Enterprise Mobility Is a Change Management Issue

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.