The 10 Questions Your CEO Should Be Asking About Mobility

By  Andrew M. Seybold — December 02, 2008

This article is excerpted from a keynote presentation made by Andrew Seybold, President/CEO of consulting firm Andrew M. Seybold, Inc., during the Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit in Orlando, FL, Nov. 5-7, 2008.

For information about the 2009 Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit, click here.

CEOs don't want to be seen as leading a low-tech company, says industry consultant Andrew Seybold, President/CEO of Andrew M. Seybold, Inc. But this doesn't mean they're going to hand their I.T. and business managers a ton of money to deploy mobility, he notes. It just means they want to be able to tell their fellow CEO at the next dinner party "We're leading the charge."

There are 10 key questions CEOs should be asking today about mobility to ensure their organizations are technology-forward. These questions encompass everything from awareness of the latest technologies, to basic questions about policy and business management.

In order to help you prepare when these questions come your way, we've also provided some suggested responses, along with additional comment from Seybold.

Question 1: The new Clearwire/Sprint WiMAX network is faster and cheaper than the wireless network(s) we are using now, why don't we switch all our staff over to WiMAX? I hear it is faster and cheaper than the other networks

Your Answer:

  • Sprint's Xohm (soon to be part of Clearwire) is not ready for prime time
  • Today, it is only available in one or two cities
  • There are no plans to build a truly ubiquitous nationwide network
  • There are very few devices available for WiMAX
  • Unless we use dual-mode devices (Xohm and Sprint Broadband) we won't be able to provide the same coverage we provide our corporate customers today
  • Xohm seems to be positioning this network for consumers
  • But--we will keep our eyes on it!
Additional comments from Seybold: Baltimore is the only major city up and running. I toured Baltimore, it's not ready for primetime. They have no plans to build a truly ubiquitous nationwide network. They're going to build what they call "city zones." It works and it's fast. There are very few devices available for WiMax. Unless you use dual-mode devices with WiMax and for example Sprint CDMA, you run out of coverage at some point. Xohm seems to be positioning themselves for consumers, and that's really who they're looking for. They're looking for the kids who want to download videos and things like that, and do Voice Over IP.

Question 2: What is the Gobi chip? I heard it means that notebooks in the future will be capable of running on many different networks. Are we planning to use Gobi-equipped notebooks?

Your Answer:
  • Gobi is the name of a chipset made by Qualcomm that supports wireless broadband networks
  • It supports the two most popular broadband technologies
  • It supports all of the various radio bands around the world
  • Notebook vendors are building it into many different laptops
  • Yes, we are keeping our eye on Gobi because:
  • It will give us more leverage with our wireless network vendors
  • It will make worldwide access easier
  • Services will be available on a per day/week/month and contract basis
Additional comments from Seybold: [The difference between Gobi and other chipsets]  is that it supports both forms of 3G today, around the world. A single chip built into a notebook allows you to take the notebook anywhere in the world. And it can support all the various radio bands around the world, with the possible exception of Japan.

Notebook vendors are building it in like crazy. I happen to think it's a good thing. We're keeping an eye on it because -- and here's the thing that the network operators don't want you to say -- it gives you leverage when you deal with your network vendors. Because if you buy embedded today and it's on AT&T, you can't move it to Verizon easily without getting it changed out. If you have a Gobi chip, you can. You just say, "AT&T, see you later, I'm going to Verizon." And it's amazing what a better deal you get.

It also has worldwide access and, the most important thing to me, is services are available and starting to be available on a per-day, per-week, per-month and contract basis. So I can take my Verizon notebook to the U.K. and turn it on, it will find the Vodafone UMTS network and will ask me if, for 10 Euros, I want to buy 24 hours of data instead of paying roaming charges. And the answer is yes. If you have people who travel occasionally, it's great because they can now buy wireless data by the day.

Question 3: Are our BlackBerrys being used for applications other than email and PIMs? What types?

