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Corporate disconnect on mobile phone service

Commentary: Many companies don't bother with mobile phone service strategies, but Basex's Jonathan Spira says anything's better than today's chaos.

Imagine if each of 5,000 employees in a corporate office individually made arrangements with various local telephone companies for telephone service at their desks. Some employees might order services that were unnecessary frills; others might not order the right service. Some might purchase a desk telephone with too many buttons, some with too few.

Of course, since these were all individual accounts from several providers, there would be no quantity discount. And most of the employees would submit the bill they receive to their employer for reimbursement.

Sound incredible? Simply substitute "mobile phone service" for "local" and it is a fact of everyday corporate life.

About the author

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and chief analyst at Basex, an analysis firm that specializes in collaborative business knowledge in the enterprise. Click here to contact Basex.

Most corporate employees who use a mobile for business purposes select their own mobile operator, and procure their own mobile phone. Some might receive the phone at little or no cost, while others might pay dearly.

With few -- if any -- corporate guidelines, employees might either purchase plans with too few or too many minutes, and as individual accounts, again there would be no quantity discount.

Since mobile operators do not have consistent service levels throughout their regions of service, one employee might have crystal clear reception in an area where another employee would barely have a signal.

And now that mobile data services are more common, how will IT departments support the multitude of devices (Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, PalmOne - the list goes on) and connectivity options (from cables to Bluetooth, from GPRS to EDGE) let alone troubleshoot problems in non-corporate accounts where a technical support rep may be loathe to cooperate with anyone but the account owner. Does it matter if some employees are on a GSM network, while others are on CDMA or iDEN? Just ask the CFO who has to process all of the reimbursement paperwork.

Corporate managers appear to have little understanding of their mobile infrastructure, and less as to how their mobile dollars are spent. Few, if any, would know which specific carriers their employees use, let alone what features and services they are paying for.

The answer to these questions would, in most cases, result in lower costs, better customer service, a better distribution of features and functionality, and the ability to manage resources and assets in a more effective manner.

Opportunities exist for companies to reduce costs significantly while improving quality of service and ensuring that users get the tools they need for an increasingly mobile work environment.

Managers can take several steps to increase oversight in this area, and simultaneously leverage their mobile communications infrastructure to make their organizations more agile and responsive:

  • Survey all users for equipment, mobile operator, type of service (including data).
  • Audit the payment process, including an accounting for reimbursed mobile expenditures.
  • Develop IT policy for mobile infrastructure.
  • Determine corporate standards, including mobile network, mobile operator(s), and equipment supplier.
  • If companies begin to manage their mobile infrastructures, far more employees will be able to access the information they need when they need it, thereby contributing to an improved bottom line.

    Finally, new Basex employees are sometimes surprised, when enquiring about a mobile, to find out that we have a network standard (GSM for voice, GPRS for data), a single mobile operator (T-Mobile), a preferred equipment vendor (Sony Ericsson) and a corporate account to which all charges are invoiced.

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