It's virtually impossible today to have a discussion about the mobile enterprise that doesn't include the topic of mobile e-mail. BlackBerrys, Treos and a range of smartphones are the first things that come to mind when thinking of workforce mobility. Meanwhile, the most widely deployed mobile business device isn't a laptop and doesn't even have a QWERTY keyboard -- it's the cell phone.
In 2006, businesses are expected to spend well in excess of $150 billion on cellular telephony while, at the same time, research firm Strategy Analytics predicts that these same businesses will spend approximately $22 billion on wireless data services, the most popular of which is Short Message Service (SMS), otherwise known as text messaging. Second to SMS is mobile e-mail.
If we put these numbers into perspective, for every ten dollars that businesses spend on cellular telephony, they spend and additional dollar for SMS and another fifty cents for mobile e-mail. In most businesses, cellular telephony is - by an order of magnitude - the largest mobility expense.
In this context, the opportunity for enterprise IT and telecom departments is to begin managing cellular devices and services, using the mobile device footprint to launch a range of services that enable mobile workers to be more productive and effective.
At the same time, corporate IT and telecoms departments are wary of becoming the "traffic cop," telling users what they can and cannot do. As phones evolve and users continue to demand services for telephony, SMS and mobile e-mail, there are ways that corporate IT and telecoms departments can begin managing an integrated set of cellular and wireless data technologies while improving the services that they offer to workers.
In the recommendations that follow, we discuss the ways that enterprise IT and telecom departments can begin sharing responsibility for a device that has been long considered to be "personal" even in situations where it is used primarily for work.
- Mobility policy: If you don't already have one, develop a clear and simple mobility policy for cellular. This policy should answer the basic questions of who gets which devices and services. Also, the policy should define who is responsible for specific kinds of expenses. If users want a more expensive handest, who pays? and what is the process? The policy should also contemplate scenarios for game and ringtone downloads, personal calls, and other common situations. Most importantly, users should be involved in developing this policy, with surveys and other types of feedback integral to the process. Instead of presenting an edict from corporate management, a mobility policy should provide a menu of options that gives users what they want in a way that manages costs.
- Consolidated purchasing: Work with your wireless operator to select the plans that are right for your company and workers. There are numerous options for minute sharing among a pool of workers. Also, wireless operators can offer billing options to account for business and personal expenses. The focus here should be to provide users with choices without limiting their options. For example, the next time a worker decides to download a ringtone, he should be able to do so at his own expense.
- Fixed-mobile integration: There are growing number of practical technologies that provide connectivity between the corporate PBX and cellular telephones. These approaches rely on simple architectures to provide integration with voice mail systems, corporate directories, cost accounting and long-distance call routing features. Incorporating an application running on the user handset, mobile workers can easily manage voicemails and send messages to co-workers.
- Mobile e-mail: This is no longer the domain of $400 handsets, smartphones and high price data services. For many workers the value of mobile e-mail is in sending and receiving messages from anywhere, without turning on a computer or finding a Wi-Fi hot spot. At an entry price of a few dollars per month, the current generation of mobile e-mail services support a broad range of cell phones with software that enables remote management, security and mobile device data wipe. These capabilities give enterprise IT and telecom managers a managerial footprint on what has long been considered to be the proprietary domain of the end user.
There are two ways for enterprise IT and telecom departments to think about cellular and the mobile enterprise. In the first approach, IT maintains the status quo of decentralized purchasing for cellular, and telecom managers become the "traffic cop;" users make their own selections, the devices are unmanaged and costs spiral out of control. In the alternative scenario, IT and telecoms managers offer an increasingly feature-rich set of "choices" for mobile workers. Users can select from a range of devices, services and solutions for telephony, messaging and applications; and IT gains a manageable footprint from which to launch new mobile enterprise services.