Move over email, mobile collaboration is here to stay

Email has reigned supreme in business for more than thirty years. As workers, we bemoan how it dominates our working hours and saps our productivity and we complain about how mobile connectivity has us slavishly checking emails even when we’re on holiday.

There was a time when instant messaging was expected to dethrone email as the de facto standard for business communications. Then Skype came along and was expected to dominate as the new communications platform for both business and social. However, instant messaging and Skype on computers quickly gave way to smartphones and email remains firmly entrenched. In fact, recent surveys still point to the dominance of email as the primary conduit for business communications. Yet the times they are a-changing…

The Perfect Storm
A number of factors are conspiring to radically change digital business. Leading companies are leveraging digital solutions designed to meet the communication and collaboration needs of their entire workforce. The confluence of BYOD, which has equipped the workforce with a myriad of smart mobile devices – often existing outside of the direct control of the IT department – combined with the ubiquity of wireless connectivity and the advent of the cloud, has created a perfect storm in which the digital workplace is being transformed.

Add to this the move from web-enabled to native mobile apps and the fact that (according to the Pew Research Center) a third of mobile owners access the Internet mainly from the phone and more than half of all emails are first opened via mobile and the potential to change the way we communicate and collaborate is upon us.

The Productivity Gap
Email is inherently limited in how it operates in the mobile world. Anyone using email to share large presentations or documents with mobile users knows that the experience of sending attachments is less than satisfactory. How about tracking all the emails related to a particularly important negotiation in the long stream of emails? Try also getting timely feedback from a colleague about a new office lease agreement or an architectural design drawing by mobile email and you quickly run into problems.

That’s what we call the productivity gap, which exists between what we can access on the mobile and how we can use the data, documents and images to collaborate with co-workers, customers, partners etc. The result is that we often juggle between using our personal computers and various mobile devices and we struggle with exchanging data and documents between users on different platforms: iOS, Android or Windows.

Avoiding App Silos
Text and documents are only part of the equation. The most effective two-way communication is facilitated by audio and video conferencing as well as by exchanging data files and images. The key to unlocking the full productivity and employee engagement gains made possible by mobile collaboration requires the ability to discuss and rework content in real-time. Yet developing an enterprise mobile strategy that embraces mobile collaboration may not necessarily be best achieved by adding more apps to the workforce toolkit.

Building mobile collaboration into key enterprise apps such as CRM, e-Learning or ERP core apps is a better approach than adding more stand-alone apps. That’s why leading ISVs and in-house app developers are leveraging SDKs and APIs from mobile platform vendors like Moxtra. The Moxtra platform enables mobile collaboration capabilities to be seamlessly embedded into mainstream enterprise apps, adding extra functionality in a fraction of the time required to develop such capabilities from scratch. What’s great about this approach is that it closes that productivity gap and allows users to access their business content in a natural and seamless way, enabling them to collaborate on content from multiple different apps without needing to switch between apps or even to have all of the apps running on the mobile device.

Another sector where mobile collaboration is gaining momentum is in the area of Learning Management Systems (LMS). Communication on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis has long been a core function of these systems but enabling students to collaborate with each other and with their tutors is opening up new possibilities. What’s more, adding these capabilities has been shown to substantially increase student engagement and the rate of course completion.

What’s apparent is that seamless mobile collaboration is critical to knowledge workers in this era of working anywhere and at anytime. Mobile First is the new business mantra and with it comes the imperative of ensuring that your mobile workforce is genuinely empowered to communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever their work takes them – that’s the promise of mobile collaboration. Email may finally cede its dominant position in the world of business communications.

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