Can Teams Collaborate Effectively While Working Remotely?

nec-remote-workforce-telecommuting-technologyIt’s estimated that telecommuters will total 3.9 million people by 2016.The question remains though—can work-from-home teams collaborate effectively with the help of technology?

Telecommuting seems to be a business trend that thrived during and survived the recession. There’s been an abundance of news articles on this very topic since Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced almost two years ago that the company’s new policy would only allow telecommuting occasionally. Yahoo’s human resources chief, Jackie Reses, announced the telecommuting change in a memo, saying, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

The indication here seems to be that collaborating and communicating from multiple locations and across technology doesn’t work nearly as well as in-person collaboration—a bold statement which many critics claimed was unfounded and misguided. With most businesses using some form of communications technology like Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) that have applications and features like presence, unified messaging, and video collaboration that have been proven to make teams more efficient—the decision to re-route two decades of Yahoo and HR modernization and improvement seems like a giant step backwards.

The teleworker discussion seems to be a small piece of a much bigger conversation—whether or not technology actually brings people together, and how best to define the new workplace and teleworkers’ individual roles in it.

“No one would disagree that the U.S. work force is increasingly mobile,” said the Telework Research Network in a 2011 paper on the state of telecommuting. “But, beyond that broad statement, we know little about the rate of increase in mobility — how often people are out of the office, where they are, and what they’re doing. For that matter, there’s no agreed-upon method of defining who they are.”

The Challenges Facing the Remote Workforce

It’s clear that the remote workforce discussion was taking place long before Marissa Mayer and team entered it. And they certainly aren’t the only ones to question the effectiveness of a constantly remote work-force.

In an article by Gallup Business Journal author Steve Crabtree, Google’s Chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf emphasizes the importance of frequent casual interactions between coworkers.

Tools like instant messaging and video collaboration can help create opportunities for these interactions for remote workers—provided of course that UC and communications solutions are evenly distributed and widely used throughout the given organization.

Dr. Cerf, one of Gallup’s senior scientists, is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the Internet for his seminal work on the TCP/IP protocols that form its underlying architecture, and the networking tools he helped make possible now allow many people to do their jobs from almost anywhere.

Google has faced its own challenges with employees working together remotely. “‘We had people participating in teams, [and] they would almost never see each other face to face. Often they were in different time zones, which meant they had to work harder to stay in sync,’” Dr. Cerf said. “‘So we started recompiling groups to make them, if not co-located, at least within one or two time zones of one another so that it was more convenient to interact.’”

Many similar challenges are faced by organizations that have large telecommuting populations. As more workplaces become dispersed and reliant on remote workforces, more companies will experience the tension of helping employees work together effectively while allowing them to do their jobs from disparate locations.

Modesty is Key to Higher Telecommuting Success Rates

One of the top telecommuting questions that most people want answered is: “How does telecommuting affect employee engagement?” On the one hand, working remotely offers employees a measure of autonomy, helping them feel better equipped to do their jobs. On the other hand, employees must have positive, trusting relationships with their managers and coworkers to stay engaged, and such relationships become much more difficult to sustain with less face-to-face interaction.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report suggests that the ability to work remotely corresponds with higher engagement, but, primarily among those who spend less than 20% of their total working time doing so—a pattern that makes “intuitive sense,” according to Dr. Cerf.

Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, who has studied teleworking for two decades, said her research shows that much of what managers and professionals call telecommuting occurs after a 40-hour week spent in the office. These people check email, return calls and write reports from home, but in the evenings and weekends.

Flexibility is a remote work benefit that will elicit a positive response while it remains a benefit, but beyond that it becomes less useful. In terms of the limits to the utility of telecommuting, it seems that studies and statistics suggest that the strategy involved in managing in-office and remote work is as important, if not more so, than the tools used while telecommuting.

Solutions are found in Balance

Balance is needed between utilizing the advantages of online collaboration tools and the need for the personal and informal interactions that boost workplace morale/cohesion; a balance which depends on the nature of the job being done and specific situations.

