Employees depend heavily on their smartphones and mobile messaging tools for business communications. The convenience of mobile technology allows workers to be flexible and productive throughout a typical workday and beyond. But the mobile tools used by employees need to be readily available, convenient, and optimized to business standards for security and reliability. Otherwise, users will turn to consumer-grade apps, which may not meet enterprise standards, according a report by NetSfere, an enterprise messaging platform created by Infinite Convergence.

Conducted with research and advisory firm 451 Research, NetSfere’s survey reached out to IT decision makers and employees alike to gauge their thoughts about mobile messaging in the workplace. The study found that 64% of employees surveyed use their smartphones several times a day for work purposes. Almost half of the respondents said that their organizations have a large number of employees constantly traveling or working remotely. And almost half of all employees and IT decision makers surveyed said they believe they could gain six or more hours a week of productivity as a result of using their smartphones for business communication, mostly for messaging and collaboration.

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Mobile messaging is the preferred mode of communication among millennials, but that trend is reaching all age groups, according to the study. Further, the majority of respondents expressed a strong preference for mobile-first apps, meaning applications that are designed and implemented first and foremost with mobility in mind. Content creation software (Microsoft Office, Google Docs) and file sharing services (SharePoint, Dropbox, Box) were the top tools most helpful to employees for accomplishing their work. But on mobile devices, the top tools were typically communication and scheduling apps, e.g., email, calendar, messaging.

The challenge for IT lies in ensuring that the business communication tools available to employees meet certain standards for security and productivity. In this area, IT decision makers said they understand the needs of their organizations for messaging and collaboration – a full 80 percent consider it “very important” that their messaging tools be optimized for mobile-specific working.

When looking at mobile messaging tools, IT is focused on a couple of key factors. The ability to communicate in real time while traveling or working remotely was one needed feature for such tools. When evaluating messaging and collaboration tools for employees, IT decision makers put security at the top of the list, followed by scalability and productivity.

But beyond understanding and evaluating the right mobile tools for the workplace, IT is aware that more work needs to be done.

Organizations are still looking at mobility as an added feature rather than one that’s mission-critical, according to the study. As such, employee use of corporate apps on their smartphones is low. Only 33% of employee respondents said they use the team collaboration tool, while 32% use their organization’s unified communications apps on their phones on a daily basis. Further, 75% of employees said they use SMS for business purposes each day. That opens up security risks as SMS is considered a flawed and insecure mode of messaging, making it a poor and risky option for business communication.

“The slow adoption of most corporate-issued collaboration platforms and the lack of support for secure mobile messaging should be a wakeup call to business leaders that they need to view mobile-first as their primary employee communication and collaboration channel,” Anurag Lal, CEO and President of Infinite Convergence Solutions, said in a press release. “While mobile communication improves productivity, consumer-grade apps result in fragmented collaboration, a limited role for IT and poses security risks to a business.”

Organizations should adopt a a mobile-first and messaging-first communications strategy, advises the study. These are considered key factors in facilitating an agile workplace and giving employees ubiquitous access to content and applications, regardless of their location, their devices, or the networks they use.

To generate the report, 451 Research conducted two custom surveys targeting a representative sample of IT decision makers and employees in large enterprises across a range of industries in North America and Europe. All of the IT decisions makers polled are senior IT leaders in their organizations and have intimate knowledge of their companies’ technologies and processes. Employees and end-users were questioned about the devices and the productivity and collaboration technologies they use regularly and the impact these tools have on helping them do their work as well as the pain points they experience.

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