Most mobile apps today provide only a window of access to content. When working remotely, viewing content is great, but if my team or I can't change it, share updates, or kick off downstream tasks our hands are tied. The access-only mode that most of us work in just doesn't cut it anymore.
There is a better way
To get work done we need to make edits, compare versions, add comments, advance workflows, or approve content -- from any location, at any time, and from any device. I have worked with many companies that had success with traditional on-premise enterprise content management (ECM) applications. They liked the editing features, tight security, and solid version control, but now struggle to adapt to the reality of the mobile working world, and to extend those features to mobile workers. By not addressing the realities of mobile employees working with content remotely, companies are creating bigger problems, and CIOs risk losing their jobs.
Case in point: I recently worked with an insurance company that wanted its sales team to move away from paper and to manage contracts on mobile devices. The IT team opposed moving to a cloud-based solution and spent four years trying to develop an alternative, without success. The CEO lost patience, and within five months of adopting content cloud services, the company's sales reps were finalizing and renewing contracts in front of clients. Clients love the convenience, and the reps are happy, but several IT executives lost their jobs.
[Secure the data, not the mobile device. Read more at Keep Data Off Mobile Devices & Away From Adversaries.]
The cloud: a boon or a fool's paradise?
We need to be able put critical content to work -- like contracts, financial presentations, and product collateral. Employees can't access that content outside the firewall, so they find workarounds, and the cloud offers a seemingly easy solution. Too often they drop sensitive corporate intellectual property into free, vulnerable, consumer-class cloud storage boxes. Recent research has shown that half of employees use consumer cloud file-storage services, even when they know that they are violating company policy, and executives are the worst offenders.
"The kiss of death" is how one company describes simple cloud storage solutions. This company, like so many, deals with intense regulation related to product documentation, and it makes frequent detailed changes as it innovates: "We had seven revisions in just the last three months." With cloud storage boxes, salespeople were often walking around with documentation that was several generations old, a huge regulatory risk. So the IT department banned use of cloud storage in favor of an enterprise-grade content cloud solution that provides a single source of truth for critical documents.
A happier ending
Another company with a more enlightened IT team saw what its mobile workforce needed and recognized the benefits of cloud-based content management. The company provides and supports highly technical, customized products to global customers in the broadcast business. Employees, typically at customer sites, need immediate mobile access to the most current product details; using outdated information could delay broadcast of a major sporting event or awards program. With a cloud-based content management approach, the company gave 400 employees access to product information within 90 days.
Mobile working is a given. Be a champion for enabling employees to work with content on their device of choice. Otherwise they resort to risky workarounds. Most likely, that's already happening. Based on my experience working with hundreds of companies, cloud-based content management is the fastest, safest route to let mobile workers put content to work.
As you evaluate how to shift to mobile safely and securely, here are some things to consider:
- Employees want choice. Make BYOD easy, so support as many devices as possible. At a minimum, allow iPads, iPhones, and Androids.
- Employees download content and change it. Automatic synchronization is key. The next time an employee logs in, offline edits should be automatically updated in the corporate repository, ensuring that everyone is using the most current version. Also consider the flip side with automatic sync. Employees can log in and automatically get the latest content on their devices, so they don't need to check to make sure they have the latest version of the company presentation.
- Require and restrict content downloads. Require that sales teams always have the most current collateral, and prohibit sensitive content (e.g. company financials, HIPAA, and FERPA) from ever being synchronized.
- Audit trails are essential. Even if your company isn't public or working in a regulated industry, you need to be able to know who accessed what, when, and how.
- Workflow is key. Employees need to be able to kick off workflows -- for things like contract approvals or employment offers.
- Mobile devices are lost or stolen, and employees terminated every day. Be sure you have the ability to wipe devices of all sensitive information.
Because work doesn't stop just because we're not in the office, we need to empower employees to put content to work anywhere at any time. Enabling mobile content management is that last mile in the shift to mobile. By not addressing the mobile content demand, we're simply creating bigger problems. It's your choice: Be a blocker or an enabler.
IT groups need data analytics software that's visual and accessible. Vendors are getting the message. Also in the State Of Analytics issue of InformationWeek: SAP CEO envisions a younger, greener, cloudier company. (Free registration required.)