While wireless and mobile solutions have been around for decades, the accelerated adoption of these solutions only began in the enterprise when RIM and others pioneered the concept of pushing email to mobile devices.
That "killer application" was a watershed event in terms of opening the eyes of enterprise executives to how mobile solutions can enhance the flexibility, communication and, ultimately, the productivity of a workforce.
Mobile messaging became the "killer application" because it is a solution that can apply to any job function in any industry. It not only provides people real-time access to their email, but also the ability to send emails anytime, anywhere, in such a way that it appears as if they came directly from the desktop email client (e.g., Lotus Notes or MS Outlook)
As the adoption of mobile solutions has expanded beyond email, Aberdeen has done over the years a number of benchmark studies on more targeted mobile solutions such as mobile CRM or mobile field service applications. While that research has demonstrated the value that mobile technologies can drive in those contexts, they are by and large relevant to specific industries or job functions.
So what's the next "killer app" for mobility? What new technology will enable vendors to empower end user organizations to further their entire workforce's flexibility, mobility and productivity? The answer is mobile voice...but not just any kind of mobile voice. We're talking about mobilizing the office phone (i.e., the PBX system) through fixed-mobile convergence (FMC).
FMC is a term that's defined in a number of different ways. In this context, Aberdeen defines FMC as a way to leverage a mobile phone as an extension of the traditional desk phone, such that both incoming and outgoing mobile calls appear to be transmitted via the corporate phone system, leveraging either a carrier's cellular network or a WLAN.
So why deploy an FMC solution? In February 2008, Aberdeen conducted a global survey of more than 230 organizations to assess why they're considering FMC solutions and the benefits they have gotten from that investment.
Aberdeen's research shows the two greatest pressures organizations currently face are the need to increase the flexibility of their workforce and the need to improve the responsiveness of their workforce to both internal and external customer needs (Figure 1).
At first glance, these two issues may not seem interconnected, but a closer examination of the situation reveals they are very much intertwined. As competitive pressures escalate, an organization's success is increasingly predicated upon its ability to enable its workforce to be as effective and productive on the move as it is at the office.
A key driver for that productivity is the ability to access information or other resources in such a way that users need not worry where they are (e.g., hotel, office, etc.) or how they are connected (e.g., laptop, smartphone, etc.). The power of leveraging an FMC solution is that it provides for voice what push technologies did for corporate email.
Aberdeen's research found that the Best-in-Class organizations are significantly outpacing all other organizations when looking at the convenience and flexibility that FMC can provide them, thereby improving the performance and competitiveness of the workforce (See Figure 2).
Specifically, by deploying an FMC solution, the Best-in-Class achieved:
The Best-in-Class achieve these gains by combining technology adoption with the right mix of organizational and business processes. Best-in-Class organizations were 50% more likely than all others to leverage dual-mode smartphones, thereby reducing cellular charges by shifting more calls to the WLAN. In fact, more than 60% of the Best-in-Class indicated their mobile charges decreased when adopting an FMC solution. Additionally, as compared to the industry average, the Best-in-Class were:
- A 46% increase in employee performance - 5.8 times more than all others;
- A 47% improvement in workflow efficiency - more than five times the industry average; and
- A 54% reduction in time required to make business decisions - almost eight times better than all others.
But wait, there's more!
- 25% more likely to have trained staff in place to implement and manage the solution
- 32% more likely to have trained staff in place to train the overall workforce on how to leverage the FMC solution
Companies rely on more than just the phone system for communicating between colleagues or customers. They now leverage instant messaging (IM) and presence applications to be able to interact with people in real-time.
Enter Unified Communications (UC) - the notion of leveraging a single telecommunication system to integrate various communication solutions such as IP telephony, IM, presence and also unified messaging (UM) into one centralized system.
Organizations that are considering FMC solutions should take a broader perspective that doesn't solely focus on the extension of a desk phone to a mobile phone.
Instead, organizations considering an FMC solution should also look at the benefits that can be derived from deploying FMC in the context of a broader unified communications solution. This broader approach to mobile UC (leveraging unified messaging, instant messaging, presence, etc.) will harness all the power of modern telecommunication systems and put it, literally, in the palm of an end user, bringing to life the notion of a truly borderless office.
Philippe Winthrop is research director - Wireless & Mobility at Aberdeen Group. Visit his blog at www.enterprisemobilitymatters.com