Checking company emails and accessing a company network via a mobile device is nothing new. Employees have been doing so for more than a decade. But in recent years, enterprise mobility and the need for increased flexibility has brought about more demand for mobile accessibility.

Traditionally, companies have wanted to keep a tight rein on their IT systems, but as personal computing devices become more mobile, business owners are faced with a tough new decision: Should they be shelling out for employee smartphones, and if so, what are the advantages to this considerable investment?

The BYOD challenge

Like it or not, people are bringing their own smartphones, tablets and laptops to work. In fact, an estimated 61% of businesses now have a BYOD (bring your own device) policy.

Whilst BYOD brings obvious cost benefits for an organisation – and employees appreciate the flexibility of working from anywhere using their own device, keeping a BYOD fleet secure is nearly impossible. Consider how much valuable and confidential business information that might be at stake caused by malware, lost devices, and other insidious threats that can invade company networks.  By investing in smartphones for those employees who work more mobile will keep your data secure, and provide you with greater control over how your workforce mix and match devices to access data.

Increased enterprise mobility

Enterprise mobility has become critically important for every business in order to maximise efficiency and boost productivity. More businesses are coming to terms with the fact that workers do not need to be tied to a desk in order to get work done – and by 2015, the world’s mobile worker population will represent 37% of the total workforce.

Enterprise apps and cloud computing are revolutionising the enterprise, providing employees with numerous benefits including:

–        constant connectivity to the business

–        ability to showcase products and services to clients via a smartphone or tablet

–        ability to easily share up to date information with staff across the entire business

–        transform a company’s entire sales and marketing process

Working alone security 

Employees are legally bound to provide a safe working environment for employees, and this can be particularly challenging for those working alone or away from the office on a regular basis. 

If a member of your sales team is visiting clients alone, they need personal security provisions that will enable them to contact someone, or even raise an alarm in the event of a threat or accident.  Providing them with a smartphone gives them a reliable, discrete and convenient method of personal security. 

Tax-free benefit

Unlike health insurance and company cars, mobile phones are not taxable, assuming that certain criteria are met – making them a great employee benefit. HMRC has recently accepted that smartphones such as Blackberries and iPhones satisfy the necessary conditions to qualify as ‘mobile phones’ for tax purposes.

One of the reasons supporting the provision of phones to employees is that it can be administratively easier to allocate employees with phones rather than reimbursing them for business use expenses on their personal phone. 

More than just a phone

The extended capabilities of a smartphone means that it can used for much more than simply making a phone call and accessing the internet.  Smartphones give us location information, a two-way camera, motion sensors and audio recording capabilities. As people start to consume and interact with content in different ways, companies need to rethink what tools they provide their employees in order to communicate effectively with their clients. 

As companies pursue greater agility and flexibility, they need a range of tools and devices at their disposal.  Businesses need to weigh up the pros and cons of mobilising their workforce by considering how mobile solutions can make their companies more competitive, secure and productive. 

Whilst many companies don’t want to spend large chunks of their IT budget investing in smartphones, they do need to consider the return on investment offered by a truly mobilised workforce.