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October 30, 2015

Mobile is Unified Communication’s engine for growth

John Howard, Director UC Collaboration, EMEA, Logitech for Business, looks at how mobile and BYOA is forcing businesses to deploy UC.

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Mobile Unified Communication (UC) is helping to transform the way that employees connect and collaborate. In response to new workplace trends, and demand for increased flexibility from employees, companies are re-designing their workplaces. Mobile UC is the technology enabling remote working, on-the-fly meetings and mobility across all departments.

Bring Your Own Device continues to be an on-going trend that IT departments are grappling with. They now have to contend with another emerging trend – Bring Your Own Application. Employees, in particular millennials, are often self-organising, using applications that will give them the productivity boosts they require.

Companies are evaluating how they can give their employees that same kind of mobile, intuitive experience via their UC platforms. Relative newcomers like Slack (real-time messaging) and Ray Ozzie’s Talko (VOIP cloud -based calls) have had the foresight, or perhaps luxury, to launch native mobile apps.

IT departments are managing this transition at different speeds, and it is not always a smooth conversion – with many employees often filling the gap of their organisation’s inability to adopt the latest mobile software. In January 2015, a Wainhouse research paper looking at the collaborative enterprise found that over two thirds of respondents had initiated an audio or web conference from a mobile device, so the popularity of mobile video is clearly on the rise.

Inevitably, IT departments could find themselves swamped with employee IT requests for mobile UC, and the realisation that many departments are taking it upon themselves to buy the latest technology – contributing to the phenomenon of ‘Shadow IT’.

Without doubt, the mobile app market and increased connectivity are writing the next chapter of enterprise UC, and it is quietly developing around us. IT departments will find that adopting this technology will help them better manage their workforces who are increasingly finding the desk unit a productivity desert.

The mobile UC market today
It is already easy to deploy UC applications via a mobile, with many available from all the leading collaboration vendors such as Microsoft, Cisco and Zoom. Other players are investing in their collaborative capabilities that are primed for mobile devices. Mobile features in UC have now expanded to include features like white boarding, screen sharing and single-reach number.

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At present though, the main mobile UC adoption issue is connectivity, as office Wi-Fi and stability of 3G and 4G signals within the building still struggle to enable technology to full capability. This is mirrored outside of the workplace, when poor signal will often equal dropped voice/video calls, and ultimate frustration by the user.

However, the market has fully understood that the benefits of Mobile UC mirror what is seen when using a laptop device – increased productivity and decision making when either used remotely or in the office. The UK Government fully recognises this and further investment in connectivity is on its way, with the Chancellor announcing that 95% of the UK population will have access to superfast broadband by 2017. India is now embracing 4Gfor mobile users for the first time this month.

Get ahead of the game
As connectivity becomes less of an issue, companies will find that the mobile application works in the same way as a desktop application, whereby there’s a seamless and easy usability experience for the user. The improvement will continue further with better bandwidth for 4G and more pervasive high speed Wi-Fi. Further enhancements of the UC ‘skin’ and intuitive user interfaces coupled with stability in application performance is going to further drive Mobile UC.

Organisations should not fear the plethora of different UC vendors. The cloud is permitting the interoperability between different vendors facilitated by system integrators. The promise of WebRTC[1] will also drive an open and standards based approach to both video and voice communication in the near future. Technology is maturing and companies are already widely adopting UC, rather than proprietary technology.

For example, Logitech Collaboration products are certified for use with Cisco Jabber, WebEx and Skype for Business. This means that users can call customers or colleagues that are using different platforms to the one that their company is using, providing a seamless integrated experience, at a much lower price point than traditional room systems.

Consider the delivery stage
For many companies, the cost savings can be tremendous. Enterprises want to have seamless communication experiences with their employees, customers, suppliers and partners. It’s not far off to think of a world where as a consumer, you will be able to connect with a business over an instant message, voice call, or… dare to dream, video. Barclays, for example has introduced video banking so that its premier customers can initiate a face-to-face video call from their smartphone or tablet.

Despite the constant intrusion of social interfaces, organisations should not dismiss employee training for video collaboration on different devices. A clear communication strategy should be in place so that users fully understand the benefits that their devices can bring to their work. The changing demographics of the workforce will play an important part in this delivery stage: millennials will form 50% of the workforce in just a couple of short years; while businesses today are distributed across multiple sites with remote workers forming part of the team, and 60% of meetings are now virtual.

The Wainhouse research paper on the collaborative enterprise confirms this, noting that: "The way users get their work done is undergoing a dramatic, historic change. This new work environment is embraced by work-life harmony-seeking millennials and driven by highly collaborative interaction. Technology has transcended the ability to simply enable virtual collaboration, making it effective and desirable – with few barriers, anyone and everyone can instantly become engaged and help with the task at hand."

Navigating the mobile maze
4G is providing a massive improvement in mobile bandwidth and Wi-Fi speeds are increasing with fibre to business and home. This will have a huge impact on employees having a real choice to make a video call from a device of their choosing. It’s important that everyone in the company understands the cost savings that mobile UC can bring to the organisation.

Make it easy, and have an intuitive application that mirrors the desktop experience and you will have a big smile in the boardroom on return on investment and actuals.

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