The biggest barrier to the adoption of mobile and wireless technologies is neither cost nor technological know-how, but conservative attitudes towards people management.
This is the view of Julian Liebenberg, divisional executive at Business Connexion Communications, who says that the real issue facing mobile and wireless technologies in the workplace is management style, and not technology. "The concept of mobility is quite jarring for many managers, because it is not about improving existing processes, but rather about changing the entire paradigm."
Julian Liebenberg, divisional executive at Business Connexion Communications
Liebenberg says that a mobile enabled worker is not only able to be productive while on the road, but can also respond more quickly and accurately to events that may occur while out of the office. For example, while attending a meeting with customers a worker could log comments and actions in realtime and have these acted upon by the time he or she returns to the office.
Resistance to mobility is common, Liebenberg says, but usually unjustified. He believes that for most companies going mobile would make a lot of sense.
"Companies that embrace mobility should see a return on investment almost immediately. Many corporates give their employees laptops but not connectivity, which is largely pointless. Each employee only needs to achieve two to five more hours of productivity a month for the investment to be worthwhile," he says.
While the executive's first response to the prospect of a mobile workforce is often to worry that employees will either end up working too much or too little, Liebenberg says that there is no reason to expect either of these extremes. "It is just about making the most of your time," he says, pointing to the amount of time spent waiting at airports as an example: time that could be capitalised on by a mobile enabled worker.
The sceptical executive is thus a good place to start when educating corporates on the benefits of mobility. Liebenberg believes that once senior managers have experienced what can be achieved through mobility they will be more open to making this option available to middle and lower level management. He adds that they need not see it as just another IT function, but rather as an important part of the office dynamic.
That being said, corporates should still think carefully about which mobile devices are appropriate and which are unnecessary. Liebenberg cites mobile broadband television transmissions as a technology that is ultimately redundant in the corporate space. "Companies have still not adopted the corporate TV broadcast idea, so I would assume that there are very few business people who would benefit from having TV reception wherever they go."
In terms of true mobility, WiMax and WiFi are also of limited relevance, and mark a difference between what Liebenberg terms mobility and portability. Portability, he says, refers to the ability to connect via an infrastructure that is specific to a particular site and precludes the ability to remain connected while moving to other remote and often distant sites.
Despite this, he concludes, there are still no excuses for the mobile-shy executive. "Through the cellular networks, with technologies such as HSDPA or 3G, you will find connectivity in 99% of the places you go."