In inclement weather or other crises, cloud computing services such as remote desktops, softphones that can be accessed from home or at work, and video collaboration tools can help organizations ensure that everyone continues working even if they cannot physically get into the office. The benefits in this situation are great, and often allow employers to keep employees safe without losing, what many times can end up being weeks of, productivity.

“The ability to set up a collaborative environment literally within seconds is an extraordinarily powerful tool,’ Dr. Cerf says, ‘as opposed to having to coordinate everybody’s calendar and waiting two weeks before we can all put our heads together [in the same room].’”

But it’s still just as important to interact directly with co-workers on a regular basis. According to Dr. Cerf, face-to-face conversations help “cross-pollinate” talent and creativity among varied workgroups and departments within an organization.

The Flexibility of Modern Communications

In the end, companies will have to devise policies that meet their own needs and values. As we mentioned before UC&C, video collaboration, presence, instant messaging etc., can help organization scale communications more appropriately to affordably allow telecommuting as needed/wanted.

But UC&C does a lot more than that. UC&C integrates real-time and regular communications with business processes and requirements based on presence capabilities, presenting a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. UC also supports each organization when managing various types of communications across multiple devices and applications, and across geographies, with personalized rules and policies, while integrating with back-office applications, systems and business processes.

UC&C can help you re-define what “remote work” means for your business by helping you eliminate many of the social issues typically associated with long-term work outside of the office. How? UC&C enables people to connect, communicate and collaborate seamlessly to improve business agility and results. These results include better user and group productivity, dynamic collaboration and simplified business processes—all goals that need to be met to keep remote workers connected to each other and the home office.

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Contact Center Metrics: The Importance of First Call Resolution

c--users-217216x706252-pictures-nec-contact-center-first-call-resolutionTech professionals love their acronyms, and FCR—First Call Resolution in customer service industries and contact centers is no different. Lately, it seems every vertical industry has its vocabulary; with an acronym for every ideology, methodology, principle, and strategy. Most of these terms have been discussed to death—to the extent that it becomes difficult to get excited about the topic at all.

FCR is one of the acronyms we don’t see nearly enough of, though; which becomes evident when running a simple search for the term. In fact, search engines seem to return every generic name for FCR other than the one discussed here.

FCR is one of the five most important operational metrics in today’s contact centers and is also one of the key drivers of customer satisfaction. You would think that in a challenging economic environment, one that is increasingly focused on the importance of customer satisfaction in a word-of-mouth-equals-free-marketing-distribution kind of world, that the topic would be written about so extensively that it would dominate search engine results.

So why aren’t we talking about it?

Contacts vs. Calls

Customer relationship managers use FCR to mean two principles/metrics that are often used interchangeably—when they shouldn’t be. Is FCR first contact resolution or first call resolution?  The answer to that question depends on your business’ individual needs.

First Contact Resolution incorporates the same principles as first call resolution—which is generally accepted to mean that a contact center agent addresses a customer’s need the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call.

First Contact Resolution takes First Call a step further by tracking the contact’s behaviors and providing additional analytics and data based on their actions.

While purists might agree that First Contact Resolution is the better of the two metrics and most reflective of true customer experience, the reality is that purchasing the customer lifecycle tracking software needed to appropriately track the First Contact Resolution metric is often expensive and impractical.

Why impractical?

Well, for the answer, we must look at the Pareto Principle.

The 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle—also known as the 80/20 principle—is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. His theory, originally a socio-economic commentary on the distribution of wealth in early 20th century Italy, was adopted by business strategists in the 1940’s as an all-inclusive philosophy of the “vital few and the trivial many.”

In the context of the call center, this typically means that 80% of customer service calls/requests are coming from 20% of a given customer base.

So, taking the Pareto Principle into consideration means understanding that the customers who are on the phone with your contact center agents today, will likely be the same customers who are on the phone with your agents next week. Knowing this turns the immediate need for First Contact-level tracking into a lower-priority concern.

If you have the budget to spend on customer lifecycle management technology, then you should track that data.

But I’d rather focus on First Call Resolution, and how implementing sound practices with appropriate contact center technology makes it possible to improve this essential performance metric.

