Friday, February 04, 2011

Work, mobile computing, and control........

I recently received a marketing email from a well known technology vendor titled, "Keep things moving with mobility solutions." When I examined the contents of the email, it was all about laptop computers. My first reaction was to think to myself how much broader my own definition of mobile computing is. I'd like to think that we are at a tipping point where applications and the ability to get work done can be "device agnostic." This means a desktop PC, laptop computer, netbook, smartphone, tablet, or future device will offer anytime, anywhere Internet with the ability to access both business (think client information) & personal data (think banking records) along with productivity tools. And it will all be done wirelessly (even the desktop PC will be on a LAN that connects to the broader Internet via a wireless connection).

Another reason I've been thinking about mobile computing is that it goes hand-in-hand with remote access. And with the weather being what it has been this week in Texas (rolling blackouts because of snow, ice and extremely cold weather), remote access and the ability to work from any device (no matter what operating system the device runs) are front & center in my professional life. Don't forget about the people using the remote access (they are the most important part of any solution).

Something related to remote access is control - not just of data and who accesses it, but also control over employees. One of the main principles of mobile computing & remote access is a decentralized workforce. No longer does a person have to sit at a desk in an office building to get the job done. But there are still management types who want to be able to see that an employee is at his or her desk working. So, how does management "see" if an employee is working in a decentralized environment? Is there even a way to effectively monitor a remote employee? What is work and how much of "effort" can be measured? If the organization is results-based, then monitoring the employees work is straight-forward; did you meet your stated goal of X dollars by Y date? How many service tickets did you close out today, this week, this month?

But control is a fleeting thing. One of my favorite quotes about control is from the original Star Wars movie. Princess Leia says, "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin (Imperial bad guy), the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

During my time in the Navy as a Work Center Supervisor, I was goal oriented. I'd tell my people, "Here is where we need to be and when we need to be there." I also put together the teams that did the analysis plus I trained every new analyst, but in the end you must trust your people & processes in order to reach your organizational goals.


P.S. - I believe Princess Leia won in the end and Governor Tarkin was blown up with the original Death Star so score one for her.

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