Editing a Word document on an Android phone was not easy, nor was editing an Excel spreadsheet on an iPad. The Microsoft Office that workers know today is still stuck in its original design meant for a desktop computer. And when mobile users tried to download workaround applications, they often found so-called solutions that failed to live up to their promises. That, finally, is changing.
The market is now producing tools that offer a true fix to the mobile workflow challenge, with functionality to address every pain point that has throbbed in recent years. We have entered an era of all-in-one mobile productivity, although the difficulties of the recent past have left mobile enterprises skeptical of a brighter present and future.
That skepticism is understandable. Because Microsoft doesn’t offer an Office version for iPads, Android phones or any of the other popular mobile devices or operating systems that today’s workforce uses to stay connected, those workers had to build their own connectivity to their offices, coworkers and clients. For example, if a mobile worker wanted to revise a Word document on an iPad, he might have a complex recipe in place to make a few simple edits, and now IT solutions have arisen to fill each gap:
- Step one: gain access. To even open the file, the mobile worker had to email the attachment to himself or open an account with a cloud storage service like Box.
- Step two: view the file. Next, he might have downloaded an operating system-agnostic productivity app like Open Office to open the file on his mobile device and see whatever text, tables or graphics it contained.
- Step three: edit or annotate. This can be the most difficult step, since some viewing apps don’t offer editing capabilities. At this stage, an additional annotation app comes into play for writing notes or changing the Word file.
- Step four: save and share. To share an edited, annotated file from his mobile device, the user might have opted for Box or Dropbox. Enterprises should use more stringent criteria to leverage combined file access, viewing, editing and sharing on one interface for mobile enterprise workers. There are several mobile-friendly apps that aim to replicate the editing control you have from your desktop, while also building the cloud’s accessibility into their DNA.
- Step five: secure. While it’s important that mobile workers can access files from anywhere, risk-averse enterprise users also have to ensure that unauthorised parties can’t access those files. Dropbox and Box have begun building security controls to accommodate enterprise security needs, such as permissions in Dropbox for Teams; however, these controls pale in comparison to security applied directly to a file, rather than the cloud compartment it lives in, for the inevitable point when that file is shared offline, outside the cloud.
IT department concerns with compatibility are no longer limited to “dumb” phones that are solely used for calls or simple text emails. The next generation of enterprise IT problems involve ensuring file compatibility and security across operating systems. Some organisations will even limit employees’ bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices to one OS (like an iPhone) altogether just to avoid the issues that stem from this type of segmentation. The result has been frustration among on-the-go employees, suppressed productivity, and company fear regarding mobile access.
This trend will only continue to grow. By 2017, according to several forecasts by Gartner and Forrester, tablet sales will outnumber desktop sales. In addition, we’re likely to see mobile phone shipments (mostly smartphones) grow to more than 2 billion in 2017, according to Gartner.
To keep pace with the growing employee demand for mobile access and collaboration solutions, businesses must rely on technologies that keep information safe and increase mobile productivity, which is a combination rarely seen in today’s market. This means scrapping piecemeal solutions that only address one aspect of the mobile-user experience and implementing an all-in-one solution that facilitates secure access, editing and collaboration, and control over a file’s complete lifecycle in order to track recipients and revoke access at anytime if needed.
The future belongs to computing on the move. That future is now for enterprises and employees that select secure, native Microsoft Office functionality and collaboration tools for their mobile devices.
To conduct everyday business, mobile users have been forced to download multiple apps to help them access, edit and annotate Microsoft Office files. They have settled for insecure cloud file services for sharing. The time for settling is over. Enterprise IT needs to deliver instant access to any file from anywhere, and companies can now achieve this. Mobile devices were supposed to make our jobs easier. With the recent evolution in mobile collaboration tools, they do.
Moti Rafalin is CEO of WatchDox, a provider of enterprise solutions to share, control and work with files on any device.