What is a mobile workforce?
‘The mobile workforce’ – a term that is becoming increasingly common, and yet remains largely undefined by any one entity.
In our opinion, a mobile workforce relates to any member of your company or team who is not tied down to a single desk in the traditional sense.
By this we mean a workforce that can work from any location, any time, using any device they wish to. They could be sales agents out in the field, engineers out on site, consultants who spend large parts of their week hot-desking, business development managers who travel large distances, home workers or workers on flexible contracts, and so on.
The upward trend towards business mobility is down to the availability of devices like smart phones, tablets and laptops. It is also due to the evolution of technology such as VoIP and cloud-based technology, which enables users to connect to a central business system no matter where they are based, and access the same features and tools as office-based workers.
An evolving business landscape
Mobility has big implications for businesses and companies everywhere. Once upon a time, companies used to list ‘cutting costs’ as a top-line objective. These days, thanks in part to the changes in working practices, the business landscape has evolved. We are emerging from the tight grip of Recession, and the country is fast adopting digital and emerging tech to support business growth, with great success. Businesses of all size can now compete in the arena, with new start-ups arguably experiencing the same levels of potential and opportunity as larger, more established companies. This is partly down to the marked improvement in broadband speeds and connectivity across the UK, which allows more and more companies can take advantage of technology like business VoIP.
Which means business priorities have progressed, as our economic and commercial outlook improves. Managers are turning their attention to weightier matters such as enabling their workforce to be more productive, mobile, responsive and flexible. Other objectives involve being able to scale operations and staff up or down easily, being fully resilient in the event of a disaster or outage, and modernisation of outdated technologies, processes and procedures.
Enter the VoIP protocol. A versatile business communications tool, in a nutshell it allows businesses to make calls over a data network such as the internet. The two predominant forms of VoIP for business come in the form of SIP Trunking or Hosted Telephony- basically a telephone system or PBX that is hosted on-site, or off-site within a cloud. Both solutions have cost-saving benefits associated with moving away from traditional business lines and calls. But, more importantly, VoIP is a means by which a company can enable mobility.
Mobility and Business VoIP
VoIP is perfect for enabling a mobile workforce, and as a facilitator of Unified Communications. An employee’s mobile phone can be linked to a company’s phone system so that they can receive calls, messages, and voicemails. Additionally the device can be set up to receive emails, carry out video conferencing, and many more applications that most office-based workers have access to. Whether the device is supplied by the company, or BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), an employee can stay connected from almost any location across the globe, and still have options for single number contact, inbound and outbound dialling- with voice and call quality still guaranteed.
These days, most major telephone system providers have designed their systems with a mobility suite: Avaya Mobility, for example, allows mobile twinning, call control, IM, click-to-call, video conferencing and a whole set of enterprise level tools. Mitel do a very similar thing with their MiCollab offering.
The beauty of hosted VoIP solutions in helping to deliver mobility, is that all of these mobile features and opportunities can be rolled out speedily and with minimal disruption, meaning that a new employee can quickly be added to a system no matter where they are based or how they choose to work, whether from home, travelling to appointments, or hot-desking.
Relocating, Multi-site and Global operations
There is also an argument for saying that a ‘mobile’ workforce is one that can work from any new office or geographic location without hassle. As a fixed line alternative, VoIP, and in particular SIP Trunking, makes it very easy to relocate and take all of your existing numbers with you with relatively little hassle. Geographic and non-geographic numbering is easy to manipulate, as are instant diverts.
Multiple office locations and new sites can be linked easily, despite geographical constraints. Centralised voicemail platforms can be set up, allowing you to handle voicemails to any location intuitively. With VoIP, you can move phones around easily to follow users who may sit at multiple locations, or desk-share and hot desk. Your workforce can become as fluid as you need them to be, without being restrained in the manner that traditional telephony dictates.
It would take a long time to detail all the ways in which VoIP can allow you to take advantage of mobility. It might be better to conclude with an acknowledgement of management attitudes towards Mobility within business communications plans, and to new(ish) tech such as VoIP.
As with most changes to traditional working patterns, mobility has been spoken about a lot but the adoption rate has lagged behind the interest, largely due to managers not being sure how to deliver mobility strategies in a secure, procedural manner. Despite this, companies are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of having a mobile workforce- advantages such as improved customer service scores, being more competitive and up to date, being scalable and flexible, being able to change how you work rapidly, and being more productive are pretty hard to ignore. Mashable’s interesting infographic on the rise of the mobile worker is a little dated, but illustrates some of these wins- most of which can be delivered with a flexible commercial VoIP solution.
So while barriers to enabling mobility do exist, as more and more companies make the move towards mobility, more and more in the way of knowledge and best practice is becoming available. This allows companies to come up with secure, enterprise-wide strategies that they can roll out with the help of VoIP with measurable results.
As for the future, when it comes to enterprise mobility and productivity via mobility, experts predict that mobility will continue to be implemented across the board, as long as companies remember to plan effectively, keep things simple, and define responsibilities clearly. Eventually, businesses everywhere will begin to rely on their mobility, and ensure that their telecommunications infrastructure can support mobility as a priority.