After two years of working from home, major industry titans – including Microsoft and Facebook – have signaled their intention for a return to full-time office work.
While I’m personally thrilled by this development and a big believer in the benefits of in-person working, such as face-to-face meetings and a greater sense of team camaraderie, this step introduces a question that’s yet to be answered:
How will a return to the office affect the technology that we use in our day-to-day work lives?
Hybrid and home-based work models saw the widespread adoption of solutions like Microsoft Teams and Zoom for virtual meetings, as well as a shift towards using mobile devices and instant messaging applications for business communications.
Employees are reluctant to give up these tech solutions because they pave the way for easier communication and collaboration, so this begs the question:
What is the fate of the common, corded desk phone?
Will desk phones officially go the way of antiquated technology of the past, like fax machines and record players, or do they still hold relevance in today’s business communication environment?
Most employees today prefer the easy access and convenience that comes with mobile business communication – that means applications and channels that aren’t centered around the anchor of a desk phone – but it’s unclear if companies are willing to embrace that reality.
In this blog, I’ll explore the convergence of mobile applications, recent progress and advancements in platform capabilities, and the implications of adopting a mobile-first strategy for business communications.
With enterprise IT looking to accommodate employee preferences while balancing security concerns, here’s what we can expect to see in the near future.
Security, compliance, transparency: The latest trends in corporate communication
While businesses in the financial services, insurance, healthcare, and government spaces have always prioritized responsible business communication, due to being subject to legal standards around saving and recording work-related conversations, interest in a solid digital record of business communications has now spiked.
BYOD has been the norm for years, but now security and compliance concerns have sparked a massive push towards corporate devices – even for industries that aren’t heavily regulated.
The collision of the mobile-first future with conference room strategies has created an interesting trend in the space, which sees a greater understanding around the need of security and transparency for business communication.
In a recent blog post and video series, Microsoft MVP Tracy Herr notes the high number of Android devices entering the network, mainly as an OS for in-room meeting devices connecting video conferences. While these may technically be considered conferencing devices, from a security perspective, they are recognized as Android devices requiring some level of management and conditional access.
This recognition is significant because it encapsulates the new zeitgeist around mobile devices and corporate security. Conference room devices now need to be subject to security policies, privileges, and management.
Coupling that with the (re)introduction of corporate devices, we are starting to see a large-scale technology strategy requirement, which is colliding with the commitment to reinstate corporate-managed mobile devices.
The second resounding theme we’ve recently seen with the return to office has centered around device strategy and ongoing maintenance of legacy devices. The most common sentiment I hear from business units and IT teams is: “I’m not sending another check to [name of manufacturer here]” for their desk phone. I often respond to this by questioning whether these devices are still providing value. I ask, “Did you need your desk phone during COVID?” The answer, across the board, has been a resounding NO!
Finally, one of the most important trends we’re seeing in the space is that UC communications platforms are continuing to explode in popularity. More than 300 million customers have consolidated on Microsoft Teams, and millions more are moving to Zoom.
It’s clear that UC platforms have won. So where does that leave traditional corporate communications?
Despite all the progress in communications channels, I still wouldn’t say that the desk phone is totally dead. We’ll always need some level of common area devices, and there are special use cases varying by industry and company.
I’m not advocating for the complete death of our indestructible plastic companions. But at this point, it’s obvious that they’ve lost the communications crown.
Business communications’ hottest platforms
Why has mobile-first emerged as the biggest industry trend, at this point in time? It’s because of the how and where business gets done. As an IT service owner, the employees and teams I work with have been straightforward about what they need in order to get work done quickly and efficiently.
Over and over, I’ve been reminded that low-friction engagement with their colleagues and teammates is of critical importance. Across the industry, solutions that lower the bar to interaction and streamline the workflow are more important than ever before.
At LeapXpert, we are continually observing the perpetually-expanding need to do business via mobile applications. The simplicity offered by mobile devices is extremely appealing to users, who can access a broad network of contacts both business and personal with just a few taps. Conducting business communication through mobile devices is only increasing in popularity, with no signs of slowing down, because it’s just so convenient.
If the easiest way to contact a business relation is via a mobile application like WhatsApp, that’s what is going to be used to get business done.
This could sometimes come at a cost, for example, the massive multimillion-dollar fines levied against financial institutions – now exceeding a staggering $2 billion – for exactly this practice. Even though employees were specifically instructed not to use non-approved communications channels, these apps were too tempting to ignore because they dramatically lowered the barrier to access.
Here’s a rule of thumb – employees will usually opt for whatever solution gives them the best, easiest, and most efficient way to get work done.
The path of least resistance, which is clearly the mobile device, has emerged as the tool of choice. It’s clear that IT and IS teams need to accept that mobile business communications are happening and that there needs to be a robust strategy in place to mitigate the risk of compliance violations.
With user bases driving us closer to mobile platforms like Microsoft Teams, we’re seeing an accelerated response by Microsoft to support the requirements for a mobile-first strategy. Microsoft Teams has recently introduced two specific infrastructure aspects which make a mobile-first future a more realistic possibility.
Teams Phone Operator Connect Mobile
This feature provides a seamless way to integrate mobile identities into Microsoft Teams. During Microsoft Ignite 2022, the company announced Teams Phone Mobile as a sign of its commitment to pivot to a mobile-first future. But what does this really mean? Operator connect Mobile enables the mobile number to be added to the Microsoft Teams infrastructure like a bring your own mobile number capability, moving closer to calling a person and not all their various numbers to reach the right device hoping the person is on the other end. This approach also reduces the demand, cost, and complexity of adding dial plans and phone numbers from carriers, which is becoming an increasing problem as we discuss new phone numbers or migration paths. Imagine a world with a single number simplicity.
Desktop to Phone Transfer
I’ve been super impressed lately by major improvements in the desktop-to-phone transfer process. The speed and quality of moving from a PC-based call to a mobile call is rapidly improving, and these handoffs can now be measured in milliseconds with virtually zero disruption. This makes exiting or entering an office setting and conference, or moving from desktop to mobile a seamless interaction. With phone-based apps, the call transfer is no longer noticeable to either party, and requires zero interaction beyond a click-to-join.
Application Security & Integration
As we move closer to an app-based lifestyle, with everything we do accessible via mobile, we continue to hear calls for greater integration across platforms. LeapXpert provides this mission-critical service, as we bring mobile and web messaging together in a format that helps ensure communications compliance for businesses.
We recognize the reality that business communications now stretch far beyond the office PC and desk phone and that employees are craving the simplicity, accessibility, and lower barrier for business communications that mobile messaging apps provide. Our app-to-app capabilities mean that LeapXpert takes what was once Shadow IT into the secure world of compliant and archivable communications. Our solution can be seamlessly integrated across platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage, SMS, and others.
As we work with teams across departments to lower the barrier to engagement and streamline work communications, there are several important factors that we’re weighing.
In the next installment in this series, I’ll address the following questions:
- How do I accommodate my most phone-centric users and provide a migration path that won’t disrupt their work?
- What should a mobile technology strategy include?
- What types of devices should I consider when connecting to mobile or desktop for a premium quality and secure experience?
- What considerations should I have around security?
- How might my larger conferencing and Android devices play into a mobile-first strategy?
- What are the benefits of managed service for mobile devices?
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