A world where employees are office bound and remain at their desks is a thing of the past. Today’s workers are everywhere. They’re at coffee shops, at home, on the road, overseas – and working from a plethora of devices.
While this mobile workforce has brought benefits in terms of productivity, it has also driven an evolution in traditional enterprise communications. “Organisations have to accept that their Unified Communications (UC) systems of the past didn’t factor in the mobile user. They simply are no longer unified. They have to mobilise their UC to keep up with the mobile workforce,” says Rikus Jansen, Head of UC and Voice at EOH Network Solutions.
He says although organisations accept that mobility is an integral part of any UC strategy, truly mobile UC goes way beyond accepting that staff prefer to work on their own devices, from remote locations. “However, organisations have faced several hurdles when trying to implement a mobile UC strategy. For example, an organisation will introduce an enterprise application that allows the user to call, IM, video call, but the users still prefer the apps they already have, that they are used to.”
Mobile UC apps are integral to UC for the entire enterprise. “Phones are the most used devices among employees. Any of these apps need to be appealing, with an excellent interface, and easy to use. These apps have to be better than the native apps already used by employees. WhatsApp, for example, offers easy and reliable messaging and video chat. Users would need a compelling reason to change.”
In addition, mobile UC apps must be able to support mobile device management (MDM), to ensure the business can manage the devices connecting to its network, and ensure they are secure, and with that, the organisation’s data assets.
“Add to that the fact that some of these apps don’t integrate well enough with mobile operating systems to support key features, such as native dialer and call list integration, being able to receive calls via the UC app when the screen is locked, or worse, VoIP calls automatically being put on hold when a GSM call comes through to your mobile. All of these points need to be carefully considered when developing a mobile UC app,” Jansen says.
He adds that integration is key. “Integration is the only way to truly extend UC to mobile. UC providers and mobile device vendors have to work together, to ensure integration.”
Jansen says organisations also need to carefully weigh up the roles and business processes of their staff to find out what mobile UC platform will best suit their needs. “They must invest in a solution that truly supports mobile apps, or users will carry on using the native apps they are used to.”
Today’s enterprises are being continuously challenged to improve employee collaboration, productivity and engagement. The success of every business today is dependent on having employees who are fully engaged with the business, and able to collaborate with each other.
Companies have to make their workplaces more flexible in return for increased productivity and lowered costs, and this can only be done through truly mobilising their UC solutions. “Forward thinking businesses must follow employees as they move, and this goes way beyond merely deploying smartphones and tablets – it’s about employees being able to communicate, share ideas, access business applications, and collaborate, as easily from another country as from just down the hall,” Jansen concludes.
Rikus Jansen is a Unified Communications specialist. He entered the South African technology space in the late 1980s, pioneering 3D animation and video effects in the broadcasting industry. This led to a career in corporate ICT outsourcing. He co-founded Ensync Voice Solutions, a unified communications company. After merging the Ensync companies with the JSE-listed ICT provider, EOH, he now heads up the EOH Voice and Unified Communications business, which is one of the leading communication providers in South Africa.