Control v. Openness in a Mobile World | Gagen MacDonald

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Control v. Openness in a Mobile World

Jan 23, 2015
I recently listened to a webinar on empowering the workforce with mobile technology and its impact on employee performance. The webinar reminded me how the flood of new tools – almost 500 million smartphones shipped in 2011 – are changing the way we all do business. Employees are using the technology to redefine their work day as 80 percent of people continue to work after they leave the office; increasing productivity and the number of hours spent on the job.As mobile capabilities continue to play a more central role in the way we work, it got me thinking about the careful balance between security and productivity and the challenge in how to establish parameters for how employees use mobile technology to do their jobs.By making the investment in mobile technology leaders are providing employees with the tools to work more effectively. But how do leaders protect their employees and intellectual property without limiting performance?The challenge lies in the balance between controls versus openness of your mobile strategy. As leaders, you need to develop an approach to mobile technology that establishes a certain degree of control – by defining guidelines that will ensure security for the business – without taking away from the open and collaborative nature that comes along with working in mobile environments.Consider this; if your employees have mobile devices, but they can’t access certain programs or resources they need to do their jobs, what is the cost to the business? At what point is the security threat worth the risk given the added productivity mobile technology offers your employees? If the technology is guarded too closely, you are limiting your employees’ ability to work most effectively. If it is not guarded enough, employees may not understand the proper use of the tools and you leave your business susceptible to misuse. By clearly defining the right level of instruction, you give employees context to understand the new capabilities and the ability to use their best judgment.As you’re weighing the balance between control versus openness that best meets the needs of your business, it’s important to consider the impact your decisions will have on your company’s performance. I encourage you to look at IBM’s Leading Through Connections Study, based on discussions with more than 1,700 CEOs. The study shows that while some companies set boundaries and limitations on their employees’ ability to use mobile features, others partnered with outside resources to create open, collaborative platforms that gave employees the freedom to use the tools. The results indicated that 1/3 of the underperforming firms sought control of their technology while more than half of outperforming organizations were focused on openness and innovation through collaboration with outside resources.It struck me that the businesses that “let go” and engaged partners to develop new mobile capabilities for their businesses were not only more successful, but were actively creating communities of forward thinking employees. By taking a more open and collaborative approach, those businesses used technology to help them drive performance and thrive in dynamic business environments.As leaders, the challenge is finding the right balance between openness and control that will allow your employees and your business to thrive. There is no one size fits all solution and finding the right position between the two ends of the spectrum is up to you.
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