The numbers from the Nemertes recent “Building a Successful Virtual Workplace” benchmark were staggering, 83% of enterprises now consider themselves to be “virtual” with workgroups spread across multiple locations and geographies, 91% of enterprise employees work outside of traditional “headquarters” locations, and 96% use some form of real-time collaboration tools such as IM, web conferencing, or audio/video conferencing, but perhaps most startlingly, the enterprise workforce is increasingly mobile, a trend showing no letup in sight.
In our research we found the median growth rate over the next twelve months for mobile devices to be 100%. As enterprises increasingly rely on mobile workers, and mobile workers increasingly demand access to collaboration and communication applications regardless of location, enterprises will have to craft mobility strategies that enable support for mobile worker requirements.
But so far, enterprises aren’t moving rapidly enough to create a mobility strategy. We found that only 43% of global enterprises had a mobility strategy (with another 26% currently developing one). For U.S. based companies, only 35% had a strategy, with another 16% having one in development, meaning that almost half of U.S. enterprises have no organizational-wide strategy for supporting the needs of the mobile workforce. Even worse, only 15% of all organizations we interviewed had a specific mobility budget. In most cases, mobility is still viewed as “the cell phone” and enterprises simply either provide phones, or reimburse employees for their personal phones.
So given the growth in the mobile workforce, there is obviously a huge gap between the capabilities virtual workers have while at their desks, and the capabilities they have when outside the traditional office environment. While BlackBerries and Treos propagate, most often they are used for simple e-mail (we found e-mail to be by far the most popular mobile application). Meanwhile mobile workers find that their ability to collaborate, share presence information, and participate in real-time meetings to be restricted by their limited connectivity options.
Enterprises need to incorporate mobility planning within the context of their overall collaboration and communications efforts. They need to create strategies that will take advantage of the rapidly emerging higher bandwidth services coupled with more powerful mobile devices. Only then, will they be able to increasingly support the virtual workforce.