Suddenly It's Raining Enterprise Mobility Solutions
Three mobile operators are now offering as many new enterprise mobile solutions; here's what you need to know to make intelligent buying decisions.
We have gone for years without a fresh idea in enterprise mobility, and all of a sudden it appears that everyone -- or at least Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile -- is launching one.
In August, Verizon Wireless introduced One Talk, a fixed-mobile enterprise voice service powered by BroadSoft's BroadWorks platform. Last week T-Mobile announced Digits, a service that will either allow a single number to make and receive calls and texts on up to five devices or a personal and a business number to make and receive calls on a single device (see related post, "What's a T-Mobile Digit?"). And last October, AT&T announced NumberSync, a voice and text service geared primarily for newer Apple devices.
While having choices is nice, it creates the very real problem of having to choose.
Each one of these carriers is proposing a solution to a particular set of use cases. As UC consultant Marty Parker has been making abundantly clear in his UCStrategies series on UC usage profiles, communications needs and preferences vary by class of user, so we shouldn't expect any one solution to produce the be-all and end-all for our various user profiles. Each one of these solutions supports the provider's particular vision of what mobile users require.
To make things even more challenging, these services are still evolving -- so they may not work the same (or at all) on different mobile platforms.
The shared element we are starting to see in these services is the ability to operate using the mobile device's native interface. We have had countless examples of UC-inspired or other over-the-top (OTT) enterprise mobile services that have depended on the user installing an app and requiring a different process for making business calls. The one thing all of these apps had in common was that nobody used them. Users loved the way their mobile devices worked natively, and they weren't looking for this type of disjointed user experience.
About the only OTT app that has seen any measurable success is Skype (not to be confused with Skype for Business). However, even with Skype the usage is typically in one or two defined profiles, like video chats to the grandparents or international calls. The rest of the time, mobile users rely on the device's native phone dialer.
What has changed is that mobile operators have gotten behind this latest set of offerings and integrated them into their networks. So rather than some OTT kludge that sacrifices the user experience for negligible functional benefits, the carriers have built enterprise features natively into their networks -- at least for some use cases and with some devices. Where they haven't been able to pull that off completely, the mobile operators revert to the "separate app" strategy, too, and we have no reason to believe they will be any more successful with a separate app than any of the 50+ failed attempts that preceded them.
The important thing for users to recognize is that we are now getting some new options, that 1) are different from what preceded them, 2) have addressed the biggest barrier to user adoption of mobile UC, 3) make certain assumptions about what mobile users want and need, and 4) come with a range of "ifs" and "buts" that can reduce our ability to deliver an acceptable solution to some or all of the user population.
Click to the next page for a quick synopsis of what we see in each of these three offerings.