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4 steps to a tech plan that includes mobile devices

Mobile devices offer us new ways to work. But your tech plan, policies, and purchasing habits may need an update.

Tech plan

The tech inventory of an organization I advise lists no smartphones or tablets, yet people clearly email from these devices. That's not surprising, since Pew Research Center studies show that "64% of Americans now own a smartphone" and "42% of American adults" own a tablet.

People behave as if the organization permits people to "bring-their-own-device," yet the organization's written tech policies omit any mention of smartphones and tablets. Officially, the organization provides each employee a laptop, a desktop phone, a Google Apps account, and access to on-site Wi-Fi. Unofficially, people use smartphones and tablets for work.

Smartphones and tablets need to be explicitly addressed in your next tech plan. That's explicit, as in "fully expressed, leaving nothing implied;" not explicit as in, "Oh $#!^, someone stole an employee's phone that contained client information."

You don't need to be a mobile expert to create a plan. However, you will need to gather and analyze data, discuss options with other people, and experiment with devices in daily use.

Mobile basics

1. Review devices in daily use

Identify the people who already use mobile devices for work today. If you use Google Apps, login at http://admin.google.com, choose "Device Management," then "Mobile Devices." You'll see a list of mobile devices and connected user accounts.

Find out how people use their devices today. You can learn a lot from a brief conversation: "I mostly use email and calendar," or "I edit presentations on my phone all the time," or "I travel with just a tablet when I leave the office." If there are more than a few mobile users, you might consider creating a survey with Google Forms.

2. Discuss policies and apply settings

Discuss, decide, and communicate what's allowed and what's prohibited. What devices, apps, uses, or security settings are allowed, required, or prohibited? Clarify ownership and reimbursement policies for devices and data plans. Also address support: how much help with mobile devices will your organization provide to people?

Review and adjust your mobile device management settings to appropriately reflect the organization's policies. For Google Apps, login to the admin console, choose "Device Management," then select "Mobile" listed under the Device Settings menu on the left (Figure A). Review all of the "Device Management Settings" options.

Address the above items—devices and uses, policies and settings—and you'll be doing better than many organizations.

Figure A

Figure A

Check your Google Apps Admin settings for Mobile.

Mobile innovation

3. Identify your monthly per-employee spending

Calculate your organization's monthly per-employee spending on hardware, software, and subscription services. Be sure to include telecommunication costs, such as phones, internet access, and meeting conference services. In the same way you budget for benefits, you need to budget for technology on a per-employee basis.

Consider innovative solutions built for today's mobile world. Why pay for a desktop phone and wired phone lines? A solo entrepreneur might be better served by Google Voice, while a business might benefit from a move to Switch.co. Why pay for a scanner? Use your phone's camera to capture and save images to Google Drive. Why push paper around for signatures? Get a digital signature with a solution like Docusign on a mobile device instead.

4. Experiment with alternative setups

Test the limits of your mobile setup to make sure you fully understand the capabilities of mobile devices. Try a phone—or a tablet—as your primary device for 30 days. You wouldn't be alone: Benjamin Robbins famously went smartphone-only, and Federico Viticci wrote a long piece that explained why the iPad Air 2 became his primary computer. You might identify apps or accessories that make the setup work well for at least a few people at your organization.

You might also add mobile connectivity to all your devices. A Chromebook with an LTE connection turns into a fast-booting, always-on internet browser with a full keyboard that allows data entry, document creation, or Hangout to occur almost anywhere. (A tablet with LTE works similarly, minus the attached keyboard, of course.)

After some thought and experimentation, you might choose to change the default set of equipment that you provide people to get work done. Mobile devices allow us to work in different places and in different ways. The leap from a "laptop and desk phone" to "tablet and smartphone" world needs to be reflected in your organization's policies and practices. Read your policies, then look at the people—and devices—around you. Make sure your policies and practices match your mobile worker's needs.

Have any of your colleagues moved from a laptop-and-desk to a tablet-and-smartphone? What alternative setup have you tried that worked well? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

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About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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