The mobile conundrum for Britain’s local authorities
Against a backdrop of continued budget restraints, it would be understandable if equipping employees for flexible working was not at the top of many councils’ agendas.
Yet, the results of a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted to local authorities across the UK by Citrix, revealed that councils issued nearly four times more mobile devices last year (8,932) than in 2010 (2,525) to equip staff for remote working.
Of the 17 authorities that responded to the request, this investment totalled £672,000 last year, up from just £191,000 in 2010 – averaging nearly £60,000 per council.
As their budgets are being reduced, councils are increasingly innovating in order to ensure they deliver services most efficiently. This can be through outsourcing, establishing trading companies, or - in this case – harnessing technology to enable workers to be more productive.
However, of the 30,000 handsets issued since 2009, over 11,000 of those represent feature phones – including the likes of the Nokia C-range and the Samsung Solid.
While these phones do enable staff to make calls or send SMS text messages on the go, these models do not provide access to emails, enterprise apps or cloud storage to employees when working out of the office.
The above is not an exhaustive analysis of the local government landscape, but this snapshot does raise some pertinent points. Currently, it seems as though security, followed by the costs of handsets, are an issue for procurers and IT teams alike.
Buying habits indicate that smartphones with a reputation for being most secure – such as BlackBerry models – are high on the list.
Arguably, the Public Services Network (PSN) regulatory and compliance standards continue to weigh heavy on local authorities as they examine options for future IT strategy. These do not and should not have to be a bottleneck to mobility.
Today, with robust enterprise mobility management solutions, all devices - whether ‘bring your own’ or issued by the organisation - can be properly equipped for secure flexible working. This will guarantee a satisfactory user experience whilst ensure sensitive data is protected.
In the past, remote working could put data and sensitive information at risk. Today local authorities have the opportunity to equip employees for real flexible working – going beyond just issuing them with basic handsets for basic tasks.
By issuing staff with smartphones, while safeguarding valuable (and possibly sensitive) citizen data from getting into the wrong hands, local authorities have the opportunity to benefit from improved productivity, more efficient use of real estate and an ultimately happier workforce.
All spending is of course going to be scrutinised, but there is considerable weight behind the argument that equipping employees for flexible working will allow employees to feel the benefits in terms of improved productivity from their teams.
This was illustrated most succinctly in a recent study from the Centre of Economics Research – in partnership with Citrix – which found that if everyone had access to flexible working, the UK economy would be boosted by £11.5 billion.
With local authorities facing the biggest cut in central government budget since 2012/13, it is more important than ever that their staff are equipped to perform as productively as possible.
This sample of data suggests local authorities are on the right track and understand the key role mobility plays to improve staff performance.
Now, the stage is set for these organisations to take mobility to the next level, enabling staff to perform key tasks securely wherever they are, and on their preferred devices.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Information Daily, its parent company or any associated businesses.
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