The Future of Collaboration is Mobile

Author: David Mario Smith
Date: September 10, 2014
Topics: Collaboration, Mobile
Research Note Number: 2014-35


Issue: What trends are affecting collaboration in the enterprise?
Issue: How will enterprises leverage mobile ecosystems to gain a competitive advantage?

Summary:  With a growing mobile workforce, enterprise planners need clear strategies for the shift to mobile collaboration.


Due to the changing nature of work and a geographically distributed workplace, business collaboration is no longer limited to desktops, phones or videoconference rooms. Wherever people are, their mobile devices give them access to collaboration tools that let them nullify distance and interact with each other. In this research note, we discuss how collaboration is shifting to a more mobile paradigm.

Emerging first in peoples’ personal lives with applications such as Skype and Google Hangouts, mobile and consumer chat and messaging applications have taken root in the enterprise. Consumer instant messaging applications were an even earlier precursor allowing real-time communication freely on the Internet. Web conferencing tools also emerged allowing for screen and application sharing. In fact these were the early cloud offerings before SaaS and cloud became popular terms.

The Mobile Workforce: Constant Change Is The New Normal

Workers are now more mobile than ever, operating from multiple locations even within a single workday. If I have a mobile device, my office is wherever I am at the moment that I do something. What we used to call “the office” has burst the bounds of the physical workplace, transcending space and time to become a virtual workspace.

The BYOD phenomenon has been a significant factor in shaping the boundaries of this new workspace. Workers now own and control a large part of their own connective infrastructure, and they are using it to give themselves unprecedented control over how, when and where they get their jobs done. In doing so, they intensify the challenge of coordinating their interactions with the counterparties and collaborators they still have to work with.

The virtual workspace is dynamic, mobile and engaged. In a recent study, IBM found that 65 percent of its knowledge workers require mobile connectivity to do their jobs, and 62 percent of its employees work in multiple locations each week (source: IBM). To be fully productive, these employees need to connect with their colleagues and counterparts inside and outside the company, at the times that the business process require them to collaborate. They also need reliable, real-time, secure joint access to their ongoing work product and other relevant, up-to-date content and information, in the full context of the task they are engaged in.

Enterprises: Get On Board!

What was once a predictable and stable business environment is now dynamic and evolving, and enterprises have to be ready not to fight change but to embrace it. Mobile and social can be powerful productivity boosters for the mobile workforce. Collaboration and virtual work help people get more done faster, reduce delays and streamline the entire business process. In many industries, such as manufacturing, increased productivity can go straight to the bottom line.

This is why mobile should not be an afterthought. Enterprise planners have to think “mobile first” – which really means people first. Mobility is not an end in itself; it gives freedom and agility to the people who use it. When thinking mobile and people first, planners have to understand the consumer trends and channel their effects into positive directions.

What people are looking for is ease of use, anywhere access, connectedness, interactivity and social capabilities. This has led to the use of tools such as Box, Dropbox, Hangouts and Skype. To leverage these trends, enterprises need to improve information flows by mobilizing and socializing processes and knowledge. Enterprises also need to provide a rich, secure and consistent digital workspace anywhere on any device to accomplish this.


Note: This research is archived. Please visit the collaboration topic page for updated information.