Making more of Mobile, making more of business smartphones

How businesses can take advantage of ‘What’s Next?

Unify Issue 03

It is the nature of technology that the future is always a bigger concern than the present. What we use today was developed years ago, and ever since its introduction, innovators have not just been thinking about what’s next, but what’s next after that.

In the communications sphere, the biggest “What’s next?” questions have centred on two tools: the internet and mobile telephony. In the case of the latter, a 20 year period has seen us move from making calls, sending texts and playing Snake, to having full communication, information and entertainment suites in our pockets.

The journey from the Nokia 3210 to the latest smartphone has been comparatively short, but wholly life-changing for the general user, as well as for business. However, it is an unfortunate truth that companies today are not making the most of their mobile capabilities, or indeed of the capabilities available in the general marketplace.

We know that the vast majority of employees have smartphones. But how well integrated are they with other crucial tech systems, like data and fixed-line voice? How do people secure their privileged data on these portable assets? And are their employers’ businesses using mobile in the most cost-effective way?

As mobile becomes the dominant business tool, these are the kind of questions companies and organisations need to be asking. Especially when, in a recent Forbes magazine survey of CIOs, mobile was identified as the most important business tool, and the one that will have the biggest impact on staff productivity.

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Individual employees can cost their companies thousands in roaming charges

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In response, the mobile platforms they use will have to become more manageable and furnished with far greater data insight, creating the conditions for efficient and responsible use of mobile technology.

That is how businesses will get more from mobile – and how they will be ready to take immediate advantage of the new “What’s next?”.

The mobile workforce

No organisation today would think about sending their representatives on the road without their business smartphones. The days of ‘out of office’ meaning no access to email, files, folders and apps are over. Yet of all the mobile costs 21st Century businesses must meet, data roaming is fast becoming the greatest.

It’s not just businesses with employees travelling abroad that run the risk of bill shock. Most now allow their staff to take their devices with them on holiday, so it’s understandable that many CFOs dread the August mobile bill landing in their inbox.

However, it would be wrong to think that the problem with data is usage. For most it’s more likely to be data management. Which tends to only go one of two ways.

Some companies favour an approach of absolute restriction, through either no roaming or a cap, beyond which the data connection stops. And transparent as that is, the likelihood of it garnering favourable sentiment from employees is low. People want to know that their employers trust them – and having mobile usage capped won’t help that sentiment. However, the alternative of unfettered data access can have unintended consequences, and there have been several examples of individual employees costing their companies thousands in roaming charges through the overuse of 4G.

With neither scenario ideal, a happy medium of corporate monitoring and responsible personal usage is emerging, based on three things: employee buy-in, board level desire to work better, and enabling tech.

The first requirement should be no problem. Any employee invested in their company’s long-term welfare is likely to support an idea that helps it to save money and become more efficient. Similarly, there seems to be an appetite for working with data in a better way. For instance, Gamma’s recent Connected Business research (for more on which, see page 17) discovered that 52% of businesses view ‘simplicity of management’ as critical to network performance. Until now, the piece that was lacking was effective technology to enable users and owners to monitor and moderate how much mobile data is getting used via business smartphones.

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of businesses view ‘simplicity of management’ as critical to network performance.annual increase in data traffic in the UK with the increasing use of cloud services, video streaming and virtualisation alongside growth in video conferencing, collaboration tools and big data

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48% of UK mobile users experience a lack of signal

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With that in mind, Gamma has included a usage alert feature within its business mobile service. Sent via SMS and email, the alerts inform users and IT departments that a data cap is being, or has been, reached. The product was developed with the idea that businesses and employees should share the power to manage data – and by not cutting users off it enables the feeling of trust that must surely be a part of the future of wireless data.

Only connect

While the usage and management of mobile will be a challenge in the coming years, without good connectivity there is no challenge to be met.

Most mobile users will agree that, despite the profound benefits of mobile telephony, their biggest frustration is having limited or poor signal. Whether on business smartphones or a personal phone there are many times when the network drops out and the user is left without the means to call, text or email. And, while the trend for synced calendars, maps and diaries grows, the problem of variable coverage is not limited to ‘traditional’ phone functions. It’s the kind of drawback that simply can’t afford to be a part of the future of mobility. As people clamour for highspeed services like 4G, and latterly 5G, restricted coverage makes a mockery of next generation speeds. Especially when a colleague in the same place, but on a different network, is still able to email and download important documents (while simultaneously checking the football scores).

The same research that revealed how businesses prize simplicity of management also revealed that 67% of them are spending too much time and resource on multiple network management, and that 65% think their provider has some work to do on limiting downtime. This general dissatisfaction is caused by no single network being able to offer complete coverage, and the business user losing out as a result.

Given the advances in business smartphones and mobile technology (not to mention its importance), it didn’t seem right that users should suffer when there is a signal available, but their network choice prevents them from using it. So Gamma made tackling variable coverage one of its primary concerns when piecing together its new mobile service.

Understanding that there is no single provider with infinite levels of coverage, Gamma instead decided to leverage the power of multiple networks in one SIM, through their new flat-fee service, Gamma MultiNet®.

In the simplest terms, MultiNet automatically switches users from the primary Gamma network to the next available network, depending on who has the best signal for the area they are in, when the primary network is unavailable. So, for example, if the user walks into a Gamma not-spot, their device will find the next best available network. This system gives individual users the benefit of better all-round coverage on one device. It also means their employer sees productivity go up, without the need to build their own coverage solution from a range of multiple contracts or alternative devices.

Bringing everything together

In contemporary tech almost nothing exists in isolation. Products and services are designed with the specific intention to talk to others. Whether it’s business smartphones and a computer, or driverless cars, system integration is crucial. So, just as mobile is moving to a place of better connectivity and accessibility, it’s moving towards better integration with other crucial business communication tools.

In telecoms, several products working together as part of a whole is termed convergence. But anyone who has read more than one article about it will agree that there are too many definitions of what convergence is. Is it fixed and mobile lines running on the same billing platform? Or having one number divert to both?

Clarity is good for business. So taking that mindset as its lead, Gamma has made ‘clear convergence’ the third part of its new mobile service. In practice that means outlining its convergence solution in terms that everyone can understand – and with no hidden pitfalls.

The central elements of clear convergence include having a consistent business number for all users, regardless of device, and the potential to record all calls. Other key components are the ability to generate a single report, and the integration of fixed-line features onto mobile phones. With the whole service delivered, managed and controlled over the same core network. It’s convergence built with customers first, allowing everyone from an SME owner to an enterprise IT manager to know exactly what they are getting and how the business will benefit.