The IT to connect a mobile workforce

Andy Hinxman explores the software options for small businesses looking to better connect a mobile workforce.

Allowing your employees to work remotely has numerous productivity benefits, and with BYOD on the increase, working ‘on the go’ is all the more accessible for small businesses. However, in order to make your workforce truly mobile, you need Mobile Workforce Management (MWM), software which connects the various devices and reduces the previous limitations of using mobiles and tablets. It manages your mobile workforce, and activities can be logged and reported.

MWM can include emails that sync both on your mobile and PC, but it can be more complex, such as SAGE or Quickbooks mobile applications that ensure data security when on the move but still have full functionality. Microsoft Office applications are also available on phones and tablet now, meaning users can view spreadsheets or edit documents much more easily from their smartphones and tablets, and send to a network printer if required too.

The type of MWM software you choose will depend on your business sector and the way you operate. For example, if you have a field sales team, there are solutions which allow you to log customer information and access it in real time. Or if you manage a large team of shift workers, software which allows them to log their hours in real time could be very useful. We have noticed a lot of businesses are beginning to adopt fingerprint clocking in systems for their flexi-time workers as a means to document and report on their workforce.

There are a range of examples, such as Oracle Utilities Mobile Workforce Management and Synel, which are MWM applications and software you can install. However, again providers can supply their own form of Mobile Workforce Management, i.e. anti-virus on tablets, laptops and mobiles as part of their offering. These component would add a layer of security to your network infrastructure as devices and corporate data are protected. Windows Hello is another form of additional security which enables sign in with facial recognition, which adds a layer of security to your mobile workforce.

Needless to say, mobile working in any capacity is made possible by cloud computing, so it’s really important that you have a reliable provider. You could be investing in a range of sophisticated MWM software but if the connectivity via Cloud is patchy, your investment will be wasted. MWM requires consistent connectivity so that the teams it is supporting can work in a truly mobile capacity, and we know how frustrating it can be to lose connectivity. Security needs to always be considered when having a mobile workforce – try not to do your banking in your local café if the Wi-Fi is not secure or your device not secure, have double verification if possible.

There will always be those who prefer using a PC for certain tasks, and arguably, sitting down at a fixed desk with a large screen does make a lot of things easier. There’s the additional benefit of them being more controlled and secure when part of a more visible network too. However the fact that businesses in so many sectors are now operating at least semi remotely means that ignoring the opportunity for mobile working and the software which makes it easier, connected and more productive could make your business less competitive.

Andy Hinxman is director of Keybridge IT.

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