What the Statistics Say

Last year, WhitePages and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) performed a study of 542 contact center professionals titled “Using Big Data in the Contact Center.”  The study found that 60 percent of contact center managers feel like they are unable to deliver actionable customer service information to agents due to data overload and a lack of focus on customer satisfaction. In addition, the survey found that:

  • More than 40 percent of customer contact information is manually recorded by agents instead of fed through automated APIs or Web-based systems, which means reps are often not as connected to relevant customer data as they need to be to guarantee FCR.
  • Half of call center agents feel hampered by productivity challenges such as having to ask customers for basic contact information.
  • More than a third of contact centers do not collect any data around customer satisfaction, and 15 percent collect it but don’t use it at all.

While there are a great number of businesses continuing to operate with legacy call center equipment and ignore the importance of technology that helps achieve immediate customer satisfaction, today’s customers are becoming increasingly demanding. Customers are becoming more aggressive when comparing prices and are apt to switch their loyalty to your competition because of a poor customer service experience.

The study shows that without the right tools and guidance, agents are neither able to handle the volume of data that is in front of them, nor able to extract the vital pieces of information that they need to drive successful outcomes.

Everyone lately has experienced a terrible call or long hold time. In fact, the entire experience has created a small culture on Twitter that identifies with the hashtag #onholdwith.

Obsolete technology doesn’t give any business the extensibility it needs to answer customer complaints. When you consider that these same businesses are also becoming overwhelmed by data, one wonders whether or not first call resolution as a principle is also becoming obsolete and forgotten.

Keeping your customers in focus

Failure to resolve customer issues in the first call results in callbacks and increased total costs. If customers have to call back two or three times to resolve their issue, they may not call back ever again.

No matter how fast your company grows your customer service has to remain razor sharp. After all, the cost of acquiring a new customer is considerably greater than retaining an existing one.  So how can you work aggressively to make sure that each interaction with your agents ends with resolution? By considering the following:

  1. Educate agents and get them involved: Educate your agents and then empower them to improve first call resolution-related processes. Your agents know customers and customer care probably better than anyone. Smart managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from their agents regarding how they may be able to enhance first call resolution performance. Given the opportunity, your call center agents will tell you what tools, training, and workflows are lacking and what processes and metrics are interfering with their ability to resolve customer issues effectively.
  2. Consult past records: Don’t attempt to solve the problem without doing due diligence. Encourage your agents to review past interactions with their customers for clues and indications about why certain interactions resolve and others do not. Doing so will put your agents in a better place to remedy problems instantly.
  3. Install recording software: To get a sense of whether your agents resolve customer queries or escalate them, invest in call recording software which can record and archive every single interaction. Doing so gives your call center managers something to rely on to identify best-in-class behavior and zero in on patterns needing improvement.
  4. Optimize workforce management processes: Even the best trained and equipped agents on the planet can’t be successful if they’re over-worked. The same applies if the customer, who has been caged in a queue for 15 minutes, is screaming at them for taking too long when answering the phone. Accurate forecasting and sound scheduling is critical, as is mastering skills-based routing, so callers get sent to the right agent with the right skill set to handle a customer’s specific issue right there on the spot.

Solutions available to your business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate outdated technologies. Taking inventory of your existing call center technologies can help you determine if it’s time for an overhaul or a simple upgrade.

You don’t have to choose between favorite software and hardware. You can choose to invest in contact centers with automatic call distribution and attendant technologies so that calls coming into your contact center are routed correctly. Many of these technologies now include Unified Communications with presence technology, which can help you identify available subject matter experts instantly.

Check out our whitepaper for more information on Best (and Worst) Practices in Customer Communications.

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Digital Disruption: Colleges and Schools as Publishers

7k0a0879Digital Publishing is a contentious subject among educators. The transition between paper and digital has created gray areas and thoughts/opinions on the transformation to digital range widely and evolve consistently. With the kick-off of the 2014 EDUCAUSE Conference under way it’s a good time to take a look at the arguments presented. Do we burn the textbook? Does digital serve a higher purpose?

