The way we work has been transformed as mobile technologies and connectivity have evolved to become extensions of ourselves. Gone are the days employers had to sell their workforce on connectivity—for better or worse, workers expect to remain plugged in around the clock. Employers are realizing the value in tools that empower connectivity anytime and anywhere, particularly for workers who are not confined to a desk.
Many employees, such as those in the construction industry, rely on mobility to get the job done. Whether commuting between worksites, operating cranes and bulldozers, climbing up ladders, or walking across scaffolding, the workday of a construction worker is quite dynamic. To engage a connected workforce, contractors are empowering mobile workers with mobile devices.
Laptops, while portable, do not enable the same degree of mobility as smartphones and tablets. The nature of portable devices and their more static use requirements warrant management strategies that focus chiefly on securing the device. This approach fails to account for what the user is doing and where because it is obvious that the worker is likely seated indoors, not driving or operating machinery, and so on.
While this approach has long been adequate for portable devices, construction workers are accessing the digital tools they need on devices that fit in their pocket and connect to the internet anywhere it is available. Managing mobile devices is a little different, as they are connected and often used while the worker is moving and trying to multitask.
Additionally, as mobile devices are certainly portable, portable devices such as laptops are not always mobile. How these two classes of devices are managed to engage a connected workforce differ in implementation, requiring contractors recognize the inherent differences between them.
MOBILITY VERSUS PORTABILITY
While mobility and portability might seem one and the same, they are not. Mobility is user-dependent, whereas portability is device-dependent. Something that more clearly highlights the difference between the two is access. Though mobile devices and portable devices can both move freely, mobile devices are used on the go through the ability to connect anywhere at any time.
With more workers achieving mobility, they gain real-time access to information and communications while on the clock and off. The smartphone, for example, has created an opportunity for those not confined to a desk to embrace digitization as employers choose to streamline and scale workflows through mobile apps. Digitization also lends itself to better communication across dispersed locations, an essential step in completing projects efficiently.
What are the downsides? With the ubiquity of smartphones for work comes an increasingly sophisticated set of risks. Depending on where the device is being used, there may be little room for interpreting how it should be used—or if it should be used at all. When workers are operating dangerous machinery, driving between jobsites, or walking across scaffolding, looking down at a screen poses increased risk to the worker and those around him or her.
MOBILITY DEVICE MANAGEMENT
Despite the rapid evolution of mobility, many employers still execute mobile device management (MDM) through the lens of portability. MDM focuses primarily on the device and network security with little attention to how the device is being used. Since the introduction of the smartphone, everything that could be done on the laptop and other devices can now be done on and accessed through a device that fits in the palm of your hand. Mobile device policies must be flexible enough to support specific business units, departments, and work task functions across a myriad of environments or situations.
MDM and usage policies must focus on enabling efficient and productive mobile device usage for all the roles within an enterprise. MDM that focuses chiefly on device and network security fails to account for the context of mobile device usage. Traditional MDM solutions are used to help enforce these policies, but they often can only create usage personas based on roles, and not time, location, or other contextual triggers like movement or sensor data. Then, there’s the variable of sensitive company material—think customer data, company financials, project plans, etc.—being accessible to an employee outside of a workspace or work timeframe.
ACCOUNT FOR THE CONTEXT
All of the issues above beg the question: How can business leaders ensure their mobile device policies and solutions are tailored to each role? Businesses have started to implement strategies through which they can manage flexible device use, finding ways to enable applications and access to content necessary at only the right times and in the right locations, while temporarily suppressing access at times when it could pose a security or safety risk. To do so, they’re adding a layer of context to their mobility management solutions.
Contextual mobility management (CMM) uses contextual triggers to drive mobile enablement, protect confidential data, and keep employees safe. Contextual intelligence adds security whilst not treading on employee privacy, eliminating the need for all-or-nothing policies, considering the human side of enterprise mobility. CMM recognizes that workers move throughout a shift, and as their context changes, so too should their mobile permissions, automatically and synchronously.
We live in a world where personal and professional mix. Sometimes the overlap doesn’t impact business, but oftentimes it does. The best and most responsible action contractors can take for enabling mobility across their construction workforce is providing workers the balance between staying connected and being productive, while preventing situations that threaten worker safety and data security.
About the Author:
Joe Boyle is CEO at TRUCE Software and has led high-performance teams in technology companies for more than 20 years. Boyle brings a passion for enhancing companies’ safety standards and productivity while improving the employee experience through contextual mobility management. For more, visit trucesoftware.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, June 2022
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