When we interviewed more than 240 IT professionals earlier this year to find out what was hot on their purchasing lists, mobility was the consistent theme we heard time and again. Thanks to the rise of tablets, MP3 players and Android devices, 68 percent of organizations increased their mobility spend in 2011, with an average increase of 17 percent.
Given that overall IT budgets remain flat or are continuing to fall, the increased spending on mobile technologies stands out. As users rely on their mobile devices to access applications and data, it stands to reason that IT would look to incorporate mobile integration with enterprise telephony and UC applications, including IM, presence and conferencing. More than 80 percent of organizations now have such plans as they seek to enable the same communications and collaboration features on mobile devices that users have come to expect when at their desks.
Here are six tips to guarantee mobile success in your UC initiatives:
Evaluate various architectural approaches. The two dominant architectures for extending UC to mobile devices are gateways and direct mobile-client connectivity to back-end application servers. Gateways are typically required when the organization has a diverse set of UC applications or legacy voice systems. Direct connect is viable when a mobile client comes from the same manufacturer as the organization's other UC applications. Gateways are largely appliance-based, meaning that the IT department will need to plan for resiliency and redundancy.
Evaluate APIs. Some mobile UC manufacturers offer application gateways that let customers integrate additional applications into the mobile client. For example, an event notification system could issue an alert to all mobile phones through the mobility gateway. A possible scenario is an alarm in a manufacturing facility triggering a need to shut down production or to evacuate.
Research the ability to connect to UC applications. This sounds like a no-brainer, but significant variations exist with respect to the ability of mobile solutions to integrate into UC applications, such as instant messaging, web and audio conferencing, and telephony systems. Some manufacturers support integration with Microsoft Office Communications Server and Lync, but only for presence sharing, not for instant messaging. Others do not support IBM Lotus Sametime.
Plan for mobile-device management. MDM platforms let IT either take ownership of the entire device or create sandboxes on the mobile device that isolate applications and data from other applications and the user's personal data. For those considering introducing support for devices other than BlackBerry, an MDM can extend BlackBerry Enterprise Server–like controls out to any device, enabling security and policy control — prerequisites for deploying mobile UC applications.
Address 911 requirements. Mobile users (either via Wi-Fi using a softphone running on a mobile device, or using the native calling capabilities over a carrier's cell network) can make calls from anywhere: desktop, conference room, shared workspace, cafeteria, home or public hotspot. Tracking a mobile user's location presents two challenges: First, identifying that their location has changed, and second, updating location mapping databases with the current location. A number of manufacturers have solutions for mobile phones, but interoperability across platforms is challenging. A new standard, Next Generation 9-1-1, will offer a more effective way to track mobile phone locations, but we're still a few years away from widespread adoption. In the interim, work with the manufacturers to understand their solutions, as well as those from partners.
Embrace standards. Leveraging IP communications standards such as the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) wherever possible offers the greatest opportunity for success. Open-standards solutions don't lock the organization in to a particular manufacturer's approach or products, but be aware that SIP support varies greatly. When a manufacturer says they support SIP, find out exactly what they can support; for example, presence, IM, phone call initiation and simultaneous ring.