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Understanding How Mobile is Bringing Productivity Increases in the SME Market

03 May 2016

Ask any SME owner what their biggest challenge is and they’ll tell you the same thing – there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In fact, the reason we set up Emerald was to help SMEs leverage technology as a force for good, to save time and streamline efficiencies across their organisation; freeing up more time to concentrate on the tasks that matter. But it’s not just business owners that have this problem. In busy SMEs, resources are stretched and every worker is trying to squeeze every second of every minute in order to be productive as they can.

A recent survey, entitled Powering Productivity, asked 515 business leaders and key decision makers throughout Europe what their most common causes of wasted time are throughout the day, with inefficient processes and duplicated efforts topping the list. The other contributing factors to wasted time that ranked highly were poor communication throughout the organisation, and time spent travelling. The report found that these inefficiencies are not just a nuisance for management, but also impacts on employees and customers too, with the burden of inefficiency leading to retention problems in the long term for both.

Productivity is an overused word that actually has a multitude of meanings. Many businesses still take the wrong approach to productivity and attempt to squeeze every last drop of capacity out of their workforce – that’s not true productivity. The real measure of productivity is how easy you are making it for your employees to do their work, how flexible their working hours are and how accessible you are making your business IT systems. And there’s one tool that is helping SMEs increase productivity among their workforce more effectively than other methods – the rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy.

What does Bring Your Own Device Mean?

You’ll be hard pressed not to notice the rise of the mobile device both in the domestic and work environment. A recent survey from OfCom found that two thirds of adults in the UK now own a smartphone and there is a tablet device in over 50% of households. Furthermore, Gartner believes that four in ten businesses will have a BYOD policy in place by the end of 2016, with 85% of businesses implementing one by 2020. BYOD is the policy of allowing employees to bring their own devices to work with them, to enable them to work remotely, at any time and any place on a platform they are comfortable with, for example, checking emails on an iPhone, or amending documents through an Android tablet whilst waiting for a train on the way to a meeting. The obvious benefit for the busy SME is that of time saving and reduced costs associated with investing in capital expenditure. But BYOD delivers much more than that.

These days, many mobile devices are often newer and more advanced than the equipment deployed by many SME IT departments and can render employees more self-sufficient and engaged in their work. Many workers are used to engaging with their own device, making them faster at accessing and amending documents, increasing employee engagement and efficiency. Imagine how much more productive an employee could be if they could start to create a document on their work PC, leave the office to catch a train and continue updating the document on an iPad at the station, before boarding the train and emailing this document to a client via their smartphone. At a time when many more SMEs are embracing flexible working hours, a well thought out BYOD policy can provide even greater flexibility allowing employees to complete work on their terms, on their time.

Are there risks involved for the SME Market?

Of course, while BYOD sounds attractive to the busy SME, businesses do need to consider the full implications of allowing corporate data to be accessed on personal devices that they have little or no control over. Increased consumerisation in the workplace can bring with it risks of hacking, viruses and, of course, data breaches for every mobile phone lost in a café or in the back of a taxi. Often convenience can clash with security, which is why it is always recommended that SMEs work with a specialist IT partner to manage their BYOD policy. Often, these providers can close down or block phones the moment they become lost, can protect and recover lost data and minimise the security risks associated with BYOD.

Ultimately, the worst thing that an SME can do is ignore the rise of BYOD, and fail to implement such a policy in the business. By taking this stance, they are unwittingly exposing themselves to attack and, as a result, legislative or reputational threats. But what’s involved in a successful BYOD policy? The art of managing and governing BYOD goes far beyond passcode-protecting employee devices. You will need to consider encrypting sensitive data, preventing local storage of corporate documents or limiting mobile access to company assets. The key is to have a well thought out BYOD policy and strategy in order to balance freedom and time saving efficiencies with the right governance and management of mobility. An effective BYOD policy secures data as well as a device, and means that you need not worry about compromising security in the quest for productivity.

Similar to flexible working hours, BYOD is about helping your employees to work better, and more effectively, the way they want to. Just as employees are used to working on their own technology at home, they want the same experience in the workplace and, in many cases, they want the ability to work and complete tasks on the move. Far from shy away from BYOD, SMEs need to be embracing BYOD and mobility now more than ever if they are to truly start to embrace the increase in productivity it brings with it.

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