Mobility has quickly become an important addition to any modern business' workflow, no matter how big your business is. With the introduction of fast, capable mobile devices and wireless networks everywhere you turn, there's no longer a reason to ever be out of contact with your employees, or for travel and field work to interrupt your team's ability to work. There's no need to wait to 'get back to the office' when work can be done simply by opening up a laptop, phone, or tablet and connecting with the company collaboration software.
Of course, mobility also involves some major additions or overhauls to your company's technology infrastructure and, in some cases, your entire way of doing things. While you are in the process of upgrading and becoming a truly mobile SME, these Do's and Don'ts can act as a trustworthy guide along the way.
Essential DO's of SME Mobility:
Establish a Cloud-Based File Sharing SystemBefore mobility, sharing and collaborating on shared files has been among the top slow-downs for remote communication and work. Whether your employees have been passing around printouts, USB drives full of files or emailing work to each other, a cloud-based file sharing system is an overwhelming improvement.
Cloud shared files are living documents that are hosted online without the need for a website and portal, usually accessed through a platform that can be logged into both in the office and on mobile devices anywhere. Your employees can share and work on the same document without constant version updates and miscommunications, no matter where each team member happens to be.
Connect Employees Through a Project Collaboration PlatformThe perfect partner to cloud shared documents is the communication and collaboration platform. This is another cloud-based service that is usually built like an internal social-media platform just for your employees. This creates a comprehensive contact list of every employee in the company and can allow them to send private and group messages, participate in chat rooms, and many even offer a video chat feature for remote but still face-to-face meetings.
Collaboration platforms are also well-known for their integration capabilities. They can often connect to an existing CMS, to the cloud-shared documents, and may allow teams to build and present projects together. Again, all independent of where each participant might be logging in from.
Integrate New Mobile Software With Current Office SoftwareSpeaking of integration, this is something that should always be at the top of your mind when choosing the pieces of your new mobility infrastructure. Look for software, platforms, and solutions that will integrate together and with the business software stack, you are already using. Being able to pull data from one mobile platform to another will further streamline your work and reduces what is known as "Swivel-Chair" data management and workflow bottlenecks.
Find Existing Apps that Do What You NeedMany businesses make the mistake of deciding to build a custom mobile app for every internal business project they'd like to add mobility too. However, for an SME (small to medium enterprise) this may not be your most practical option. Before you commission a custom app or dedicate your development team to months of intensive work, look around to see what is available. There are dozens of options in every category and many that are likely to suit your needs. Chances are, with some research and a little experimentation, you will be able to find a combination of existing apps that will add great mobility to your company without the expense and time-cost of proprietary app development.
Consider Switching Office Phones to VOIPOffice phones are among the least mobile aspects of current business infrastructure. Think about it: a phone number that only reaches a single physical location, and yet is supposed to be the work number of your potentially mobile employees. Many people wind up giving out their own cell numbers instead just for efficiency, but this is also not ideal.
A VOIP system (Voice Over Internet Protocol), on the other hand, provides even more mobility and professionalism than the personal cell. VOIP numbers don't need a physical line because they rely on the same internet connection that fuels laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. At the same time, the number is log-in account based, not location based, meaning it can effectively "forward" calls to the office, mobile devices, and even home computers of your employees.
What a VOIP number for employees will mean is that colleagues and clients will be able to reach them at their official business number from anywhere.
Make Sure All Mobile Employees Have The Tech They NeedSpeaking of employees and mobile devices, you can't have a mobile workforce without first properly equipping them with the right technology. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies can be useful, but not every employee will already have the equipment they need.
Office-based employees who interact with mobile coworkers will need the standard stuff: computers connected to your collaboration apps and possibly smartphones or tablets for mobile-only apps.
Mobile employees, on the other hand, will often need a full kit. It's best if each mobile employee or team is equipped with a wireless hotspot and a signal repeater to connect from any location along with a smartphone or tablet to connect with. That way, those who do a lot of work outside the office are able to set up a fully mobile workstation.
Track Device LocationsNever forget this simple but important logistical note: Devices get lost. They get left in hotel rooms, stolen from purses, and occasionally borrowed by thoughtless family members. We highly suggest installing device tracking apps on company devices and the personal devices of willing employees to help hunt down where missing devices wind up and, in some cases, assist the police in getting them back.
