As millions of workers get used to a new way of working, remote technologies have overnight become among the most important concerns of IT leaders – evaluating the tools that enable remote working is among the most critical factors in improving the employee experience.
Many IT decisions were made many years ago, yet today’s users still live with – and in most cases simply tolerate – them in order to do their jobs. Often those decisions were made in an overwhelmingly desktop-centric work environment, and totally fail to support the significantly more mobile workforce present in the modern enterprise.
There are examples everywhere of this phenomenon. Among the most common is a reliance on legacy VPNs, such as Microsoft’s DirectAccess or Cisco’s AnyConnect product. While the underlying need behind these technologies remains today, many of these solutions were designed for environments in which network connections were reliable and high speed. That environment simply does not exist for a mobile workforce. As a result, mobile workers regularly struggle to work with products simply not built for the typical working conditions of 2020.
Traditional VPNs have several shortcomings, which are becoming more pronounced as the cloud, mobility, and enterprise ecosystems come to dominate what is turning into an “outside-in” enterprise. Companies must cease their reliance on this two-decade-old technology and look at more modern solutions.– Haseeb Budhanni, VP Enterprise Strategy at Akamai\
Dated technologies not fit for a mobile environment are among the most frustrating impediments to a high-quality employee experience. In a similar vein, there are technologies developed even today that do not adequately support the mobile worker.
Smaller screens already make work more difficult for those working on tablets and smartphones. Poorly designed apps and websites can compound this issue – a failure to build responsive interfaces or support mobile inputs can be infuriating for employees using these devices. One individual polled during research carried out by NetMotion even suggested that she would like to find a way to bring two full size monitors with her while working off-site, as getting anything done without them is much harder.
Belt-mounted portable desktop setups aside, there are multiple changes that IT leaders can make to better cater for the remote worker. These include developing or purchasing truly mobile-centric software that not only provides a quality user experience in navigating and accessing, but one that also retains the core functionality of desktop versions. Ultimately, with more work being done away from a desk than behind one, IT teams must consider the mobile worker at the heart of any meaningful investment decisions.
In late 2019, NetMotion conducted a study of several hundred mobile workers to uncover and document the most common frustrations encountered during remote working. Unsurprisingly, issues with legacy technologies was regularly cited by responders as a frequent and painful obstacle to productivity.
Of mobile workers list dealing with legacy systems in their top 5 most frustrating issues
The fourth-most frustrating issue for mobile worker overall is poorly optimized mobile apps
Case study: Coweta County
To protect the public as well as themselves, first responders rely on mobile connectivity for the critical information they need. The Sheriff’s Office in Coweta County in Georgia was struggling with a legacy VPN totally unfit for an increasingly mobile workforce. This traditional VPN triggered connectivity issues and cut off front-line personnel from receiving vital alerts, leaving them extremely vulnerable during important moments.
Every single morning, deputies lined up outside the IT department to get devices back up and running – a senseless waste of time and intensely frustrating for employees. Ultimately, the software purchasing decisions made a decade ago no longer supported the needs of the organization in 2019. Given the severity of problem, the sheriff gave the go-ahead to do immediately upgrade to a mobile-first solution. Josh Chambers, a systems analyst for the county framed it elegantly: “all the issues that we had with the old VPN – they all went away overnight”.
Advice for improving employee experience
- Select workplace apps and web-based tools that deliver world class mobile experiences
- If working with custom-built enterprise apps, do not compromise on core functionality between desktop and mobile versions
- Update legacy desktop-centric systems with solutions designed for a mobile-first workforce