From office to anywhere: Managing the digital footprint of the distributed workforce

While a decentralised working structure brings numerous benefits to organisations, the expanding array of devices and technologies needed also presents several challenges. Stefan Spendrup, VP of sales for Northern and Western Europe at SOTI, delves into these hurdles and offers insights on how to overcome them.

Last Updated: 17 Nov 2023

In recent years, technological advancements have led to the expansion of remote workforces. Across Europe, companies have embraced decentralised and dispersed working structures. This shift has increased the challenges associated with managing both employee-owned and company-owned devices, adding a layer of complexity to the overall management process.

“Decentralised work is far from a new phenomenon, but a number of technological developments have accelerated the trend. Large-scale advances in mobile devices and e-commerce, warehousing, and fulfilment software platforms, driven by a necessity to enhance supply chain workflows and device visibility, are just a few examples,” said Stefan Spendrup. 

For Spendrup and SOTI, there are many advantages that stem from a distributed workforce. These include improved customer service with a stronger connected presence in the local market, a broader recruitment reach with a much wider talent pool to tap into and flexibility for employees to choose the locations to work from. 

Yet, there are also internal and external challenges that organisations must overcome to fully maximise efficiency and productivity gains while avoiding security risks. “More dispersed processes and broader business operations bring greater complexity to device management that need to be addressed,” said Spendrup.  


Navigating a complex landscape

Research by SOTI reveals the extent of the device management problem. The study of 2,500 global IT professionals working across several industries such as retail, healthcare and transportation and logistics (T&L), found that 45% of global organisations have grown their IT teams over the past year, while 52% have increased IT budgets, despite challenging economic conditions. 

Some 35% of UK organisations have reported an increase in the mix of devices, as rugged handsets, mobile computers and barcode scanners become more widely used across all sectors. “This poses challenges for IT teams to manage devices they have never managed before, especially where device visibility is not clear, user profiles are not known and remote support is not available to help resolve IT issues quickly,” adds Spendrup.

A particular issue is network access, with 44% of UK IT professionals needing better access control to protect their systems. “This issue has been compounded by the huge level of investment into new devices over the past year,” said Spendrup. “Increasingly, this has exceeded the levels of investment to manage and secure the growing number of devices.”

A key challenge for employees is the need to be trained to use technology they may not have used before. “Almost 80% of organisations are now managing at least one technology that they didn’t manage in the previous year,” added Spendrup. “Many employees find learning the ropes on new rugged handsets, scanning and inventory technology, to be quite a steep learning curve.”

“So, organisations must provide adequate training and support when introducing new devices, processes or systems. For management, ensuring that employees understand the business rationale for the integration of new tech is key to avoiding staff frustration, alienation, lost sales and emergence of data vulnerabilities,” continued Spendrup.  

“It’s also important to support IT colleagues through any major tech transitions. This ensures technology adoption and productivity remains high, reassuring teams that they have the right investment, expertise and support to deliver projects aimed at easing the transition to a more distributed workforce.”


Don’t forget data security 

Recent high-profile cyber incidents involving The Electoral Commission and Capita have underlined the importance of application lockdown and the ability to track lost or stolen devices. “Data integrity and security are among the most serious concerns associated with the surge in mobile devices that the distributed workforce brings,” commented Spendrup. “Too few organisations are matching their investment in new devices with investment in mobile technology security.”  

SOTI’s research found that only 34% of organisations have increased their spend on mobile technology security in the past year, and 54% of companies are still managing important business processes manually.. 

“Alarmingly, among the worst offenders are those working in the retail and healthcare sector, where customer and patient data security should be critical,” continued Spendrup. “Such manual processes not only make for more inefficient data processing but can lead to data loss when forms and records are misplaced. Organisations looking to fully embrace the distributed workforce must ensure that they are developing robust data management processes that are digital-first and adequately protected by industry standard cybersecurity practices.”  


Getting it right digitally

Spendrup points to global performance bike brand Trek Bicycle Corporation as an example of a business which is successfully managing the digital footprint of its distributed workforce. After discovering a critical need for increased efficiency across the hundreds of devices operating in six manufacturing warehouses, Trek opted for SOTI MobiControl and SOTI XSight to ensure its global end-to-end production and shipping processes run smoothly. Trek also reduced the time spent onboarding new employees by 15-20%. Lastly, the company drastically decreased device downtime and ensured devices were securely managed and protected against cyber threats. 

“It’s vital that businesses take steps now to ensure they are able to fully maximise the advantages of a distributed workforce while reducing the security risks that it poses. Investing in solutions that promote improved operations, support and management for all operational devices, will ultimately support business success and profitability in the long term.” 

“As well as progress in digital transformation, those who invest in this space can achieve better employee attraction, retention and onboarding, efficient office and facilities management, more sustainable and low-emission operations, and a better proposition to customers. Above all, it will keep workers focused on business-critical tasks and reduce unwanted device downtime and security risks,” Spendrup concluded. 


To find out more about how SOTI can help better manage the digital footprint of your business’s distributed workforce, visit