Yesterday morning (June 28), I , along with a small group of Microsoft customers, partners, and members of the technology and business press, sat in a SoHo, NY, gallery to listen to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announce the release of Office 365, the long-awaited successor to Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS). In his remarks, Ballmer positioned the product set as a way for businesses of any size to facilitate communication and collaboration. What he and all of the multimedia presentations in the gallery stressed was how Office 365 addressed the productivity and collaboration needs of IT-constrained small and medium-sized businesses. While smart business (it helps Microsoft tell a compelling story against Google, which is doing well in that part of the market), the natural question I heard from people in the room was, "What about the enterprise?"
Giving workers flexibility in when, where, and how they work is a hot topic right now. The US federal government has passed legislation to make telecommuting easier and multinational firms, like State Street, are instituting programs to let employees choose when and where they work. Why are organizations emphasizing this so much? Mobile and remote employees have more control over their work/life balance and won't have to stop working if circumstance prevents them from coming to the office. Furthermore, they can easily be collocated with clients and allow the company to reduce its real estate and carbon footprint. However, as this chart from my new report, Demystifying The Mobile Workforce, shows, information workers may be moving more quickly to this flexible way of working than their companies currently acknowledge: 66% of the North American and European workforce work outside the office at some point during a month.
If business leaders and their counterparts in IT are to get in front of this trend, they have to understand their mobile and remote workforce. For example, who is shifting work between the office and home? What technology are they using to do so? Do they believe that the company is doing a good job of providing them the policies and technology to work in this way? If business and IT leaders can't answer these questions, they will be hard pressed to accurately: