The first was “De-Perimeterisation.” A prime rib of corporate double-speak, in fairness, but an effective word nonetheless to describe how Mobility blows the traditional “edge of the network” wide open and where the mobile device becomes the new de-facto perimeter. This new borderline between the Corporate Network and the Internet was to be much more difficult to police for the traditional IT Department and would require some new thought, new tools and, crucially, new user policies. If the “ordinary user” was to become the edge of the network, would they become the target for the hacker? Or worse, would their tendency to leave their phone in a taxi lead to a bleed of sensitive corporate information? All valid concerns at the time, but to be frank, I haven’t heard of very many high-profile Smartphone related data losses or hacking incidents since then. Laptops have been an issue however and data encryption thereon must be insisted upon now and into the future. Also, as the lines between the phone, the tablet and the laptop increasingly blur, perhaps there’s validity in maintaining vigilance on this topic as time goes on. The proliferation of Smartphones as well as the trend towards BYOD is only going to increase for the foreseeable future.
The other phrase I remember from that same conference was “Work is what you do, not where you go.” I’ve very much adopted this since then as a working mantra. I suppose really, I’ve worked like this since the late ‘90s when Remote Access to the office was a modem, a phone line and some RAS (Remote Access Server) Servers in Corporate HQ. The phrase just codified it for me. This type of working strongly challenges some managerial styles. For those who valued so-called presenteeism (“if I can’t see you, you’re not working hard”), dealing with staff who are not visible became difficult if not entirely untenable. The New World of Work program we adopted tried its best to address these issues. We threw a certain amount of technology at the problem for sure, but this was just as much about changing attitudes and working styles as new hardware or software.
Presence and Instant Messaging, combined with IP Telephony, Video and Web Conferencing brought the remote user much closer in to the fold and gave the control-seeking manager a Green-Ball-of-Comfort that his staff were engaged on the task at hand. The reality for that manager, however, was that objectives and deliverables had to become the measures of success –filling the space at your desk was no longer enough. Secure remote access using VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology as well as two-factor-authentication means that I could securely connect my laptop to our Corporate Network from literally any Internet connection, anywhere in the world. My connected smartphone gave me truly mobile access to a subset of tools that I need (email, calendar, browser), with my Tablet device extending that somewhat further.
The net result of all of this is that I now look at each working day on its own merits. I go to the office when I need to and don’t when I don’t. I’m fully contactable at all times, but I feel I’m in control of that contactability. I have full flexibility with the tools I have to do Whatever Work I Want to from Wherever I am, whether it’s Wednesday, or any other day. So, what’s stopping you from Working Wherever…Whenever?
Stephen Mulligan is eircom's Unified Communications Principal and helps customers to understand what UC is all about and how to optimise your organisation’s working methods.