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Key to BYOD isn't multiple devices, but single user experience

By Joseph Harsch, director, unified communications and business solutions, BroadSoft, special to Network World
November 19, 2012 12:20 PM ET

Network World - This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

According to recent reports, the average business traveler carries three mobile devices for work and 25% of IT decision makers believe desk phones will be replaced by mobile phones within two years. The data points to an increasingly mobile workforce, one that expects a single user experience for accessing unified communications (UC) applications and services across all their preferred devices -- whether it is an employer-issued smartphone or an employee's BYOD tablet device.

To date, the BYOD conversation for enterprises has swirled around how to best manage and secure the myriad devices, applications and networks that employees use for communication and collaboration. But an enterprise fixated on how to best accommodate as many devices as possible overlooks a key fact: The technology and business benefits of BYOD will be undermined if end users lack a single, consistent and intuitive experience.

MORE: 7 BYOD policy essentials

It is instructive to consider what a single user experience can and should ultimately look like, challenges associated with delivering it, and ultimately how enterprises can ensure that more devices and networks enhance, rather than inhibit, workforce productivity and mobility.

Recognize the user experience challenge

Today, an enterprise end user making a voice call on a personal iPhone, cannot -- in the middle of that call -- seamlessly switch to a video chat on his iPad, or to an IM exchange on an employer-issued laptop. The byproduct of being unable to integrate disparate mobile applications, platforms and devices is an enterprise with communications silos for voice, video, text and collaboration.

At the same time, delivering a consistent user experience is difficult for providers tied to specific applications (i.e., Skype calling) and devices (i.e., Google Android phones). Mobile operators and service providers, with ownership of the network, are more strongly positioned, but must prove from a branding and execution perspective they can successfully extend beyond delivery of voice and data services.

While these challenges have restricted the BYOD experience to date for the mobile workforce, a single user experience extending across all devices and networks can significantly enhance the benefits of BYOD by providing:

• A single "identity" -- End users should be able to fully manage how they want to be contacted, which means having all of their contact information (call logs, IM contacts, etc.) available via the cloud across all user devices. This will enable users to invite contacts to a videoconference on their iPad, or review call history on a desktop softphone client -- in effect a single identity that extends across voice, video, presence and collaboration.

• Access from any device -- The proliferation of mobile devices should make communications easier, not more complex. Users should be able to access all of communications services from any device, including desk phone, desktop, laptop, mobile or tablet.

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