Enterprise Mobility Is a Change Management Issue

Posted 2013-08-08
mobile change management

By Deepak Alse and Jayanth Poorna

Businesses are trying to move quickly to capture the benefits of enterprise mobility, but many are struggling. Only half of the 600 companies surveyed by Vanson Bourne this year said they are using mobile apps to interact with employees, and just 45 percent are using them to engage customers.

This slow pace of development and deployment—call it an "app gap"—has left many human resources executives wondering when enterprise mobility's promised benefits in productivity and efficiency will arrive.

Certainly technology is a primary focus, but we believe that closing the app gap requires IT executives to think more like nimble product managers and less like, well, IT executives. Succeeding with enterprise mobility is not just a technology challenge. It's also a people challenge—and that's an issue for HR executives to solve through organizational change management.

We consider mobility’s “people challenge” a complex series of issues encompassing new work styles that employees need to adopt, new technologies and processes they have to learn, and new ways of managing people.

A diverse workforce will have a wide range of reactions as businesses shift to mobility. For example, tech-savvy employees will take quickly to the use of apps, but can just as quickly turn against them if they’re deployed ineptly or don’t add value to their job.

Employees who are used to desktop computing may feel confused or threatened by a rapid shift to mobility—a shift that may further blur the line between time at work and time off the job. For their part, managers will need to adjust to supervising direct reports who are untethered to an office.

Millennials, who are natives of the digital age, may find the shift to mobility easier than most other employees do.

However, no single group will be immune from the process of figuring out how the work world will change with real-time information flows and access to all data all the time on mobile devices. In this new work culture, everyone will have to evolve from the record-review-decide-delegate-or act cycle of desktop computing to behaviors and team interactions that have not yet been figured out.

Managing Change in a Mobile World

Your employees are experienced in choosing from a vast array of apps to improve connectivity, communication and interaction for their personal mobile devices. But mobility is not just about picking apps. While your company's IT team is working to identify and deploy the right apps, you need to set the stage for acceptance and success.

Every HR executive must take four considerations into account about mobility. The first addresses workforce transformation. Mobility is more about collaboration than devices: Take the device decision out of it, and mobility is a collection of tools that adds to an employee’s tool kit.

Seen through a change management lens, you’re transitioning from long-standing but obsolete tools to new ones that improve collaboration. Yet, you still must be sure that employees are adequately trained to use the tools responsibly.

For example, if employees of a financial services firm bring their own devices into the enterprise, are they aware of the potential risks and threats regarding company and client information security? Is the company educating them about those risks?

The second consideration is workforce standardization. Mobility will change many of your underlying business processes. That means you will be creating new employee roles, while eliminating some and expanding others. You will also need to consider new operating and governing models to address collaboration, real-time data and processes, and flex-work protocols.

You should also consider the fact that mobility in the form of collaboration tools facilitates reaching out to anyone in the enterprise in real time to get help in solving a problem. That means you need to rethink what “team” means when the boundaries of a team have expanded to an entire enterprise.

The third consideration involves strategic workforce planning. You’ll have to conduct your mobility rollout in a way that eases the changes your people will go through. Your plan will need to be structured to help employees succeed in a world that expects collaborative learning and the ability to consume and filter a barrage of data, internalize the need-to-know model and identify behavioral patterns.

Your employees may feel deluged by data and constant change. It's your responsibility to help IT design and roll out mobile solutions that avoid gridlock and cognitive overload.

Consideration four focuses on workforce analytics. You must understand that mobility will transform traditional ways of driving change initiatives in any type of organization. Instead of “big-bang” transformations, mobility will set the stage for a new model of making incremental changes, building on successes and learning from missteps.

Thanks to the responsiveness that mobile devices and their apps offer, HR can test the waters and recalibrate initiatives quickly—and without an excessive investment of time and effort.

The Next Three Steps

Enterprise mobility will accelerate cultural shifts that can make your organization uncomfortable. But you can minimize the pain and maximize success by taking the following steps:

First, conduct an impact assessment to determine the degree and nature of changes that employees in various roles will have to absorb. One approach is to assess how mobile social networking apps and related design principles are relevant in the context of enterprise collaboration.

For firsthand experience, look for ways to apply mobility to your own department's activities, such as transitioning the annual employee job-satisfaction survey to an app that takes the pulse of the organization more frequently and provides an ongoing feedback loop.

Second, tap early adopters to create a network of change agents across business functions, levels and locations. These agents can help you regularly assess the relevance of processes and policies and determine how they affect employee engagement.

Consider developing a reward structure on mobile devices that encourages employees to suggest ideas and provide feedback, offering redeemable points and recognition from their peers.

Third, reassess your corporate learning strategy. Like consumer apps, your mobile solutions should be as intuitive as possible to minimize the need for training.

For those who do need help, engage your change agents to help identify the learning gaps and to facilitate team learning and sharing. Use mobility to let employees track their own performance and accountability, and to help all employees become more productive.

Just as the 1990s marked the transition to the PC and the early 2000s saw the move to the Internet, the current decade will be noted for the leap to mobility. Like previous disruptive breakthroughs, enterprise mobility will be less about the technology itself than about creating new social and business environments that are enabled by the technology.

And, just as happened in previous eras, mobile technology will invariably change and evolve. Those two facts make it incumbent upon the people experts—HR—to ease that transition and ensure success in this latest “brave new world” of technology.

Deepak Alse, based in Los Angeles, is a consulting manager for mobility, collaboration and product strategy at Wipro Consulting Services. Jayanth Poorna, based in London, is a partner in the human capital and business change practice at Wipro Consulting Services.