Your Answer:
  • Today we use them primarily for email and calendar functions
  • We are evaluating software that will provide BlackBerry access to other corporate applications, but today these applications are being accessed wirelessly via notebook computers
  • It has been very difficult for us to find and test business applications that run on the BlackBerry and are compatible with our desktop applications
  • There are almost too many out there, making it difficult to find and evaluate them
  • We have a keen interest in adding functionality to our BlackBerrys and if we had additional funding we could upgrade them all to 3G networks for better application performance!
Additional comments from Seybold: [At Andrew M. Seybold, Inc.] we do a lot of training of network sales people who sell B2B. The first question I always ask them is, "How many of you sell Blackberrys?" They all raise their hands. The second thing I say is, "How many of you have been back to where you sold BlackBerrys to sell additional applications?" Nobody raises their hands. Because they're incented to sell the device, not the services.

It's difficult to find and test business applications that run on BlackBerrys and are compatible with our desktop applications. And, the other side to that is there are too many out there, making them difficult to find and evaluate. If you're looking for an expense piece of software for your BlackBerry and you go to Google and type "BlackBerry expense software," you will get more than 1,100 hits. You have to download them all to try them. We have a keen interest in adding functionality to our BlackBerrys. For any of you who haven't played with the Bold, it's now available on AT&T. This thing is full next-year generation with HTML and all kinds of other functionality. So you can do a lot more with that.
Question 4: Do you have a recommendation regarding personal use of company devices and services?

Your Answer:
  • The policy you had us put in place seems to be working. Each employee has a flat-rate plan and if the plan is exceeded, the employee is responsible for the overage
  • For data-only devices, we purchase our data in bulk from the three network operators we are using
  • We then monitor monthly usage and if someone is using a lot more data than our average, we deal with it on a case-by-case basis
  • Our biggest data problem, at the moment, is data roaming when our employees travel outside the United States
  • Several network operators are starting to make data services available by the day or week and we hope this will solve the problem
Additional comment from Seybold: One of the answers is, flat-rate plan, the employee is responsible for any overage. There are a number of companies who have adopted this, and it seems to be working. I don't know what the IRS thinks about it. But it seems to be working fine. For data-only devices, a lot of companies purchase data in bulk and they tell their employees not to use it for personal services -- who knows? But then you have to monitor the monthly usage and if somebody's using a lot more than average they take care of it on a case-by-case basis.

Question 5: How secure is our wireless network and access to our corporate network from the outside?

Your Answer:

  • Our internal (wired) networks are secured with state-of-the art firewalls, software, and other safeguards
  • However, they are still prone to attacks just as everyone's internal networks are, so we are diligent about monitoring our network in real time
  • When we added wireless to our networks, the first device we permitted was the BlackBerry because it supports end-to-end encryption
  • Today's wireless broadband networks include a first level of security built into the network and we add our own security and VPN to that
  • We also make sure the information stored on our mobile devices is encrypted and we destroy the data remotely if the device is lost
Additional comments from Seybold: Your corporate internal network is as protected as it can be. And that means that it's 99.9% protected. Because if you know hackers, you'll know that they can get into the Pentagon, they can get into all kinds of things if they put their mind to it. It's a battle. And then you add wireless. BlackBerry was the first device you supported because it has end-to-end encryption and it really works. These days you add VPN, you add your own security, and hopefully you add security on the device also so that if it's lost or stolen nobody can get to your data. I think that's very important.

Question 6: Are we spending more money than we need to on wireless services? How can we cut our expenses?

Your Answer:
  • All of our cost accounting shows that the use of wireless is paying for itself in a very short period of time
  • On a monthly basis, our costs are more than offset while there are gains in productivity and improved customer service
  • In fact, we are in the process of planning for an expansion of our wireless services in order to help save the company even more money in these times of economic uncertainty
  • For example, the field service department has found it can provide several more service calls per day using wireless services
  • I will be happy to send you the spreadsheet we keep on wireless services, their costs, and their contribution to our productivity gains
Additional comments from Seybold: I learned a very interesting lesson in the recession of the 1970s. I was working for Motorola and doing government sales. We had a business sales unit in the same building. They were complaining that the recession was going to kill their business. And it didn't. In fact, their sales went up. And their sales went up because they started telling people, you can take a truck off the street if you add radios to the rest of your trucks because you can be more efficient, and you can get more done. I think that's the same thing now. In this economic situation, if you make an investment in wireless, it's going to pay in the fact that you can manage your business and get more done faster. In fact, planning and expansion makes a lot of sense right now. The field service department found that it can provide several more service calls per day, that's money in the pocket right now. And then, of course, you can provide a spreadsheet keeps showing the ROI.