Digital vs. Print Publishing

Until November 2007 when Amazon introduced the Kindle, the only viable means of book distribution was paper. Any author who wanted to reach a mass audience needed a paper distribution partner. Any author could hire his or her own editor and his or her own cover design artist; he or she could even hire a printing press to create the actual books. The one service he or she couldn’t hire out was distribution. And publishers didn’t offer distribution as an a-la-carte service. The package service was always the best value, and there was no viable alternative otherwise.

In textbook publishing, there has been little alternative to buying a traditional book from the publishers—particularly in Higher Education. Each professor expects their students to have access to the required text. Knowing that professors require specific texts, publishers are able to control the market (in an effort to stop borrowing and downloading illegal versions, etc.). They do this by publishing “updated” editions to their texts fairly frequently. It’s an effort on their part to “force” students to buy new textbooks—whether the content needs refreshing or not.

Textbook costs increased an average of 186 percent from 1986 to 2005—a jump that saw several students dropping out of college simply because they couldn’t afford the books they needed for classes. Digital publishing clearly posed a solution to the issue and has pushed the industry ever-closer to its tipping point.

Major publishers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years buying up software companies and building new digital divisions, betting that the future will bring an expanded role for digital publishers in higher education.

So far, publishers are only producing a limited number of titles in these born-digital formats, and the number of professors assigning them is relatively small. Only about 2 percent of textbooks sold at college bookstores are fully digital titles, according to a survey of 940 bookstores run by Follett Higher Education Group.

As these new kinds of textbooks catch on, they raise questions about how much control publishers have over curriculum and the teaching process. It seems that the time has come for a different publishing model, and with it, real disruption.

Colleges as Publishers

Publishers shouldn’t be the only organizations building these new textbooks. In fact, the most qualified organizations to be writing said texts are colleges themselves.

Modern digital content management technologies can help universities not only transition from print to digital, but can also help the transition into self-publishing as well. Implementation is always key when it comes to new technology and, particularly with digital publishing, rash or jumpy behavior can kill the vision before it’s realized.

Preparing appropriate digital initiatives, trainings, and continued professional development are all essential to creating buy-in and getting users to feel comfortable using the content management technology to begin creating digitally powered course curricula.  But the payoff is definitely worth it.

Self-publishing is great for universities and students alike. With universities as publishers, Higher Ed institutions start regaining control of the content used in their courses. Additional benefits include new revenue streams and the ability to provide students much better rates for books than students were able to get on their own, even for used textbooks.

Plus, with the right technology, those who wanted to read the textbook on paper could print out the electronic version or pay an additional fee to buy an old-fashioned copy—a book.

Communication, Collaboration, and Reciprocity

In readying myself for the conference, I had the opportunity to read The Other End of the Scale: Re-Thinking the Digital Experience in Higher Education on the EDUCAUSE Review. The article is full of conversation-starters, but one key message stood out.

“It is time to rethink the digital experience in higher education: we have a chance not only to reimagine our encounters with the large scale but also to embrace our opportunities at the other end of the scale.”

The move to digital learning has been defined by the “rhetoric of openness,” meaning the success or failure of any digital movement in higher-education is going to depend on collaboration—between faculty, students, and IT professionals. The same can be said of digital publishing. Failure on the part of textbook publishers to advance digital publishing could be attributed to the lack of collaboration between the publishers and the institutions, as well as the institutions and the students in order to determine which digital texts work properly and which don’t.

Improved communications are often a key factor in facilitating this type of collaboration. Continuing to ask “what kind of engagement do we want from our students,” and simultaneously, “how are they engaging with us now,” can help create the communicative foundation universities need to be able to collaborate properly with students.

As the landscape of learning continues to grow and change, and more of our communications become mobile, institutions will need to be able to provide easy, immediate access to all forms of communication on all devices.

Rather than using an old communications system that requires University IT departments to support each device individually, wouldn’t it make sense to employ an agnostic system—something that can be tailored to different users, and one that can be re-used repeatedly?

A Unified Communications-enabled solution can be that device agnostic system for which you’re looking. Not only can it effectively tie professors, students, and faculty together across devices, it can also simultaneously create a recurring revenue model for your institution—licenses can “rented” and then easily re-used as students graduate.

