Enterprises want to untether their employees from their desks, but enabling UC mobility has been harder than it sounds. Both user experience and security have been problems. Users need tighter integration between mobile UC technology and their more traditional communications and collaboration tools.
Irwin Lazar, vice president and service director at Mokena, Ill.-based Nemertes Research Group Inc., shared his insights into how UC mobility will make enterprise employees more productive -- regardless of location -- in the new year as part of SearchUnifiedCommunications' series of UC predictions for 2014.
UC mobility: Deeper, more seamless integration needed
Nemertes' research found that about 80% of enterprises plan to increase their deployments of mobile UC tools and applications next year, and by the end of 2014, 24% of companies will have mobile UC client capability, such as Jabber or Lync, Lazar said. But even though interest in UC mobility is growing, mobile endpoints are still not replacing traditional hardware, like the deskphone, he said.
In order for UC mobility to work, there needs to be a happy marriage between traditional communication tools and mobile devices and applications. This year, ShoreTel released its docking station for iPads and iPhones, a piece of hardware that would allow users to move video and voice calls between their desktop phone and mobile device, giving users the ability to take calls from anywhere while also maintaining a single contact list and phone number.
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"A lot of vendors will be rushing to get their own docks out the door," Lazar said. "Users, especially those that are on the road, like the idea of popping their [mobile device] in the cradle [to] immediately [be] up and running."
The integration between SMS communications and mobile UC tools will also be something to watch out for in the coming year, Lazar said. Avaya recently announced a mobile messaging service that allows users to send and receive texts from an Avaya mobile client without exposing their personal cell phone number. Competing vendors should be bringing their own, similar functionality to the market in 2014.
"With technology like this coming onto the market next year, users will truly be able to have one phone number, and enterprises will also be able to have control over texting," he said.
Mobile UC still faces security challenges
Security has been a big stumbling block for companies adopting UC mobility. Many enterprises require a VPN connection before users can run mobile communications and collaboration clients. "A mobile app is not very user-friendly if a user with an iPhone has to first fire up a VPN client before they can use the UC client on their phones," Lazar said.
To that end, Cisco recently announced Expressway, a gateway built on Cisco's Collaboration Edge Architecture that allows users outside the organization to connect securely to internal collaboration tools. Lync 2013 also has its own encryption capabilities built in, Lazar said.
Many enterprises are already making the alignment of UC and mobile security policies a priority, and they will continue to do so in 2014, Lazar said. "Enterprise IT needs to make sure that if they put a mobile UC client on a [mobile device] with potentially sensitive data -- like employee records -- that there is a way to remotely wipe that device if need be."