Many government agencies that are investing money in collaboration tools also realize the importance of extending those tools to the mobile user, according to a recent survey of federal, state and local IT professionals.
As a whole, 40 percent of respondents said their agencies were considering the purchase of mobile collaboration tools or already had such tools and were looking to buy newer technology, according to the survey, which was conducted by the 1105 Government Information Group.
However, among those respondents whose agencies were increasing their budgets for collaboration tools, 59 percent said their agencies were considering the purchase of new or replacement mobile tools.
Sooner or later, most organizations investing in collaboration tools will need to start thinking along the same lines, experts say.
“The number of users on mobile devices, and who are getting work done on mobile, is growing,” said Vanessa Thompson, an analyst with IDC Government Insights who specializes in enterprise social networks and collaborative technology. Collaboration initiatives “need to be extensible to mobile.”
That said, organizations also need to be cognizant of possible bandwidth or performance constraints that come with some mobile devices. Just because a particular collaboration solution is available for mobile does not mean its performance will match user expectations.
During the last year, there has been a surge of interest in web conferencing, said Philipp Karcher, an analyst with Forrester Research.
In part, that is because web conferencing, which allows people to make presentations, share and collaborate on documents and interact securely, requires less bandwidth than traditional video conferencing. However, performance of mobile video conferencing solutions is improving and so interest is rising, Karcher said.
But whatever the constraints, it is still important for organizations to support their mobile users, he said. “If collaboration is about enabling people to work with people from anywhere, you need to support that on mobile devices.”
The survey found that bandwidth is priority within the traditional enterprise as well. Overall, 11 percent of respondents said their agencies were considering the purchase of additional network bandwidth to enable more widespread use of collaboration tools, with another 18 percent saying their agencies were looking to upgrade.
But among those respondents whose agencies were budgeting more for collaboration tools, 55 percent said their agencies were in the market for more bandwidth.
Finally, it also appears that many government agencies have decided that it is better to buy commercial collaboration tools, rather than build their own. Only 10 percent of respondents said their agencies were considering custom-made software, with another 10 percent saying their agencies already had such a tool and were looking to replace it with new custom-made software.