Three Big Mobile Workforce Challenges and How to Fix Them

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Today’s workers are global, and mobile, and they require specific technology to keep them connected and agile. A quarter of the United States workforce already works from home, at least part of the time. But, the move to a mobile workforce left tens of millions working out of the office for the first time. Even companies with an established mobile workforce, and the tools in place to support, found themselves rewriting the rule book. Enhanced security policies, loads of new devices and technology, and cultural shifts left many scrambling. As a result, Tangoe shared strategies for quick adjustments to a mobile workforce back in March.

You did the work to ensure that everyone has the devices and connectivity needed to be productive. Maybe you rushed to place orders for laptops, tablets, and smartphones so employees stayed connected. Firewalls, edge servers, last-mile ISPs, cloud capacity, and VPN gateways were beefed up. You were ready for a mobile workforce. But, were you ready for what comes after? Whether fully mobile, back in the office, or a hybrid, there are still unique challenges that require shifting operational strategies. In this blog, we explore some of the key issues that arise from a mobile workforce and strategies to help.

So. Many. Devices.

“Business as usual” operations require a streamlined and automated approach to managing devices. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number that you’re trying to keep track of. “I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet to track everything” isn’t going to cut it for a mobile workforce. And, what if a device needs to be replaced, updated, or upgraded? Order management, visibility into inventory levels, consumption rates, real-time and historical trends, and other operational information is key.

Inventory Management

You need a centralized solution to establish and maintain the catalog and inventory record of all mobility assets. This includes corporate-liable lines of service, mobile devices, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) assets, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and other endpoints. Keeping inventory current means having the ability to enable and process all Move, Add, Change, and Delete (MACD) actions. It should also sync inventory to the business and users and provide role-based visibility and actions. A clear record of each item helps you identify where there’s overlap and determine whether new technology is needed. A mobile workforce requires consistent and efficient allocation of time; relying on a comprehensive inventory management solution means your employees can focus on other value-add activities.

Order Management

Ever hear of the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen?” If you’re allowing every department to order their own inventory, you have too many cooks in the kitchen. Properly supplying the resources your employees need in a mobile workforce means having as much control over spend as possible. Centralized order management provides a single, highly configurable interface that provides this visibility. Procurement, fulfillment, and management of mobile devices, accessories, and airtime (plans, features, and special offers) are now streamlined. This allows for greater operational efficiency, simplified infrastructure, and no duplications of inventory and bills.

Stay Safe Out There

Cybersecurity in the era of mobile workplaces is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, your teams need to be as productive and agile as possible while keeping your information secure. However, not all connectivity spots accommodate the need for both productivity and security. In addition, cybercriminals routinely frequent coffee shops, libraries, restaurants and other locations for people who have unsecured laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Cyberattacks and pandemic-related fraud are on the rise, according to the FBI. So, how do you keep your employees and data safe without slowing them down?

Scope it Out

A growing number of restaurants and coffee shops now provide free Wi-Fi to customers, as do local libraries and bookstores. There are even large public spaces and parks offering free Wi-Fi for those who need to get work done but can’t stare at four walls anymore. Mobile workforces rely on their ability to work anywhere but it’s important that they do their due diligence. Train your employees to scope out venues before they decide to sit down. Task them with finding a quiet, private spot to hold phone and conference calls. Press the importance of ensuring that information on the screen is not visible to other people; advise your teams to sit with their back against a wall or tree or bookshelf. Also, make sure that privacy screens are available for laptop and mobile device users.

Safe and Sound

Hackers are smart; you need to be smarter. Now is the time to take the following steps:

  • Keep data secure. Remove all sensitive company information and keep it stored in a remote cloud-based location. Not only is this safer, employees will be able to access vital information from any device, anywhere.
  • Delete all unused apps. Train employees to delete all unused applications from mobile devices at regular intervals.
  • Sharing is not caring. Don’t allow the sharing of laptops, computers and other devices. Sharing work devices (such as with family members when working remotely) reduces accountability and increases the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Keep things separate. Have employees keep the office laptop, office printer and any office network on a separate isolated network away from any other smart home devices such as Alexa, Nest, Ring, or smart TVs. Most Internet providers by default offer a guest network.
  • Use a VPN. Make sure employees use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which will encrypt traffic traveling over the Internet. This is especially critical when employees connect to a public Wi-Fi network.
  • Ensure lost devices don’t create security risks. Pair a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution (AirWatch, MobileIron, etc.) with a device management program.
  • Log out. Require all employees working remotely to log out when they’re not using their devices. Failing to do this could lead to a security event or a data breach.

Mobile Workforce Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” (Whyte, 1950). How often do you think someone knows what you said, but it turns out that they didn’t? What happens when information is not available when and as you need it? When your team is together in a physical location, relationships naturally develop, and communication is easier. Mobile workforces can strain your ability to communicate with your teams or your team’s ability to communicate with each other.

Great Expectations

It’s important to outline the methods of communication that are appropriate for different situations. Messaging works for many situations, but a phone call or face-to-face meeting may be required for others. Set the expectations and rules for both the mode and frequency of communications beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings. Situations that require your immediate attention should be outlined and regular check-ins should be established. Encourage feedback and open dialogue about any issues and always keep your virtual door open. Your ability to communicate with your team helps remove friction and is key to keeping employees happy and engaged.

Technological

When managing mobile workers, you can’t just stroll down to someone’s desk to share an update. Sharing information will require a wide array of technology — phone calls, virtual conferencing software, messaging apps, etc. Keep in mind, however, that using technology in workplace communications does not mean that one size fits all. Offer a variety of communication channels, whether it’s Zoom or Microsoft Teams or a messaging app and give employees options. Give employees an exit strategy to avoid digital overload and be strategic about how you share company information. Mobile workforces need technology that is easy to use and allows for real-time communication from a mobile device.

Interested in more strategies to keep your mobile workforce productive, while freeing up time to focus on more strategic tasks? Learn more about Tangoe’s Managed Mobility Services (MMS) and schedule a demo.