Question 7: Is the I.T. department handling only data services while the telecom group is handling voice? Does this make sense in today's world?

Your Answer
  • Mr. CEO, there was a time when it made sense to have both an I.T. and a telecom group
  • But times have changed and our in-house voice and data communications services are all IP-based
  • Voice and data are being mixed on our networks
  • Most of our field workforce uses both voice and data services almost interchangeably today
  • It recent years, it is my department that as been doing all of the planning and implementation for our networks, wired and wireless
  • The telecom department is mostly handling the acquisition of  devices
Additional comments from Seybold: I can't believe that I still get this question but I do. I thought telecom departments went away, but they haven't. They're going to. The I.T. shops, the CIO shops are going to end up with all of this, and they should. The problem is that when this shift happens, sometimes the purchasing department is now in charge of buying devices. I'm not sure that that's a good mix either.

Question 8: How many wireless networks do we have contracts with in the United States? Around the world?

Your Answer:
  • In the United States we deal with 3 of the 4 top networks because they all have 3G broadband capabilities
  • As T-Mobile rolls out its 3G network, we might also take a look at it, but T-Mobile is focused more on consumers than business
  • We deal with 3 in order to provide the best service possible to our employees and to have leverage when dealing with the others
  • One of the reasons we like the Gobi-equipped notebooks is that they can support all of these networks
  • Our foreign offices deal with one network in each country
  • We are reviewing all of our wireless options all of the time
Additional comments from Seybold: Most corporations that I deal with have at least three of the top four networks under contract for at least 3G broadband services. Because [a single carrier's] coverage in one part of a city is may be better than in another part of the same city. So you have to give your people choice. That's one of the reasons, of course, that the Gobi-equipped notebooks are important.

Question 9: Are we tied to long-term contracts with these networks and if so, what is the down side for us?

Your Answer:
  • Yes, we have long-term contracts in place in order to get the best possible rates for both voice and data
  • We continue to negotiate with network operators to refine these contracts and reduce costs
  • I am hearing reports from some of my peers that they have moved to a no-contract, month-to-month type of service with their networks
  • They claim they are getting new, lower prices faster from the network operators because there are no contracts
  • We are also pushing our network vendors to start offering data by the day, week, and month to help reduce our charges and to enable our occasional travelers to take advantage of  broadband wireless
Additional comments from Seybold: I have a corporate customer that has 4,000 devices that has no contracts. We negotiated the contracts away, and they deal with all the three top vendors. They are month-to-month on all of them for voice and data. And you would be amazed how often the salesmen from all three networks come visit this company and say, do I have a better deal for you. And it works. So it's not necessary that you need to have a contract. And by the way, you're in the driver's seat now.
There are a couple of things that you need to understand about networks. AT&T is No. 1. Verizon was No. 1. Verizon just bought Alltel, so now they're No. 1. That battle between AT&T and Verizon is ferocious. They both want to be No. 1. So this is a great opportunity to pit the two companies against each other. AT&T is going to lose its No.1 spot, they want to regain it. And Verizon is going to take it over and they want to keep it. It's a great time to negotiate.

Question 10: Oh, just one more thing. Can you send someone up to configure my new iPhone for our corporate email and PIM? And please look into replacing our BlackBerrys and smartphones with the iPhone, I really like it.

Your Answer :
  • I will be happy to send someone up to work on your iPhone
  • We have already looked at the iPhone and have determined that it is not a suitable replacement for the BlackBerrys
  • No replaceable battery
  • Not enough battery life
  • No cut and paste feature
  • Applications must be through the Apple store
  • Not rugged enough for our field employees
  • Works on only one network in the United States


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