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In the IT world, “mobility” tends to be thought of as people communicating while outside the office, using their cell phones for voice calls, texting, or mobile UC apps. The implication is that when you’re in the office, you’re not really mobile.

That’s probably because IT people have a history of thinking in terms of the network that a person uses to connect. To them, “mobile” tends to equal “cellular network,” whereas WiFi connectivity equates to being on the office network, and therefore functionally the same as being plugged into the wireline Ethernet LAN.

But times are changing. For one thing, wired Ethernet is getting to the point of not being a thing anymore. The younger folks in our office literally don’t know how it works; the first time they experience a WiFi outage and we tell them to plug into the wired network, we have to show them which wire goes into which laptop port.

More than that, though, mobility in an enterprise sense is beginning to align more closely with the dictionary definition—i.e., you’re moving around. Which is something you do quite a bit of within the confines of your office.

So IT folks would do well to take a look at this blog post by Elizabeth Dukes, co-founder of iOffice, which makes Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) software that integrates HR and facilities management systems. In her post, she points out that as building control, room scheduling, and other functions get integrated into the workplace systems already in place, enterprises have the opportunity to let employees take workspace control literally into their own hands.

“Mobility refers to more than just the mobile phone,” Elizabeth writes. “It’s about giving employees mobility and control over their workday. They need the ability to easily connect to their workplace or their work activity as they need to. It’s not about controlling the building; it’s about enhancing the experience.

“Simply put, mobility equals employee engagement” [emphasis in original].

The mobile phone has always been a challenge for enterprise IT, going back to the time when “BYOD” was a scary new concept instead of just a daily reality, as it is now. Making the mobile phone become the universal remote for controlling your office life is an admirable goal, but the phone is only part of the challenge. First we’ve got to get more IT elements integrated into the system.

I caught up with Elizabeth by phone a couple of weeks ago, and we discussed the potential of adding IT systems to the integration of HR and facilities management. “So many times, IT is making decisions that cross over into facilities, particularly when it comes to collaboration--conference room scheduling and connecting to conference room toolsets like A/V [and other] tools like that,” she said, adding that there’s a “need to integrate into all the touchpoints that the employee uses throughout the day.”

IT is making some progress, at least conceptually. The latest generation of videoconferencing software employs Bluetooth or other near-field wireless technologies to make connecting to a system in any size meeting room or space more seamless than ever. Connecting systems on the back end to extend employees’ reach is the next logical step.

The next piece of the puzzle is then to crunch all the data generated by systems like these, to create the best experience for the end user. Elizabeth cites examples like allowing a scheduling system to learn which meeting room a user prefers, and make that the default for setting meetings.

When you add it all up, this is about giving employees more control over their work environments, which is important to achieving the critical factor that Elizabeth cites: employee engagement. Such engagement is key to employee retention and satisfaction in a competitive future.

I’d love to hear about how your enterprise plans to help employees take control over the systems they use in the office. Drop me a line at [email protected] and let me know where you’re at on the road to greater integration.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair WorkSpace Connect &  Enterprise Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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