There is so much change going on in business communications that it is difficult to keep up. Since I like to focus on the end user perspectives of business communications, I have always seen mobility as a big driver for unified communications (UC). However, until the advent of multi-modal smartphones, there wasn’t too much that UC could do for legacy cell phones.
A big challenge that business organizations face is the fact that employees don’t want to carry two mobile devices, each with different form factors, operating systems and user interfaces. On the other hand, using the same device for their specific job responsibilities and need for access to secure information is a responsibility for their organization to be able to control. This is especially important in the case where the device itself can be easily lost or stolen or where the employee leaves the company.
Mobility Needs UC Flexibility
We all know that mobile users have dynamic user interface needs depending on their circumstances, i.e., driving a car, sitting in a meeting, in a public or noisy environment, etc., I have been writing about that need for mobile flexibility for years. In fact, I have often suggested that desktop users don’t really need UC that much because they can choose any form of information access and communication contact sitting in front of them.
Rather than try to make the case for UC from a desktop perspective, it is more practical to make the case for Mobile UC, because most end users are now using personalized mobile devices for all forms of contact and communication. I think everyone now knows that such mobile communication is not dependent on just voice conversations and that screen-based text messaging of various kinds (email, SMS, automated notifications/alerts) are dominating the mobile communications space for a variety of practical reasons.
Even voice mail message retrieval has been made more efficient for recipients with the improved speech recognition for voice-to-text automated transcription and options to respond more easily with voice input for messaging. So, technology has facilitated greater flexibility for UC-enabled communications, but there was more to be done to let organizations fully exploit and manage personalized mobility.
BYOD Needs “Dual Persona” Smartphones
Enterprise organizations were challenged by several factors in allowing employees to use their own choice of mobile phones for job-related contacts and access to information. First and foremost, was the security of such information that would be in the devices. That led to Mobile Device Management (MDM) software that could control device usage and erase all information on the device whenever necessary (lost, stolen, no longer employed). However, such control was designed for a single relationship, e.g., employer management.
The real world is that individual end users have multiple relationships, but primarily their job/work relationship and their personal relationships. So, the concept of having two separate sets of usage controls within a single mobile device, better known as “dual persona,” was born. That vision for mobility really became both more practical and more necessary with the availability of smartphone capabilities that employees want to use for personal and work related purposes.
A second consideration for BYOD is who will pay for what. That includes support of the mobile device itself, the network connectivity services required for mobile access, and, last but not least, the various mobile applications that an individual end user will utilize. Those issues are evolving in different ways as hosted, cloud-based services take over such responsibilities from organizational, location-based legacy systems. The shift of telephony technology from hardware to software has made it practical to outsource UC-enabled telephony to service providers who can support both desktop and mobile usage needs.
Social Networking Needs Mobile UC and “Dual Persona” Smartphones
With the big jump in Social Networking as a new way to communicate with communities of people, the opportunity to exploit the flexibility of Mobile UC in switching modalities of contact is great. Since social networking combines various aspects of messaging (notifications, replies, etc.) mobile accessibility will be key to its effective use. The ability to switch mobile modalities will expand the power of social networking to be more person-to-person (e.g., click-to-contact) and private when appropriate.
However, this flexibility must be managed for business use. In fact, IBM (News - Alert), which has been promoting its vision of “Social Business”, has been using UC within its product framework. More importantly, in a 2011 study they did with 2,700 participants in their “Social Business Jam,” they identified the need for a “dual persona” approach to social networking contacts. Fortunately, this has become feasible for mobile “dual persona” devices becoming available from the wireless service providers (e.g., AT&T (News - Alert)), who are offering hosted UCaaS to business organizations.
So, the hosted, mobile, UC, social communication race is on, and business organizations, both large and small, have to plan accordingly!
Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to TMCnet. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves