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Are you really ready for workplace mobility?

| Information Management Technology

A quick glimpse around any train carriage or bus will tell you we're truly in the mobile age. People can check their handheld devices with a few swipes of the finger, so they're never too far away from the information that has historically been found on their desks.

In fact, as of May 2013, more than half of the Australian working population (all 5.6 million of them) were dubbed "digital workers", meaning they're able to work from home or on the move. A figure discovered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, it's something that was a mere pipe dream to employers in the past.

As well as giving employers a distinct advantage, the benefits are there for workers, too. If employees need to stay at home for a delivery or to look after a child, they can do so without taking a day off work or losing too much productivity. An office that allows them a bit more flexibility tends to be one that people want to work in – or not, as it were.

However, a mobile workforce requires a more disciplined approach to the management of company information assets. It's not enough to just "go mobile" – real thought needs to go into making sure a plan doesn't leave valuable information either in the wrong hands or cut off from the wider business entirely.

Information diaspora

If workers are replying to emails in the morning on their smartphones, downloading business files on their tablets during the commute and then working from their office desktop, there's going to be massive amounts of information stored outside of the company.

Then, if legal reasons require the company to produce information years later that is stored on an old device, how long will it take to find it? What if that employee has moved on to another company and has taken that information with them?

With bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes taking off and every manager shouting the benefits of mobility, we're surely being too free with our precious information assets when really there should be a plan to secure them from the start.

Business risk in a mobile world

Last year was a nightmare scenario for information security. Global data breaches in 2014 were 49 per cent higher than the previous year, according to research by Dutch company Gemalto. When we take into account the number of records that were either stolen or lost, the 12-month increase is an unbelievable 78 per cent.

In total, more than a billion records were compromised last year, with identity theft called a "top breach category". The truth is, human error happens, and when workers can access information from anywhere in the world, so can others.

If a mobile phone was dropped on the train, for instance, sensitive business information (from bank info to private email addresses) can be instantly leaked. However, the door can't be slammed shut – so what's a business to do? Really, it's all about finding a middle ground.

The balancing act

With the right information management plan, training, systems, policies and best practices can be put in place to safeguard information without crippling accessibility.

All information assets need to be centralised and made easily attainable by the right people. Information governance strategies should also be formed to create a policy around BYOD and mobility practices.

Meanwhile, email management can be looked at more thoroughly to make sure businesses are equipped with the right security tools and access controls. Essentially, this means information can be shared internally and outside of the company quickly and without leaving the door open to unsavoury individuals.

And yet most executives, CIOs and managers will be happy to leap head first into mobility without first checking how deep the water is or where the currents flow.

To really get the most of worker mobility, a little extra thought today could save a lot of major issues further down the line.

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