Developing a business case for mobile working

I wrote about globalisation being the common thread throughout the conference in my last post and enabling mobile working for dispersed workforces is a key part of this.

Surprisingly though, businesses seem to have an inherent mistrust of employees who are not at their desk, even though they might get more work done.

The challenge for the CIOs /IT managers, who are now being required to deliver business innovation, is to convince the business that traditional desk based working isn’t in the company’s best interest.

But how do they do that?

Well, the advice seems to be to start a small pilot project for a defined group of workers and to make sure there are business measurements in place to prove the value of mobile working over being chained to the desk.

As a very crude example, let’s take the IT support desk.

If a support technician can save two hours a day commuting and this results in him/her answering nine more calls a day or providing an extended hours service, that’s a business benefit, which is much harder for the company to refute than “mobile working” as a concept is.

IT managers need to determine their own specific business metrics for measuring the value of mobile IT. This requires a rudimentary understanding of the business strategy and questioning why, if mobile working isn’t on the agenda, explaining why it should be.

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I absolutely agree with you. Over on another business networking site there was recently a discussion about Videoconferencing and how it could reduce an organisations carbon footprint. That was nonsense, the real carbon footprint from any industry comes from shipping 100s of employees into any city centre when they could just as easily be working from home. But we need not be as extreme as that. In the 1970s and 80s nearly all the major service industries, commercial and utility had small local offices. The management gurus driving the second generation IT projects promoted large centralised offices, because they could be wired with 3270 controllers and automatic call distribution. Many of us who understood networks argued that with X25, ISDN and LANS, not imagining the web, the data could be sent to the people not the other way round. There was however a culture from senior management that liked the idea of being responsible for 'division' that consisted of one or more large buildings with white shirted employee' sat at PCs. Frankly this was no more than management by testosterone. "my member is larger than your member". Having had access to the technology from 9k6 dial up to bulletin boards I have worked from home since the early 80s, but we can't determine business culture by anecdote or how techies work. Nowadays if I am in the same building as the servers or the routers I still RDP to them just as I would if I were at home. We now have the technology to access information, manage and communicate information and make decisions accross distances - but largely we dont use them. In managing large integration projects I have had to convince suppliers not to send their tech guys to site to do an upgrade or a new build. We can audio conference and RDP to all the apps and servers affected. If they come on site I have to bloody make them coffee and chaperone them in the server room. Personally I think working from home is a bit of a headline grabber that,like video conferencing seems like a good idea but is symptomatic of too simplistic an approach. Until the 19th century ;poor' people didnt sit at home in the evenings they went to the pub because it was the only buildign that had heat and light. Working at home in an otherwise empty house is only likely to increase the carbon footprint as they will want the heating on, for at least 8 months of the year in the UK . I think it takes a number initiatives to push people away from large building workstyles and mass transportation costs. Lifting of planning restrictions and offering tax breaks for the development of small local office space. A move away from specialised management chains to groupings of people 'managed' by generalist, but who are supported with technology that allows productivity to be monitored or matrix management where specialist skills are required. The HR people in my organisation judge senior management salary grades by the span of reports and direct reports. No senior manager is going to support a programme that potentially undermines his/her downstream salary and bonus. The technology can facilitate that style of working and it can generate metrics if you ask it to, but the change of approach has to come from business management insentivised by business guru's and politicians. (tax breaks)
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