|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2009|
|Topic:||Mobile business communications|
|Author:||Tan Choon Seng|
Tan Choon Seng is the Vice President for Applications and Software Sales for Avaya in Asia-Pacific. Prior to this, Mr Seng was the Regional Director for Avaya ASEAN where he was responsible for their Unified Communications and Contact Center applications sales. Mr Seng spent the last 20 years of his career in the IT and CRM/Call Center industry working with a broad spectrum of clients.
Mobile corporate communications boost employee productivity outside the confines of the office. By connecting staff, customers and management, they help companies service their customers better. Corporate mobility solutions offer multi-modal access to the tools and applications businesses rely on to be productive – regardless of where their employees are located or what device they have at hand. Corporate mobility solutions include five essential components: calling and conferencing management; one-number accessibility; messaging management; contact and information management; and personal efficiency management.
In today’s economic climate, organisations are challenged to produce more with fewer resources. Productivity needs to be managed so customers receive a level and quality of service that not only meets, but exceeds expectations. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that not only field resources be productive and utilised at all times, but that customers have the ability to contact businesses when and how they want to. When putting in place technologies and policies to streamline processes and reduce costs, companies need to ensure they take the necessary steps to maintain the delicate balance between maximising efficiency and delivering top quality service. One possible solution to this challenge is mobility. Mobility solutions connect staff, customers and management in the most effective ways. Mobile technologies can also help businesses of all sizes realise competitive advantage by enabling employees to be productive outside the confines of the office, and increasing the efficiency of business communications, which in turn allows companies to deliver better levels of service to their customers. What is mobility? Mobility can mean different things to different people. For some, mobility is defined as phone or email access while on the road. For others, mobility is the breakdown of the physical constraints of the workplace so that business, in all its complexity, can happen anywhere, anytime. For the sake of this piece, I will focus on the application of mobility as an enhancer of business communications, whether in – or outside – the confines of the traditional office. The mobility challenge Mobility can be defined as providing universal, multi-modal access to the tools and applications businesses rely on to be productive – regardless of where they are located or what device they have access to at the time. Enterprises today face the challenge of balancing efficient integration of office communications with a variety of devices without jeopardizing manageability, security, or control. Flexibility, speed and better customer contact translate into better service and more importantly better relationships with customers, a vital step in protecting the customer base. From a technical perspective, effective mobility is comprised of five essential building blocks: calling and conferencing management; one-number accessibility; messaging management; contact and information management and personal efficiency management. Each of these features delivers a critical benefit to the business and the customer. The first element – calling and conferencing management – is the ability to launch or initiate conferences from any phone in any location. Business today often requires a variety of participants calling from different locations, so having the ability to conduct conference calls from anywhere gives businesses the opportunity to close deals while in transit. In addition, effective conferencing can save money by replacing the need to travel. Calling and conference management is one layer, but having one-number accessibility is crucial. One-number accessibility allows the redirection of any incoming call to a mobile phone, laptop, or PDA, making it possible to reach on-the-move employees by using only their direct office number. By eliminating the need for multiple access numbers, communication is streamlined and time spent doing business rather than trying to locate someone. In fact, in the Asia Pacific Mobility and UC Survey 2008, conducted by IDC, the Asia Pacific managers considered being ‘always reachable’ as the most important benefit of mobile technologies. The great majority of respondents saw ‘always reachable’ as the most important benefit, while managers perceived satisfying customers as the most important benefit of mobile technologies in 2005. The survey also revealed that managers perceived mobile technologies as not just relevant for managers that deal with customers, but also for employees at large. They saw the value of being responsive towards both customers and co-workers. While accessibility is an important feature, effective management is the spark that really makes mobility useful. Management involves three components: messaging; content and information; and personal efficiency. In terms of accessibility, messaging management brings about universal access to any and all messages, so that voice, email or fax messages can be viewed from a PC, phone, or other wireless device and managed from any location. Message management provides a common platform, so information is quickly and efficiently delivered to its intended users, regardless of what form it is initially received in. Contact and information management also plays a key role by enabling users to connect to company directories and databases from any location, improving collaboration and problem solving in real-time, without the need to be in the office. Being easily reachable is useful, but enabling users to access entire corporate networks while on-the-go takes business productivity to another level. Finally, personal efficiency management plays a part by allowing users to manage appointments and tasks through rules-based controls that distinguish between urgent requests and routine interactions, thus maximising efficiency. This helps users make the most of their time by focusing on important activities first. In the same IDC survey in 2008, 81 per cent out of 626 respondents indicated ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ when asked if mobility improves productivity, compared to only 61 per cent in 2005. The biggest increase in positive attitude towards mobility as a means of improving productivity was registered in Hong Kong (80 per cent), Australia (80 per cent) and India (70 per cent). Management is an important component of making mobile working useful, so it is no surprise that customers who have deployed enterprise mobility cite this as the strongest benefit. Effective manageability ends the dependence on consumer-oriented wireless network features, so work can truly happen anywhere, anytime. In addition, it lets companies choose the path that is most appropriate for them to deploy enterprise mobility, minimizing technical disruption and preserving existing investments in wiring and phones. Facing the mobility challenge The many mobile technologies available today offer great value, but can fall short of expectations if not managed in a strategic manner. Enterprise-class mobility solutions need to be simple to use and administer, as well as have consistent user capabilities and experience across all modes of work and devices. In addition, devices must be integrated with other devices, networks and systems, as well as into enterprise processes and business operations. Business does not happen in isolation, so users must not only be accessible, but connected to each other as well. More importantly, solutions need to be consistently reliable – halfway attempts erode benefits and compromise the usefulness of mobility. Mobility is at its most effective if it is invisible and ease of management and holistic accessibility are the keys to making this happen. Mobility sets companies apart in the business world. Making staff truly mobile is an excellent way for an organisation to deliver efficient office communications by offering increased flexibility. Through the careful combination of accessibility and management features, mobility can break down walls and extend business into the world outside the traditional office.