Published on in Public SectorInnovation

Back in 2014 the number of mobile devices officially surpassed the world’s human population. By 2020 there are going to be 11.6 billion of them, according to predictions.

Inevitably this appetite for greater mobility has translated into the working world, with the average employee using more than three devices in the workplace on any given day and 61% of staff working outside the office at least some of the time, according to Citrix.

But while the private sector has long since adopted technology to support mobile working, in some areas the public sector hasn’t always been able to follow suit.

Until now…

In this post I’m going to explain why I think the public sector is ready to embrace and support a mobile workforce, and why now is a better time than ever to do so.

Why mobility matters

It’s easy to see why many companies have been so quick to adopt mobile working when you consider its positive impact:

  • Better collaboration with clients and colleagues
  • Increased work/life balance for your employees and higher employee engagement
  • Lower costs as less office space and fewer physical desks are needed
  • Positive environmental impact with fewer people travelling to the office
  • Higher productivity, according to HR leaders

There are perfectly valid reasons for this, of course…

Government has to think more carefully about security than most private enterprises. And while it’s possible to avoid capital spend by acquiring cloud services through the G-Cloud framework on the government’s Digital Marketplace, securing funding for new technology can still be more challenging than in the private sector.

But with YouGov suggesting UK organisations save 6.6 million hours and £1.6 billion a week  thanks to greater flexibility, the cost of not investing is likely much greater.

The story so far is a positive one

There have already been some fantastic steps forward when it comes to workplace mobility in the public sector – our work with Cafcass being an excellent example, where our mobile technology has freed social workers from 100,000 collective hours of admin per year.

And the government security approval for a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scheme back in 2013 has certainly helped move things along.

The scheme aimed to offer employees access to data and applications using their own smartphones and tablets in a bid to offer a more flexible working environment for public sector staff.

But while this is a positive move towards creating a mobile workforce in the public sector, it hasn’t overcome the massive complexity of government IT infrastructure.

This was highlighted recently by the Government Digital Service’s announcement that GovWifi will be deployed across all public sector buildings in 2017, making all of the government’s Wi-Fi networks appear as one – something private sector companies have taken for granted since the millennium.

For government this is a massive step forward in enabling mobile and flexible working. The benefits of BYOD now become clear: lower costs, increased flexibility and a technology experience that reflects the positive one employees have in their personal lives.

But BYOD doesn’t in itself provide true flexibility – the ability for employees to work anywhere, at any time. And while employees want to use devices that feel familiar, they’re equally looking for a personalised and contextual experience too.

For that you need a cloud-based approach – something that enables remote file-sharing, any-device access, remote issue-logging and real-time scheduling. And you need systems that continuously update in the background to ensure features are always improving as your organisation evolves.

Also, this needs to ensure an approach to security that can cope with the ever-growing online threats facing the public sector. For example reliable and automatic backup and disaster recovery for cloud services, as well as existing infrastructure, irrespective of the datacentres that they are in.

But this isn’t a simple case of completely removing legacy systems. It’s about taking a Hybrid approach – bringing in new cloud-based applications that can work in tandem with existing IT and enhance it, rather than replace it.

In short: truly flexible working requires flexible technology, and there’s no getting around that.

The time to transform is now

There has never been a better opportunity to achieve true mobility in the public sector.

Mobile technology is now reliable and affordable enough to be a viable option even in organisations where funds are limited or more difficult to obtain.

And if you put the right technology in place, in the right way, the benefits will always outweigh the costs.

Investing in this new type of digital workplace will free government employees from their current constraints, making them more productive and engaged and helping taxpayers’ money go further as a result.

But most importantly: it will create a workplace to rival even the most forward-thinking private sector firms in future.

Download our public sector Workplace Anywhere whitepaper now to find out how mobility could empower your workforce

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Steven Cox

Vice President, Fujitsu Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador at Fujitsu

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