Making a meaningful move to mobile

Mobile matters more than ever as employees work more flexibly and become more demanding in the way they want to work. But for IT heads, it’s a minefield with many aspects to consider. It’s no longer about simply providing technology that serves a purpose, it’s about rolling out devices that deliver a great employee experience, and allow simplicity, flexibility and security to keep up with the standards of the consumer market. So what should IT managers be thinking about when it comes to mobile policy? 

Reassess your desk phone Do you really need a desk phone? For a growing number of people, the answer is no. When you bear in mind the fact that many people work in the field, from home or are running from meeting room to meeting room and don’t even work from their desk much, it makes sense in a lot of cases to migrate to mobile and take a mobile-first approach.  

For example, I speak with a lot of people from professional services firms who are always outside of the office and so opt for a mobile phone only. They don’t need to have a fixed phone and favour the simplicity of having all their contacts and meetings in their mobile phone. From an IT telephony manager perspective, it is a very good opportunity to reduce operational costs and maintenance; users are empowered enough to manage their own device and update it. Plus, it brings the opportunity to provide more integration to unified communication and collaboration solutions. 

So why do we feel so wedded to our desk phones? One reason is the legacy thinking that is still common and people are not always ready to change habits by putting on a headset rather than picking up the phone. There’s also a tendency to look solely at the associated cost savings. But for one healthcare company I spoke with recently, cost was the last thing on their mind when they adopted mobile devices over desk phones. Their main concern was to have the freedom to get out to as many hospitals as possible and work productively on the move – not just talk and text.  

The move to mobile is inevitable but it won’t be a big bang. While businesses continue to dip their toes in the water, innovation will take place to enhance the user experience with new features and mobiles prices will drop, making the choice of mobile more obvious. 

Put usability first – Another reason behind the hesitation to ditch the desk phone is the fact that some of the alternatives involve changes to working practices. Even for those who will continue to work at a fixed desk for years to come, there will be a move towards software functionality. Unified Communications (UC) will be a big driver of change but some implementations will be more trouble than they’re worth. 

If you can’t pick up the phone and have an immediate conversation, your solution is more of a hindrance than a help. The last thing you want to do is go from the frying pan into the fire. The new WebRTC protocol will enable UC functionality in web browsers so you won't have to install anything, you can just start a video chat or start an instant message conversation. That will enable lots of interesting ways to communicate with people from any device, on any network. 

Some of the tech is already available but it's down to the suppliers and customers to integrate it in a workable and user-friendly solution. When the right solution is selected and rolled out, it will improve the way businesses communicate and collaborate.  

Address the software bugbears – Coverage, device age and poor software features or performance are the three most complained about issues for employee mobile devices that we hear. The majority of companies I speak to haven’t fully jumped into the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) because they see it as ‘IT on the cheap’ and so we now have a different dilemma. With employees approaching their work devices with a consumer mindset, they now have an urge to use the same types of software that they use at home.  

One thing we hear a lot is that workers are frustrated with the software they have to use for work purposes. Sometimes the functionality is fine but the UI is outdated and embarrassing to use in front of clients. While companies continue their battle against shadow IT, whereby people use unsanctioned apps for work purposes, they must also work on providing better alternatives. That means thinking of mobile productivity from the outset.  

Therefore, it is important to enable the flexibility to manage devices and applications with an Enterprise Mobility Management solution. This asset allows the management of personal and work environments on a device, opening the door to Bring Your Own Device (and being compliant with data privacy policies), Choose Your Own Devices or Corporate Owned Device Personally Enabled.  

Secure your infrastructure I’ve heard it said that security isn’t a product, it’s a process, which is definitely true. Security is a cycle of monitoring and mitigating risk and it should by an integral part of any company. There's a lot of vulnerability in UC architectures and it's not well understood by businesses. Also, they are not really aware of how they should organise the security policy for mobile devices. These days, most are experts in the security of their PCs but at the same time, many have their work mobile devices completely open.  

With many devices currently without enforced security policies, some companies are investigating the best way to address this. But for others, it might be the case that they will wait for a major DDOS attack on the smartphones in Europe before they realise they must invest in their mobile security as well.  

Don’t start with the iPad – It’s vital to think strategy before implementation. Do you want to achieve a specific business goal or do you just want to dish out cool gadgets to your execs? IT managers should say something like: we will give you a mobile device because you will be able to access information more easily, you will be more efficient no matter where you are working. To sales staff in particular, they might say: we will push you valuable information so you can be aware of what's happening at your customer and be able to better react to any opportunity or issue. Only when you decide on the mobile strategy and what you want to achieve can you proceed to the next step.  

The device and apps you choose should be selected for the ability to serve their purpose and justify the investment. They should also be flexible to suit the different type of people using them and the various ways of working. There might be various types of device that can deliver the same result, don’t focus too much on the device itself, because it could be replaced by a newer model six months later. What you need, rather, is guidelines: “I need a product with a wide screen, with enough brightness to be used outside, with Bluetooth and compatible with HTML5”. At the end of the day, it can be an iPad, but you should be flexible enough to consider the use of other devices as well. 

Stefaan Van Aken, Mobility Sales & Solution Partner, Orange Business Services
Olivier Vicaire, Senior Digital Business Consultant, Orange Business Services
Image Credit: Varnish Software