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Editor's note: In part one of our series on assessing mobile collaboration, we look at the impact of mobility on the enterprise and unified communications. Nemertes Research analyst Philip Clarke discusses how enterprises can create a strong strategy to successfully deploy new mobile collaboration technology to employees.
Mobile access is the new "killer app" for unlocking unified communications (UC) benefits. But IT professionals continue to wrestle with the challenge of identifying how to use UC for specific user groups.
Within the enterprise, the phrase the new mobile workforce refers to a movement that is pervasive across industries and is transforming how many companies conduct business. The term mobility encompasses a range of terms including device-purchasing models for adopting bring your own device (BYOD) policies, mobile operating systems, mobile device form factors, mobile application development, mobile security, teleworking and the associated effect on employee behavior. As platforms have proliferated, mobile device management, or MDM; mobile application management, or MAM, and secure document repository vendors quickly reinvented themselves to provide device, application and document management, security and control.
The upshot? The increase in enterprise mobility is moving at a consumer-product pace, with rapid refresh cycles and a regular drumbeat of emerging new features.
Mobility isn't the only technology affected by consumerization. Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) is also cycling much faster than in previous years. Driven primarily by a combination of BYOD, the rise of mobile apps, and Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud offerings, enterprise-grade solutions are emerging and evolving rapidly. Employees and business units are investing in these technologies, choosing endpoints, software and infrastructure to complement their requirements, often without the go-ahead from IT (a phenomenon known as shadow IT). Naturally, most IT professionals, especially those focused on security and compliance, try to nip this in the bud.
But kneejerk naysaying isn't the best course of action either, as IT staffs learned during the "iOS onslaught." IPhones and iPads are now deployed by more than 97% of organizations, a number Nemertes Research expects will reach a saturation point around 99% this year. Ideally, IT pros should look objectively at what workers are adopting and rein in company data where necessary without stifling productivity. After all, the main reason employees and business units circumvent IT is because existing solutions aren't meeting their needs. Instead of forcing a specific solution down users' throats, IT should emphasize delivering solutions that meet everyone's needs -- employees' as well as organizations'.
Business benefits: Four steps to ensure a successful mobile UC strategy
Characterized by BYOD, powerful functionality, compelling app ecosystems and excellent connectivity, mobility can be the perfect gateway for UC applications.
But beyond starting with mobile collaboration technology, what steps can help ensure UC success? Here are four:
- Get outside help. Companies that use professional services to integrate their UC solutions report excellent success. While bringing outside consultants in to determine how and where to deploy UC can be a scary proposition for IT professionals, it helps ensure that the right questions are asked and that UC is deployed properly based on company, business unit and employee-specific requirements.
- Consider the cloud. A great place to start is with document storage and collaboration. Many -- if not most -- organizations have employees who travel and need guaranteed access to work files through quasi-consumer Software as a Service (SaaS) tools like Box, DropBox or Google Docs. These vendors address this new market opportunity by bolstering their enterprise functionality through secure connectivity, encryption and integration with corporate infrastructure, such as Active Directory, SharePoint and Salesforce. Typically, companies that use managed, hosted or cloud tools for UC management find greater success.
- Take a holistic approach. A common characteristic of companies with less-than-successful mobile UC initiatives is that they take a piecemeal approach. Many IT staffers assess the individual components of UC -- video, voice, instant messaging and presence -- and come to the mistaken conclusion that these are familiar technologies and will therefore present little trouble. But UC is much greater than the sum of its parts, mainly because it implies excellent integration among components. Further muddying the waters for IT professionals, consumer-oriented products are released and updated at rates that outpace enterprise-focused solutions. The end result is that companies can spend countless dollars to better enable their workforce through UC, only to find that employees are using a free app that is better suited to their role requirements.
- Measure what matters. Too often, IT organizations measure the success of UC initiatives by adoption rates. But this misses the point. A full 72% of organizations report that improved collaboration is the primary driver behind their social software. Though adoption metrics can serve as a baseline, companies need to dig deeper. IT professionals should review their reasons for bringing UC to their users and evaluate success based on that. They should also understand the endpoint of consumer apps, devices and collaborative tools -- and make sure that, wherever possible, solutions rely on devices and apps that users are already adopting. Instead of focusing on "let's get users to adopt the corporate solution," the approach should be, "let's ensure the solution delivers on business value to the enterprise."
Read part two of our series on mobile collaboration to learn how cloud-based UC is essential to mobility.