The technologies that will be most successful, however, are those that can combine the collaboration and digital publishing features to provide one, self-sustaining, self-informing communications solution. A collaborative content management system can centralize all processes  and give universities one location from which students can get all requisite information and content,  can access university-oriented social sharing/collaboration tools, and can be directly connected with faculty and professors through advanced UC functionality.

A collaborative content management system can effectively tie everything together, giving universities total control so students and teachers can continue making the same sort of epistemological advances that are today, made in the traditional classroom with the traditional textbook.

To learn more about Collaborative Content Management, check out our webinar and demo recording below. If you happen to be at EDUCAUSE this week, stop by booth 709 to chat with an NEC expert during normal Expo hours.

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The Top Traits of Unified Communications Innovators

How to Benchmark and Rank Unified Communications (UC) Technology

nec-unified-communications-infrastructure-frost-sullivan-leadership-awardIt should come as no surprise to anyone that companies are still struggling to understand how to make the right technology decisions. Too often, businesses make important growth decisions based on a narrow understanding of their IT environment—which can have a negative impact down the line as the environment continues to change.

To avoid error when choosing new technologies, businesses need successful growth strategies that make use of innovative technologies. In order to determine what your business’s growth strategy should encompass, you need a thorough understanding of your market. By assessing the technical innovations within your market, your industry’s key challenges, your customers, and the best practices that have led to your own past successes, your business can preemptively ward off future regret by making the right technology choice the first time.

Key Industry Challenges

The businesses that are most equipped to meet the challenges of modern communications are already employing UC technology and infrastructure. They specifically leverage these new technologies to enhance the quality of communications for employees and customers, while also utilizing innovative UC technology and infrastructure as a means to optimize network traffic as network demand changes.

The following are two of the most common enterprise communications challenges that are addressed by UC technological innovation, and the most popular traits that innovative UC leaders have to answer those stresses:

• IT Infrastructure Stress—the transformation to modern unified communications platforms has seen enterprise communications become more reliant on IT infrastructure—particularly application and media servers, data center and campus IP networks, wide area networks, media gateways and session border controllers.

• Bandwidth Sensitivity—in converged voice, video, and data environments, bandwidth-sensitive IP telephony solutions are now sharing resources with other enterprise applications, with real time applications media traffic granted priority access through configurations set by network administrators. While Server and desktop virtualization has allowed UC to become increasingly dynamic in terms of on-demand capacity, the underlying infrastructure that carries voice and video traffic has largely remained static and unadaptable to utilization spikes.

Trait 1: Innovation-driven leaders are beginning to take a more holistic view of UC infrastructure.

Rather than treating the UC platform, data centers, and enterprise networks as discrete components, innovators are applying emerging standards within their own solutions to deliver a new level of intelligence and self-awareness to UC infrastructure. This ultimately allows UC systems to identify sources of trouble, and then adjust themselves to accommodate spikes in traffic or demand.

Trait 2: Innovative leaders enable UC and enterprise infrastructure solutions to thrive together rather than coexist.

Rather than having a static UC platform running alongside static infrastructure solutions, innovators are building intelligence and feedback loops between UC platforms and the enterprise network that empowers them. This allows the UC solution to preemptively prepare the infrastructure for planned events that will potentially stress it. Also, with the many existing manual configuration processes automated, the enterprise infrastructure is able to become as dynamic as the solutions it serves.

Key Benchmarking Criteria for Innovative UC Technology

Each year, Frost & Sullivan determines how best-in-class companies worldwide manage growth, innovation, and leadership. Based on the findings of their best practices research, they present an annual Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award in Unified Communications.

If you’re wondering how to differentiate between UC innovators, Frost & Sullivan has created criteria for benchmarking leading unified communications solutions.

