Bring-Your-Own… Unified Communications

Let’s get this out of the way: “Bring your own device” won’t save your company money.

Sure, BYOD lets your IT department avoid the upfront costs and hassle of arming your employees with smartphones and tablets (that based on past track record, they probably wouldn’t have liked, anyway).

But there’s still management and security software to deploy, Wi-Fi networks to upgrade, and potentially new mobile-savvy IT staffers to hire. None of that is cheap.

According to Aberdeen Group, it could cost your company an extra $170 per device PER YEAR to go BYOD compared to an internal rollout.

But get over your sticker shock quickly, because you’re not going to stop the mobile invasion of the enterprise. Not when Windows, which as recently as 2005 held 96 percent of the global computing device market, now holds just one-third. iPhones, iPads, and Android devices like Samsung Galaxy S3s together hold nearly half, according to super-analyst Mary Meeker.

So in a post-PC era, how should your business play the game? Not by employing a defensive mindset, i.e., fixating on ways to minimize spending. Rather, think about how you can transform your organization with the latent capabilities of these pocket rockets in order to reap the greatest ROI. That’s how you play to WIN.

Take Deventer Hospital of the Netherlands. When it centralized various locations into a brand-new hospital in 2008, Deventer also deployed a robust, scalable network based around Avaya virtual networking gear. That not only securely accommodated the sudden influx of iPad-toting visitors and medical staffers, but also leveraged the iPad in two ways. First, doctors and nurses can now be quickly reached on their mobile devices anywhere in the building. Second, doctors and nurses can use an app on their iPads to pull up patient medical records that aid in explaining symptoms and other health issues to patients. Both of these help boost the quality of care in huge ways.

“Two years ago, a setup like this wouldn’t have even entered my mind,” says Ko Takema, head of ICT at Deventer Hospital.

According to the Radicati Group, mobility is the “primary driver for innovation and adoption in the UC market.” Powerful smartphones are “driving corporate demand for UC solutions to support an increasingly mobile workforce,” while features such as voicemail-to-text, fixed-mobile convergence, and mobile presence have become “popular and reliable features” for end users.

COMMfusion analyst Blair Pleasant agrees. “The growth of the mobile workforce has led to the need for workers to communicate regardless of their location or device,” she says. In part due to growth in UC on tablets, Pleasant predicts that the global market for premises-based UC-capable gear will grow from $12.23 billion in 2011 to $20.76 billion in 2016—an impressive compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 percent.

No wonder that 57 percent of firms not using UC today are planning or considering a mobile UC deployment, according to a 2012 Frost & Sullivan report, while 82 percent of firms using unified communications today plan to keep or boost their usage of mobile UC apps.

Opportunities for Transformation
An even more impressive example than Deventer Hospital is the Essa Academy, an urban secondary school in the U.K. whose tech-centric classrooms have returned impressive gains in student achievements and are being hailed as “one of the biggest revolutions in learning the state education system has seen in decades,” according to The Independent newspaper.

Besides transforming its classrooms, Essa wanted to transform how its staff communicated. Having already invested in 1,500 iPads and iPod devices for students and teachers as well as an upgraded Wi-Fi network, Essa leaders saw that they could upgrade to a powerful new unified communications platform and save money.

Using Avaya Aura® as the foundation, and the Avaya one-X® Communicator and one-X Mobile SIP for iOS apps to deliver voice over Wi-Fi to faculty devices, Essa was able to slash its telephony costs and improve collaboration, says Essa Director Abdul Chohan. He credits integrator Pennine Telecom for its success.

“Every staff member has their own number and can be contacted on the same device so the need for landlines disappears,” he reports. “The beauty of it— and when we say this people are in awe—is that staff can be contacted by a parent directly on their iPad … It also means that we have some phenomenally productive conversations happening. Teachers can ring each other at no cost throughout the day.”

In addition to these softphones, Essa is rolling out Avaya’s Flare® Communicator to all students and teachers so that they have easy “swipe-of-the-finger” access to essential communications tools, including videoconferencing, IM, presence, managed social media, email, and more via their mobile devices.

That’s key. High-definition mobile video may indeed prove to be the killer app of mobile UC. See the great discussions by my colleagues writing in the “Video” section of this book. But voice, IM, social media, and other channels also see their value skyrocket when extended to “anytime, anywhere” devices. So if you’re an enterprise going mobile, make sure you invest in all of your collaboration channels. The benefits you’ll reap will astound you.

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This article, by Gary E. Barnett, originally appeared on the Altura Blog, and is reprinted with permission.