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Mobile collides with collaboration – and a new digital workspace is born

Mobile collides with collaboration – and a new digital workspace is born

As more workers depend on smartphones and tablets for business communications, collaboration apps are making the leap into mobile via EMM platforms.

As smartphones and tablets become ever more indespensible work tools, enterprise mobility management platforms (EMM) are being used deliver collaboration tools, such as voice and video conferencing, directly to user devices.

With implications for all of IT, a new market survey by tech and services provider CDW found that most companies now view their mobility and collaboration platforms as one digital workspace. Additionally, the survey also found that end-users are playing a larger role in selecting those "digital workspace" platforms.

The survey also showed that over the past two years corporations have seen a shift in the way non-IT execs participate in the IT buying process for digital workspaces.

CDW surveyed 1,794 IT and non-IT business leaders who play a role in purchasing decisions for digital workspace solutions; the results were released last week.

Mobile and collaboration CDW

Seventy percent of IT and non-IT executives indicated that their companies see mobile and collaborative strategies as a single entity, according to the CDW Digital Workspace Solutions Report.

Virtual desktop infrastructure has also been helping the convergence of mobile and collaboration technology, according to Nathan Cousinhood, director of Workspace Solutions at CDW.

"The biggest area is voice, whether through the cloud or on premise, which includes traditional voice but also video, messaging, chat-based platforms and productivity tools, which is another large area all by itself. So we're talking about Office365, Google’s G Suite, and things like that," Cousinhood said.

EMM vendors rush to support mobile platforms

For example, Microsoft and Blackberry moved quickly to offer zero-day support – as did EMM-specific vendors – for Apple's iOS 11, which allows them to be deployed by IT departments directly to mobile devices.

All of the leading EMM vendors, including VMware's AirWatch, MobileIron and IBM's MaaS360, have various integrations with Apple and Microsoft.

collaboration brainstorming mobile [RawPixel.com - CC0 via Unsplash] RawPixel.com (CC0)

"What's happening is because you can now integrate further into the application stack, you can now also deliver collaboration tools like voice and video directly through the EMM to the end user," Cousinhood said.

Voice-over-IP apps such as Slack or Skype or Cisco Spark or Cisco Jabber all have had mobile instances for quite a while.

As a result, employees are using their desktop phones less, as they work from home, walk around the office or use their mobile devices in the field and on business trips.

"That's what's making a lot of these vendors rethink how they deploy these applications," Cousinhood said, referring to EMM platforms. "That's why they're becoming easier to use and better, more enterprise grade.

Mobile and collaboration CDW

"That's where we're seeing the consumerization effect that's leading our [enterprise] customers to believe they need a better enterprise strategy," Cousinhood continued, "and now if that strategy involves mobility, we need to think about collaboration – and if it involves collaboration we need to think about mobility."

Apple has been the leader in integrating its smartphone and tablet operating system to be more enterprise-user friendly.

For example, Apple opened up its iOS API to developers, so not only could an iPhone be used for VOIP calls, but if an end-user were to use Skype for Business or Cisco Spark, the interface would continue to have the look and feel of a normal cell phone call.

"That's a humongous leap in terms of usability because if all you know is your iPhone interface, now you can use your corporate desk phone in a software phone app and it looks exactly the same," Cousinhood said. "So, you don't have anything to learn."

Cisco has also been heavy in its deployment of mobile quality of service (QoS) via EMM platforms. For example, Cisco Fastlane enables IT via EMM to determine which business apps get priority on a wireless network.

While not all EMM vendors are offering the ability to deploy Cisco Fastlane to end users, they will do so over the next year or two, Cousinhood said.

Currently, Microsoft, Google and Cisco are the leaders in the converging their collaboration and mobile capabilities in the enterprise.

Ultimately, IT is trying to figure out how to deploy collaboration tools on mobile devices easier. Currently, most organizations have a mix of different collaboration options, which can be frustrating for the end user.

An exceptional mobile experience means including non-IT worker opinions

The CDW report also examined what contributes to exceptional user experiences when combining mobile and collaborative technology, how organizations rate their current experiences, and how they expect their digital workspaces to evolve over the next five years.

According to the survey:

  • 38% of respondents said non-IT executives are more often the final decision makers on digital workspace purchases and 35% say they are more often consulted by IT during the evaluation and purchasing process
  • About 41% of digital workspace solutions are selected by departments other than IT.
  • Organizations where non-IT leaders are  the final decision makers for digital workspace solutions are significantly more likely to offer an "exceptional" experience, 43% compared to 23% of organizations that didn't involve non-IT departments in a technology rollout.

"The more you involve people who are not IT – the end users who'll be using the solution – the more success you have with it," Cousinhood said. "It seems like a no-brainer, but it's surprising to see how many systems are put in without any end-user intervention at all."

mobile and collaboration CDW

The survey results, Cousinhood said, solidified what CDW has been hearing from its customers: whether they are rolling out WebEx, GoToMeeting, Live Meeting or Skype for Business on mobile devices, end users are often already using a favorite collaboration tool. So, when IT rolls out its own selection, users ignore it – and the internal effort is wasted.

"What we found is when you involve end users, as many as you can, early in the process and throughout the deployment, they become ambassadors for the solution. And, that really increases the exceptional experience," Cousinhood said. "That means you're getting your money's worth. And I thought that was critical from a planning perspective."

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