If there is one aspect of collaboration that a mobile device should greatly excel at over a PC, it is communication. Mobile devices have two distinct advantages over desktop PCs. First, remote meetings can happen in diverse environments beyond my desk. I can be at home, in a conference room, or out on the road (just don’t do it while driving!) Second, for audio/visual communications, I never have to track down and use a clunky headset. A headset may be great for a voice call, but it is distracting for a business conference, especially ones of a sales nature. Mobile devices, specifically mobile phones, already have built in microphones that can be leveraged. As well, many of the newer smartphones have front facing cameras that make the addition of video a snap. Enterprises should take full advantage of the text, audio, and visual capabilities of mobile devices to maximize collaborative communication.
The most basic of collaborative communication is textual in nature. Organizations have leveraged instant messaging for many years. This paradigm has translated quickly to mobile devices due, in part, to the popularity of native text messaging. Quick, short messages are a natural fit for mobile devices. Instant messaging platforms are a great way to work via the concept of a real-time stream. They also keep transient chatter from otherwise cluttering email.
You are probably already very familiar with the consumer messaging clients, such as Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Facebook, etc. These are mature platforms that allow your network to include whomever you wish. However, if you want your enterprise to move beyond 1996, you’ll want to look at apps and services that are more enterprise- focused which integrate voice, video, and social networking.
For an on-premise option that is much more closely linked to your traditional concept of a corporate network, Microsoft Lync is an option. One advantage of an on-premise solution is that all communication can be kept behind the firewall. Another advantage of this type of system is that users don’t need to ‘join’ the network; they are already a de facto part of it due to their inclusion in Active Directory. The downside is that this type of platform required IT intervention and support.
If you don’t want the weight of an on-premise solution, services such as Yammer and Chatter are cloud based options that have an enterprise focus. These cloud services are aligned with the Consumerization of IT trend. They can be quickly and easily set up by the average user without the support of the IT department. These types of services have a more ‘social’ feature set that allows for dynamic groups and feeds. However, one drawback to a cloud based service is having to sign up for ‘yet another social platform’. Single Sign On services can be leveraged, but that increases the complexity of deployment.
The trifecta of mobile collaboration lies in the combination of text, voice, and video. This gives users the option to instantly come face to face with peers and clients across the globe. Through platforms, such as Fuze, WebEx, and Adobe Connect, users are able to engage real-time with participants. They are able to share PowerPoint presentations, Documents, Pictures, and white-boarding sessions. Participants can, in return, respond by sharing and marking up content on the fly. These platforms provide powerful mechanisms to engage in ways that just a few short years ago required expensive and stationary equipment.
There are many collaborative communication options available for enterprise use with mobile devices. Many of the apps and services out there offer a lot of the same functionality. My advice on how to select the right platform for you is to look at your network requirements coupled with knowing what, if any, platform your users already are using. If you have strict network security requirement then a cloud service is probably not going to be an option for your organization. Do you need to support federated domains? – then perhaps Lync is the platform for you. Perhaps your company is already leveraging a platform such as salesforce. If so, a solution like Chatter would be a logical choice. Or perhaps your company is building a completely cloud based ecosystem; then Yammer might make sense. The further the proliferation of mobility in the enterprise, the more exciting options we’ll see being used on a regular basis. How is your enterprise leveraging mobile for effective collaboration? Post a comment and let me know!
Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com