Everyone knows the way we work today is vastly different than the way we worked a matter of years ago. New technologies, expectations, policies, stakeholders and even physical work spaces all play into a new way of doing business.
A key driver of this change has been consumer and mobile technologies. One of the most surprising things about the impact of consumer technology on the workplace is how undemocratic it has been. For most of the past three decades, companies have kept very tight reins on the devices their employees use and the software they access. Where employees work and when; the business processes they follow; how they communicate – these things have all been almost entirely dictated by the technology that corporate IT departments have chosen to deploy.
Almost as surprising is how quickly companies seem to have lost control of the tools of information revolution. Stroll through almost any enterprise these days and it will quickly become apparent that employees have taken matters into their own hands. Now, instead of relying on IT-sanctioned desktop computers and centrally deployed software, you’re much more likely to find people using their personal mobile devices to check work email, review company data, manage projects, and create content, often using apps that lie far outside the corporate firewall.
It’s not difficult to understand why. These devices and tools enable people to work where and when they want and how they feel most comfortable and productive. What’s less clear is whether companies have figured out how to capitalize on this growing trend. Are corporate policies keeping up or lagging behind? As employees and business leaders drive more technology decisions, do companies benefit? Are there steps that companies can take to increase the positive impact that this change has the bottom line?
That’s what we set out to learn in a recent Avanade survey of nearly 600 executives, business unit leaders and IT decision makers in 19 countries. What we discovered is that the most progressive companies are building entirely new business processes and policies with these new mobile and consumer technologies in mind. By adapting to the new consumer device driven landscape, they are boosting their profits as well as improving employee satisfaction.
Our first goal was to uncover how much companies are embracing consumer driven technology in a meaningful way in the workplace. What we found is that the growing use of personal mobile devices in the workplace is unmistakable: 61 percent of companies report that most of their employees use personal computing devices at work, and 54 percent say that most use smartphones for basic work tasks such as reading email, online documents and calendar invitations.
Tablets have made huge inroads, too: 33 percent of companies say that most of their employees use tablets for basic work tasks. More remarkably, the same number say that most of their employees use tablets for advanced tasks such as customer relationship management (CRM), project management, content creation and data analysis—all of this less than three years after the introduction of the first iPad.
In response, the most progressive companies are redesigning work processes by changing the way they handle IT management, sales and marketing, HR and customer service. Of the companies we surveyed, 71 percent have changed at least one business process and 20 percent have changed four or more business processes to adapt to the increased use of mobile devices.
The results for these companies have been overwhelmingly positive: they are 73 percent more likely to report improved sales and 54 percent more likely to report increased profits than businesses that are not adapting in this way. They are also 58 percent more likely to report improvement in bringing products and services to market.
Avanade calls this adaptive approach to the changing work environment “work redesigned.” It means a more inclusive, creative and collaborative workplace. It means greater mobility and flexibility. It also means happier employees—the survey found that companies that embrace this approach are 37 percent more likely to report improved employee satisfaction.
Of course, transformative shifts usually come with new challenges. While most executives recognize the benefits of mobile and consumer technologies in the workplace—in part because they themselves depend on those technologies to stay connected and mobile—IT staff can be more wary of the security risks involved.
Those concerns are not unfounded. A previous study Avanade released in January 2012 found that 55 percent of the companies surveyed experienced a security breach as a result of personal devices being used in the workplace. The best way forward is for executives and IT teams to work together to develop risk management measures that balance the flexibility that consumer devices provide against the data security requirements that smart business practices demand.
One way to achieve this is to begin to think about how to shift from today’s unfettered “bring your own device” approach to something that is closer to “bring the right device.” By allowing employees to take advantage of the kinds of tools they prefer while encouraging them to use versions that meet reasonable standards for privacy and security, businesses can maximize the benefits of the work redesigned trend while minimizing the risks.
We see enormous potential for companies that embrace a work redesigned approach to business. As companies continue to embrace the use of mobile devices in the workplace, we expect to see more adaptation—and even more dramatic gains in productivity and profitability.