There’s no question that the number of mobile workers worldwide continues to swell. IDC expects the ranks of mobile workers to increase to 162 million in 2006. One thing all of those mobile workers need to remain productive is access to corporate e-mail, data stores and the Internet. How that access is obtained comes in many different forms, including Wi-Fi hotspots that are free and those that can only be accessed for a set fee, hotel Internet access fees, home office connectivity fees and WWAN data subscriptions. With all these different options, it’s almost guaranteed that your mobile workers will be able to connect and get their work done. But at what cost? Interestingly, many companies are completely in the dark when it comes to understanding the impact remote access has on their bottom line.
In a recent report put together by CFO Research Services and Fiberlink, findings suggest that remote access costs are not being managed consistently. In fact, most CFOs are unaware of how much they are really spending to keep their workers online. “The number one reason,” suggests Eric Paulek, managing VP at Gartner, “is that no one has come up with a remote access strategy. Finance has never been involved.” Part of the problem is that “most companies have systems where everything is segmented, my budget versus your budget,” Paulek notes.
Report author Celina Rogers says, “We learned about this mostly through interviews with senior execs. It seems pretty clear that there is no set reporting scheme for mobile access expenses. Workers are reporting them in a variety of ways. One form is expense reports and another is hardware purchases that are submitted for reimbursement. There is a lack of rigorous scrutinizing of expenses.”
Rogers continues, “In many companies that have mobile workers, people incurring the remote access costs are generally professionals who are used to being able to work whenever and wherever they want. Their attitude is, ‘As long as I can get my work done and do what I need to do, the cost is justified.’ They are pretty much entirely justified and C-levels tend to agree.”
As more and more workers become mobile, enterprises have to develop clear strategies for managing these expenses. Gartner’s Paulek notes, “Developing a strategy to manage these costs has to start with the IT department, because they have a direct line of sight into how everything works and are first in line to do something about it.” But that is just the beginning.
“The most important thing is for collaboration to occur,” says Rogers. “Wherever the reporting comes from is not as important as finance being able to access and understand it. What’s really important is that companies tailor this to their business needs. They have to balance out productivity with control over what they spend. What we found is that IT is the default reservoir for this info, and finance relies on IT and access to vendor reports to get the info about mobile access. They have to set policies while still permitting employees the flexibility to connect as they need. It’s up to management to think through policies that make sense for their business. The most important thing for individuals is to respect company policy.”