1. Uniqueness of Technology
2. Impact on New Products/Applications
3. Impact on Functionality
4. Impact on Customer Value
5. Relevance of Innovation to Industry

Best Practice Award Analysis for NEC

NEC has been an early proponent, adopter, and provider of many new networking technologies. Frost & Sullivan analyzed NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C and UCaaS Solutions for technological innovation. Part of their findings include:

Impact on New Products/Applications

NEC’s UNIVERGE portfolio of solutions are built on key pillars of NEC’s IT Empowered Framework and Smart Enterprise programs, the foundation of which is utilizing adaptable network infrastructures. NEC’s UC products are therefore fully-distributed and data center-ready, virtualized UC solutions. In contrast, traditional network architectures require a near duplication of hardware and costs to achieve similar levels of business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities.

Impact on Customer Value

NEC’s innovation in delivering a high-level of integration between enterprise communication applications and the underlying infrastructure ultimately drives customer value through automation and optimizations. Integration with Software-Defined Networks (SDN) enables real-time communications between the UC platform and the network. NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C platform programmatically adjusts the infrastructure to work around trouble or allocate additional network resources to cope with spikes in demand without administrator interaction.

Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award

According to the 2014 Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award Report, NEC’s holistic approach to deploying enterprise communications solutions, and the level of automation and dynamic flexibility inherent in NEC UC infrastructures should appeal to customers and serve as a roadmap for the direction of communication networks.

But don’t just take our word for it.

Learn more about the criteria used by Frost & Sullivan in awarding the 2014 Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award in Unified Communications Infrastructure

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BYOD and BYOA: The State of Mobility Adoption

BYOD and BYOA: How Devices and Apps Function Together to Improve Business Productivity and Employee Efficiency

nec_byod_employeesMobile devices are completely ingrained in our daily lives. They entertain, remind, socialize, and manage us. They are our personal authentication key to the world around us. They are an extension of ourselves. Handheld mobile devices are just extremely personal, more so than any other device we interact with during the day. When asked, most people will say that they’ll give up food or sleep before they’re deprived of their mobile device, and for most there is a discernable level of anxiety when their device isn’t actively with them.

BYOD: The Device is King

nec_byod_mobilityThe personal dynamics of mobile devices and, in turn, mobile device management, has made adoption of mobile technology a tricky business across the board. For most organizations, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies are still complex and perceived as risky. But, with the global workforce’s rapid adoption of the mobile work style, integration of BYOD policies have been necessary for most organizations to maintain the high levels of productivity needed to sustain business success. In fact, only businesses with high-level security concerns and strict privacy needs—like financial organizations—can succeed in today’s marketplace without some form of acceptance of BYOD in their mobile policies.

Originally, the largest motivation for BYOD was the desire to get rid of the traditional corporate device and its restrictive user experience which contrasted sharply against the newer, smarter consumer devices providing more personal experiences. The result for many early BYOD adopters was the increased employee satisfaction, productivity, and improved competitive advantage that they were searching for.

We’ve talked about BYOD for what seems like too long, but it continues to be a hot topic as employers allow employees to utilize their own devices at the office. But, as many of us know, giving employee-owned devices access to the corporate network increases risk and is difficult for businesses to manage. Many IT departments don’t have the time to deal with the challenges inherent with BYOD; the co-existence of personal and business data, multiple operating systems, and problems with backup, recovery, security, and compliance.

In fact, the 2014 Executive Enterprise Mobility Report released by Apperian and conducted by CITO Research, helps shed some light on how important the issues are that executives at a range of companies embracing these mobility strategies face.

For example, 77% of the respondents highlighted security as a major concern with mobile device management—not much of a shocking discovery if you’ve ever dealt with mobility in the past. What is shocking? That 70% of respondents are still unable to detect data or device loss, which highlights a starteling lack of mobile security initiative in today’s businesses despite security being a key concern.

What is clear, is that companies understand the inherent risk surrounding BYOD and many are still struggling with how best to address their concerns.

Some of the challenges of managing BYOD programs have re-invigorated a “bring-your-own” trend that dates back to the 1980s—Bring Your Own Apps (BYOA). BYOA can be used as a way to preserve the productivity benefits of BYOD while reducing the capital costs associated with managing a BYOD program.

