By Roberto Casetta, Vice President EMEA, FrontRange Solutions
The description of flexible working on the Gov.uk website couldn’t be simpler:
Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.
However, since the UK passed new employment legislation that ensures every full-time worker is allowed to apply for flexible working, it’s proving to be a headache for many businesses, and IT teams in particular. Indeed, as with any change to the work environment, these new laws are having a profound impact from a technology perspective, something that organisations need to prepare for if they haven’t already done so.
Flexible working means more and more people logging on from home and a more disparate workforce than ever. As more employees move away from traditional 9am-5pm business hours, there will be a greater emphasis on new ways of working and communicating; operating in and collaborating in real-time with access to corporate information will be vital for these flexible workers, not to mention their employers and colleagues of course. For IT teams this translates to greater IT complexity, as they’ll need to ensure flexible workers are properly set up to work in such a way and able to remain as productive as their on-premise counterparts.
With this in mind, what stands out from an IT perspective is enterprise mobility management (EMM), which will be critical for organisations and IT service desks coming to terms with these new laws.
While it’s true that setting up employees to work from home is easier now than it was 10-15 years ago, this doesn’t mean the introduction of flexible working will be a breeze – far from it. If businesses want their employees to operate effectively from home, there are plenty of considerations besides essentials such as a good PC or laptop, network connection and office software – which the majority of home workers have already got access to or can easily source. Office software, for instance, needs to be installed, updated and supported; likewise PCs need to be secured with the necessary IT security features installed and the network maintained. Telling employees to do this themselves isn’t ideal either, even if they are capable of installing office software correctly. It needs to be managed effectively so that the same processes are in place for every IT user and so that every IT user can perform effectively as per his/her role in the organisation.
In today’s working environment, no organisation can expect its employees to work effectively outside of the office without some kind of mobility policy and best practice in place. This is where EMM comes into play.
In 2015 and beyond, flexible workers will be demanding unprecedented mobile access to business IT resources. To be effective in supporting workforce mobility, IT administrators must focus on the secure delivery of services, rather than maintaining control over the endpoints, which is impractical at the best of times, let alone when dealing with remote/flexible employees. Devices still need to be managed, but just to ensure they are optimally configured to perform business tasks, rather than fully governed by IT operations. For IT administrators, who may be used to having more control, this can be a difficult concept to accept as they must let end users take some or all responsibility for their own devices.
Ultimately, end users need the ability to provision their own mobile devices with little or no interaction with IT operations. This can be achieved through a consolidated application delivery system, such as a mobile AppStore, that provides a “one stop shopping” experience for accessing all business applications, including static applications, virtual applications, and web applications. Similarly, data can be stored and distributed via a secure share or other centralised and commonly accessed repository. All provisioning procedures should include approval and authentication processes to ensure resources are only accessed by authorised personnel.
IT teams should also consider remote support as part of their overall EMM strategy. Unfortunately, mobile devices, like any form of IT, are prone to error – be it malware, user error or compatibility issues. For workers exercising their right to work outside of the usual office confines, taking the device away for further examination simply isn’t an option. IT administrators must be able to troubleshoot devices remotely, taking control of them as required in order to view the device screen and use the device keyboard. This kind of remote end user support provides rapid diagnostics and problem resolution. It reduces IT costs, accelerates the adoption of new services and decreases device downtime in order to improve workforce efficiency.