When UCC and BYOD collide

A lot of businesses today are working towards creating Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) systems.

August 27, 2012

By Dean Young Dean Young, Head of Telecommunication Pre-sales at T-Systems in South Africa

A lot of businesses today are working towards creating Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) systems that replace the disparate mixture of voice, e-mail, video, instant messaging (IM), SMS’ and used by their employees.

However, it would seem that the progress towards UCC is on the verge of colliding with bring your own device (BYOD) mobile device management.

The reality is most companies won’t be able to standardise on a single mobile-device platform. Workers are accustomed to using their own personal devices and switching back and forth from a company-provided appliance to their own may prove to be intrusive and time-consuming.

The question therefore is how can BYOD be integrated with a corporate UCC systems strategy that will only be effective if everyone is engaged at all levels?

What and how

A good place to start is to determine what and how. Therefore, what mobile devices are supported and importantly, how?  This will give organisations a clearer picture to work with and provide a good foundation to start for developing a UCC strategy that incorporates BYOD.

Quite logically the next step is to ascertain which devices are used by employees.  Undoubtedly there will be a myriad of products and manufacturers to deal with.  Here it will be important to list the ‘most to less’ in order to identify the devices to priority. Chances are two or three operating systems (OS’) will dominate the list.

The next is then what features should be supported and how. For example, for those companies that feature a large contingent of remote/mobile workers, e-mail accessibility is a must.  Another example is access to enterprise business applications which is particularly beneficial to sales people who have to provide answers on product availability on-the-fly.

Drilling down to essential services that must be provided by the UCC system is half the battle won.   Coupled with OS’ and manufacturers profiles, the sheer volume of devices will become less complex.

Consider hosted UCC

For companies that are driven by BYOD user needs, a hosted UCC system is a compelling solution.  Hosted UCC provides access to systems via the cloud which means the physical software doesn’t have to be installed on the device.

Hosted UCC systems work well with collaboration whiteboards, e-mail and IM applications.  Smartphones for example use standard mobile voice services and integrate with most voice systems that support the PSTN (public switched telephone network) used in SA and most parts of the world.

Tablets, however, typically require a compatible VoIP client even in the case for browser-based UCC systems.  Fortunately most hosted UCC providers have developed plug-ins that can be installed with minimum disruption.

Another important consideration is managing and monitoring all these devices.  Hosted UCC takes over the management and monitoring of devices, controlling access to applications and minimising potential risk to the organisation and its data.

The major plus though is that hosted UCC providers are constantly developing new mobile applications that overcome interoperability and access issues, keeping trend with new devices and their required features.

It therefore takes away a lot the headache associated with managing a BYOD environment.

The human element

Once you have your BYOD integration in place there is another important issue to contend with: the human element.

For one, BYOD users must be able to add applications / components to their devices to conform to company communication standards.  Also, if some applications / components are not available for a specific device it is up to the user to report this and work with what is available.

Lastly, chances are good that business critical functionality will stay within strict accessibility parameters only accessed via fixed technology such as thin clients and user PCs. BYOD users will have to accept this and realise that they will lose some accessibility features when using their mobile devices.

What is clear is that integrating BYOD as part of a UCC strategy is a must for the future.  The devices aren’t going to become less feature-rich and companies should harness the productivity gains associated with BYOD.