Mobile device adoption alters UC strategies

As the BYOD revolution unfurls, enterprises find that mobile device adoption requires an alteration to current unified communications (UC) strategies.

The statistics on enterprise adoption of mobile devices are staggering:

  • Seventy-two percent of companies support employee tablets now, and 26% of employees will use tablets by the end of 2013.
  • Sixty-six percent of companies will increase their mobility spending in 2013, by an average of 19.7%.
  • As companies shift to BYOD models, the average number of mobile devices per employee rises from .67 (in a company-purchased device model) to 1.4.

Already, in more than half of all companies, 12% or more of employees are using their mobile device as their primary computing platform. Seventy-three percent of companies expect the number of employees who primarily use mobile devices to increase over the next year, while almost 10% are already replacing desktop or laptop computers with tablets.

Read the first tip in this mobile device adoption series

Enterprise telephony is evolving: Prepare your UC strategy for mobile endpoints.

Given these trends, IT managers must proactively plan to integrate mobile devices into their unified communications (UC) strategies. Already, this is starting to happen: Nine percent of companies now extend instant messaging (IM) to their mobile users, while another 30% are integrating voice in some manner -- typically by implementing simultaneous ring or extension forwarding to mobile devices. But integrating UC and mobile devices is more than simple call forwarding. Modern mobile clients from UC vendors like Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel, ShoreTel and Siemens increasingly aim to provide an identical user experience for desktop and mobile users, by extending applications (such as IM, voice, audio/Web conferencing and even video) to mobile phones and tablets.

Mobile device adoption alter UC strategies

IT managers must proactively plan to integrate mobile devices into their UC strategies.

For those seeking to extend UC to their mobile users, the critical first step is to figure out a client strategy. This is pretty straightforward in a single-vendor environment where all UC applications are already integrated; the obvious approach is to deploy the UC vendor's own mobile client across the enterprise. But few companies have just one UC vendor. Many use IM applications from vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, voice from any one of a number of IP-PBX (or even TDM) vendors, various video conferencing platforms, and a mix of Web conferencing products and services. Much of the vendor effort to create an interoperable, integrated end-user UC experience has focused on the desktop. Today, a Microsoft Lync customer, for example, using the platform for IM and Web conferencing, can integrate call control from Avaya or Cisco into the Lync desktop client, creating a single dashboard application for messaging, video and voice.

In the mobile world, it's not so simple. UC vendors typically don't have a mobile application program interface (API) strategy to allow third-party applications to plug into their mobile clients. Instead, companies in a heterogeneous UC environment must either deploy multiple mobile clients (i.e., one for IM, one for video and one for voice), or look to a third-party integrated mobility provider (such as AudioCodes and ShoreTel for traditional deployments, or Esna for cloud/on-premises integration). The first approach creates user confusion and complexity, while the latter can provide a disjointed set of capabilities between desktop and mobile devices.

As a result, once UC architects decide to deliver mobile capability, they often begin to rethink their overall UC strategy, moving from a mix of vendors to a single-vendor solution, primarily so they can deliver an integrated mobile client that aligns with their desktop strategy.

UC planners should carefully evaluate the mobility capabilities of their vendors -- including their partnerships and third-party vendor relationships -- with the goal of providing a seamless, single-client solution to their users, even if it means rethinking the overall UC architecture.

This was first published in January 2013

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