As our work lives become more mobile, our business technology must also keep up. As such, more and more businesses are providing employees with tablets for business or providing support of a BYOD plan that allows employees to become more mobile. In addition to general use in the office, tablets are also being used to increase productivity in areas such as retail and maintenance.
It is not unusual to see servers taking orders using tablets these days, and workers that provide regular maintenance in the field can now take a snapshot with a tablet and instantly file a report to headquarters. Mobile technology is, without a doubt, changing the way that business is done.
It has become clear that the uptake of tablets in the work place is not a passing phase. As employees become more comfortable with mobile technology in their personal lives, they wish to bring the same convenience to their work days. “Individuals have become increasingly dependent on these devices for a variety of purposes, from checking email and texting to searching the Internet and posting on social media sites,” says Manish Bhardwaj, Regional Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey, Aruba Networks, “More and more firms have embraced these technologies, letting their staff members use personal gadgets for work-related tasks or even providing them with new company-owned ones.”
It seems that most businesses can benefit from mobile technology, although in different ways and with different caveats. A bank, for instance, may have some security concerns in regard to their employees using their own devices or taking devices home. The same bank, however, would benefit greatly from their customers utilising a mobile app on a tablet or smartphone. On the other hand, a distribution company could stand to benefit from employees using tablets in the field to document necessary maintenance or billing, whereas the may not see any benefit from an external customer facing app.
Mobility solutions such as tablets are becoming so common place in the enterprise space that their usage is almost a necessity in some industries. However, the benefits to providing or allowing employees to have tablets are not limited to large corporations. “People consider mobility to be for corporate giants, but it has been demonstrated that adopting mobile tools allows SMEs to operate efficiently, which is a key driver of success,” says Zahaib Nabeel, Mobility Team Leader, MDS ap, “In short, for companies to gain a competitive edge over the rest of the market, mobile technology is crucial. Mobility can help organisations improve internal processes, and increase employee efficiency.”
In general, the ability to work remotely is the biggest benefit that businesses are reaping from the introduction of tablets in the workplace. “Being able to carry around work devices from one place to the other has made mobility possible,” says Fouad Rafiq Charakla, Research Manager, IDC, “which has been the key benefit of mobile devices including portable PCs, tablets and smartphones.”
The Middle East in particular is has a growing segment of employees that choose to use mobile devices such as tablets at work. “The Middle East is very much a technology driven market where people are open to change with the pace of the market in order to grow,” says Nabeel. Employers tend to be supportive of this move, with most companies well on their way to developing a Bring Your Own Device plan.
Tablet sales in general are growing and are predicted to reach 32.1 million units in 2016. Mohammad Ismail, Middle East and Africa Secure Identity and Authentication Solutions Manager, Gemalto sites a recent IDC study stating, “The tablet market in the Middle East and Africa region grew 184 percent year on year in the first quarter of2013, to reach of 2.25 million units.” His explanation for these skyrocketing sales numbers – “The convenience tablets bring makes the BYOD trend unstoppable and the latest surveys even show that over 50 percent of employees see BYOD as a right rather than a privilege.”
Employees that leverage mobile devices are able to work from anywhere at any time. “The concept of having a fixed desktop with a keyboard and a mouse is almost extinct,” says Sonali Bhatia, Product Business Unit Head, Acer Middle East, “The tablet demand continues to grow in the region and this is a big driver for mobility.” This increased mobility allows employees to access work emails and application while in the field or at home.
However, as with most new freedoms, the work mobility trend comes with its potential costs. Most importantly, one cannot unleash mobile devices into the workplace without thinking of possible security issues. Particularly in light of the Bring Your Own Device trend, employees flooding the work place with their own devices can create security issues. There are several security concerns when it comes to BYOD, most notably the devices exposure to unauthorised networks and persons.
Corporate data that is transferred from home, to work and all public networks in between can be at risk. “Implementing a BYOD policy can be beneficial to both the employee and the employer,” says Ismail, “but with the benefits come costs associated with supporting the different devices and ensuring proper security.”
So too can employees personal information be put at risk by the BYOD trend. “Users need to ensure that their BYOD devices not only secure corporate information,” warns Milos Pesic, Consultant, Informational Security, CA Technologies Middle East and North Africa, “but the privacy of their personal information like their family pictures and tax filing information.”
The solution for these potential security woes is simply a robust mobile technology policy, both in regard to BYOD and to employer provided tablets. Organisations need to be able to parse off personal from corporate data and be able to wipe devices when an employee leaves the company. “It all comes down to the policies a company sets,” says Manish Bhardwaj, Regional Marketing Manager, Middle East and Turkey, Aruba Networks, “The policy should provide that the employer might access the device to remotely wipe corporate data when and employee decides to leave.”
Still, with a robust BYOD policy, tablets in the work place can be a real boon for business. In addition working at any time from a variety of locations, employees can also communicate with the home office from the field. Redefining the working environment in this manner can ensure levels of empowerment and productivity among the workforce.
The future of tablets in the work place is inevitable. According to a survey conducted by Aruba Networks nearly six in ten employees in Saudi believe that they work most efficiently before 9 am or after 6 pm rather than traditional working hours and almost half of employees in the UAE say they work most efficiently from home as compared to an office, café or other public space. To leverage those productive hours, employees must be willing to allow their work force to go mobile.
“A growing number of organisations will become forced to migrate a larger portion of their devices toward mobility if they are to maintain a sustainable business model,” predicts Charakla, “this is true particularly in light of the present day competitive business environment which continues to demand increasing levels of productivity.” With this in mind organisations need to develop BYOD policies and consider providing their employees with mobile devices. Not only does this support the generational transition away from the office desk, but will allow for more productivity in the field.