A mobile workforce is increasingly becoming the norm around the world. According to Strategy Analytics, the global mobile workforce will expand to 1.87 billion in 2022, and comprise nearly half of the entire global workforce 1. The main impetus behind the promotion of the mobile workforce has been cloud computing technology.
Cloud servers store and provide access to work emails, applications, documents and data from any location, rather than only from the office. These locations could include an employee's home, the train, a coffee shop, a park, a business conference or practically anywhere off-site. The cloud thus enables a virtualized office environment from anywhere.
Remote access to work resources from the cloud is especially useful for particular industries, such as sales. Sales persons are regularly on the road, meeting new clients or catching up with existing ones. Being able to remotely access CRM systems or customer data while negotiating with clients outside of the office is crucial.
Another industry which relies on the cloud to empower a mobile workforce is transport. Consider the case of Uber, which provides its drivers with remote access to data on customer pick-up locations or best travel routes from an app which can be installed on their mobile devices and can be used wherever they are and at any time. Without cloud-based workforce mobility, Uber's business would collapse.
Workforce mobility is not limited to sales or transport. Many industries are enhancing their workforce mobility through cloud technology, given the numerous advantages that arise from having a mobile workforce.
One advantage of enabling workforce mobility through the cloud is that a business is not hindered when some team members are out of the office. For instance, if some team members are away on a business trip, they can still check their work emails, record their expenses, schedule or reschedule appointments on their calendar, and even collaborate with people in the office on projects by accessing the required project files remotely. A business can therefore continue operating at the same pace rather than being slowed down when some employees are off-site.
A further advantage of workforce mobility is that it increases employee satisfaction and productivity. Generally, employees can remotely access work resources using any device they want, such as laptops, smartphones or tablets. This practice is often referred to as "BYOD", or Bring Your Own Device, whereby workers can use a device of their choosing to access their virtual office on the cloud. Since employees are familiar and comfortable with their own devices, working remotely using such devices is a satisfying experience that can increase staff productivity.
Furthermore, if employees use their own devices, businesses do not have to spend money buying devices for staff to use when working remotely, which benefits the bottom-line of the business.
In spite of the above advantages, certain security concerns inevitably come to mind from the prospect of allowing employees to access company data while on the move. For instance, what if an employee's smartphone, which has an app that connects to company files on the cloud, is stolen and falls into the hands of an unscrupulous person? Or what if an employee uses an insecure wireless connection to access the cloud, enabling hackers to steal sensitive data?
These are valid concerns, but they can be circumvented by setting up a Mobile Governance Policy within the company. The policy would outline practices that must be followed in order to make the use of mobile devices as secure as possible. For instance, the policy may state that using insecure wireless connections to the company cloud are impermissible. The policy may also ban certain mobile operating systems that are known to have security loopholes.
Companies can use software solutions such as Mobile Device Management (MDM) to enforce their Mobile Governance Policy. MDM enables businesses to set access permissions, whereby company data is not viewable through insecure wireless connections or certain mobile operating systems. MDM can also restrict access to the sensitive data to only the most senior and trusted employees.
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