The modern worker has changed. With the advent of mobile technologies, our work and personal lives have become inextricably linked. Team members can reach us whenever they need or want to (except for maybe some pretty extreme examples) via text, email, slack, etc. Prized team members are often expected to be thinking about work when they’re not there, and working harder than anyone else when they are. This might sound terrible. This might sound awesome. Either way, it’s reality for many industries and workers.

Into this new work environment flowed a bevy of devices and technology solutions to accommodate the modern enterprise worker. While firms built suites of custom mobile software to empower their workers, many workers gravitated toward slicker, more intuitive consumer apps for many of their core processes. In many situations, those same workers preferred their own devices to corporate-issued ones.

In addition to putting significant stress on IT departments and data security specialists, this created a hodepodge digital landscape for the modern enterprise. This new breed of employees, whether by necessity or preference, demanded one thing above basically anything else — flexibility.

If workers have to be tethered to their devices at all times? Then they probably deserve the ability to work remotely if their job allows for it. If they prefer a consumer app to one of the enterprise versions you demand? Maybe you should incorporate some of those consumer features into your suite of apps. The mobile nature of our technology has mobilized our actual jobs as well, as workers need the hardware to match that.

The iPad enabled an entirely new breed of field personnel, sales staff, etc. But, you had to develop custom apps to make the most of the platform. As enterprise software companies began building tablet specific versions of their software, these devices became that much more useful. For some jobs, however, a full laptop was still a necessity. But the cost and weight of these were sub-optimal in their own ways.

Companies have been promising (and building) hybrid solutions that ostensibly bridge that gap, but most have failed to impress to date. Microsoft, in a move that shocked much of the tech world, released the Surface Book and may have just cracked the code to delivering every bit of the flexibility modern enterprise employees demand — the full power and keyboard of a laptop, the lightness, portability and touch-enabled display of a tablet.

I haven’t gotten my hands on an actual unit just yet, but it could very well be a massive hit given the flexibility the hardware provides. Microsoft, often maligned historically for being set in their ways and innovating at too slow a pace, have turned the tables on many of the more celebrated hardware manufacturers with this new offering.

The takeway for enterprises is that as workers and consumers change, your mobile offerings must change (or even better, preempt) those workers’ new wants and needs. You must take stock of what is happening in the tech space around you, what is happening in employees’ jobs and lives and deliver solutions that fit all of the above.

It’s not so much that people absolutely had to have a true laptop/tablet hybrid, but rather that the 21st century worker requires flexibility above all else. Microsoft just figured out (possibly) how best to do that at this point in time.

Good on ya, Microsoft!

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