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Can BYOD best practices help mobile UC mature in the enterprise?

BYOD best practices present an opportunity for mobile deployments of enterprise-grade UC tools to mature, reach higher adoption levels.

Enterprises can boost user adoption of mobile unified communications (UC) tools by following bring-your-own-device (BYOD) best practices, but melding corporate UC applications with employee-owned devices isn't easy.

Mobile-happy employees have definitively proven that they can communicate and collaborate with consumer applications, but enterprise-grade mobile UC tools for a BYOD workforce are still developing. Many devices do not support the full functionality of enterprise-grade mobile UC and collaboration tools. 

BYOD best practices: Vendors struggle with mobile UC for BYOD

BYOD best practices for mobile UC have been a hot topic this year, but while BYOD has the potential to accelerate adoption of UC in the enterprise, vendors are struggling to deliver these services in BYOD environments, according to Phillippe Winthrop, managing director at the Enterprise Mobility Foundation in Boston. 

"The only complication with BYOD is that UC clients are a corporate application," he said. "IT has to manage deployments, updates and provisioning of that application onto mobile devices."

BYOD also presents a separate challenge to UC managers, said Michael Finneran, principal at dBrn Associates, a networking consulting firm. It can inhibit user adoption of overall UC deployments.

"IT typically delivers the UC solution within the enterprise, but now employees are bringing their own devices and using consumer applications -- all of which are direct competition with IT's UC tools."

Many UC vendors are embracing the mobile and BYOD trend, and they have been trying to develop mobile UC applications for years, Finneran added.

"The problem is no one is using them. In order to help spur usage of enterprise UC tools, IT will have to convince employees to download these tools and take up space on their smartphones," he said.

Employees who have been using consumer applications for UC on their own devices may be slow to adopt enterprise-grade UC tools because many enterprise mobile UC products are competing against consumer tools that have earned user loyalty. "Most of these enterprise UC products are playing catch-up to these consumer tools," said Robert Harris, president of Communications Advantage.

More on BYOD best practices:

BYOD programs: Can they work in the enterprise? 

Best practices: Mobile devices and security

BYOD and IT: Content management concerns

C.O.P.E.: An alternative for BYOD best practices

Some experts suggest that offering employees a broad selection of company-owned devices may help IT organizations get around consumerization and regain more control over the mobile environment. It could also ease any mobile UC security concerns that IT organizations have with BYOD.

UC applications like real-time presence and video currently require access to the internal network, whereas consumer applications such as FaceTime and Skype require only Internet access, Harris pointed out. Thus, IT has been hesitant to deploy mobile UC onto employee-owned devices.

"Most enterprises are currently only pushing out email onto user devices, and not really any other enterprise-grade UC tools that are more deeply embedded into the network infrastructure or enterprise applications," Harris said.

Winthrop, of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, has proposed the corporate-owned, personally enabled device [COPE] model as an alternative strategy for BYOD best practices: IT defines policy and owns the devices, but users get to choose which device they adopt.

Under Winthrop’s COPE model, IT will be more willing to push out enterprise-grade UC tools to devices they manage because they can wipe corporate data easily if the employee leaves the company or permissions change.

"The COPE model," said Harris, "would allow enterprises enough control over the device to manage the users dial plan through the device, the enterprise network and even the wireless carrier network."

The government, financial and healthcare industries will most likely remain dead set on corporate-owned devices for regulatory and compliance reasons; COPE won't win over other industries that are leaning toward BYOD, Finneran said.

"Many [enterprises] want to move out of the phone business, and I see the trend leaning more toward individually owned devices," he said. "COPE could be a great model, but I think the argument is over for most enterprises."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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