The term mobile first is gaining traction, as more organizations and their service providers put mobility at the heart of enterprise communications, rather than as an add-on, writes Bertrand Pourcelot, the director general of Centile Telecom Applications.
Early adopters – notably in the Nordics – are proving that mobile first is not only possible, it’s the catalyst for both fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and unified communications. Much of the impetus is coming from customers themselves: by 2022, 42.5% of the global workforce will be mobile, according to Strategy Analytics. The mobile workforce is here to stay and must be addressed.
Another driver is that the technology behind mobile first has become easier to adopt, with true integration into the rest of an enterprise’s IT landscape. Cloud-based technology is, of course, a key enabler and with that has come the ability to hire someone else’s FMC/UC platform, rather than having to build or buy their own assets.
Not only does this alleviate the considerable cost of creating and maintaining infrastructure, it has also opened the market for far more service providers, because the entry cost and risk is much lower. For service providers of all kinds, mobile first represents a massive opportunity to become MVNOs and there is a choice of strategies. For instance, service providers can have the option to bring their own existing carrier SIP trunk relationships and data networking partners to the cloud-based platform as a service (PaaS) and then tailor their own mobile service bundles accordingly.
Comms resellers who want to move up the value chain to become service providers can take the PaaS approach, giving them a monthly revenue stream, plus the ability to offer additional features and services, such as video conferencing and other OTT services. Again, this is good news: OTT services have been taking the customer relationship away from service providers, who now have a chance to regain control of that relationship and add value, with a whole host of services built around a mobile first portfolio.
The timing is right too, with many of Europe’s PTTs switching off their ISDN lines in the next few years, so switching to IP-based services will be inevitable for many businesses. Interest in IP-based communications and especially to use the opportunity to put mobile at the centre, is rising. This is true of both small-to-medium enterprises – who may have the flexibility and sometimes a more adventurous culture – but also larger organisations, who often have legacy PBXs or early IP Centrex solutions nearing end-of-life.
Of course, while the theory is sound, there may still be some inertia to change, at least until it is unavoidable. What’s working as a solution to this for some early MVNOs is ensuring that a mobile-first approach is not just ‘as good as’ at delivering communications, but better. This drives adoption, by delivering tangible productivity and cost benefits.
It all stems from a better user experience. Mobile first should mean services that fit around each individual employee, instead of around networks, devices, numbers, applications or services. Access to service and apps should be delivered seamlessly, with a consistent user experience, regardless of whether communications are taking place at that moment over cellular, Wi-Fi or fixed line networks, regardless of user device.
Cost savings can be gained by automatic re-routing of mobile calls and apps via Wi-Fi, or by helping make sure that more calls reach the recipient, thus reducing the number of call-backs. It also makes an organization look more professional, with fewer calls from customers or partners being missed – for instance, avoiding calls being put through to a boss who is already on his mobile. Calls can switch seamlessly from a VoIP to a mobile phone in the same session without the other party being aware. Voicemail can be integrated into a single mailbox, even with email notifications and audio files attached. Add in integration with other enterprise apps and suddenly the office goes with the user, wherever he or she may be.
The user experience should also give users control over their mobile services. An example of this is user driven presence control, which gets away from the currently quite clunky way most of us manage our ‘availability’, such as email calendar scheduling. With user driven presence control, people choose their preferences from their mobile devices, with team members able to see each other’s status. Users can then choose to accept calls, forward them to a colleague or let them go to voice-mail, depending on the user’s selected state.
So is it goodbye to the deskphone? Far from: we’re seeing growth, particularly with softphones and it’s likely that most organisations will allow users to have two or more comms devices. What matters is ensuring a seamless mobile experience that is native to the user, not dictated by device, service or network. It’s a great opportunity for business to improve their communications and it’s a great opportunity for service providers to add value and drive revenue.