As the global economic downturn persisted and a double-dip recession ensued, 2012 was never going to be an easy year for any organisation. Budgets were pared to the bone in an effort to survive and a focus on ROI remained as the economy’s unpredictability continued.

Organisations looked to work smart and make a measureable difference to their efficiency and flexibility in order to remain profitable. As such, IT departments in particular were put under increasing pressure to streamline processes, as well as enabling and supporting a mobile workforce that can remain at full productivity.

As the consumerisation of IT continued to take hold, 2012 saw an ever greater demand from employees for bring your own device (BYOD) and the ability to work from anywhere, at any time. This rise in virtual teams and the associated advances in technology has begun to allow businesses to ‘crowd-source’ employees based on business needs, skills and expertise, driving organisational efficiency.

With the boundaries between personal and work life increasingly blurred, 2013 will see organisations continue to bring multiple communication channels securely together and support mobile workers. A mobile workforce is a productive workforce and this will remain integral to organisations as they look to drive profitability over the year.

Continued consumerisation of devices

The consumerisation of IT continues to drive a marked change in the corporate IT landscape. 2012 saw the launch of the Microsoft Surface tablet, the iPad with Retina Display, the iPad Mini and a vast range of e-readers. If organisations do not incorporate these devices and their operating systems seamlessly into their networks, deploying mobile-friendly apps, the mobility employees expect will be restricted and organisational performance will suffer.

Windows 8, 4G, what next?

The introduction of 4G in the UK in 2012 and the launch of Windows 8 was a signal towards a truly mobile workforce. However, the true impact of these two technological advances won’t be felt until at least 2014. 4G will increase network performance and connectivity but not until it is fully pervasive. Nevertheless, as higher-speed mobile networks become readily available and increasingly reliable, people will be encouraged to work remotely and on-the-move as joined-up communication network is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a requirement.

Showing not sharing

2013 will be a year of showing, not sharing. A dispersed team results in dispersed data and organisations need to ensure that sensitive business information is not left exposed. The workplace too is increasingly ‘socialised’ by applications including Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.

As such, organisations will have to be increasingly careful about who has access to sensitive data without interrupting information flows. A storm in a ‘Twitter tea cup’, if dealt with incorrectly, can turn into a Facebook frenzy and have negative implications on the brand. However, social media should not turn people into robots. A successful team means people must remain speaking to people, not technology.

People not ports

Technology is evolving, but without cultural and managerial awareness there will be no revolution. This will require the evolution of management styles and the continued consumerisation for people to remain at the heart of business.

The mobility enabled by device freedom and advanced IT infrastructure has long been hailed as the Holy Grail for increased productivity. However, the environment in which people now find themselves working is changing dramatically. A dispersed team may only meet each other once a month or less.

As such, employee behaviour is changing. People join conference calls to give them a sense of being part of a team. They join virtual meetings they aren’t integral to, just to feel a sense of belonging or to indulge in `presenteeism`. In this changing environment, management styles must evolve to foster productivity while encouraging team work.

2013 – the year of ‘glocal’

The best businesses are built around team work and trust. Disparate employees need to interact freely and securely whilst contributing to a team. Using the personal cloud, this is becoming genuinely attainable. Deploying applications to any employee through a certified enterprise app store to the operating system and device of choice will be common place. In 2013 the ‘glocal’ workforce will drive productivity and ensure UK businesses remain competitive in the global market.