Extending unified communications (UC) to mobile users is among the highest priorities for IT architects. Thanks to the rapid influx of consumer mobile devices as a result of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, coupled with growing demand for anytime-anywhere access to corporate applications, more than half of companies are extending, or planning to extend UC applications including enterprise telephony, instant messaging, Web conferencing, and video conferencing to mobile devices.
But extending UC to mobile devices isn't free: Companies must plan to spend on wireless LAN upgrades, data plans, licensing, as well as mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) platforms for provisioning, maintenance, and security. For many companies an "everyone gets mobile UC" approach simply isn't feasible; rather, IT and business leaders must establish policies to determine who gets what, and who doesn't.
Choose the right mobile user to extend UC to
The typical approach is for IT leaders to work with business managers to define worker profiles. A field worker who spends little time in the office, but must collaborate with colleagues from wherever he or she may be, is an ideal candidate for company-supported mobile UC, whereas a contact center agent who works a fixed shift within a call center and who isn't on-call or who doesn't require reachability when outside the office is not. Creating profiles can present a challenge as worker roles shift. Managing role assignments requires administrative overhead. For some, the cost of developing and managing profiles in a rapidly changing organization isn't worth the cost. Therefore we recommend minimizing the number of different roles: Twenty-five roles with twenty-five separate policies aren't manageable; two or three are.
After creating profiles comes the job of determining which applications each worker profile can access, and who pays. A traveling worker may require access to every corporate UC application with voice and data plans fully reimbursed by the company, whereas a branch manager may need access to email and single-number reach, but might not need mobile Web conferencing, social tools or video. Those allocating costs to business units need to determine reimbursement plans, and how to deal with exceptions, such as the worker who regularly downloads movies to his or her corporate iPhone and runs up large data cap charges. Those that wish to extend video to mobile devices must understand the impact on data plans of high definition video conferencing over cellular networks.
Controlling mobile UC usage
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Here's where MDM and MAM come into play: By adopting a corporate MDM and MAM, IT administrators can control what services are delivered, how much data is used and what, if any, restrictions are placed on using applications over cellular data networks. A company, for example, may wish to limit video conferencing usage to only when a user is connected to a wireless LAN to avoid running up large data usage charges from the cellular carrier. MAMs can limit the ability of users to install unauthorized applications on their devices.
Longer term, IT leaders should be aware of the continued convergence of UC applications into a common user application. Web conferencing, chat, voice and video are increasingly integrated into a single application, making it more difficult to control access. IT leaders should work with their vendors to understand what, if any, controls they can provision (e.g., turning off video) even in a bundled mobile application.
Finally, crafting mobile UC policies requires continual monitoring of usage and evolving requirements. As roles change, as requirements change, and as technologies change, IT leaders will want to continually revisit their policies to ensure that they balance the need for security, performance and cost management with business needs for agility and innovation.