Back in the ’90s and late 2000s, most of us would have thought that laptops, mobile phones and email were enough to be considered a mobile worker.
However, the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, as well as work-related applications accessed directly from the internet or through cloud computing, has redefined mobility for many employees.
The importance of a ‘mobile-first business’ is gaining ground, as it promises staff productivity and cost-effective operations, among many other benefits. This business model assumes that the primary work tools for employees of today are the smartphone, tablet and task-specific apps.
Working without borders
Employees today are witnessing a drastic shift in their workspace, with many companies embarking on their mobile journey. Gone are the days when workers had to use applications from a software they downloaded on to their physical computer or a server.
As long as workers have an internet connection, with all business files and information stored centrally on the cloud, they can work from anywhere. This is especially beneficial for those who are either constantly travelling or are working on site.
A mobile first business also means staff are not restricted to any one device and are have better control over their documents, with most cloud services offering mobile apps.
As files are stored centrally in the cloud, they need not send files as email attachments back and forth to each user to be updated one at a time, and have real-time visibility over the latest update to a document.
Businesses can also offer good customer relationship management (CRM) services to their clients through a mobile-first business approach. Regardless of where they are, employees can use mobile apps to respond more quickly to urgent customer requests – be it a product query or the need for a company approval.
It also enhances employee productivity, as they can use specific apps to key in relevant data in real time and keep track of their tasks, contacts, projects and emails.
Going mobile not that easy
Transforming your small business into a mobile first business is easier said than done, however, as it does come with its own set of challenges. Using only a mobile device to interact and engage with staff might be difficult for some as this is not the same as a face-to-face interaction.
By missing out on body language and other gestures from direct interaction, employees might find it hard to accurately gauge your expectations.
When allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices for work, mobile device management (MDM) also needs to be put in place to ensure sensitive data is not misused by personal devices.
This entails segregating business data, securing emails and integrating and monitoring all personal devices. It is important that businesses follow a balanced approach to MDM because if they are overly stringent in their security, then mobile workers will have limited access to data when they are on the move. On the other hand, an overly lax MDM will expose information to hackers.
With so many mobile apps on offer in the market, you might find it difficult to choose the apps that would be most appropriate for mobile workers. Hence, it’s vital to do a diligent comparison of the apps and see which ones match best with employees’ needs. The cloud accounting solution, QuickBooks Online for instance, offers appropriate features that assist out-in-the-field workers to keep tab on their accounts.
They can access customer records, follow up on their sales pipeline, send professional invoices, track old invoices and capture business receipts easily on their smartphones and tablets.
What the future holds
Businesses might initially face some challenges when trying to embrace the mobile-first approach. But it allows small companies to better consolidate, centralise and mobilise workflows, and provides employees a better and common user experience across all devices.
Furthermore, as this trend continues to evolve, so too will modern work environments, where no worker will be restricted to the desktop in order to go about their work.
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