September 17, 2009, 4:47 PM — Despite increasingly versatile mobile technology, the average professional still carries and uses multiple devices while working. In addition to laptops, smartphones and the ubiquitous MP3 player, some executives may carry an extra personal phone. Market research bears this out, with Gartner reporting smartphone sales jumping 13 percent during the first quarter of 2009, even as IDC projects the portable computer market in the United States to double, from 30 million units sold in 2007 to 61.1 million in 2012. Add the growth of VoIP and unified communications and it's easy to foresee professionals struggling to respond to cell phone calls, softphone calls on the laptop, voicemail along with e-mail, mobile IM and text messages.
Many pundits have speculated that modern smartphones lead to fewer devices. Yet today, many job functions require multiple devices which can aid productivity, but can also create a complexity issue. Here's a common scenario all professionals can relate to: a conference call participant hears one of their other phones ring, leaving them to sort through their remaining devices to respond to the call -- even if all they want to do is stop the noise to focus on their meeting.
Adding to the confusion, many companies are now piloting or deploying unified communications solutions and turning the laptop into yet another "phone." At Kingston Technology in Southern California, international calls, including conference calls, have long been routed through IBM's Sametime to reduce costs. Kingston has offices across the globe and experimented with full UC deployment in their operations in Mexico. "We recently switched to using VoIP only for calling in Mexico and almost immediately saw a 30% reduction in phone charges," said Theron Sanders, MIS IT Help Desk Manager at Kingston. "We'll continue to explore utilizing unified communications and VoIP specifically and encourage employees to take advantage of this technology whether the VoIP calls are through their desk phone or their laptop."
The Bottom Line Effect of Device Confusion and Complexity
While the cost savings associated with VoIP are very real, so are the potential complexity issues.