Had your fill of year-end tech predictions yet? I know I have. But if you're like me and you're leading a fast-growing company where smartphones, tablets and phablets are ubiquitous--then hear me out. I've got some predictions about mobile technology in 2014.
Before we dive into the list, we need a reality check. Employees aren't just "bringing" their own devices to work--they're living on them. Literally. Pew research reports that 44 percent of cellphone owners have slept with their devices for fear of missing a call, message, or email. And, according to a recent IBM study, 82 percent of workers believe that their smartphones will play a "critical role" in their productivity going forward. By now, I hope, you've settled basic issues such as how these digital appendages are distributed, paid for, and secured throughout your workforce. 2014 will be more about the how and less about the when.
So what does this immutable shift mean for business leaders? Plenty. Here are some insights into and--yes, predictions--about the year ahead in workplace mobility:
Move Over Chief Marketers: There's a New CMO in Town
Cool top-level jobs have been popping up in the last few years (chief content officer or chief ethics officer, anyone?). 2014 will be no different. The hot uber-role this year will be the Chief Mobility Officer, an inevitable result of the universe of mobile devices, applications and operating systems that exist in the workplace today. IT managers know the technology. What they don't know is how to craft an effective mobile policy or educate employees about the dos and don'ts of using their personal devices for work (Example: Have a backup plan if your device is stolen). These challenges--especially behavioral ones--require executive attention.
The Tablet Gets a Corner Office
Touchscreens be damned. This year tablets will infiltrate the workplace. Small businesses already use tablets as cash registers, while field service workers use them for on-site schematics. I see a bigger role for the tablet in 2014, as it becomes an integral workplace tool. Employees will be able to travel without a laptop in tow and run interactive meetings without requiring presenters and presentees to follow along on a computer. Move over PC: according to IDC research, tablets are set to outsell PCs by year's end.
Work Apps Outpace Consumer Apps
Consumer apps have dominated the mobile marketplace--until now. Next year business-friendly applications will make significant inroads into the workplace. Think time management, expense reporting, or internal content sharing. Many companies are already making their own customized applications, while most are investing in outside apps to boost productivity and help remote workers stay connected. Expect enterprise apps to be commonplace in 2014.
Mobile Workers Mind Their Manners
So much of 2013 was about calling out dumb moments in office mobility--or griping about pet peeves. In 2014, I predict the tone will shift. This will be the year when employees and employers learn from past transgressions, allowing good mobile behavior in the workplace to become the norm. Breaking bad habits is never easy, so it's up to you to identify and emphasize the positive use of mobile devices. Most likely, this means having more conversations focused on mobile behavior.
Mobile Devices Become the Communication Tools of Choice
New mobile technologies will continue to bring workplace communication to new levels. Consider how wearable devices can connect teams or the Double Robot enables remote workers to "walk around" the office. In the coming year we'll see mobile-only chat threads take off as workers discover that, yes, meetings can be short, all-inclusive, and email-resistant. Bonus points for creativity here: make the influx of mobile devices in your office a blessing, not a curse.