Today's work force is on the move, armed with cell phones, Pocket PCs, smart phones and other assorted handheld devices. Research firm IDC estimates the number of "mobile professionals" -- white-collar workers who spend 20 percent or more of their time away from their desks -- is growing at approximately 15 percent annually.
Regardless of the job type, mobile access can improve workflow and eliminate the inherent inefficiencies that often are associated with business travel.
Studies show business travel expenses and labor management functions are the top two controllable costs for an organization. Mobile applications that help employees take the office (and access to expense and HR applications) with them ultimately help the organization control those costs, through increased speed and efficiency in filing. Deploying mobile applications can offer companies a variety of additional benefits as well.
Fieldwork Mobile applications allow the work force to conduct business at the speed in which it occurs. Employees needn't wait to use the applications on their desktops when new technologies bring the same functionality directly to them, wherever they may be.
Consider: When a company has enabled mobile access for key applications via a BlackBerry, a traveler can check e-mail, to-do lists and the calendar while traveling in a taxi from the airport. After leaving the taxi, he can create a new expense report for this trip and enter the expense for the cab on the spot. If he also is a manager, he can review any expense reports that have been submitted to him for review by his subordinates or that are meeting-related.
Walking the Line By providing employees with the right tools required to adhere to policy guidelines and workflow requirements, organizations can improve compliance and reduce costs in the process.
While expense policy abuse is a fact of life for some companies, incidents tend to rise during an economic downturn. But with today's expense-management platforms, suspicious activity is flagged: When a daily limit is exceeded, for example, a warning of the violation is provided to the submitter, approver and auditor. When travelers and managers are using these tools on the road, warnings provide almost instantaneous feedback.
Expense reports are then reconciled in a timely manner, employees get reimbursement checks faster and employers can quickly evaluate their costs. Plus, submitting expenses as they happen reduces the opportunity for any reporting errors.
Increased Visibility Incorporating a wireless application grants human resources, finance and corporate travel increased visibility into employee activities and business expenses. This improved visibility provides deeper insight into staffing requirements and helps managers ensure that the right person is in the right place at the right time -- and at the lowest possible cost. Likewise, visibility into employee business expenses and spending patterns allows organizations to take proactive steps to reduce overall spend through policy communication.
More Flexibility In a time of skilled labor shortages, mobile initiatives can provide greater flexibility to the work force, generating greater employee satisfaction and increased retention rates.
Whether a mobile work force is part of the company culture or select company representatives are remote or often traveling, recognizing the trend and accommodating these employees' needs helps get the job done.
Craig Fearon is the senior product director for Necho Expense at CyberShift Inc. (cybershift.com), headquartered in Parsippany, N.J.