Enterprise Mobility and Time-Independent Work

Because we use the word “mobile” to describe the increasingly useful wireless devices now at our disposal, there is a tendency to understand their impact primarily in terms of location-independence. If we closely observe how work is actually performed in the enterprise, however, we may find that it is by leveraging these devices to make work time-independent that we are more likely to achieve transformative value.

Consider an account rep about to embark on a roadtrip to call on customers in a number of cities. Such a rep is no more “mobile” today than in the past. Physical movement from place to place still depends on trains, planes and automobiles. Other than perhaps providing access to information about a last-minute gate change, a mobile device does nothing to enhance our rep’s physical mobility.

But without enterprise mobility, this rep would have had to prepare for such a trip by putting together reports in printed form or as files loaded onto a laptop. This might mean extra hours front-loaded on a Sunday night or early Monday morning before the trip. Our rep would also have to be super-diligent about putting together all the right information before leaving—because it would be difficult or impossible to add to that information once on the road.

Enterprise mobility dramatically time-shifts this work. With the right combination of mobile BI and content access, our rep can defer information assimilation tasks until just before each appointment. This allows our rep to avoid the intensive front-loading of these tasks and to walk into each appointment with more timely content. Perhaps even more important, our rep can apply lessons learned on Monday and Tuesday to appointments on Wednesday and Thursday—introducing a kind of adaptive, improvisatory quality to account management that was never possible before.

Of course, like the rest of us, our rep can also check emails early in the morning, late at night, and during the sundry other moments the day affords in restaurants and taxis. So what has changed about our work is not that we can collaborate with colleagues on another coast. We’ve always done that. What is new is that someone in San Francisco can ask me a question at the end of their work day and get an answer from me even though, given the fact that there is a three-hour difference in our time-zones, I’m already kicked back after dinner watching a ballgame on TV.

This is not news to those of us who carry our workspace in a pocket and a shoulder bag. But it is something important to consider when planning and pre-imagining the new mobile enterprise. When work leaves the office, it also leaves clock—and this atemporality has profound implications that mere mobility does not.