Localized Mobility


My first grader learned a new strategy last week for dealing with the unexpected.

It’s all based on the word STOP—or, more precisely, the words Stop, Think, Observe and Plan.Sure, first grade was a long time ago, but I bet there’s something here we can use.

Let’s apply this method to something I’ve been thinking pretty hard about lately: localized mobility. This refers to the archaic notion of giving mobile computing to mobile workers or executives only. This is one of the biggest mistakes in business today.

So let’s use our new first-grade strategy as we move through this. We’ll start with Stop. Stop what? In this situation it means recognizing that habitual decision-making is probably not the smartest way to approach our businesses. In fact, any time we do things because, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done them,” we set ourselves up for hard times down the road. This is common sense, so let’s say we’ve successfully accomplished Stop and move on to Think.

I’ve been in tech a long time, and through the years the story has always been the same.  Executives and salespeople get the cool toys. I can understand why. Executives usually own the company, and producers are on the road bringing in the bacon. I’ll ignore the fact that executives use this equipment the least, because I’m not here to argue they shouldn’t get cool toys. I’m here to argue that the cool toys shouldn’t stop there. Somewhere along the way mobility and advanced technology have become a reward. This doesn’t make any sense, especially when the cool toys have the potential to completely transform your colleagues’ ability to perform their jobs.

Some argue that limiting the use of these tools makes good fiscal sense, but this notion is shortsighted at best. With the advent of Windows 10 on tablets, the equipment costs per desk can actually go down. The only way a financial argument for limiting mobility makes sense is if you give employees multiple machines, which would be a ridiculous practice. The costs for a desktop, laptop, tablet and phone can add up fast, but you really only need two of them. A Microsoft Surface tablet drops into a dock with multiple monitors, keyboard and mouse. Do it right and nobody will notice the difference unless they go to a meeting. Then they’ll certainly notice because the entire desktop computer, containing all their software, files, network access and personalized configuration, goes with them.

Instead of sitting in a meeting to talk about what work to do, imagine a meeting where you actually do work. Imagine a training session where everybody trains on their actual machine. Imagine your servicing colleagues gathering around a table with their own machines to work out a client issue rather than huddling over a single monitor in someone’s cubicle.

Here’s something else to think about. Many producers struggle with their mobile equipment when presenting to clients. Equipment doesn’t work, software is confusing, even the interface can be a mystery. Why? Because they don’t use it every day, and neither does anyone else. If your entire company uses the same tablet, everyone would be in a better position. Every agency strives to drive more business and retain clients. This requires a capability that is hindered by our archaic notions of what equipment our employees use. I speak with servicing employees every day, and the number one automation issue is equipment that gets in the way of servicing clients anytime, anywhere. It’s time to take off the handcuffs.

Let’s move on to Observe. Only a handful of agencies have embraced “mobility for all,” but this is becoming a commonplace approach in other industries. In fact, several firms are the process of replacing all desktops with Surface tablets. The transformation has been incredible. In this case, desktops have been moved entirely into the cloud as well. This means there is nothing on the Surface to lose. When colleagues log in, they connect to a virtual desktop housed in a faraway data center. Employees regularly meet to actually do work, everyone with their full machine in front of them. The concept of “mobility for all” allows colleagues to move around the office as the mood suits them. In the course of a day, colleagues regularly move from a window seat to an open table to a sofa. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re working. This is the millennial mindset at its best.

Need another example? Just think about how you do things at home. Do you sit behind a clunky computer with a flickering monitor to read the news or do you check it on your couch from your iPad or phone? What if you could work that way? The effect on morale and productivity would be enormous.

We’ve made it to Plan. This one isn’t incredibly hard once you get past the “Why would I do this?” mentality. Your plan will contain the regular cast of characters: steps and stages, financials and up-front investment, so I won’t get into those details here. Be thoughtful, test the environment and allow for flexibility in places where it makes sense. Just try to avoid paralysis by analysis.

When the agencies above started down this path , they did their homework, but didn’t let their antiquated notions of office environments slow them down. The world is changing, and this is one area where our industry can finally ride the wave instead of lagging behind.

Next month we’ll talk about instituting nap time and recess. But for now, class dismissed.