The evolution of mobile collaboration

Smart phones and technologies continue to rise by both volume of users and capability, with projections setting the anticipated number of users at a staggering 2.08 billion for 2016 – up from 1.86 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, market researcher App Annie suggest the app economy will double in size to $101 billion by 2020 – signalling huge potential for innovation and growth in the mobile market. Mobile digital media time in the US is now significantly higher at 51% compared to desktop (42%) (Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Analysis).

This rapid adoption of smart mobile technology has huge implications at enterprise level, with consumer expectations about user experience and accessibility now being demanded of their work tools. A seamless mobile user experience is crucial for the growth and survival of enterprise apps. As telecommuting and flexible working continue to grow also, employers will increasingly seek solutions that empower better remote collaboration and efficiency – leaving those collaboration tools without effective mobile components obsolete.

As SharePoint announced last month that it’s collaboration tool would now be available for mobile, beginning with iOS, it’s clear enterprise applications are recognizing this growing need to cater to the mobile market. However, reservations about security concerns and a lack of integration with third parties has meant employee demand has exceeded actual deployment. Despite cloud computing reporting a marked increase in adoption and a growth in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) cultures, cross-device challenges or a focus on replicating desktop applications with a ‘mobile ready’ version has held the industry back.

Rewards of mobile collaboration for business

According to Microsoft, 66% of business leaders reported the need to allow employees to work anywhere at any time ‘ and 73% of knowledge workers report the need to collaborate with different people in different time zones and regions at least monthly. A business that enables effective mobile collaboration can rise to these increasing demands for globalization and 24/7 access to work and collaboration tools, supporting a flexible working culture.

Mobile collaboration will also drive efficiency and innovation, supplying competitive advantage for adopters. By empowering employees with the necessary tools to create a centralized digital workspace, business leaders will reap the rewards of higher rates of engagement, productivity and employee autonomy. Individuals will discover new ways to get work done and tap into the knowledge of their peers and colleagues. Making business processes and workflows mobile-centric and linear will cut down on wasted time; a BYOD culture can also present significant real estate costings and a reduction in support and maintenance overheads.

Selecting collaboration tools with a “mobile first” mindset

When looking to embed mobile collaboration tools such as an internal employee communication app into your organization, there are some key elements to consider:

  • Design and functionality: user expectations are set by their experience of everyday social networking, communication and interactive tools. Select collaboration tools that embed these same functionalities – @mentioning, #tagging, blogging, messaging, forums and more. Intuitive and simplistic interfaces that use social collaboration as their foundation will support uptake and usage – and, ultimately, collaboration.
  • Integration capabilities: collaboration, by definition, involves working together: and this includes the integration of different platforms to work seamlessly alongside one another. This may include your cloud storage, messaging platforms or any API tools required for successful collaboration – all need to work in sync.
  • Innovative mobile technologies: mobile collaboration should go beyond the desktop. The capabilities of consumer applications and smart devices should be tapped into in order to enhance the user experience; for example, touchscreen technologies and tablets in particular allow for sketching or drawing of ideas and concepts, empowering users with 3D visualizations and the ability to share, annotate and create rich media within the working environment.
  • App, not mobile web: Research by Yahoo’s Flurry on mobile media time shows a stark user preference for mobile apps over their mobile site versions, accounting for 90% of media time. While this is influenced, as expected, by consumer time in social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, messaging apps and gaming, the preference is still indicative of a larger trend. Given the focus on simplicity, ease of use and mobile-specific interfaces that are tailored to user experience, they tend to have better long-term prospects in the market.

If SharePoint’s example is anything to judge by, enterprise vendors will be working hard in 2016 and beyond to address user demands for mobile collaboration applications that enable business users to feel fully empowered and engaged through an integrated suite of collaboration tools. Design, functionality, integrations and a “mobile first” approach are paramount if both business leaders and vendors are to rise to the challenge.