The fourth mobile service

3 min read Networks & Network Services

The fourth mobile service

Tim Rea
Tim Rea

Tim Rea, CEO at Palringo, talks here on why mobile comms seems to have forgotten about the benefits of instant messgaing.

Mobile communication has become a cornerstone of business over the past decade. But why do so few corporates look beyond email, voice and SMS? Why is IM either not used at all or left for ad hoc user adoption? Either way it is almost exclusively relegated to internal PC to PC communication, despite the growing focus on enabling the mobile workforce.

Add IM to the mobile mix and organisations finally have access to the ultimate mobile collaborative platform, one that not only adds SMS chat but opens up opportunities to incorporate messaging, location and presence, sharing pictures, using push-to-talk or location-based services.

So why are more organisations not embracing this fourth mobile service?

Mobile economy

The ubiquity of mobile communication has transformed the global economy in the past two decades. Organisations have looked to leverage increasingly robust and stable mobile technologies to transform logistics, improve the quality of engineering field forces and enable effective remote working from sales to senior management.

Yet mobile tools still have their limitations. SMS is no good for any interactive communication and messages are not always reliably delivered, especially at peak time. Emails may provide rapid ‘one to many’ communication, but many field staff are uncomfortable picking out emails slowly on small keyboards, and voice calls can be expensive and are either very intrusive or result in inefficient telephone tag, with users all too often forced to leave multiple voice mail messages.

Instant messaging (IM), in contrast, is immediate and interactive, yet not intrusive, and delivery is typically instantaneous, hence its huge popularity amongst consumers. In the business world however, IM remains primarily an internal PC to PC tool. Indeed, while IM is sometimes part of the corporate communications platform, outside the financial markets, few organisations have created any robust IM strategy, the choice to use IM is ad hoc and employee-specific.


Collaborative value

Of course, IM solutions can take many forms. This extends text-based chat to include facilities for creating groups, real time inclusion of pictures into the discussion and the use of Vocal IM (a more flexible form of push to talk) so that mobile devices can be used like walkie-talkies.

With this additional IM-based functionality, organisations can transform the way teams interact and collaborate. Instant picture sharing, for example, can enable field workers to gain immediate feedback from colleagues on the best way to address a specific engineering problem. 

Rather than telephone or text each member of a team in turn, which is both time consuming and expensive, customer service staff can use vocal IM to an entire team or group to simultaneously ask questions regarding a specific customer. They can also use location-based services to attain an immediate view of every group member’s location at any time, typically combined with their presence, degree of proximity and location-based information, enabling far more effective resource management.


Market fragmentation

However, while the technology benefits are compelling, the cost associated with deploying mobile IM at an enterprise level has, to date, been significant. The key problem is market fragmentation. Organisations have two choices: either opt for a specific platform, requiring dedicated and expensive devices and significant contract costs; or allow staff to take responsibility for their own phone acquisition and contract but rely on publicly-used IM platforms. Not only does this risk personal IM overlapping with corporate communications, but most of the public IM platforms have added mobile accessibility to their platforms as an afterthought, resulting in relatively poor support for mobile IM.

So how can an enterprise exploit the value of instant messaging? The answer is a flexible, extensible solution that can be implemented as a device-independent, operator-independent, hosted service. Such solutions can also support secure internal communications with optional connections to popular public IM systems, if required, or restrict communications to a specific peer group.


Big picture

Organisations need to leverage every opportunity to maximise collaboration and minimise non-productive time, especially in a mobile workforce.

It is no longer true that organisations require dedicated, expensive ‘enterprise grade’ solutions that demand significant expenditure and serious effort to implement. By adding the fourth mobile service to the existing communication platform, enterprises can finally achieve true mobile collaboration and deliver real productivity benefits, while reducing costs from day one.


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