Mobility means different things to different people, but every business is struggling with the various implications and opportunities that come with it. Initially, mobility was about cell phones and doing telephony on the go. At the time, this was big step forward, but seems almost primitive today. The bigger issue now is how far you can go with mobility, and I don’t just mean reception coverage. Just as many consumers have gone totally wireless and abandoned their landlines, it is not inconceivable for a business to manage the vast majority of its communications without wires.
If you attended the recent ITEXPO Miami, you’ll know that mobility was a major theme, with sessions touching on a wide range of topics, including BYOD, BYOI, VoLTE, WiFi (News - Alert), RCS, mobile UC, and supporting remote workers. All of these and others will at some point impact your business, either currently or in the near term.
In the spirit of this column, I’m going to briefly touch on three mobile themes you may need to rethink, and from there, determine how they should drive your strategy around mobility. Today, mobility is just too pervasive and happening too quickly for you not to have a strategy. An ad hoc, reactive approach is not going to do the job, especially for something that is simultaneously impacting both revenues and expenses.
Mobile theme No. 1 - BYOD
Bring your own device has taken a life of its own now, and IT really has no choice but to accept it. Whether your business is small or large, most employees now have a smartphone and expect to bring it into the workplace. Compared to earlier days when cell phones were issued to employees, the economics of BYOD are attractive, since employees are bearing the cost. However, that comes with a sense of entitlement that you really cannot deny.
The challenge, of course, comes from developing reasonable policies for how mobile devices are used and managed, along with ensuring the right infrastructure to support network access, privacy, data security, storage, etc. You are likely working on this now, and it’s definitely a challenge that few businesses have yet to fully address. As important as BYOD is, there are other mobility issues you need to manage as well.
Mobile theme No. 2 - BYOI
Whereas BYOD pertains to tangible, inanimate objects, BYOI – bring your own identity – is far more ephemeral. Having multiple digital identities is quite common, and when employees bring these to work, it becomes difficult to monitor their activity and be certain they are being responsible with sensitive company information. Employees will have a company-based identity, such as via their e-mail address, but during the course of the day, they may well use several personal identities for work-related activity, such as scheduling meetings, working on files or updating contact details. This activity can be difficult to manage if used on online social media sites that are not accessed via the LAN.
We are just beginning to understand the implications of BYOI, and while this is primarily an IT issue, it’s going to become a mobility issue given how much our personal identities are connected to our mobile devices. This adds a layer of complexity to BYOD that could pose both networking and ethical challenges for your business. Given how tightly privacy is tied to identity, along with the pervasiveness of cloud-based social media sites, managing identity may prove more difficult than managing the mobile devices themselves.
Mobile theme No. 3 – Service Providers
There are two basic shifts occurring that will give cause for you to think carefully about which type of service provider to partner with. First is the shift in traffic from fixed to wireless, which has been ongoing for several years. Most of your telephony activity still runs over desk phones or on PCs, and these modes will be with us for some time. As VoLTE finds its way to market, you can expect to see a more pronounced shift of those minutes to mobile devices, and that means you may need to rethink the voice plans that will best support this transition.
This leads us to the second shift, which is more profound in terms of how you work with service providers. VoLTE is part of the bigger upgrade to 4G and LTE (News - Alert), which is very much about data, not voice. With that, we will see faster mobile broadband speeds, more powerful devices, yet even more mobile apps, and more engaging mobile UC platforms. When mobility is powered by IP-based data networks, and carriers have more mature IMS architectures, the options for service providers become more interesting. You may choose to consolidate all fixed and wireless traffic with a single operator, and you may even consider using an OTT provider for specific mobility services. The main idea here is that you need to be strategic when going with the service provider(s) who can best meet your overall mobility needs.
These are just some high-level examples of how complex the mobile landscape is becoming, and the changes are coming faster than what you have experienced with fixed line services. We’ve come a long way from cellular phones, and you need to understand the bigger picture to plan effectively for what’s coming. I’ll explore these themes and others further in upcoming articles, so if mobility is on your mind, I hope to see you back here next month.
Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi