iPad MobileI spent the better part of the July 4th week in central Pennsylvania with my wife’s family. All in all, between kids and adults, we had 10 of us enjoying each other’s company in a three-bedroom house.  It entailed all the aspects you would expect of a family vacation to celebrate Independence Day. Kids playing at the pool, Bar-B-Q, lots of cocktails, and the occasional tension point between family members who realized they might just have spent too much time together in close quarters.

What struck me most this year, though, was the use of mobile devices that are part of our lives. Between laptops, iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and other gadgets, we had no less than 15 mobile devices among us. The two girls under the age of six used iPads to watch movies and play games; the older girls used them to more or less run their social lives. The adults used them for everything from reading the paper or a book to looking up movie show times, checking work emails, posting on Facebook, and resolving debates over where this year’s Ryder cup golf tournament is hosted. Mobile devices have become part of our DNA, and it has become difficult to think of what life was like without them.

In a study by Cisco on the Future of Workplace Mobility that involved 2,600 workers in 13 countries, 66% of them said that they would accept a job with less pay and more device flexibility, access to social media, and mobility. As professionals we have a desire to match our workplace access to mobility with what we enjoy in our personal lives. It is becoming an expectation that the way we consume and share content and information should not be any different at work than it is at home. I was with an executive team a couple of months ago where every member had an iPad they used for work as well as personal use, even though the device was not officially approved by IT. Our personal mobility patterns are shaping companies’ IT and access strategies to a degree that wasn’t present in the past. Cisco’s survey shows that two thirds of us feel that IT should allow us to use any device to access corporate networks, applications, and information – anytime, from anywhere.

By 2013, 75% (119 million people) of the US workforce and 35% (1.2 billion people) of the global workforce will be mobile with no end of growth in sight. We live in a mobile world, where consumers as well as employees have different expectations about how we connect, collaborate, learn, share, and shop. The devices and experiences available are exploding, and staying on the forefront of where the world is going in terms of mobility is increasingly difficult for an IT department to anticipate. That is one of the reasons why we at Root equipped every one of our employees with a new iPad this summer. We made it their personal item and not one they will need to return to the company if they were to leave. We travel a lot to see our clients, so the increased mobility hopefully will help productivity. But beyond that, the only other assignment and expectation was for each individual and department to play with the device and build comfort with it, to explore apps, and determine if there are better ways for us to work together or to serve our clients in a better way.

My firm belief is that it not only indicates to Rootsters that we will invest to remain on the cutting edge of where the world of mobility will take us, but that it is a key ingredient to make us a more agile and innovative company. I think as a business, you have to ask yourself how the mobility trend is impacting your employees and consumers, and don’t just look at the technology enablement, but also the shift in IT culture and the norms required for mobility to thrive in your organization.

July 12, 2012