Contextual Mobile Device Management
The Next Wave of Workforce Performance
Introduction The Power and Perils of Mobile Technology
Make no mistake: mobility is our reality. Mobile devices – smart phones, tablets, notebooks and the data and apps they support – are threaded into the fabric of nearly everything we do, from the moment we rise to check our first stream of morning news to the time we sign off and set our wake up alarm each evening. This relentless mobile mindset is infused in how we work, socialize, inform and act, and it has shaped our current culture.
Globally, nearly half of all smartphone users spend more than five hours per day on their mobile device, according to Counterpoint Technology Market Research. Considering the typical person is awake for just over 15 hours a day, this means that approximately one-third of our time is consumed by our devices. Evidence shows that nearly every consumer-based app has been engineered to manipulate brain chemistry and elicit addictive behaviors, which has spawned an entire movement toward “digital wellness” complete with gadgets, techniques and even coaches to wean people off screen time.
But while countless reports have cited the growing mobile phone addiction epidemic, mobile technology cuts both ways. It can be a powerful productivity tool because of its ability to provide real-time access to information through business-specific apps that track projects, inventory, customer invoices, etc. Data that used to tether employees to their desks is now instantly available at their fingertips in the field or from any remote setting. At the same time, devices can be a source of distractions such as texting, searching the Internet, checking social media, replying to email, playing games and numerous other temptations that compete for an individual’s attention during the workday. But while these can hurt productivity, such distractions can also be dangerous. Nearly half (40%) of commercial accidents are due to distracted driving, with mobile phone usage being responsible for one in four U.S. traffic crashes.
Now imagine the possible: what if a smartphone was so smart that it sensed when an employee was behind the wheel or when a construction worker was on top of a building? What if a tablet could keep trade secrets from traveling out the door of an R&D facility or leaking from the corporate boardroom? What if a mobile device could actually empower staff members to perform at their peak every day of the week and fully enjoy life after hours?
Technology can solve the problems that it created. As a business leader, providing a safe workplace is a given, but those who go the extra mile to ensure that their employees are free of mobile device distractions enable a healthier, happier and more highly productive workforce. They also have greater potential for higher revenue/profitability, better customer service and a competitive advantage.
The New Vision Contextual Mobile Device Management (CMDM)
So, what is an employer to do in today’s modern and mobile workplace where handheld technology is the norm? While more than half (59%) of organizations have a BYOD policy and another 13% are planning for it, other businesses provide mobile phones and tablets to their employees in order to be more productive. Yet whether a device is personal or employee-owned, the issue still comes down to how it’s used. Over the years, some companies have put formal, written employee guidelines in place to try to prevent imprudent or excessive use of mobile devices, but the results are mixed. Policies alone are not enough if they can’t be successfully enforced.
A better alternative is to engage employees in the decision to eliminate device distractions as they do their jobs. Help them to understand how doing so enables them to work smarter not harder, and more importantly – more safely – ensuring they return home to their loved ones at the end of the day. This requires company leaders to drive buy-in and trust across the organization, to manage for desired outcomes and to change cultural behaviors. But this takes time and a shift of mindset.
One of the biggest shifts is to look at the world a bit differently – in “zones” – wherever an individual’s mobile device is in use, whether that’s behind a desk at the office, in a meeting room, traveling in the field, working at a job site, etc. Likewise, these zones also exist in an employee’s personal life – at home after work, enjoying family time, vacationing, etc. Over the years, work and personal life zones have blended together, largely because our devices have blurred these boundaries. In today’s society, we’ve become so obsessed with multi-tasking that employees are often robbed from being the most effective due to the many distractions posed by mobile apps competing for time and attention.
For example, many mobile users have become hard-wired to immediately check or respond to “dings” (incoming messages) from their device – whether they want to or not. This Pavlovian conditioning has become part of our social contract, similar to “liking” or “poking” a friend or colleague on social media. And, if an individual doesn’t respond within a matter of seconds, it’s considered rude.
A similar stigma applies to the workplace. How often do we see employees checking their mobile phones during meetings? How difficult is it to resist the urge to address a text on the spot? Do we perceive a colleague who’s constantly conducting calls on their smartphone as busy and therefore important? We need to break the cycle of old behaviors and establish a new culture of acceptance where mobile devices are no longer in charge of our time – but rather we’re in charge of the device.
Work when working, live when living and drive when driving.
To maximize productivity and instill a better work-life balance, companies should strive to enable the best experience for the employee on their mobile device, and that means minimizing distractions and helping them to focus on what they should be doing at a particular time in a given zone. In other words, allow them to work when working, live when living and drive when driving.
This concept is known as “Contextual Mobile Device Management (CMDM)” – the ability to maximize the mobile device experience based on the zone where the employee is based. The theory behind CMDM is that certain apps on an individual’s device are served up and made available depending on his or her unique situation, location and time.
CMDM is different than traditional mobile device management (MDM), which is used to remotely configure, update, support and track multiple devices on a network. CMDM is not about controlling end user devices, but rather enabling employees to access particular apps at the right time in the right place. Alternatively, where there is a safety or privacy issue, specific apps are not made available in that given context.
