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Mobile UC: assessing the pitfalls and potential

The promise of unified communications (UC) has been around for some time, but now that mobility is ubiquitous in the enterprise the vision could be finally coming together. In the BYOD and mobile apps age, enterprises need to know how to optimise their UC deployments across all platforms and devices. But what are some of the challenges and benefits of deploying UC through mobile devices? And how will those challenges and opportunities continue to evolve?

What is mobile UC?

To date mobile unified communications hasn’t been as big a success in enterprises as predicted. Extending both desktop computer and deskphone features to the smart mobile devices, along with status indicators to show availability, theoretically allows colleagues to contact each other at the right time by voice, video or instant message. But it’s difficult to perfect and the all-too-common lack of user adoption is partly due to inconsistent or difficult user experiences.

The right device, right coverage and right apps.

There are many ways to make employees productive through use of mobile unified communication (UC) but implementing complex technologies that require extensive employee training is where many organisations face their biggest obstacle. In order for UC to be a success, organisations must focus on three distinct areas.

Firstly, choosing the right device for mobile workers can be a difficult and even emotive decision, but a very important one. Organisations need to ensure that the device supports essential mobile UC functionality. For example, it needs to have a large screen for documents, a front facing camera for video conferences, as well as high speed network access.

Secondly, any business process can be slowed by communications between multiple parties, but lack of network coverage or unreliable access can delay things even further. Excellent connectivity with 4G and Wi-Fi are a must.

Thirdly, the UC application itself needs to be easy to deploy, easy to manage and most importantly, easy to use. Employees nowadays want a consumer user experience even when using a work device. Projects will fail if the app is not intuitive or too complex to use. There is now no distinction made by the user between desktop and mobile functionality. The same methods of communication (voice, video or messaging) must be available on all devices with the same familiar user interface.

What elements have to be in place to truly mobilise UC?

Many mobile UC projects fail because of a lack of user acceptance.

Although there are many reasons for this, they usually boil down to, or at least involve, the user’s lack of tolerance for complexity. If the app is too hard to provision internally or get support for from IT, then individual users will just resort to using their own consumer apps for UC, collaboration and cloud services.

This means that individual users continue to store their work documents, for convenience, in personal cloud services or use unapproved conferencing or messaging facilities – which IT departments cannot secure. For enterprise apps, document- and message-level security needs to be in place. The easiest tool for tackling this issue is an enterprise app store that auto-provisions recommended and authorised apps.

What’s next?

But innovation in flexible working and mobile UC will not stop. We are already seeing the first steps in some really exciting new uses of flexible working technology. Getting connected is going to become easier and more seamless with streamlined solutions that eliminate the need for users to find and authenticate against a network each time they want to connect. Beacon and proximity technology will be widely used to direct you to the closest available hotdesk, and then free it up when you have left. Wearable technology will also be used to track where employees are to assist with assigning location-specific tasks, and could even be used to ensure employees are having enough sleep!