E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

How Mobility Empowers Work as a State of Mind in the Era of Social Business

Gran Canaria - Artenara & Roque NubloIn last Friday’s blog post you would remember how we talked about the huge impact of social business and social technologies in helping us adapt and embrace a new model of work, where in a world that it’s now more virtual and distributed than ever, work itself stops being a physical space alone and instead it evolves into becoming a state of mind. Again, “work happens, indeed, wherever you are, whenever you need, with whatever the tools you have at your disposal, with whoever the connections you may collaborate with in getting the job done“. There is no denying that in order to make that new mantra a reality within the business world there is one other massive component that we should be bringing up into the mix in order to bring forward that flexibility and work life integration that we mentioned earlier on: mobility.

And it’s just too funny that I am mentioning that today, as I’m just about to get started with a new round of business travelling where I am beginning to get the feeling that I will be taking the whole concept of work mobility into a new extreme. Over the next few weeks I will be visiting Brussels (5 hours stuck at the airport, which I think is worth while noting already!), Nice, Amsterdam, Zurich, Brighton, Montpellier, Washington D.C.,Valencia, Amsterdam (Again!), Madrid, and a couple of other cities that I’m still waiting for a final confirmation…

As you can see, pretty close to a European tour with the odd visit to the US, once more for this year. And I’ll be taking with me my iPhone, my iPad and my MacBook Air, as my favourite weapons of mass mobility! Along, of course, with that lovely VPN connection to the IBM network, my company’s Intranet. Nowadays, when I travel, I usually get by with just my iPhone and my iPad, but this time around I’ll be taking the MacBook Air as well, as a couple of those events will involve some heavy computing. I am just hoping, and perhaps a bit of praying, too, that I will be capable of experiencing the future a little bit more this time around, so that I can truly confirm that mobility in the workforce is now more of a reality than a distant future. Keeping fingers crossed…

And while I actually do that, you may want to take a look into this absolutely wonderful blog post by my good friend Oscar Berg under the title “What’s your mobility strategy?“, where he exposes, quite clearly, the state of mobility within the corporate world, or, at least, he gives us plenty of good glimpses of where we are heading already, starting off with a rather brief description of what mobility means for all of us, knowledge (Web) workers, and also what it means for the organisation as business benefits. And making the great point that when looking into bringing mobility into your workforce it’s probably best if you look into it from both a strategic and tactical points of view, highlighting one of my favourite quotes from Peter Drucker that I have taken the liberty of quoting over here as well with an additional explanation from Oscar on what it actually means for him (For me, too!). Isn’t it pretty amazing the huge amount of brilliant quotes we keep bringing up from Mr. Drucker every time we would want to highlight a point on why Social Business makes perfect sense? Well, this would be another one!: 

I personally prefer Peter F Drucker’s simple definition “strategy is doing the right things, tactics is doing things right.” A strategy is a strategy if it answers what you need to do and why to achieve a certain business objective. Tactics are the detailed maneuvers you need to do to realize the strategy. Strategies must come first, then the tactics” [Emphasis mine]

And from there onwards Oscar gets on a roll to continue with this rather brilliant observation of how to make it work, how to get both strategy and tactics working together as one to achieve maximum results. To quote: 

When it comes to how mobile devices can be used to improve business performance, I really see that as tactics. What an organization should have is a mobility strategy. Developing such a strategy should be about making informed decisions about what to mobilize and why in order to achieve business objectives” [Emphasis mine]

Indeed, right on the money! Organisations should work on putting together that mobility strategy and us, the knowledge (Web) workers, will get down to business and make use of the mobility tools at our disposal in order to keep being effective and productive while on the move. If you ask me, the best of both worlds; if you ask me again, I can actually summarise it all with a single keyword: empowerment. Best part of it all? That perhaps with BYOD glowing in full force for the last couple of years there may well be no way back at this stage and we are continuing to witness a rather massive consumerisation of IT in the Enterprise, as my good friend Dion Hinchcliffe has brilliantly pointed out in a couple of highly recommended articles.

At IBM, we are fully immersed on building, shaping up and putting together that mobility strategy, well, the organisation is, for that matter, while a bunch of us have been enjoying the full benefits of going tactics, while on the road, and take the most advantage of using both smartphones or tablets to continue working whenever and wherever we would need to. There have been plenty of news items on this very same topic and how IBM has become incredibly flexible in this regard to the point where there is probably now a much richer environment of devices connected to the IBM network than ever before in its entire history. 

My good friend, and fellow IBM colleague, Chris Pepin, has been doing a fantastic job over the course of the last few months putting together a bunch of presentations on this very same topic, describing that fascinating IT transformation that IBM itself has been going through by becoming not only platform agnostic, but also device agnostic for its own employees, pretty much allowing each and everyone of us, with the proper security protocols in place, of course, to be a bit more in control of our very own (mobile) computing environment, which, if anything, I can tell you, it’s been rather liberating over the course of the last 6 years that I have been enjoying such bold move myself of trusting your employees to use your IT in a responsible and trustworthy manner: that is, get work done whenever, wherever, with whomever.

