With their high proportion of mobile workers, a Small to Medium
Business (SMB) is going to best served by instilling some mobile collaboration
best practices. I spoke to some collaboration industry leaders to get their
insights about mobile collaboration for SMBs.

Mobile collaboration begins with planning and business cases

“Make sure the technology you choose actually fits the needs
of your mobile users. It’s easier said than done, but spending the extra
time to plan and build business cases for your technology spend pays off down
the line,” advises Barry Jinks, CEO of Colligo,
the makers of Colligo Briefcase Pro.

Don’t distinguish between mobile and non-mobile collaboration

Alastair Mitchell, CEO of Huddle,
sees the collaboration lines blurring, “You shouldn’t distinguish by mobile collaboration
and non-mobile collaboration. Most people working in small businesses today
will be working on many different devices.”

 “So the first piece
of advice is not to think about it as mobile collaboration per se,” Mitchell recommends.
“It’s really about how we do we give access to the content, information, and
the customers that the people in the small business need to work with and on from
wherever they might be. That might be on a tablet, a smartphone, or even a
laptop — but on the go.”

 “I think that the whole thing we are seeing in the mobile space is that it’s not just mobile
anymore. It’s on the go. It’s people accessing information from anywhere at
anytime.” According to Mitchell, we should stop thinking of it as mobile collaboration.

Select best of breed tools

“Don’t choose one tool that does everything,” counsels
Mitchell. “Then you get a series of mediocre experiences. In the old school,
you’d go for the Microsoft desktop stack for email, sign on, security, SharePoint,
and more, but it’s not better for everything. This way, you choose the best
solution for the need you have.” Best of breed means the tools have a strong
integration with other apps for sharing content and enabling access to content in
one place.

Plan the adoption of your collaboration tools

Jinks of Colligo recommends putting some consideration up
front about your collaboration tools. He breaks it down, “First,
performance. Internet access can be slow or non-existent on the road, so
consider solutions that allow your employees to be productive when
offline. Second, ease of use. It must be easy for the mobile worker
to find up-to-date documents, work with email, and
share files with their colleagues. Third,
reliability. The technology solution needs to work just as well on mobile
devices as it does on PCs, and users need to feel confident that they have
access to the same content whether they are working online or offline. Finally,
trusted. The location of data should be secure and transparent to the
user, and data cached on users’ machines should be encrypted and secure.”

Focus on people and information in the cloud

Yaacov Cohen, CEO of harmon.ie,
works with a number of SMB customers. “The cloud is very compelling for SMBs
because it requires no IT staff. It’s also a natural fit for mobile.”

He recommends a data less tablet and the cloud. While his company develops mobile and
alternative client apps for Microsoft Office 365 and SharePoint, he points to
Salesforce, SkyDrive, and even Office Web Apps as more options to keep
corporate data in the cloud vs. on the device.

Cohen raises an interesting question, “Do you really need Mobile Device Management (MDM)?” He sees a more nimble solution for SMBs to be
mobile devices and the cloud enabling users to provision themselves. His
recommendation frees up IT staff for more billable work.

doing it and when is it due?  

Dan Schoenbaum, CEO of Teambox, says, “Every task
must have a specific deadline and must be assigned to a specific person. With a
mobile team, it’s especially important that you communicate very
clearly to each person what tasks they are responsible for and when they need
to have them done.”

“Managers need to keep in mind the bigger picture and be
clear with their expectations in order to hold the team accountable,”
advises Schoenbaum. “Clear communication upfront is key and will save the
integrity of the project in the long run.”

Ease of use should parallel cloud and mobile security

Huddle’s Mitchell offers this security advice, “You’ll be
most successful by choosing the tools that are easiest and highest adoption to
use. Therefore, that includes security. Bizarrely, you’ll be more secure if
your tools are easy to use than if they are high security and hard to use. That
really sounds counterintuitive.” With advances in mobile collaboration apps, it’s
becoming much easier to find a solution that fits into Mitchell’s point of
strong security and usability. He also points to security becoming more important,
rather than less, as more SMB data goes into the cloud.

Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO and co-founder of Clarizen, believes, “Security as a whole is a
big issue in a few aspects. One, security at the level of the organization,
which is permissioning. You can have challenges in the company itself.
Management would like to have documents and discussions and feel secure, so it’s
very critical that you have the right permissioning in your solution.”

He further adds, “There is also the other aspect of people coming in from the outside. When you look at solutions, you need
to have the right permissioning that keeps the confidence of the different groups sharing information in a secure way, and you have to have the micro-level security to prevent other people
from accessing the data.”


The experts I spoke with in this post represent a wide cross-section of the collaboration tools space, but the best practices they cite cover
planning and technology practices that SMBs can put in place to make mobile
collaboration a competitive advantage and a productivity boost for their
employees, partners, and contractors. 

What other best practices for mobile collaboration would you recommend to SMBs? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.