Would you characterize yourself as a mobile worker? It is a question that you likely would not have considered just a few short years ago. Historically, the mobile worker was defined based on specific criteria: one who works remotely, travels a great deal as part of the job or does not have a traditional corporate office. But by today’s standards, those definitions no longer apply. Indeed, it makes little sense to continue to view the mobile worker as a separate demographic.

    Nearly all of us are accessing work-related content on mobile devices, whether we are in our everyday office environment, moving between campuses, visiting customers or attending a child’s sporting event. If you are using mobile technology to conduct business, you are a mobile worker, and who among us does not fit that description these days?

    Studies have shown that more than 75% of the US workforce today has some form of mobility associated with their job.

    In today’s corporate environment, mobility translates to productivity. Businesses and their employees are pursuing mobile technologies as a means to work more efficiently. Studies have shown that more than 75% of the US workforce today has some form of mobility associated with their job. As a result, businesses are mobilizing their workflow to fit the changing demands and dynamics of their workforce.

    Change is coming
    Many focus on the current disruption of mobile technologies as an indication of how business has changed, but the reality is that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Organizations are moving to mobile workflows much faster than anyone could have suspected. A recent study from AT&T showed that more than 70% of small businesses use mobile apps in their daily business operations.

    Meanwhile, tablet usage in businesses is exploding. According to Forrester Research, tablet sales are projected to grow from 122 million units in 2012 to a whopping 381 million units by 2017, with an installed base surpassing 900 million. Forrester further predicts that approximately 18% of the tablets sold in 2017 will be purchased by business.

    In some ways, it is not surprising to hear forecasts predicting that one in every five tablets purchased by 2017 will be a business device. Announcements from businesses (large and small) planning to equip their entire workforce with tablets have become a daily occurrence.

    The typical design and form factor for tablets is also changing to suit the demands of business users. The Apple iPad, which was designed as a consumer entertainment device, has already become a very popular business platform—disrupting or altering workflow and changing the way business users consume information. But next-generation tablet devices are more fully equipped and designed specifically for business applications.

    The hybrid tablet PCs that can easily switch back and fourth from tablet to laptop mode, devices with integrated keyboards and additional USB ports, the Windows 8 platform and the Samsung Galaxy all promise to take tablet computing to a new level of functionality for the business user. Soon, the tablet will no longer be viewed simply as a secondary tool for information consumption but, rather, as a primary device for creating, processing, collaborating and sharing business information.

    Lead the transition
    In our industry, we tend to look nervously at the transition to mobile technologies in terms of its impact on printing. As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, what happens to the future of printing in the office environment? Some point to mobile printing as the saving grace, but as I have indicated in previous blogs on that topic, it is unlikely that mobile printing will drive new and incremental print volume. Workflow is the key: Embrace the shift to mobility, and find ways to help businesses bridge the gap between the paper and digital worlds. The hard copy industry owns the document and should be leading the transition from paper to digital and from paper-based workflow to mobile workflow.

    Robert Palmer is chief analyst and a managing partner for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. He is an independent market analyst and industry consultant with more than 25 years experience in the printing industry covering technology and business sectors. Follow him on Twitter @palmerrg.

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