In the past running a successful business meant an office space awash with technology. Today, it is possible to run a business with nothing more than a phone and a tablet PC. With fast mobile broadband, cloud-based services and powerful computing power literally in the palm of your hand, business owners can move their enterprises into the environment of virtual business management.
Emeritus Professor Dexter Dunphy predicts that in the future the "workplace will no longer be defined by an office building but a collection of invisible interactions, aided by technology."
Mobile/remote working has been gaining pace for several years. Research from Intel and Dell revealed that over a third of workers believe they are more productive when working remotely. The study that looked closely at how workforces are evolving concluded that the office as we know it today is fading.
Steve Lalla, vice president and general manager of Cloud Client Computing, Dell, said: "As the research shows, now more than ever, the office isn't defined by a desk within an employer's walls. With constant connectivity blurring the lines between professional and personal lives and devices, it's essential employees have seamless access to data when at the office, at home and on the road so they can stay productive, and IT secures and manages the data (and user) wherever it goes."
What this means for all business owners is that they can make a shift away from the traditional structures that have defined businesses and their office spaces to a more fluid, mobile and flexible working environment.
Lalla continued: "An overarching theme of 'activity-based' work is starting to emerge as part of the evolving workplace and workforce worldwide. With the shift towards employees conducting work in flexible environments, across varying devices, experts came to a consensus that it isn't only where you do your work, but what kind of work you're doing that determines which form-factor you work on.
"This foreshadowing of a mobile and fluid workforce is the fundamental basis for the technological changes we are seeing worldwide in the workplace."
Assessing your needs
In essence to run your business with a smartphone or tablet, and the virtual tools that are available today, means:
- Embracing the cloud
The cloud has done more to bring mobile working and business management into the mainstream than any other technology or service. Moving data and services to virtual spaces frees you from a physical office environment. When your data and services are in the cloud, you can run your business from any location.
- Using more mobile technologies
A key component of virtually managing your business is to ensure you have the latest mobile technology at your fingertips. The latest smartphones and tablets deliver a working platform you can use to build your virtual management system upon. Windows 10 and Surface Pro or the iPhone 6 Plus and the latest iPad Air are perfect devices to run your business with a virtual office.
- Creating virtual teams
You may be managing your business with mobile devices, but you will inevitably need help from other people. Here virtual PAs come into their own. Again leveraging the power of the cloud, using virtual PAs but also tapping into the wealth of freelance talent that is also available means you can buy only the services you need, when you need them.
- Not forgetting physical spaces
Running your business on the move is possible, but there will always be times when a physical space is needed for meetings and so forth. Using the so-called 'third space' provided by office suppliers such as Regus illustrates how the physical office is still relevant, but needs to be as flexible as the digital tools you can use to manage your business. Indeed, Regus now offer work hubs at some Shell petrol stations to tap into the need for meeting space across the transient virtual management space.
You know your business better than anyone. Running it with mobile devices is possible if you carefully assess your needs, and match the services you need to support day-to-day business tasks.
Says Tom Gutteridge, product marketing manager, Azzurri Communications: "I personally have a friend who runs an industrial heating and ventilation company on his mobile devices, including the day-to-day scheduling of up to six sub-contractors. With cloud/network derived services customer-premises equipment can be a hindrance, not a help.
"Functionality is delivered from the macro network and services from voice to scheduling to invoicing and accounts can all be accessed from wherever the owner is, typically on devices such as smartphones and laptops. Increasingly card readers are also being incorporated to handle payments too."