Five questions to ask when designing and implementing an in-building mobile communications strategy

The world is undergoing a mobility revolution. New devices, applications and approaches mean that expectations in this area have never been higher. Simon Longhurst, Strategic Alliances Manager at Spectralink addresses the considerations businesses should make when deciding on which is the best option for them to ensure they install a system that ticks all the right boxes. 

Mobility is blurring the lines between work and play more than ever before, but the ‘always on’ employee is by no means ubiquitous yet. In many industries there are workers who don’t need to be connected once they leave the office. Think of a retail clerk, a nurse, or a factory worker – these employees do not have the option to work remotely.

As a result, businesses across the world are embracing in-building communications systems. These systems equip desk-less employees with the communication tools necessary to work intelligently in large or challenging workplaces. But these systems can be complex or tricky to design and install. It’s crucial that you plan with care to ensure that your employees reap the full benefits.

The following five questions are a useful way to structure your thoughts and ensure your system ticks all the right boxes:

1. What are your business objectives?

It’s common knowledge that investing in mobility makes for more productive, satisfied and accessible employees. But to design an effective communications system, you’ll need to define more detailed objectives than this. The key is to think about your overarching strategy to ensure you have a clear vision of what your communications system needs to achieve.

It’s important that you define these goals as early and rigorously as possible. This will ensure that your system adds value to the business. Firstly determine what is most important – be it improved communications, increased productivity or better customer service. Then think about how voice and data can be used to achieve it. This will put you in an authoritative position when assessing the solutions on offer.

2. Is Wi-Fi or DECT going to serve your needs best?

Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi) and Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) are the leading handset and network choices for businesses that need in-building communications. Both options bring value to the working lives of mobile employees, but each solution has different strengths. DECT allows for excellent voice quality and requires a comparatively small investment. But if you’re looking to move beyond voice into data-rich applications, you’ll find VoWi-Fi is a logical step.

There are many things to consider when choosing between DECT and Wi-Fi. Durability, functionality and price will undoubtedly be at the top of your mind. But it’s important not to forget other factors such as building layout and construction material. Radio signals will travel very differently in a building that is densely constructed with heavy steel and concrete, compared to a building with wide unobstructed spaces. You’ll need to bear this in mind if you’re looking for optimal voice clarity across a crowded or built-up area.

3. Can your existing infrastructure help achieve your goals?

For many of you, I’m sure the decision about which new communications system to choose was heavily influenced by the existing network you have in place. This is a wise decision, particularly in the case of VoWi-Fi where data and application provision is a necessity.

When deciding on network design, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of combining voice and data on the same network or else separating them out to have standalone, devoted systems. Each has its unique benefits, including the ability to capitalise on your existing infrastructure.

4. What additional functionality do your employees need?

The regular use of consumer smartphones is shaping our expectations about the capabilities of workplace devices. Touch screens, intuitive interfaces and a broad choice of applications are now must-haves. Both DECT and Wi-Fi devices present the opportunity for workplace-specific functionality, including integration with enterprise voice systems, duress alarms and messaging. However, recent advances in Wi-Fi have allowed vendors in this space to move out in front and offer more sophisticated and data-intensive applications.

If specialised applications are key to an efficient workforce in your industry, VoWi-Fi presents a huge opportunity. Mobile workers will no longer need to return to a terminal to receive vital information from applications such as patient alarms, retail system alerts or manufacturing line alarms. Using the right device, you can even provide access to a purpose-built app store that meets the needs of each employee.

5. Is your strategy future-proof? 

The durability requirements of workplace handsets are far more rigorous than those for personal use. Both Wi-Fi and DECT handsets offer a great deal in terms of resilience; both are designed to a high specification when it comes to drop endurance, rugged screens, and liquid and dust resistance. This means that the handset lifespan is far longer than that of a consumer device, typically lasting three to five years before replacement. This is ideal for the needs of a business – as well as its balance sheet!

In-building mobile communications systems can transform the lives of desk-less employees, if they are designed and implemented with their specific needs in mind. Using these five points to structure your approach will ensure that the system you choose provides value throughout your business.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine