Time to take a second look at mobile UC

There are few true enterprise-grade deployments of unified communications on mobile devices. Here’s why mobile UC hasn’t gained more traction, what challenges are being overcome and why it might be time to reconsider.

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Although the world has gone mobile, enterprises still haven’t flocked to mobile unified communications (UC).

It’s a bit of a head scratcher. Any platform that can extend UC features — typically voice, presence, web- and videoconferencing, text, email, contacts and one number/one voicemail capability — out to mobile devices would seem like a slam dunk.

Bullish polls and studies have fuelled this assumption. In 2015, 33 per cent of the 940 IT professionals surveyed by TechTarget said they planned to invest in mobile UC within 12 months. However, as Michael Finneran writes in a TechTarget blog post, data on actual deployment is hard to come by “because the (UC) vendors have no mechanisms in their mobile products to collect usage analytics.”

Based on his own unscientific straw polls at industry events — plus the deployment and demand rates among his IT consulting clients — Finneran estimates mobile UC penetration to be less than five per cent.

He’s not the only one pondering the state of mobile UC. Back in 2014, No Jitter publisher Eric Krapf penned a blog on that site with the provocative title “Is Mobile UC Already Dead?”

We’re not only making a case that the answer is “no,” we’re providing network administrators with some other questions they should be asking about mobile UC.

Why hasn’t it gained more traction?

One theory is that in the BYOD era, IT managers have balked at the prospect of integrating, managing and securing various mobile OS devices within an organization under one mobile UC platform.

Another possible barrier to adoption is that most enterprise UC vendors don’t have APIs allowing their mobile UC apps to work with third-party apps. So, if you want your mobile UC apps to work with stuff like Google Docs or Dropbox, that’s kind of a drag.

Finally, Finneran argues that many enterprise users haven’t given mobile UC a chance because much of what we identify as mobile UC&C (he’s adding collaboration to the mix, too) is “available natively on virtually any smartphone.”

Can these challenges be overcome?

Vendors have taken huge strides toward making their mobile UC offerings easier for enterprises to use, manage, integrate and secure. Cisco’s new Spark solution is a great example.

With Spark, video calls can hop seamlessly from your desk phone to your smartphone to your conferencing unit; you can share screens during web and video calls with just one tap; videoconferencing units can enable meetings on your smartphone as soon as you enter the room. Cisco also created an API centre for Spark so organizations can customize it or integrate it with other mobile and desktop apps.

Is mobile UC worth it?

When you’re doing business on the fly, it might seem faster to fire up a hodgepodge of mobile consumer apps from your smartphone or tablet. But you probably won’t get the holistic, consistent security protection that comes with an enterprise-grade mobile UC solution. And can you customize those consumer apps to your organization’s particular needs the way a mobile UC provider can? Maybe not.

Without a configured mobile UC system, you can’t always access the content and connections that are unique to your organization, such as contacts, documents, databases or call and meeting histories. Moreover, you might not enjoy the same levels of quality, flexibility or capability in your mobile voice or videoconferences as you would with a mobile UC platform.

UC vendors have been told time and again to make their mobile offerings easier to use. Now that they’re listening and making those changes, it’s time for enterprise managers to take a second look at how mobile UC can change the way business is done throughout their entire organization.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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