Collaboration tech – from consumer app to secure organisation tool

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In the past decade or so, the proliferation of consumer ‘apps’ of all types has made life easier (and fun) in several ways from music to social media to (free!) video calls to shared documents and collaboration tools.

Mobile devices have become the main interaction tool for communication and collaboration in our personal lives and in business.

Consumer apps invade business space

Many of these productivity-oriented consumer apps and services have made their way into the workplace through mobile device use and are being used in business, often without the knowledge or blessing of the IT dept, sometimes with IT turning a ‘blind eye’.

Why do collaboration apps such as dropbox, facetime, skype and others get used in business?  That’s an easy question to answer:  they are easy to use, they solve a problem and they’re useful, and of course they are free.  At least at first.

They’re easy to use, what’s the problem?

However – and there is always a ‘however’ – business needs often outstrip the simplicity offered by consumer-oriented apps, primarily in the area of security but also in functionality, and the ability to connect to other organisational systems such as finance, logistics, communications, contact centre or customer service.

Enterprise-grade equivalent business tools have often been late to market, as vendors work to create the equivalent functionality integrated into their systems, they have a higher testing burden to make sure they work well with other business systems.

This leaves a gap for using consumer-grade apps as ‘work-arounds’.  Using ‘Free’ or ‘freemium’ consumer-grade tools in business is not necessarily a problem, they do bring some advantages and are relatively quick to deploy making them good short-term solutions.

Consumer apps vs. business-grade collaboration – what to consider?

The important consideration is whether the organisation is aware of some of the limitations and/or consequences of using these products and that they are appropriate for the organisation, its size and its policies.

Here are some questions to consider (and in future blogs we will dig a little deeper into these to provide more detail):

Security: In light of well publicised data breaches and data misuse, how secure is your organisation’s information on these collaboration platforms?  More specifically:

  • What is the data protection (encryption, to what level 128-bit, which protocols)?
  • Where is your data stored (offshore vs. domestic)?
  • Who has access to it and what jurisdiction protects it? 
  • What are the user permission protocols and how are they governed and enforced? 
  • Does the system offer two-factor authentication?
  • How does the system offer management functions when users have BYO devices? 

Robustness and Reliability:  Many business requirements are time critical or directly impact revenue or costs. 

  • How robust is the collaboration tool? Does it ‘break’ when too many people are using it? Does it cause other non-related systems to ‘crash’?
  • How available is it (up-time)?
  • Is there a service level agreement (SLA) available to cover outages?
  • Is there comprehensive help and support, onboarding and training?

Integration with other communications infrastructure: As your people need to work efficiently together, seamless integration between software and communications becomes even more important:

  • Do your people need to switch between apps to accomplish collaboration tasks? (or are they able to move from mobile to desktop to screen sharing and video chats within one environment?)
  • Can the tool ‘hand-off’ to other systems so that work can continue without pause?
  • Is there the ability to see presence, use messaging and share documents from within one environment?

In short – there are good reasons to take up the functionality of consumer-grade tools, but like most business decisions, it is worth taking a step back and considering some of the broader business usability and security implications.

BTAS Unicoms and imei Mobile Management solutions offer enterprise-grade integrated collaboration tools - security solutions to safeguard your data  - that answer most of the questions above: intelligent, secure, robust and managed, they provide your connected workforce with the reliable communications and less downtime.

Please contact us today if you would like to know more.

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