A Small to Medium Business (SMB) can have full access to a very robust mobile conferencing system using tablets and the latest generation of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)-based conferencing solutions. The combination of tools can help SMBs engage better with prospective customers, existing customers, and collaborate more effectively as a mobile or geographically dispersed workforce.
Cutting back on infrastructure costs while increasing support for the mobile or remote workforces that are predominant in SMBs right now are the two biggest driving factors towards the cloud and a mobile device becoming the SMB communications platform of choice.
I asked two industry experts about the feasibility of moving the bulk of their communications to mobile conferencing.
According to Rocky Mitarai, senior product marketing manager at Adobe, "A key benefit of mobile devices is that they can leverage software to enable rich, real-time communication in the form of not just voice but video and content sharing. One of our core focus areas has been to enable the ability to fully drive collaboration from mobile devices, without the need of a PC."
"It is certainly feasible for a highly mobile SMB to move their communications to a mobile-only format, but it is critical to choose the correct solution to meet the needs," reasoned Mitarai. "Assuming the requirements include at least audio, video, and content sharing, a web conferencing solution is a good choice that can cover these needs."
Gary Iles, global VP of marketing, product, and sales at ACT Conferencing also offered a reply. "This is not an uncommon request or need. SMBs want the flexibility to conduct business from any location — on the road, at client sites, at home, in the office, and even different rooms within the office. So essentially, anymore it's all mobile."
Finding a mobile conferencing solution
Today, mobile conferencing solutions such as Adobe Connect, ACT Conferencing, and iMeet come with very robust mobile client apps, so even if your users are split across Android tablets and iPads, you can still maintain feature parity.
Here are some questions from Adobe's Mitarai that you should ask when seeking a mobile conferencing solution for your SMB:
- Do users want to initiate meetings or just join a session that is started from someone on a desktop?
- Do users need to start audio via VoIP or an audio conferencing bridge?
- Is interactivity important (chat, notes, video, annotation, white boarding, emoticons)?
- Do users need to upload/share content?
- Do users need to present content?
- Do users want to shift through various layouts that are pre-loaded with content, presentations, polls, and tools to step through content consistently and quickly?
- Do users want to jump immediately into a meeting without any scheduling?
- Is there a benefit to sharing an image or video of the physical environment outside of the office?
Iles added, "The advice I'd provide is for them to seek a very simple-to-use solution that delivers the three basics — audio, web content sharing, and video conferencing options — in one simple interface. The easier the better, because engaging the participants is key, and complex interfaces end up being learned over time by hosts but are completely baffling to participants during a call. Remember that four out of five people on the call are participants, and may have never seen the tool before."
Mobile conferencing best practices
Here are some mobile-to-mobile conferencing best practices for your SMB:
Educate your users on using the conferencing tool
According to Mitari, "Ensure workers understand how to use tools to interact. Effective collaboration, whether face-to-face, via desktops, or via mobile, often requires that information is exchanged and is not a one-way discussion." Both Mitari and Iles emphasized that users should know how to use the conferencing tool features (webcam, chat, annotation tools, and interactive features like voting) before they hit the road for the first time.
Mitarai said, "Set up a digital office for immediate mobile collaboration. This often happens unexpectedly, when you may not have your desktop/laptop handy, which is why collaboration from a mobile device is beneficial. One of the biggest challenges with mobile collaboration, especially if sharing content and files is critical, is ensuring that all of your content is available. A good habit is to know where your documents are at all times and be ready to access them."
One recommendation is to set up a meeting room with a memorable URL, and then store your documents, presentations, and demos in a content library that's accessible from the meeting room. Key benefits of this practice are:
- Meetings do not need to be scheduled. Rather, you and your attendees only need to join your URL, which is easy to remember and available 24x7.
- Content is already there, so you can immediately begin collaborating.
I've participated in plenty of web conferences using the "always open" meeting room concept and find it much easier to access, especially from a mobile device. An SMB could make good use of such a meeting room for on-demand collaboration and communications with their mobile users.Bring a virtual expert to meetings
If domain experts are stretched thin inside your SMB, Mitarai has a potential solution: "A variety of our customers distribute iPads across their sales teams, so they can present content to prospects both live and virtually via Adobe Connect. Customers will bring an expert into the meeting virtually to present on a specific topic."
Take SMB conferencing mobile
With these best practices, your SMB can achieve a mobile
conferencing nirvana, thus contributing to better internal
communications/collaboration and even customer outreach, giving your SMB another competitive advantage. Does your SMB take advantage of mobile conferencing? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.