Create a Check and Update PolicyOne of the biggest challenges to integrating mobility in your SME is communication delay. A team that is used to communicating within the office environment may not be accustomed to the fast-paced environment of a remote-friendly workflow. If they do not check their messages and update their own work on the mobile platforms often enough, there is a high risk that mobile team members will be left out of the loop wait for hours for a co-worker to respond.
Make sure to build a new policy of responsiveness. Encourage every office employee to keep their email and collaboration programs open and respond quickly when a message comes through. This will keep your remote employees in the loop, get their questions answered quickly, and promote a more digital workflow as a whole.
Build Mobility Into Your Company CultureAs you introduce everyone to the idea of constantly being online and collaborating through the new mobile-friendly platforms, make sure that the change is universal. Encourage adoption of the new platforms and the right ways to use it You can convince every one of the possibilities by reminding them that it could result in more flexible hours, greater efficiency, and far less time lost to travel and logistical delays.
However, the best way to drive change within your company is to make mobility part of the company culture. Emphasize how proud the entire company is to be mobile. Congratulate employees who do it well and support employees who struggle with the change. If your company culture is mobile, your staff will easily follow suit.
Essential DON'Ts of SME Mobility:
Use Apps That Fail to Pass Cyber-Security RequirementsWhen integrating mobility into your SME, nothing matters more than cybersecurity. Unfortunately, not all app makers consider this. While the situation is tragic, it is entirely possible to find a genius app that does everything your business needs for remote collaboration, but it fails to encrypt data, secure logins, or some other key cybersecurity concern. If this is the case, you can either move on to your second choice or, if you really love the app, reach out to the developer and talk to them about adding the security you need.
Forget to Manage Access Permissions RegularlyWith documents and collaboration accessed through the cloud, logins are everything. And so are permissions. Permissions control who can access certain information, documents, and chat channels. They provide both access and data security. Without permissions, employees could be locked out of resources they need to work remotely. With permissions that are too open, employees might have access to confidential information they shouldn't see and your business is at risk of data security breaches.
This means that it is vital to managing permissions constantly, both with human decisions and automated permission auditing. Remember the difference between view and edit permissions (some people can see documents but not change them) and always remove permissions when someone changes job or leaves the company.
Leave Your Company's Wifi UnprotectedWe know this one seems obvious, but don't forget to limit access to your company's WiFi. Anyone within the broadcast radius could theoretically gain access and begin causing problems. Make sure to secure your office wifi network (and any provided by mobile hotspots) with firewalls, password protection, and any additional security your admins feel is appropriate.
Allow Employees to BYOD Without OversightEvery business makes the decision to provide company mobile devices, rely on employees to bring their own mobile devices or some combination of the two. However, do not trust all employee mobile devices on spec, or any device that has been used for non-work purposes. Employees connect to insecure apps and accidentally download viruses all the time without meaning to and could introduce their security problems to the company network.
Make sure that any device included in your mobile infrastructure is well-defended and scanned regularly for signs of a hack. In addition, consider training your staff on how to be more cyber-secure in their day-to-day mobile choices.
Expect Mobile Capability Before Testing In-HouseThere is nothing more frustrating for an employee on-the-go than opening their laptop or phone and discovering that they cannot actually access the company's mobile platform or resources. Before you expect mobile capability and especially before you come to rely on it, always perform multiple tests.
Have your teams practice and confirm they can log into all necessary platforms, access all necessary documents, and communicate at a reasonable speed. It is also wise to ask employees to perform tests from external wifi networks to ensure you don't get false-positives caused by local connections.
Fail to Encrypt Mobile TransmissionsFinally, our last don't is a reminder about the most important layer of mobile cyber-security. No matter how strong your passwords are or how secure your collaboration platforms may be, data being transmitted can still be read as packets in transit by determined hackers. This is why it is important that data be encrypted in the office, on mobile devices, and especially before it is sent over a network.
In general, it is best to encrypt everything at all times. However, when adding mobility, it is especially important to remember that data in transit is particularly at risk. Don't trust apps that fail to provide this feature.
Incorporating mobility into your SME is likely to be the best thing you've done for your workflow in years, especially if you regularly have employees working in the field, connecting from home, or taking business trips.
If you'd like more detailed advice on how to build a secure and trustworthy mobility infrastructure for your small to medium enterprise, download our “guide to digital transformation” or contact us today.