Perhaps my favourite presentation that Chris put together and that details that revolutionary journey for yours truly, and for several thousands of IBMers as well!, is that one of Deploying Apple in the Enterprise, which is a case study of how fellow IBMers have been using Apple products, whether Macs, iPhones or iPads, for work related tasks without hardly any official support, but more than anything else relying on what has always worked the best: peer to peer support networks.

But I can imagine that for today’s blog post folks would be much more interested in this other dissertation that he did at IBM’s Pulse 2012 conference event, under the suggestive title “The New Workplace: Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility“, which would help address a good number of different concerns people out there may well be having about their own mobility strategies.

Nonethless, though, if we are about to look into not just strategy, but also tactics, folks out there may well enjoy this other presentation put together as well by Chris himself, which just basically details what you might need to kick things off: Becoming a mobile enterprise – Step by step


There used to be a time when plenty of people kept telling me that I was very lucky for working at IBM, since technology was always a given and we always had the opportunity to work with the best IT at our reach. I kept telling them that perhaps 10 years ago that may well have been the case, specially, when social technologies were still in the making, and we were lucky, indeed, to enjoy that luxury of just being on the Internet. Fast forward 10 to 15 years later, 2012, and I’m more and more convinced that with over 50% of our total employee workforce being purely mobile, we are no longer talking about a luxury, or consider ourselves lucky, or just value that tremendous flexibility that empowers us to be more in control of our very own workflows. I’m starting to think that we probably don’t have much of a choice anymore. Mobility is here to stay. It’s changing the way we work, connect, collaborate, share our knowledge, be in the know, innovate together, you name it. And if there is anything clear out there from today’s mobility landscape is that we are at long last breaking loose from that technology fetishism of being attached to a computer or a laptop and instead we are, finally, grabbing the tools in our hands, just like in the good old times, thousands of years ago!, to do what we know best: collaborate, share our knowledge, get work done together. Whenever. Wherever. With whomever.

A warm welcome to the mobile digital nomads! We salute you!

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  1. My concern is that many organizations would go as far as step 3/4 (enable corporate email) and stop right there, because the leap to the next step (develop application strategy) is huge (whether you buy or you build). But that’s where things get really interesting, imo. This is were you begin to tie into your social business strategy and find ways to make knowledge workers more productive — not just bringing what they currently have to a mobile device near you.

  2. Luis, as a fellow entrepreneur I salute you. You are right that mobility is increasingly a natural part of the way we live and work. However I’m reminded of a recent blog post by Alison Rosette (http://www.allisonrossett.com/2012/09/08/on-the-brink-with-mobile-what-learning-executives-say/). Alison’s point is that mobile for learning is only just getting there because L&D professionals are still concentrating on the medium and less on the message. Luis, what’s your take on on this do you think that mobile infrastructure is expanding faster than learning and development departments. Are they exploiting it?

  3. Hi Luis
    great post – and yes of course an organisation can not afford not to have a mobile capability for its workforce today.
    However I’m never quite sure which way the pendulum swings for the “whenever, wherever and with whomever” mentality – is it advantageous to the employee who needs to be mobile? or is it advantageous to the business to have its workforce available 24/7?
    Where does it begin and where does it end?
    I’m sure there are arguments both ways, but it must be a strategy that isn’t just about the technology or security – but about best practice for the employee deploying it within their employers framework?

    In terms of a mobile workforce – what is the scope of that mobility and how does this fit in with an increased need for sustainable working practices and cutting down on your carbon footprint in your travels? This has to be a consideration as we go forward. So how mobile do you mean?
    Where does the “technology fetishism” really lie if you travel with an array of fantastic gadgets (yes I’m an Apple fan!)!
    So what tools am I grabbing?- first doing some critical thinking! 🙂

  4. Good post, Luis (and nothing like a long form blog to cover lots of ground on a topic!).

    I’ve spent a lot of time looking at mobility in the workplace this year (I published a report with Ark Group a few months ago about it). To your point about ’empowerment’, I’ve put forward 4 success factors that workforce mobility needs to get right are:

    1. Collaboration – The app must allow the user to be connected to other people and the systems that support the work process or practice.
    2. User control and personalisation – The user must have ownership and autonomy over how they use the app.
    3. Relevance – The functionality of the app must be relevant to the work process or practice at the times and places of use.
    4. Time and place – As time and place of use is negotiated by the user, the app must be beneficial to both the user and the business.

    Empowering the user is a common underlying theme in all these elements. You can read more about it (and there is a diagram) here http://www.headshift.com.au/our-blog/presentations/four-critical-success-factors-for-enterprise-mobile-app-design/

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