Rethinking Technology – what businesses need to do to make flexible working a viable option

Nicola Mortimer
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On: 15 Jul 2015
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Rethinking Technology – What Businesses Need to Do to Make Flexible Working a Viable Option

Flexible working requires a culture change in many Irish businesses, but that’s not all. In the second of our series on flexible working (see part one here), Nicola Mortimer says it’s now time to rethink the technology we provide to our employees.

In my first blog in this series, I looked at how the rise of the knowledge economy in Ireland was driving the need for technology enabled flexible working practices. With the arrival of major global technology brands, the country is becoming firmly established as Europe’s ‘Silicon Valley’. Ireland is now a hub of knowledge based businesses working within these tech ecosystems or supplying to them. In part one, I focused on the cultural challenges that organisations must go through in order to make flexible working actually work, in this blog I’ll move on to the technology challenges that arise around it.

Anytime, anywhere technology

Perhaps the main challenge of flexible working is the need to maintain information standards across the organisation, while giving people greater choice on how to access that information. This could include:

  • giving staff access to the right data and tools for the job, no matter where they are, when they need them or what means of access they are using at the time
  • ensuring that technology enables staff to deliver consistently positive service and experiences to your customers while working flexibly
  • allowing staff some flexibility over the devices they adopt, including the ability for them to choose or use their own device for both work and in their personal life
  • providing a means for staff to work with a broad network of collaborators, across a wider geography and multiple organisations – for example, partners and suppliers.

Correctly removing barriers to productivity is essential for keeping a distributed workforce focused on work and there are a number of technologies to consider…

Although often thought to be ahead of its time, Unified Communications (UC) is undergoing a resurgence now that the technology landscape around it, such as cloud, mobility and collaboration has evolved sufficiently. By pulling all forms of communication into one interface, from video to voice to email to messaging, UC easily connects diverse networks of employees, partners and customers through a single interface. It ensures that everyone is in touch through optimal communication channels, so it is ideal for keeping conversations flowing and information shared between collaborative and flexible knowledge workers.

Mobile applications are another essential tool; giving your people access to information and data from critical business applications such as CRM, ERP and HRM through devices they’re using on the move means that they can make decisions immediately. Their flexible location shouldn’t become a bottleneck to efficiency or create endless ‘back at my desk’ catch-up lists to deal with later. Limiting application access can also lead to bad practices such as finding ‘workarounds’ or over reliance on office based colleagues to access information for them.

With teamwork replacing traditional hierarchical styles of working there’s also a greater need for collaborative project management to bring different groups together for information sharing on a variety of projects. Collaboration tools, therefore, could well be another part of the flexible working toolkit.

Last but not least, with staff more likely to be working remotely and dynamically fitting work and life around each other, there’s a far greater chance they’ll want a say in the device or technology they’re using. A fully open BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy may be appropriate or organisations may opt for a CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) route in order to retain a balance of organisational control alongside employee freedom.

Effective flexible working practices require cultural change but also a rethink of the technologies in use. Flexible working is not without its challenges, however, so in the final blog in this series I’ll look at what security issues flexible working creates and how these should be tackled.