The first step toward managing a mobility portfolio is knowing what you're already spending. Easier said then done? Then maybe it's time for a managed mobility solution.
Just how much does the average enterprise spend on wireless communications? That is often the million-dollar question. The complexity of managing and procuring devices and services has led many executives to raise their hands in surrender and admit they just don't know how much wireless services are actually costing the company. As such, companies are turning to specialty firms to manage the complexity of the wireless world.
Jay Highley, the president and CEO of Integrated Mobile, a provider of managed mobility solutions, said a recent meeting he had with a CIO of an enterprise in Chicago is typical: "The organization had 42,000 mobile devices deployed, and he put a number on the board to show how much the company was spending on wireless. I did the math and figured out it was $23 per month per unit. When he heard that he said the numbers were all wrong. He admitted that he didn't know what his company was spending. I told him he was probably spending four times that. People just don't know what they have."
Phil Redman, VP of research with Gartner, says on average, seven out of 10 companies can't articulate how much they are spending on mobile services. Indeed, many U.S. enterprises understand the value of wireless initiatives--the ability to increase employee productivity--but fewer have developed a cohesive plan to support their mobile workforces. Most companies are addressing mobility on an ad-hoc basis rather than a strategic one, says Carrie MacGillivray, a senior research analyst with the Mobile Enterprise Network Services group at research firm IDC.
The problem stems from a historic lack of corporate policy surrounding wireless purchases in the enterprise. While an employee would think twice about buying a laptop and bringing it into the corporation, many employees are still visiting Best Buy to purchase a mobile device and plan--which typically aren't the most economical plans for the enterprise--and asking the IT department to sync the device with corporate email. As a result, corporations end up contracting with a plethora of wireless providers, each on different terms.
"Corporations don't know which devices are out there and what plans these employees have, and those expenses are being charged back and possibly not even as a telecom expense," says MacGillivray.
A recent survey by Boston-based AberdeenGroup found that 76 percent of enterprises had at least some wireless devices that employees had purchased themselves, typically handing the costs over to the company in a travel and entertainment report.
In addition, mobile operators are constantly changing and updating their cost structures, introducing and terminating rate plans and adding restrictions. Moreover, about 20 percent of all wireless bills have inaccuracies, according to Redman, and few businesses have the resources to continually check for mistakes, which are often buried in the fine print.
Hence, the need for billing management services such as rate-plan optimization, dispute management and invoice auditing. These services are almost a no-brainer for companies with mobile devices numbering 1,000 or more, say analysts.
Integrated Mobile offers a solution that takes invoices from multiple carriers and reformats them into one common invoice. Redman said such solutions can offer savings of up to 35 percent for the enterprise. "Most are happy to get some control and information about what is spent," Redman said. "It doesn't happen overnight. It can take three to six months."
But getting a handle on what an enterprise spends on airtime is only half the battle. Rate-plan optimization services are giving way to more fully managed solutions, as mobile services have several moving and complex requirements: software installation, inventory and updating, hardware inventory and asset management, backup and restore capability, security policy management and enforcement, remote over-the-air file and policy administration and remote data wipe and/or device lockdown.
Much of the heavy lifting in these areas is left to in-house IT organizations, and enterprises must determine if outside specialists can actually save their organizations money and make more productive employees.
In May, Ensim, a provider of management software, introduced an integrated management solution for enterprise unified communications. Based on the widely deployed Ensim Unify, the Ensim Unify Enterprise Edition offers integrated provisioning, administration and user self-service for mobile devices. That means an employee can log on to a portal and self-configure a new device in a matter of minutes instead of having the IT person physically configure the phone in a couple of days; or, a device can be wiped clean of its contents or shut down if the end user loses it or leaves the company. Everything done through the unified management center is tracked, reducing administration costs, said Francois Depayras, VP of sales and marketing with Ensim.
"The management of devices is complex and primarily due to a number of devices," Depayras said. "There is too much data on them, and all of the usage needs must be tracked. Moreover, the ability to ensure compliance in an organization is crucial."
Key Considerations FOR Managed Services
Another study from AberdeenGroup provides insights supporting the business case that enterprises need a comprehensive wireless policy and a managed mobility solutions strategy to support their mobile initiatives.
Among the report findings--adoption and use of mobile devices by business enterprises is on a steep incline, with 80 percent of those surveyed expected to purchase new PDAs with wireless access and 54 percent planned to purchase new mobile phones for their sales, marketing and customer service departments. The research report highlights that the "best-in-class" companies achieved an average 74 percent return on investment for their mobile initiatives compared to the average of 43 percent for all firms surveyed. The best-in-class performers considered twice as many factors in their mobile strategies and 88 percent of the best-in-class performers had a documented mobile strategy.
Managed services, however, are not cheap, so enterprises have to determine if the upfront cost will give them a good return on their investments. In addition, many enterprises find they must strike a delicate balance in working with third-party providers since they are not simply handing over the keys to someone else.
"This is not about "setting it and forgetting it" but extending your IT and security team to include a team of experts," noted Yankee Group analyst Sandra Palumbo in a recent report. "With the tools and reports that service providers provide their customers, there is no reason for a company to not know what their provider is doing. They should have the ability to guide their provider to service the overall business more effectively and achieve the greater business objectives."
Integrated Mobile offers a suite of services ranging from device fulfillment and configuration to end-user support, and enterprises can pick Ãƒ la carte the services they need. "Every enterprise is different, and there are pieces of this lifestyle management that they want to keep in-house," Highley said.
MacGillivray suggests enterprises pick one area, such as device procurement, to test out whether managed services for that particular business area are the right choice. "They can pick Ãƒ la carte," she says, "and they don't need to start with 10,000 devices." //
Lynnette Luna is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience covering the wireless telecom industry.