How CMDM Works Use Cases in Safety, Security and Productivity
CMDM software readily integrates with a company’s IT ecosystem and core technologies. It resides on an employee’s mobile device and intelligently identifies the zone or environment where he or she is located based on contextual indicators. Once the context is identified, apps and functionality on that individual’s device are temporarily activated or deactivated to enable optimal engagement, safety and productivity in that unique setting. In the simplest of terms, certain apps or functions work when they should and don’t when they shouldn’t. This takes the guesswork out of mobile device policy compliance. Employees know when the CMDM app is active because it is visible, and emergency services and contacts are always available.
The premise behind CMDM for each employee is that “whatever environment you’re in, we’re making you better.” CMDM can be customized to fit the requirements of a specific workforce and company policy, even down to the individual employee.
Let’s look at some use cases:
Minimizing Distractions in Hazardous Conditions
A field sales representative or commercial truck driver who may spend up to 10 hours driving on the road cannot afford distractions behind the wheel. Employees in hazardous job conditions that require utmost concentration, such as a construction worker straddling a girder on a high-rise building, are not in a position to be interrupted by incoming text messages or phone calls or tempted to surf the Internet, watch videos, check sports scores, etc. CMDM technology protects these and other employees in high risk situations from such mobile distractions.
Emerging Application – IP Protection
CMDM also ensures that intellectual property and confidentiality are maintained in environments where there is proprietary information. It can ensure that photo and audio or video recording apps are not exposed in R&D laboratories, boardrooms, law offices or government buildings. The ability to maintain privacy and prevent leakage of competitive data ultimately saves businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue and reputation damage.
Better Work-Life Balance
CMDM works to promote optimal productivity – both on AND off the job. For call center or customer service employees, this may mean suppressing access to certain gaming or social media apps during working hours. But what about non-working hours? CMDM applies there, too, to help restore a sense of work-life balance. At the employer’s discretion, zones can be defined with rules to potentially limit access to company applications during off hours, freeing up an employee to enjoy more personal or family time.
CMDM Benefits Empowerment, Engagement, Experience
Ultimately, CMDM benefits both employee and employer. For working professionals, having access to the right apps at the right time on their mobile devices empowers them to work smarter and maintain a sharper focus on tasks at hand by eliminating distractions. CMDM promotes greater interaction with people and projects, boosting productivity and ultimately profitability. Quipped one sales executive who was relieved of the interruption of a constantly dinging mobile phone while behind the wheel, driving became “fun” again. Employees are empowered to own their day rather than being consumed by their mobile devices.
For employers, CMDM reaps many benefits by helping them to fulfill their commitment to employee safety, success and satisfaction. By minimizing mobile device disruption, companies enable a more efficient and engaged workforce, a better experience for individual employees and a more mutually rewarding relationship. The time has come to refocus the way the business world works to protect and empower what’s most important – its people.
Five Steps to Creating a Culture of Adoption and Acceptance
Change management relates to how individuals respond to and adopt/adapt to new processes and policies in their workplaces. There are various models and approaches followed by different businesses, but the common goal of each is to help the people overcome some of their fears and anxieties related to the “change initiative” that is being undertaken by the organization.
When it comes to changing the mindset of mobile device use, old habits die hard – especially given how many of today’s apps can trigger addictive behaviors. In reviewing literature from Harvard Business Review and Forbes, professional leadership coaches and organizational psychologists offer tips to help guide employees through change. The following steps have been tailored to more specifically address the use of mobile technology in order to create a healthier, more productive culture in the workplace:
1. Uncover the employee’s competing commitment. This is a subconscious goal that directly conflicts with an individual’s stated goal and stands in the way of change. For example, excessive use of gaming app during working hours may indicate a person’s desire for distraction from a boring, tedious task or used as a procrastination tactic to avoid a looming deadline and associated fear of failure.
2. Provide feedback and coaching. If mobile technology use is found to be distracting or disruptive to an employee’s productivity, immediate top-down feedback can help nip the issue in the bud, but it only goes so far. Even more effective is ongoing, collaborative coaching that helps the employee correct behaviors over time. For example, if a team member is constantly checking his or her device and texting or emailing during meetings, coach this individual to keep it at their desk or in their bag – out of sight, out of mind.
3. Set an example. As a leader, you must adopt the mantra as “do as I do,” which means be a role model. If you are in the habit of wearing your mobile phone like an appendage and constantly excusing yourself from meetings to answer calls, your employees will likely emulate your behavior and see it as acceptable. Instead, turn your device on silent and set firm boundaries as to when you will/won’t address incoming communication.
4. Focus on the bigger picture. Take a step back and look at a colleague’s mobile device use in the larger context in which he or she is operating. Be able to see the environmental contributors and circumstances feeding the behavior. For example, is there an unwritten rule from sales leadership that all field reps must continuously check and respond to messages immediately? Is there any flexibility for exceptions during prime driving times? If not, your salesforce may be putting their safety in jeopardy behind the wheel to comply with implied expectations.
5. Tackle one issue at a time. When it comes to employee development, focus is everything. Trying to motivate a staff member to quit using distracting apps on their mobile device is like attempting to get a smoker to go cold turkey. It rarely works. Introducing solutions like CMDM to automatically serve up the right apps in the right context can ease the behavioral change. When that employee begins to recognize a better ability to concentrate and improved work performance and recognition follow, priorities begin to noticeably shift.