“Today anyone with a laptop, cellular phone and WIFI or 3G card can set up office at home. Cheaper technology means a home-based workforce has become a viable option for many businesses and recent years have seen the rise of the mobile office worker,” says Konica Minolta South Africa’s Professional Services divisional manager, Juneid Docrat. While United States businesses are supporting nearly 72% of employees (about 105 million users) remotely, Docrat says South Africa’s adoption curve has been a lot slower than other countries. “South Africa has faced challenges such as the high cost of technology, lack of accessibility to internet, inefficient IT infrastructures and management fears relating to productivity and security of information.“A few years ago travelling executives, sales people and field personnel were the only employees equipped with laptops and pocket PCs. This is changing as businesses have begun to recognise the top-line benefits of increased mobility. In the United States and Europe mobile users are the norm rather than the exception as businesses reap the full benefits of the flexibility and freedom that wireless connectivity brings, without the burden of heavy expenditure,” says Docrat.So how do business technology companies embrace a trend that is seeing increasingly more employees move out of the office environment? “The answer is simple,” says Docrat. “We take advantage of the trend. It basically opens up or minimises the traditional marketplace for business technology companies. We can either start offering and seeking ways to assist our business partners in finding secure, suitable solutions that allow them to maximise and protect their business information and the paper trail, or ignore it and let someone else capitalise on the trend.” Konica Minolta South Africa’s own workforce is highly mobile with technicians, engineers, salespeople and management able to access the office whether they are on site or at home. Docrat says employees have been equipped with laptops, 3G data cards, mobile phones and access to software office automation programmes that ensure improved customer service and minimal delays. “From our experience, nimbleness gives businesses the competitive advantage in any market. Customers today expect immediate access to and quick and informed answers from employees who are frequently away from the office,” says Docrat.Mobility allows employees to address business opportunities and challenges faster. It also allows them reclaim work time and productivity traditionally lost to travelling and meetings. Docrat says mobility is about more than just devices. “It’s about an integrated system that is optimised for the scope of the business and scalable for costs and growth consideration. The greatest concern relating to mobility is security and finding ways to secure sensitive mobile data and networks from unauthorised access,” he says. This can be done by ensuring that every laptop is equipped with anti-virus software and a personal firewall. In addition, encryption software and all incoming services need to be closed down expect those services that are needed.For companies to optimise their mobile workforce, Konica Minolta Professional Services offers additional mobile solutions such as an e-document delivery solution that includes a remote faxing option; a printing solution that can be deployed among various offices within an organisation allowing travelling staff to retrieve their documents at remote offices; or a printing solution for copy shops that allows mobile and SOHO workers the opportunity to send printing through a web site and retrieve the print jobs from the nearest print shop. In addition, hardware is available for people who need it.
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