What will the wearables trend mean for the IT decision-maker?

Wearables were front and centre at Mobile World Congress this year. Mike Wilkinson, VP of Market Offers at Broadsoft, explores what this emerging market means for the enterprise

Mike Wilkinson is vice president of Market Offers at Broadsoft

Wearables have caused plenty of hype at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year. The show floor was well and truly taken over by the latest designs in wearable technology with manufacturers showcasing new smartwatches and activity trackers. Currently worth $14 billion, the wearable technology industry is predicted to exceed $74 billion in the next ten years – and if MWC 2015 is anything to go by, it could be even faster than that.

But wearable technology isn’t all about tweeting from your watch while you’re out and about. More and more enterprises are seeing the benefits of wearables, such as increased output and improved efficiencies as justification to include them in their Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plans.

In fact, since May last year, the number of companies that have said they will include wearables in their BYOD plan has more than doubled, from 11% to 29%, according to Tech Pro Research. As wearables start to enter the workplace through smartwatches and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, enterprises will certainly need to take their impact into consideration. In particular, businesses are fast discovering that private branch exchange (PBX) telephone systems no longer support the applications mobile-first employees want to use.

Creating an agnostic BYOD environment

The momentum towards supporting a truly agnostic BYOD environment is almost a reality in some parts of Europe, thanks to operators in the Nordic regions. They have effectively replaced the PBX by making it just another app on a user’s phone. As a result, firms still have access to the same features of a full PBX system – including allowing more than one person to be reached from a single number, voicemail, faxing, automated greetings, conference calling, and sending phone calls to the first available person in a department - without the high costs associated with the purchase of on-premise PBX equipment. This is a major factor in the decline of on-site PBX across Europe, alongside the continual rise of BYOD in organisations.

However, whilst we continue to see an increase in the popularity of BYOD, one in four of companies surveyed in the research still said they had not created an environment that supports BYOD. Their reasons behind this are counter-intuitive as nearly a quarter (24%) of those organisations surveyed which had not planned to permit BYOD claimed IT costs were preventing them from doing so. In my experience this doesn’t ring true, as one of the major benefits of the cloud is enabling enterprises to manage a single communication service subscription for their employees – which ultimately drives down telecommunications costs and management complexities.

Businesses are now faced with complex choices regarding what outside devices – rather than if any – they will integrate within their environments

Furthermore, according to a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, Executive Programs, as enterprise BYOD programmes continue to become more commonplace, up to 38% of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016; therefore, reducing costs here as well.

As wearables become increasingly fashionable, businesses are now faced with complex choices regarding what outside devices – rather than if any – they will integrate within their environments, and exactly how to get the most business value out of them.

For many organisations, especially resellers within the telecommunications industry, the goal is to provide the fastest and most efficient forms of communications for staff. So, if employees are bringing their own equipment into the workplace, they want to be able to use them for work purposes. If they can securely pick up messages more quickly on their watch while on the go, then the IT infrastructure needs to be adaptable enough to meet this demand.  

By architecting a more flexible, cloud infrastructure, companies are instantly better prepared for the growth of BYOD, making them more agile and improving working practices across the board. With unified communications, employees are always connected, whether on site or on the go, and the progression of wearables will only increase the requirement for IT decision makers to consider adopting the cloud and embracing the BYOD working world. It’s coming and we all need to be ready.

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