Mixed Bag on Mobility at Enterprise Connect

Enterprise Connect wrapped up in Orlando a couple of weeks back, and there was a core focus on the changing face of mobility in light of the growth of Bring Your Own Device--BYOD--initiatives. I'm currently compiling the results of an Information Week Analytics survey on Mobile Security, where a total of 86% of respondents report that they either had or were planning to implement a BYOD policy. However, while mobility and BYOD were big topics in all of the keynotes, there was a very different perception in the sessions and down on the show floor. Once again, the big message was that the UC and IP-PBX vendors are trying to sing the mobility song, but they haven't found the right notes.

I conducted a number of the workshops and panels dealing with mobile policy development, best practices for BYOD initiatives, and the evolving role of smartphones and tablets. In a number of those sessions I asked for a show of hands for how many in the audience were actually using any of the UC mobile clients like Cisco Jabber, Microsoft Lync Mobile, Avaya oneX, and the rest. At a quick glance it looked like 20-25% of the audience raised their hands, but when I asked the vendor reps to put their hands down, I was more like three to five actual users. When I asked how many had more than 25% of their mobile users working with these tools, the all of the remaining hands disappeared.

The fun continued down on the show floor where I asked a number of vendors about the take rates they were seeing on mobile UC. I'm not naive enough to think that I'm going to get anything close to an honest answer, but all responded by telling me about the number of downloads they'd had.

After pointing out that "downloads" was a meaningless statistic, I asked if they monitored when someone actually opened or used the application, and the answer was a universal "No." Given the way these things operate, that should be pretty easy to determine and that's exactly the kind of information "successful" mobile vendors collect. The UC and IP-PBX vendors may be destined to remain stranded in the minor leagues.

Another reason for the slow adoption may be the random grab bag of mobile features being offered. I tried to do a survey of the various vendors' booths to get a read on what they had and quickly found that I was getting random scraps of disjointed information. So I put together a list of questions to organize my approach and made a second pass focusing on key features like presence, directory and call log integration, location-based capabilities, and the like.

What amazed me was the differences between the features offered on the Apple iOS and Android platforms. There wasn't too much talk about Windows Phone (except at the Microsoft booth), and BlackBerry barely came up.

Not surprisingly, nobody had a brochure or fact sheet that could provide an organized answer as to which features existed on which platforms. I guess if your product features are all over the lot, writing it down clearly would only make a bad situation that much more obvious.

There was one glimmer of hope however. Oyvind Kaldestad, VP of IT at international translation services firm Lionbridge, joined me on a panel called "Putting Mobility To Work--User Case Studies in Mobility", and spoke glowingly about his company's use of Microsoft Lync Mobile. Interestingly, Mr. Kaldestad had the greatest praise for the Lync Mobile implementation on Windows Phone. The feature he and his users prized most highly was the ability to join a conference with a single click, a very handy capability when driving.

To be sure there is considerable user interest in mobility, but it is centered on issues like developing effective BYOD policies, mobile device and applications security, and mobile device management (MDM); interestingly, MDM supplier AirWatch made its first appearance at Enterprise Connect. Maybe this is a question of the UC and IP-PBX vendors simply being out of sync with what the band's playing.

Like Lawrence Welk used to say, "And a one, and a two,..."