Should we trust the promise of mobile productivity?

August 31, 2016

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Shopping, banking, learning, dating… in recent years, each of these and many more aspects of our everyday lives have gone online. Whether it’s buying groceries, meeting someone new or budgeting your finances, these activities are increasingly carried out through our mobile phones. The next generation may never actually have to step foot in a bank branch to set up a standing order or negotiate their mortgage payments.

Mobile functionality gives users, well, mobility – workers can be productive when on the move or out of the office, and it’s for this reason that mobile apps have taken both the consumer and enterprise worlds by storm. Despite headlines announcing the shift to mobile, a substantial proportion of businesses will claim that employees do their ‘serious work’ on PCs while at their desks. And I feel there’s some truth in such a statement. I know I would rather use my desktop with multiple monitors to work on my documents over squinting into the screen of my smartphone in a cramped tube carriage. Each to their own, of course, but I can’t help but feel the benefits regarding mobile working are often exaggerated to some extent.

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The mobile OneDrive (for Business)

Let’s take Microsoft’s sync client OneDrive for Business, for example. Being a sync client, its primary function and the majority of its features require an Internet connection in order to work. As such, the mobile app gives users the opportunity to stay connected to their documents regardless of location – perfect for busy professionals who need to keep track of their organisation’s SharePoint files. That is, if you can find it on the app store…

In March of 2016, Microsoft updated their OneDrive for Business mobile app to gift users an added level of freedom. As has become tradition with Microsoft’s sync client, however, users shouldn’t become too attached or familiar with the software’s title. Following in the (misplaced) footsteps of the desktop app, Microsoft are continuing to confuse their users through product name changes. After updating the OneDrive for Business app in 2015, Microsoft are now removing it from the app store just a year later. Its replacement is the OneDrive app—yes, as in the consumer version of OneDrive for Business. A curious decision considering the amount of confusion that arose regarding the differing versions of the desktop app. Regardless, users are able to add a OneDrive for Business account from within the app to access the latest features.

So, if you’re searching for OneDrive for Business in the app store, you will do so to no avail – but Microsoft assure us that enterprises will be able to make full use of mobile capabilities through the updated OneDrive app. Let’s see if, despite the “for Business” omission, that this rings true.

Roving importance

The biggest addition is the integration of Outlook Mobile on OneDrive for iOS and Android, allowing users to share files via email. Android users can enjoy enhanced sharing capabilities, including PDF viewing and annotation and support for Office 365 data loss prevention. For iOS, the app will offer improved sharing in SMS, Outlook Mobile, Gmail, Copy Link and Invite People, and like the Android update it supports Office 365 data loss prevention.

Workers that are still happily rooted in desktop working are less likely to impressed by such features. With issues still prevalent in the OneDrive for Business Next Generation Sync Client, a fair amount of users are likely to be disappointed with Microsoft’s focus on the mobile OneDrive. Porting features over to mobile can prove problematic if said features are already rife with problems.

Issues such as the inability to save documents locally, not from a browser, continue to hold the sync client back. Features such as Team Site selective sync, support for SharePoint Views and SharePoint Content Types are still missing. OneDrive for Business users have been pining for a reliable document sharing platform that syncs properly to their local drive for some time, yet there seems to be a higher priority given to iOS and Android apps and the consumer OneDrive experience, while many believe that the SharePoint Team Site library sync should have been in the first release of the Next Generation Sync Client, but are still left waiting.

Despite their insistence, perhaps the “for Business” aspect of Microsoft’s sync platform is beginning to fall by the wayside – the act of prioritising the consumer over the enterprise is something rarely seen from the world’s leading professional cloud.

Put the business first

Easier365 is a Windows PC alternative to OneDrive for Business, providing users with functionalities users have been requesting from Microsoft’s sync client for some time. Individual file sync with TeamSites, synchronisation without imposed file limits and more make Office 365 and SharePoint work better together. Easier365 also works with older iterations of SharePoint – such as 2007 and 2010 – that OneDrive for Business is not compatible with.

The prospect of mobile working has sat atop ‘forward-thinking’ business practices for the past few years, yet its full capabilities may still be out of reach. When it comes to file synchronisation, the basics have to be set firmly in place before users can begin to take their work onto a mobile platform – and to risk neglecting (and losing) users who still hold a preference for desktop working in the process could prove very costly. Making the leap to mobile productivity should only be done when the solution as a whole can be trusted.

 

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