The mobile workforce has reached a tipping point of sorts in the past few years, and approached this stage more rapidly than many could have possibly predicted only a decade ago. Workplaces are becoming less confined by walls and physical boundaries with the passing of each day, while unified communications frameworks, especially those powered by cloud services, are playing a major role in the progression of mobile operations.
Whereas firms were once bound by the office given the need to access core systems and assets, this is simply no longer the case, and American businesses have been aggressive in their pursuits of more advanced capabilities. What's more, the proverbial tip of the enterprise mobility iceberg is just now beginning to show, and a more massive line of trends and technology is waiting right below the surface to challenge organizations more significantly.
Although a majority of businesses have already begun to allow the use of personal smartphones, tablets and portable computers, studies indicate that many have not created comprehensive policies and strategies to manage the devices and software. Considering the fact that these matters are only going to become more complex over time, with the Internet of Things heating up significantly in the past year or so, the time is now to get moving on intelligent processes and plans to derive optimal value from new technologies.
If you would like a quick rundown of some of the challenges that are arising in mobile workforce management activities, check out this short video from device manufacturing giant Samsung:
So, with all this in mind, it might be helpful to get a broad view of how the mobile workforce is playing out in the United States, and what expectations and predictions are being offered to instill a little foresight into the relevant strategies. Remember, small-business owners must always keep at least one eye on the future, as the average industry and marketplace is transforming more quickly than ever before.
International Data Corporation recently released a new report on the size of the mobile workforce in America, and forecast 105 million individuals to fall into this category by 2020. For some context here, the United States currently has roughly 318.9 million individuals as of the latest available Census data, and the population is projected to expand by another 10 million or so by 2020.
This would mean that roughly a third of the population of the United States would be part of the mobile workforce by 2020, and that's raw numbers, not even taking into account the massive portions who are either too young to be employed or well past retirement. One interesting matter to consider here is what this will mean to the actual workplace, in that personal computers and the confines of traditional offices might be near extinction in the next five years.
According to IDC, 105 million is not all that big of a prediction, as an estimated 96.2 million are already involved in the mobile workforce today, and the IoT, which will inherently lead to more mobile activities, is only just now beginning to heat up. The analysts pointed to the increased adoption of wearables, near-field communication, augmented reality, voice control and other mobile advancements as technology that is expected to play a major role in the transformation of the public and private sectors for years to come.
As a note, the researchers also stated that, should their predictions come to fruition, roughly 72.3 percent of the American workforce will be mobile by 2020.
"Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work," Bryan Bassett, IDC research analyst for Mobile Enterprise Device Solutions, explained. "This expectation will be supplemented by new solutions specifically intended to manage the challenges associated with the growing needs of the mobile workforce."
In terms of in the office compared to outside of it, IDC stated that two-third of the mobile workforce group will indeed be "non-office-based" by 2020, while healthcare will have the biggest share of these populations. Other verticals IDC expects to be at the forefront of this trend include manufacturing, retail and construction. So, small-business owners who do not have a plan in place to handle mobile workers should certainly begin working on the strategies immediately.
How to prepare
First things first, small-business owners will need to learn to walk before they can run. BYOD, or another framework of policies to enable use of smartphones, tablets and portable computers, should be the highest priority, and the strategies should be at once clear and agile, meaning that rules should be firm but the overall groundwork must remain flexible to manage change as it takes place.
"Cloud-based UC acts as a strong foundation for mobility."
Cloud-based UC will act as a strong foundation for these processes to sit atop, and should already be utilized to ensure that employees can access all of the necessary tools and systems regardless of which device they are using at any given time. Working with a managed service provider to deploy, configure, maintain and manage these assets will often be the best option available to small-business owners given their lack of large, experienced IT departments.
Then, looking forward to the future, should the company reflect the rest of the nation in terms of its mobile workforce population, strategies need to be directed at sustaining continuous and constantly improving operations throughout the changes that will take place on a technological level. Wearables are currently experiencing explosive growth as well, with smart devices now becoming popular and forecast to see massive increases in adoption and use through the next five years.
This is where agility within strategies will play a major role, as well as the use of expertly managed UC and cloud services, as companies that prepare well and maintain flexibility will be positioned to capitalize on the power of new gadgets and software, rather than being disrupted by them.