BYOA: The App is Queen

The BYOA trend centers on employees’ use of third-party applications in the workplace. But BYOA is really the key driver of a much larger trend that’s growing in popularity; IT consumerization. Why? Because BYOA and its associated benefits for employees include greater engagement and satisfaction, and improved productivity, the chief cornerstone of the IT Consumerization movement.

Since BYOA employees choose their own applications, each employee can use the apps that he or she is most comfortable with. Not only does this improve productivity by allowing employees to have more control over the software they use, it also enhances efficiency by letting each individual person use the tool that best matches their work style. This gives you the opportunity to provide more software and business process features to your team than you could logically provide while employing a BYOD or other corporate mobility strategy. IT Consumerization essentially allows businesses to create endless opportunities with multiple new ways to get work done—which would likely have a positive effect in terms of employee morale and efficacy.

But the greatest strengths of the BYOA policy are also its greatest weaknesses.

Most consumer apps being used in the enterprise are cloud-based in order to allow user access from multiple devices, laptops included. Many organizations are finding that the combination of cloud-based document sharing and cloud-based business process solutions are meeting a growing number of their business requirements.

As employees are increasingly under pressure to do more with less in terms of budget and IT resources, they often turn to BYOA to get the job done. While this can be rationalized as a means of reducing the capital expenditures and licensing costs associated with using corporate-issued file storage, document sharing, and business process software, all budgetary benefits that come from reducing capital costs are often negated because of one thing—sacrificed security. Your prized corporate data is now sitting in someone else’s cloud.

There is no ace in the hole when it comes to security policies. The simple fact is that SMBs must absorb certain types of risk out of necessity when competing with large enterprises—which is why you’re likely to see higher BYOA adoption among SMBs than enterprises.

But for those who can’t absorb that risk, or simply don’t want to, there’s good news—that risk can be managed.

Security and Mobility: Striking Common Ground

nec_byod_securityThe key challenges for businesses of all sizes adopting cloud and mobility applications is finding the right balance between usability and data security. In an ideal world, users would like to have one-click access to an increasing number of apps without needing 12 digit passwords for each app. Since users are bringing in their own devices, and these devices are the primary means to app access, they must be “trusted” within the organization and secured.

“Perimeter Security” no longer exists in the enterprise. Network boundaries are slowly disappearing—and many IT departments are still trying to control all facets of off-premises application access from roaming mobile endpoints. But this is, quite simply, impossible to do. And so a shift in the way we think about security may be in order.

Protecting data directly, not the device, guards your data at the source rather than the endpoint, ensuring the safety of your businesses’ information regardless of your employee’s location. Information Rights Management and other such technologies directly embed access rules into documents by way of cryptography. With this method, the rules are applicable to documents regardless of location or device, allowing effective security measures for multi-device environments.

This pattern also allows for “detecting, logging, and blocking” data that leaves enterprise premises. Having the capability to follow the transmission of sensitive data solves part of the problem that has become apparent in Apperian’s Mobility report—understanding where, when, and how users are transferring information out of the corporate network.

Secondly, the drive to demand better security from consumer app providers needs to be spearheaded by SMB and enterprise businesses. Since most businesses are embracing some form of BYOD/BYOA, and most of us spend at least 40 hours a week in the workplace, the burden of changing app security—and consequently cloud stability—really falls on businesses, not consumers.

Finally, securing critical business communications can solve a lot of data leakage from the start. Unified Communications (UC) can help keep your company keep its contacts and other data safe and secure when an employee’s device is lost or stolen.

With the right UC app, your IT administrator can secure data loss easily. Unified Communications lets employees bring their own devices while still maintaining high levels of corporate security. The best UC platforms let you support multiple devices through one single approved UC app, meaning your employees can have access to their favorite communications tools without your IT department having to support each device individually.

In regard to other security issues, many organizations that have started implementing consumerization policies are establishing acceptable use standards for use of consumer technologies in the workplace. Acceptable use policies (AUP) stipulate requirements that must be followed to be granted network access.

To learn more about how BYOD policies empower smart enterprises, along with other trends impacting the workforce, download the Smart Enterprise Trends eBook.

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