People today can get things done from just about anywhere at any time — you could start the day by checking email from a tablet, then update a project proposal from a laptop, and finally use an app such as Yammer or Chatter to communicate with colleagues via a smartphone. It may sound like a fluid and effective work style, but it actually can be just the opposite.
We have more ways to stay in touch than ever before, but it can be difficult to manage the proliferation of devices, apps and services. With all of these technologies working independently of one another, we’re left to juggle multiple phone numbers, email addresses, passwords and collaboration tools.
The integration of unified communications (UC) technologies with mobile platforms will change that.
Many IT professionals still think of UC as a tool for integrating voicemail, email and fax, but the technology has progressed far beyond that. For truly “unified” communications, users today are looking for the ability to integrate all forms of communications onto a common dashboard that can be accessed on any device.
While some obstacles remain, we are rapidly moving toward that realization. Market-leading UC platforms have robust mobile components, and nearly all UC vendors have developed mobile applications.
ShoreTel’s mobility solution offers one of the top mobile UC experiences, giving both iOS and Android devices high-performance UC functionality such as video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video, desktop sharing, CRM integration, instant messaging and presence. Mobile devices also get desk-phone features such as extension dialing, conference calling, company directory, hold and call transfer.
To date, however, UC mobile apps have had limited uptake. Part of the problem is that, early on, major smartphone manufacturers didn’t provide access to the native dialer function on their devices. UC developers had to come up with a workaround, creating apps that ride on top of a mobile operator’s network. To make a call using one of those apps, you have to launch the app and enter the number on the application’s dialer rather than the device dialer. It’s workable but awkward.
Android eventually opened up its dialer. The big news, however, came last year when Apple announced that it is opening its personal assistant, Siri, to developers along with key APIs for the dialer and address book. That will allow calls on VoIP services to be placed through the iPhone’s address book with a single click.
Industry experts expect to see continued improvement in 2017 as UC vendors deliver new solutions that deliver high-quality mobile connections, native dialer integration and integrated business features on mobile devices. These improvements will help drive a more fully realized mobile UC strategy. In a recent survey of global telecom service providers and industry leaders, BroadSoft found that 42 percent believe the majority of UC interactions for businesses of all sizes will occur via mobile devices by 2020.
UC and mobility are becoming synonymous for the communications and collaboration needs of an increasingly mobile workforce. From small businesses to multinational corporations, organizations today are eager for solutions that will allow them to connect seamlessly with colleagues, customers and partners through a single platform.