Is the mobile workforce viable?

BUSINESS

-
Image: By BiztechAfrica
Is the mobile workforce viable?

Is the mobile workforce a practical reality in corporate Africa? Elingo's Karl Reed discusses the technicalities of this much touted organisational dream.

One of the most common misconceptions currently at play in African economies is that mobile workers must operate at management or executive level.

This opinion, which is widely held, amounts to a misreading of what is possible and effective in today's business world. 

Management level employees have been operating as 'road warriors' quite effectively for over a decade, thanks to a combination of email, consumer-focused tools such as Skype and rapidly advancing levels of internet access, through smartphones and other mobile devices.

This often informally utilised combination has allowed managers and executives to work from home, or on the road, or from the client's premises. The key internal benefit of flexibility is matched by the ability to spend more time on-site or at the client's offices, allowing for the building of high quality, lasting relationships.

In more recent years, ‘road warriors’ have been able to log into the company communications or ERP system from a remote location. This vital shift has reinforced the integrity of the organisation's larger communications structure, which can potentially be undermined by too much ad hoc and unstructured off-site communication. 

When it comes to other, mid level staff, deeply rooted fears still exist that operation outside the office walls will create slacking off, taking advantage of the system and so forth. Let's brush aside the clear signs of hierarchical prejudice apparent here and analyse the reality of what is and isn't possible. 

If the organisation utilises a communication system that is open in its structure, it is not only feasible to have contact centre operators working from home, the step can actually cut costs and improve efficiency as well.

With such technologies the operator is able to simply log into the system from any location via a medium sized ADSL line, using standard equipment that can be found in any computer shop. Once the worker has logged in, the line manager will receive exactly the same performance feed as if the employee was sitting in a cubicle next door. All the key indicators can be tracked and managed in real time.

Because the employee is not housed at the office, important basic infrastructure costs (from chairs and tables through to parking bays and workstations) no longer accrue to the company's account. Viewed from this perspective a mobile workforce becomes a very attractive organisational cost cutter and a powerful motivational tool for staff, many of whom relish the lifestyle flexibility the paradigm offers.

The crux is the communication technology being used, of course. If the technology is open and easily integrated in terms of software and hardware the organisation should have no problems in establishing a mobile workforce. Proprietary systems, in contrast, carry with them major expenses, including the need for a heavy duty ADSL line and specialised hardware and software, which must be installed at the remote location. Add these costs up across every remote site and the expense is prohibitive. Conversely, while you probably wouldn't want your contact centre agent operating from a coffee shop’s wireless zone, with open communication architecture this is entirely possible. 

As attractive as a mobile workforce can be, it's important to note that in Africa we remain delayed in the bog of our base-line telecom costs. Our country is one of the most expensive in the world when it comes to basic bandwidth, and this is clearly fettering our ability to take full advantage of the benefits a mobile workforce offers. As we see bandwidth costs fall locally, I have no doubt more local organisations will go mobile – thanks to the flexibility and cost reductions on offer.

The shift can't happen soon enough. Mobile work opens the employment door to sectors of our society currently cut out of the mix. One immediately thinks of the disabled and mothers of young children here. For mobile work to take off nationally, it could only benefit countries struggling to offer opportunities to people highly motivated to work. 

A mobile workforce is not a quick fix intervention. It is only achievable if the organisation's over-arching communication infrastructure is of the appropriate type.  Organisations that are intrigued by the idea but are structurally unable to pursue it should focus on talking to a communications service provider possessing proven credentials in developing and delivering open and easy-to-integrate systems.

As always, the inter-play between business strategy and technology is the central point; the technology must support the business strategy and vision rather than define its limitations. For the companies that have achieved this state of structural readiness, there are few limits as to what can be achieved in the mobile world.



Share the News

Get Daily Newsletter

comments powered by Disqus

MORE BUSINESS NEWS

Nigeria: potential to become major economic force

Acha Leke A new McKinsey report finds that Nigeria has the potential to expand its economy by roughly 7.1 percent per year through 2030. Read More

Call for pan-African contact centre association

Interactive Intelligence has called for the creation of a call centre association for Nigeria and other African countries as a way of promoting a standard for call centres. Read More

AMI, Strathmore launch free online courses for managers and entrepreneurs in Africa

Managers and entrepreneurs in Africa can now gain advanced skills for free, with the launch of free online courses courtesy of the African Management Initiative (AMI). Read More

Bytes, NCR and Barclays in ATM deal

Bytes Managed Solutions, the exclusive distributor of NCR technology solutions in Southern Africa had signed a deal with Barclays Bank of Botswana (BBB) for the installation of intelligent cash deposit ATMs. Read More

Orange reports 8% revenue growth

Integrated telecommunications service provider Orange has announced an 8% revenue growth for the overall business for the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year. Read More

Business Connexion appoints CEO

Business Connexion Group Limited has announced that Mr. Isaac Mophatlane has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the company. Read More

Managed service support key to growth for iWayAfrica

Pan African telecoms operator, Gondwana International Networks (GIN) has announced that its iWayAfrica business will be partnering with managed services company, SevenC Computing to grow its foothold in key Africa territories.  Read More

Dire need for top IT leadership

There is a huge demand for top leaders with high-level information technology skills, but there are very few candidates who can fill these positions, one of SA’s leading executive search experts says. Read More

AccTech Systems moves strategically into Africa

AccTech Systems has signed an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) agreement with Microsoft to provide solutions to the Microsoft Dynamics NAV and GP Dynamics channel in Africa. Read More

Acer steps up MEA commercial focus

Acer Middle East and Africa is renewing its focus on the region’s commercial market, with new products and services and an enhanced channel strategy. Read More

PRESS OFFICES

Sage ERP AfricaSAP AfricaSage Pastel AccountingTrust PayVMWareSamsung ElectronicsMitsumi DistributionPhoenix DistributionSage HR AfricaMTN BusinessSchneider ElectricMultichoice

FEATURED STORY

Widening ICT skills gap: Cause for concernWidening ICT skills gap: Cause for concern

Nigeria's FDI gains could be eroded by the widening gap in indigenous skilled ICT manpower, writes Kokumo Goodie.

IN DEPTH

Kenya rolls out e-extension to improve agricultureKenya rolls out e-extension to improve agriculture

In a bid to curb the overwhelmed number of agricultural extension officers in Kenya, the ministry of agriculture is embracing technology with their introduction of E-Extension services, which are aimed at reaching out to over 7 million farmers annually.

COMPANY NEWS

VMware reports second quarter 2014 results

VMware, the global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure, today announced financial results for the second quarter of 2014.

New Sage ERP X3 version puts business information at your fingertips

Sage ERP Africa has announced the availability of Sage ERP X3 version 7, the latest version of its global business management solution for midsized companies. 

How the cloud can power entrepreneurship and urbanisation in Africa

Cloud computing is not only fundamentally changing the way business operates, it is also driving a new wave of job creation opportunities, says SAP Africa.