Choosing and deploying a wireless phone solution is one of the most basic decisions a business of any size can make. But wireless devices aren't merely for communications. They are business tools that have become crucial to companies of all sizes.
We asked Igor Glubochansky, executive director of enterprise mobility product marketing for AT&T, to weigh in on the topic and provide advice and recommendations for small and medium-size businesses.
Here, he shares his take on the increasing importance of mobility solutions and how smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices help companies accelerate growth and compete effectively in today's marketplace.
When choosing wireless phones, many businesses focus on coverage and price. What else should be a part of the decision-making process?
"Mobile technology is changing the way small and medium-sized businesses operate. As customers assess and implement mobile solutions they should consider how new technology impacts their business strategy.
The right mobility solution can improve employee productivity, along with reaching new customers, leveraging location-based services and even collecting data. Beyond coverage and price, businesses need to look at other "stackable" services, including device management and security.
Business mobility solutions can offer a business so much more than simply wireless phones for calls, messages or email access on the go. Companies can use mobility to create a competitive advantage, respond to shifting demands and improve agility.
Small business customers are becoming increasingly more mobile to drive productivity, simplify how they operate and reduce expenses. Mobile solutions give employees on-the-go, highly secure access to corporate data and applications from virtually anywhere. The best mobile strategy is integrated and an extension of the core network.
Employees need 'the right device for the job,' and their needs evolve rapidly. Businesses require flexibility to upgrade when they want to and to choose from the best devices."
What about wireless security?
"Security is top of mind for business customers and should be a priority when developing a mobile strategy. A best practice in security is layering Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) on every device.
EMM gives the business control of, and visibility to, corporate content, assets and applications. An integrated EMM service can help the business proactively wipe or delete access to corporate content when users leave the company or the device is lost or stolen.
Another way to enhance your mobile business strategy is with collaboration features that connect virtually anywhere and at any time on nearly any device. Businesses need collaboration tools for mobile access, flexibility and efficiency. Integration with the company's BYOD strategy is also important."
What are some of the key benefits of a well-planned mobility strategy?
"Small business owners wear many hats and can't afford to be tied to a desk. They can take their business to the next level with mobile solutions, such as apps. Instead of using a clipboard, employees can use a smartphone or tablet to stay connected and productive.
Fleet-management solutions keep workers connected to the information they need while in the field. Consider field-service automation gives employees near real-time access to work orders and databases.
Look for workforce management tools that let you easily message your field team, dispatch new work orders and locate your team at a glance. Cloud-based workforce products that let businesses share and access content with co-workers and teams across multiple devices are ideal for many companies. The best workforce management solution should also help eliminate mundane tasks and unnecessary paperwork, and make it easy for workers to clock in and out while on the go.
Mobility solutions enable businesses to reach customers in new ways, too. Customer-facing mobility tools should provide the ability to easily update, manage and engage customers. Whether you're growing your customer database or increasing awareness for new promotional offers, any mobile tool set should let you connect with customers efficiently and effectively through multiple communication channels: voice messaging, email, text or social media. The best-of-class tool sets should also provide data analytics so businesses can determine ROI on their investment and marketing efforts."
What mobile strategies should businesses consider when expanding their mobility implementation?
"First, secure every layer of your network ― starting with the device layer and protecting hardware, like your smartphone or tablet. An EMM solution at the device layer allows the business to proactively wipe or delete access to proprietary content when users leave the company or if the device is lost or stolen. Security doesn't stop with the hardware — it must also extend across the network and connectivity, data and applications and threat analysis layers as well.
Next, move to the cloud to better equip your mobile workforce and maximize productivity from nearly anywhere, at any time, without compromising overall network security. Cloud solutions can help companies transform their business by reducing IT costs and making companies more flexible.
Security is also critical when deploying a cloud strategy. Look for provider products that allow the company to connect to your cloud services using the virtual private network (VPN). That will add more security and reliability."
What should small businesses look for in a partner?
"To stay competitive, small businesses need a partner who can provide a true end-to-end solution. Top providers are positioned to provide highly secure, integrated solutions to help businesses meet their needs as they grow and stay ahead of the competition. With bundled solutions from the right partner, small businesses can choose the products and services they need: mobility, internet, cloud, security and more.
In choosing a partner, be sure to find out how the prospective provider works with the developer community. You want a partner that can give small business customers access to the latest and greatest business apps.
Finally, keep in mind that as business changes, the work environment must transform. Businesses need collaboration tools that adapt, allowing them to seize new opportunities. Look for voice and unified communications offerings that combine instant messaging, web, video and voice conferencing, email, unified messaging and voice calling with an online presence and team collaboration in a single user interface.
Collaboration tools delivered through the cloud solutions let mobile workforces collaborate without significant extra cost or infrastructure investment. Employers receive direct-cost savings, such as reduced travel costs, and no international phone fees.
And, remember, mobility is only the beginning. A good technology partner should have all the services and products that small businesses will need as they grow and evolve."