Employee-Driven Design: Part 6 — Mobility

According to the market research firm IDC, by 2020, over 105 million US workers will be “mobile” — as in not working at their desktop. This represents roughly three-quarters of the American workforce. So, what does working mobile really mean? Well, it’s less about smart phones and more about mobility. 

Any Device, Any Time, Any Place

Having mobility is a step beyond being mobile. It’s the consistent access to information across devices. It means giving employees the power to work on any device, at any time, from any place. If connecting employees is facilitating conversations wherever they prefer to communicate, then mobility is allowing content producers to create however they prefer to collaborate. The best content creators build as they work, and the average worker has roughly five devices. Is your current intranet compatible with all of them? Probably not. 

Strategies for Mobility

So how do you move your company in the direction of mobility? Most organizations think that they can simply extend their existing intranet onto a similar platform suitable for mobile devices, but that’s not the right approach. First and foremost, you need to focus on what features make sense for your users, and review which use cases make sense for mobility. Features such as people finder, conversations, news and content discovery, and sharing are common mobile use cases.

Microsoft’s mission is being mobile first and cloud first, so their tools are designed to allow users to produce content that looks good on any device with no re-coding. Microsoft 365 reduces the barrier of entry for creating and absorbing content through because it supports responsive mobile by default. In the past you’d have to get a developer involved to ensure responsiveness, or have strict guidelines on content creation. The end result was that people didn’t want to produce anything. 

Not Just Mobility, But Secure Mobility

If you’ve built your intranet within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, then you’ve got access to all their security features, which can be leveraged across desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. Security is so customizable, there’s no longer a need to jump through hurdles to allow mobility. The same secuirty and privacy policies that are created for the corporate laptop can be applied to an employee’s personal smartphone, ipad, or other tablet device. While there are some security differences between licenses, you’re generally able to control what people can see, access, edit, and download with standard permissions. 

Hop on the Mobility Train or Get Left Behind

As mobile experiences continue to infiltrate our everyday lives, employees are beginning to demand those same experiences in the workplace, whether they’ve expressed it or not. Unless there’s some supertrend to go back to pen and paper, technology is going to continue to be the platform for workplace engagement. So, what’s driving this move toward mobility? Three factors stand out: 

  1. The affordability of data plans for mobile and tablet devices
  2. The expanding adoption of smart-devices for work-related processes
  3. Companies’ increased comfort with employees bringing their own devices into the office

The modern workforce will expect to be able to access their company data, including their intranet, from anywhere. Mobility is becoming the new norm.

Why Your Employees Need A Mobile Intranet

There’s not enough time in the day. In the hustle and bustle of the work week, no one has the time to consume everything that’s going on in their corporate intranet on the job. But, people still want to be able to stay in the know. Designing your intranet to be mobile-compatible empowers people to look at, react, and comment on content no matter where they are, or what they’re doing. They can communicate and collaborate while riding on a train, sitting on their couch after dinner, or doing anything else.

People use phones for everything. In modern society, cell phones and other mobile devices are not only used for talking, but also as cameras, to watch videos, for email, text, and instant access to social networks. Studies estimate that people check their phones almost 100 times a day on average, and they use it for countless things, whether it’s keeping up on the news, interacting on Facebook and LinkedIn, or using one of the thousands of apps available. Having a mobile-friendly social intranet fits in perfectly alongside these other use cases. It feels natural to people who use their phone to react and interact to the latest corporate developments via the company intranet.

It makes people more productive. A well-designed intranet with a standalone app, secure access, and useful features can boost your employees’ productivity and engagement — both at work and on the go. Mobile intranet users should be able to do the same things they can do on their desktop, like find an employee, locate area experts, discover and share content, stay up to date with corporate news, and participate in forum discussions.

But, with most great power comes great responsibility, so along with mobility, you need to make sure you have effective governance policies in place. 

Topics: Digital Workplace Trends, Intranet Design
Adam Levithan

Adam is a Principal at Withum and is a Microsoft MVP. He is a seasoned business strategist, SharePoint advocate, and information architect, focusing on designing information management and collaboration solutions leveraging Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 technologies.