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People are going mobile. Businesses are going mobile. Only I am stuck in front of my desk, in my home office, all day long. But I am the exception.

In 2010, Frost & Sullivan surveyed 200 C-level executives and IT professionals across different industries that gave their opinion on various enterprise communications topics. Here follows a summary of key findings pertaining to enterprise mobility and FMC:

  • Overall, 68 percent of the participants were aware of mobile extension solutions that extend PBX functionality and UC features to the mobile device.
  • Half of the interviewed executives report that their organizations currently use mobile extensions, with usage being higher in the healthcare, IT and financial verticals.
  • Businesses appear to be using enterprise FMC solutions widely at all levels of their organizations, and not limiting usage to senior management only.
  • Furthermore, 49 percent of participants identified mobile/cellular phones as one of their primary devices used for business communications, whereas only 28 percent use primarily IP phones, and 34 percent choose softphones as their primary endpoints.
  • A notable 61 percent of respondents using mobile extensions state that those are very important tools for the daily operations of their organization.
  • Improved collaboration and productivity across geographically dispersed teams, cost reduction, and employee mobility enhancement are cited as the top three most important benefits of using enterprise FMC solutions.

The so-called “prosumers” have been using their personal mobile devices to conduct business for many years now. What is new today is the increased focus on extending the capabilities of corporate communications and collaboration solutions to these consumer mobile devices. The obvious benefits are cost savings (as mobile business calls go through the PBX) and increased productivity (through more ubiquitous access to PBX functionality, presence, IM, voicemail, conferencing and other applications). But challenges abound. How do you standardize mobile device support throughout the organization if everyone is allowed to bring in their favorite device using different OS and apps? And how do you handle security, management, and the various costs involved in extending IT support to a larger variety of endpoints?

My colleague Alaa Saayed just completed a study on world enterprise premises-based FMC solutions. The study focuses on “advanced” FMC solutions, defined as follows:

“Advanced enterprise FMC solutions are all FMC solutions that were created to work with advanced smartphones to go beyond the typical touch-tone interface and the access number prefixing of a basic PBX-to-mobile extension. Typically, an advanced FMC solution requires a “client application” or a mobile user interface to deliver call control and PBX features (such as single-number reach, single voicemail, corporate directory access, etc), as well as other advanced features and capabilities such as mobile and corporate IM/presence, unified messaging, conferencing, and dual-mode voice call handoff (manual or automatic) between networks.

The solutions usually consist of an advanced client software that sits on the mobile device and a mobility network element such as a server/controller/router/appliance/gateway that connects the corporate platform with the mobile client. If the network element physically sits in the enterprise network and connect to the company’s PBX, the solution is called a premises-based enterprise FMC solution. If, on the other hand, the appliance is located in the service provider network and FMC is offered as a network service, the solution becomes a hosted/network-based enterprise FMC solution.”

The study revealed that, in 2010, the overall worldwide enterprise FMC market reached 3.33 million FMC units shipped (counting only those installed or activated) – a 32.7 percent year-over-year growth. While this growth is significant, the actual growth levels were somewhat lower than what Frost & Sullivan had anticipated. Frost & Sullivan expects the compound annual growth rate of  enterprise smartphone units shipped with an FMC solution to be around 53.0 percent over the forecast time period. In terms of advanced enterprise premises-based FMC solutions, on the other hand, software clients shipped in 2010 reached 909,011, a 51.0 percent year-over-year growth.

These types of clients make around 27.2 percent out of the newly activated FMC solutions in 2010 – a share that has considerably grown from previous years.

In his study, Alaa Saayed cautions enterprise customers and vendors as follows:

 “Today, choices are so many and diverse that it is very difficult for an enterprise customer to distinguish what solution best fits its needs. In fact, over the last years, enterprise FMC solutions were partially eclipsed by a flood of other enterprise mobility solutions such as team spaces and other collaborative applications, enterprise social medial tools, and enterprise tablets with built-in mobility software clients – among others. It is hard to disagree that all these new emerging solutions enhanced the overall enterprise mobility portfolio, but it is also hard to deny that nobody knows if many of these products/applications will succeed, following the same growth patterns of their consumer counterparts.

What is, therefore, the negative outcome of this trend? On one hand, some businesses may deploy enterprise mobility tools that they will never use as expected. On the other hand, many telephony providers will invest time and effort in developing and promoting enterprise mobility applications and devices that may never reach their expected levels of adoption and revenue.

The truth is that while some solutions might succeed, others will simply remain a hype. Frost & Sullivan cautions that hype could result in chaos that may distract enterprises and enterprise mobility vendors from their initial objectives.

To avoid costly mistakes and future-proof their investments, businesses need to carefully evaluate the various available enterprise mobility solutions and deploy the ones that best address their current and future needs. In order to leverage the enthusiasm around enterprise mobility, vendors need to stay focused on enterprise mobility solutions that provide measurable benefits and help businesses to identify the most appropriate solutions for their specific needs and existing infrastructure. 

The study will be published in February 2011. It provides further insight on market and technology trends, in-depth demand analysis, detailed competitor profiles and a market forecast in terms of units and revenues.

Other related research includes: Predictions for the Enterprise Tablet Market and North American Smartphones Market. You can also check out our free webinar archives: Applications Bring Subscribers; Revenue Brings Developers – Which Mobile Operating Systems Will Pay Out Big for Developers Through 2014? And also: Premium Mobile Enterprise Applications – What’s Working in North America?

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