The fact that mobile devices are playing an increasingly important role in the enterprise probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this article. Nemertes benchmark research shows that enterprise mobility budgets are continuing to increase -- up 37% from 2013-14 -- while 65% of companies are seeing an increase in mobile device counts by an average of 33% in 2013 alone. What's more impressive is that mobile devices are moving from "nice to have" to "must have," with an average 14% of employees expecting to use a tablet as their primary work device in 2014. This last part is driving a renewed look by IT leaders at how to best incorporate mobile devices into unified communications (UC) and collaboration strategies: Witness 80% of companies growing UC mobile deployments by an average of 324%! By the end of 2014, roughly 24% of total UC endpoints will be mobile devices.
Achieving a successful expansion of UC to mobile devices isn't as simple as pointing employees to the relevant app store; it requires careful evaluation of several factors. IT should evaluate the following when looking to support UC applications on mobile devices:
Four UC mobile deployment factors
Network Impact: UC applications, especially video and Web conferencing, can consume a lot of bandwidth; both voice and video require low latency for optimal quality. These challenges are easy to overcome on wired networks where local area network bandwidth is plentiful and free. On the mobile side, users may default to carrier wireless networks for UC, with no quality guarantee and a potentially high cost once users exceed data plan allotments. Getting mobile devices onto the wireless LAN is a better strategy, but it requires investments in WLAN infrastructure to ensure ample bandwidth and coverage. Most IT leaders tell us that they ended up either not accounting for the impact of mobile UC on their WLAN, or that they underestimated upgrade costs. Some even note that mobile UC is a key driver for deployment of 802.11ac which can enable prioritization of real-time traffic over non-real time applications.
User experience: For those used to high quality desktop or room-based video, the experience of conducting a video conference on an iPhone or tablet may leave something to be desired, especially if the aforementioned network issues get in the way. Voice quality over cellular networks may be less than ideal and battery life issues can often get in the way for those away from a charging source. For these reasons we find that mobile UC clients are mostly deployed as supplements to desktop applications and phones rather than as a full replacement.
Location awareness: There are two sides to this coin -- the need to track user location to meet E911 requirements and privacy concerns that lead some companies to block any gathering of user location. In light of recent revelations of NSA data gathering programs, we hear from IT leaders, especially those outside the U.S., of growing restrictions in terms of data gathering. Meanwhile here in the U.S., numerous states have legal requirements for operators of multi-line telephony systems to track user location.
Integration (or lack thereof):The reality for most companies, especially mid-size and large, is that UC applications come from a variety of vendors. Extending UC to mobile devices thus creates a quandary: Do you extend all apps or some apps? Increasingly the need to extend UC to mobile users is causing enterprise IT architects to consider single-vendor solutions that bundle a variety of UC applications into a single application, both on the desktop and on the mobile device.
UC planners should plan for a mobile future, paying careful attention to network, data usage, quality, location awareness and integration challenges. Make mobile support a key buying criteria in your evaluation of competing UC solutions.
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