Many companies aren't up to the support challenges presented by a workforce equipped with laptops and handheld devices, according to the findings of a Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum study sponsored by Avaya. And if IDC's projections prove correct, many of them will be in for trying times when the number of global mobile workers balloons to 878 million by 2009.
Tales of spotty support date back to the days when workers first saw their IBM Selectrics replaced with PCs. But now that laptops are issued in greater numbers — supplementing or outright replacing their desktop cousins — it's natural that help desks these days are barraged with requests of every imaginable sort.
The wrinkle here is that a couple of factors, mostly distance and a plethora of portable devices, are tossing a wrench into traditional support mechanisms. Whereas techies can stop by the cubicle of an IT-impaired worker and fix most problems on a standard-issue system in minutes, traveling workers and telecommuters lack that safety net.
BPM Forum's report, entitled "The Remote Revolution: Uptime Issues, Implications & Imperatives in the Mobile Workforce," was compiled by interviewing over 400 big-business executives and managers. The results point to a corporate culture that hasn't fully grasped the impact of mobile technologies, even when they hurt the bottom line.
One finding casts the predicament in stark relief.
Over a third of respondents said their company incurred extra expenses or lost revenue because an important message eluded their device. Additionally, fifty percent of those surveyed admitted to missing an important meeting, client inquiry or lead.
Respondents also supplied the following insight:
71% say the percentage of remote workers is increasing at their companies.
86% say their IT departments are feeling increased pressure to support mobile and remote workers.
41% say end-users currently cannot access a live help desk without extended waits and frustrating delays.
41% say their companies suffered business disruptions because of ineffective support.
Chris Kenton, BPM Forum senior vice president, says part of the problem lies in how workers perceive the role of perpetually in-touch portables. These devices, says Kenton, "increased the expectation that people are available."
One of the first steps in bridging this support chasm, says Kenton, is for organizations to take a "high level view." Using this approach, companies take stock of mobile systems and devices, plus their roles, and fold them into the IT mix. Companies that adopt this view are better positioned to manage and support portables and can more readily assess their impact on business.
Avaya's Director of IP Telephony and Mobility product marketing, Lawrence Byrd, offers three tips for companies struggling with mobile support. First, he says, "Companies must have detailed mobility strategy."
Next, "take a look at different workers, stratify the different needs," says Byrd. Doing so will match them with the proper technology and services. A road warrior, for instance, has different requirements than a remote, yet stationary teleworker.
Lastly, he calls for IT managers to seek convergence in mobile devices. This strategy combats device sprawl and simplifies support. BPM "found that 63% carry two or more devices every day" adds Kenton.
The BPM Forum is offering a free copy of the report and a replay of the December 13, 2005 webcast discussing the study (registration required).
This article was first published on EnterpriseITplanet.com.