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Mobile Broadband: too complex to manage?

CIOs increasingly have to manage the mobile habits of their workforce in addition to traditional IT services. With the responsibility for a mobile estate that encompasses devices, tariffs and plans, applications and security, it is not surprising that many are struggling to keep a lid on costs and security threats.

The CIO’s burden will only increase as mobile broadband and applications become more widely available. Mobile industry body, the GSMA, says that there are now more than 320 operators offering HSPA mobile broadband services, while analyst firm In-Stat points out that 11% of total cellular subscribers have access to 3G networks and services today. That figure is set to rise to 28% by 2013 and mobile broadband users will comprise a greater share of enterprises’ mobile fleets.

The additional choice gives CIOs a wider market from which to select the services most suited to their employees, but the variety of connectivity methods, payment structures and devices on offer is rapidly becoming bewildering. For instance, CIOs are faced with having to select packages of 3G dongles to link to existing PCs or use smartphones provided on subscription. To make that kind of decision, they will need to assess what the employee really needs, understand the cost implications and set policies for equipping personnel.

The situation has become so complex so rapidly that some CIOs are starting to lose their grip on mobile costs. Analyst firm Gartner has reported that 80% of enterprises are set to overspend on their wireless service costs by an average of 15% between now and 2014. While mobility uptake has increased within enterprises, costs have naturally grown and the responsibility falls on the CIO to become more effective at managing the spiraling costs.

“The majority of companies are not adequately managing their mobile users or services,” says Phil Redman, research vice president at Gartner. “They need to look more closely at their key user segments and requirements to match those needs with the right services and optimize their spending.”

However, a knee-jerk reaction of stamping down on mobile use needs to be avoided if CIOs are to wrest back control of their mobile estate and ensure maximum productivity from their mobilized workers. Cost certainly has to remain high on the CIO agenda, especially in these recessionary times, and analyst Frost & Sullivan now cites it as the greatest barrier to wider uptake of mobile enterprise applications among North American IT decision-makers.

identify best applications to mobilize

So the move for smart CIOs is to shop for services, devices, packages and applications intelligently while doing the utmost to ensure users are provided with mobile enterprise applications that make the strongest case for mobile spending. It’s an obvious conclusion that those applications that boost employee productivity are the most attractive but with little reliable information to draw on, CIOs are being required to make a leap of faith too often for comfort.

Failure to provide access, applications and devices has the knock-on effect of opening the door to ad hoc use of mobile by employees and potentially far higher costs and security threats. The proliferation of consumer applications such as navigation, social networking and entertainment means enterprise users are demanding such applications along with those from mobilized corporate systems.

“Business customers are beginning to see the benefits of mobilizing already-established corporate systems such as CRM, inventory management and payroll, and are looking for outside expertise and assistance to make this happen,” says Jeanine Sterling, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Many of these applications provide attractive productivity and efficiency gains that the CIO can use to justify mobile spending. To succeed, CIOs need to gain a greater understanding of the actual needs of individual users, or at least groups of users, within the enterprise mobile estate. This will allow them to move forward and make the business case for providing each type of bandwidth, device and application.

Five tips to help you reduce mobile costs are:

1. eliminate the ‘black budget’ of uncontrolled mobile spending, by putting all this mobile connectivity under central control to remove ad-hoc costs and other uncontrolled elements;

2. centralize purchase and management of mobile services. Analyst The Yankee Group estimates that businesses can cut their mobile phone bills in half by signing up to a corporate rate plan;

3. standardize devices and providers. For example, business should standardize on three different platforms so that they can offer their employees devices that best meet their specific needs,

4. control ‘at-desk’ mobile usage by using fixed mobile convergence (FMC) services;

5. look at productivity in addition to cost control when assessing mobile solutions.


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