Mobile apps will dominate workplace communications within next three years

The news this week that Microsoft is to purchase Nokia’s mobile phone business for £4.6bn is a reminder of how rapidly app-based communications tools have transformed mobile phones and computer devices. Within the workplace, fragmentation and lack of standardisation of the technologies have resulted in organisations often using multiple tools, including that of employees’ own consumer smartphones and tablets. According to analysts Gartner most collaboration applications will be equally available on desktops, mobile phones, tablets and browsers by 2016. Over the next three to five years it predicts, every business will be using mobile collaboration tools – boosted by BYOD, personal cloud file sharing and the increasing availability of mobile applications.

“In the past, collaboration on mobile devices meant interaction through wireless messaging and voice calls,” said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner.

“Today, smartphones and tablets have larger screens, touch-based user interfaces (UIs), location support, broad network connectivity, enhanced cameras and video support, voice over IP (VoIP), and so on. Such features enable a range of applications — both traditional and new — for employees to better communicate, collaborate, socialise, create and consume content.”

“Mobile devices enable a new generation of collaboration and three trends are rapidly boosting mobile collaboration strategies and investments in organizations. These are: bring your own device (BYOD), personal cloud file sharing and the increasing availability of mobile applications,” said Basso.

Employees who bring their own consumer smartphones and tablets to work, initially ask for and receive support for corporate email, calendar and contacts. Before long, they begin to use other apps that make it easier to get their jobs done.

Personal cloud file synchronization and sharing services are expanding in scope and capabilities, driven by smart devices and tablets. Gartner predicts that by 2016, the average personal cloud will synchronize and orchestrate at least six different device types. Sharing capabilities are a “must have,” especially for tablet users. Given the lack of USB ports to easily move files, synching capabilities are essential for smartphone users — for example, to store pictures and videos taken with the device camera. People need to move files such as documents, audio, pictures and videos across their multiple mobile devices, PCs, network drives and other storage repositories.

“Empowering workers with mobile collaboration capabilities through smart devices, personal cloud sharing and mobile apps is a smart move for organizations to innovate in the workplace and stay competitive,” said Basso.

“Nevertheless, a number of challenges can arise from piecemeal, poorly-architected implementations. Successful deployments of mobile collaboration will need an analysis of business requirements — understanding the potential risks and restrictions while assessing existing investments and obsolescence trends.”

More detailed analysis is available on Gartner’s web site in the report “Mobile Collaboration Will Drive Innovation in Your Workplace.”