The march of technology is an inevitable, increasingly visible and accelerating aspect of modern life. Historically, businesses have always been somewhat reluctant to keep pace, often being dragged kicking and screaming into an unknown and risky future. The dynamic times in which we live are forcing many previously monolithic companies to take a long hard look at how their workplace functions and how they can adapt to better go with this technological flow.
The “work where you are” ethos is perhaps the most well known of these adaptations. Long commutes and endless travel delays are well-established reasons for working from home or on the move, and advances in personal computing, smart-phones and network infrastructure have allowed for record numbers of employees to migrate to at least a partial train, plane or pyjama working lifestyle.
Beyond mobile computing, there are many smaller but nonetheless important aspects of a distributed workforce. Itineraries, expense management and team co-ordination have all migrated out of the office and into specialised applications geared toward the remote or mobile worker.
Efficiency, robustness and ease of use are the bywords here; troubleshooting problems, whether technological or travel based, while on the move or away from a support team can be excruciating at the best of times, and fiddling with a spreadsheet and a bunch of receipts on a crowded train without a seat is a recipe for rail rage.
Simple solutions to these problems using existing technology have opened up a thriving market of apps and Internet Services, where the ease of use of a smart-phone is leveraged to turn tedious, often tangential tasks into a few simple taps or swipes.
Cloud-based expenses, for example, streamline the above nightmare scenario into a literal snap as you use your phone’s camera along with a receipt scanning app, something you can do while scrunched up on a train or spread out in the bathroom. Once scanned, your receipt can auto-import into a spreadsheet or for full-automation, a dedicated expense application on your phone or an online expense service.
This convenience and ease of use are wins in themselves, but many early adopters are also finding additional benefits beyond saving the time and sanity of their now more distant employees. Integrating smart-phone apps with cloud services can serve as an effective live logging tool for all work-based activity, allowing for improved analysis, problem identification and error-checking. For example, an itinerary app can automatically claim delay compensation and inform relevant parties, such as the client your sales team was about to meet.
In the case of expenses, a scanned and cloud integrated receipt is impossible to lose either directly by the employee or in the post, and is available for auditing and policy checking almost at the point of acquisition. Despite the ease-of-use, the back end of such a system is often a full expense management solution with controls and alerts in place to cut down on potential employee fraud, one of the regrettable but preventable downsides of remote working.
Technology is all about automation, with the benefits being greatest where all the tedious detail can be handled efficiently and accurately by computer, leading in turn to a more happy, focused and efficient workforce.