learn to use analytics tools on mobile devices. You’ll never look back.
Ideas move fluidly
We share information at work for two basic reasons; to learn and to inform others. The use of mobile technology in the workplace means that we can share information remarkably quickly with our coworkers and customers but it also means we can know anything in a moment. The intern can know many of the same things as the executive.
If you’re like me, an idea doesn’t necessarily come at a convenient time, like when sitting in from of a computer. With mobile devices, the idea can be dreamed up, shared, commented on and can grow across a workforce at the speed of thoughts. We can dream when we’re most productive.
Speed, speed, speed
Gone are phrases like, “Let’s find a time to meet.” With mobility comes the ability to set a calendar appointment on the fly and to close the gaps in time when trying to coordinate work. For those who hid behind their calendar, this is awkwardly revealing. The world increasingly favors the worker who can move at a faster cadence of business and has risk of disruption for workers who don’t embrace new styles of work and collaboration.
Big data and analytics
Some of the most interesting things happening in big data aren’t in the “amazing insights” but instead are found in the actionable intelligence. Mobility allows workers to act on a continuous stream of information rather than from over-the-shoulder reports. As analytics increases in importance, the ability to act immediately on its results increases alongside. Information delivered to desktops may have its place, but information delivered anywhere the right people might be is truly valuable.
Until now, I’ve talked about communication tools like smartphones and tablets, but we’re about to have a breakthrough in the use of wearable technology. Tesco, an English retailer, is using wearable technology in the distribution center to track movements, predict completion and provide reminders when work is incomplete. This increases productivity and lowers cost but not without employee complaints of intrusive monitoring. But how is that different than the supervisor with the clipboard, just more accurate?
Adidas’ new watch is a great example of wearable devices that can monitor workers for health and safety conditions. What if we can be paid by our productivity based on our body’s ability to perform and not broadly-applied rules created for the lowest common denominator? Wearables can sense the buildup of dangerous gases as easily as head movements that indicate sleepiness.
Business process is low hanging fruit for wearable technology as the paper manual becomes the digital one. If we thought smartphones changed things, just wait.
Enabling the enterprise
While mobile technology will no doubt bring productivity gains, it also stands to tax organizations on how and where data can be captured and used. How will meetings be different if anyone present can record every image? What is the acceptable use of data collected and stored on devices carried by individuals? Can information captured on wearables be used as evidence against an employee? Which data is a corporate asset and needs to be captured and governed? These are the issues that will be hammered out over the coming years as the workforce adapts to data constantly on the move.