Managing MOBILE SERVICES

Managing MOBILE SERVICES

Mark Salvin, COO, Fused Group

Mark Salvin, COO, Fused Group

 
David Perry, director, Cognito
David Perry, director, Cognito
 
Mark Seemann, product, strategy and
Mark Seemann, product, strategy and development director, Outsourcery
 
Stuart Cordingley
Stuart Cordingley, product and marketing director, Daisy

Now, more than ever before, organisations of all sizes are focused on their core activities. As competition has increased in many industry sectors, more businesses are outsourcing the management of non-core activities. Over the last 12 months in particular, many organisations have realigned their resources in order to be fighting fit in a tougher marketplace. Here, Heather McLean takes a look at how managed services are making changes in mobile.

Organisations are increasingly seeing a mobility strategy as a vital part of their business plan. Indeed, recent research from Vanson Bourne showed that 86% of UK IT departments have been charged with implementing some form of mobility strategy.

However, in the same survey, nearly half also said that they lacked the experience to integrate vital business applications with the mobile network. David Perry, director at mobile workforce management solutions provider, Cognito, comments: “With this gap between expectation and ability, it is clear that ambitious businesses will be looking at another way to exploit the full potential of a mobile workforce; managed services fit the role perfectly.”

New factors

A combination of factors are influencing the mobile managed services market, says Stuart Cordingley, product and marketing director at business telecoms services company, Daisy. He points to technology including fixed mobile convergence, cloud computing, and mobile applications, plus increased user mobility, and economic influences.

Additionally, Cordingley states that the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) sector appears to be the driving force behind the uptake of managed services. “This sector is becoming increasingly aware of the commercial benefits open to their business by implementing these new technologies. Historically, CAPEX has acted as a boundary to adoption, but the managed services model overcomes that constraint.”

SMEs across the country are looking for cost effective ways of making their employees more productive and streamlining their businesses in the face of the recession, adds Mark Seemann, product, strategy and development director at Outsourcery, a comms and IT provider. “Managed services, in particular, hosted services, offer a way to deploy time saving technology that would normally be way beyond their budgets and take months to implement.”

“Products like hosted SaaS have been prevalent within large corporations for some time, but the SME market has only recently started to catch on to the benefits of going hosted,” continues Seemann. “SaaS offers valuable flexibility. It’s easy to add or remove users whenever necessary, allowing the technology to grow and change with their business, without incurring excessive costs. At Outsourcery, we term this ‘elastic IT’.”

Managed services is spreading throughout the enterprise food chain from the top, down, agrees Mark Salvin, COO at converged solutions provider, Fused Group: “The arrival of convergence (finally!) and the onset of the recession has created the environment for managed services growth outside the corporate sector. We have seen a real shift from customers looking for the cheapest deal to solutions, which can deliver operational savings; improved performance and efficiencies as well reduced running costs.”

Comms focus

For business users, the most commonly requested mobile managed service at the moment is also the most basic, claims Perry. He points to managed communications, such as SMS and email. “The reason for this is simple; while organisations want more capabilities, the most important is still communication.

Communications as a managed service are actually far more reliable and resilient than an organisation could manage on its own without a massive, specialised budget. For example, on 6 April this year, contractors on the London Olympic site cut through a BT cable. While many businesses lost communications, those using a managed communications service were able to continue uninterrupted, as their service providers had backup systems in place.”

There are three key areas that are currently the focus in mobile managed services for business users, states Christian Craggs, head of professional and managed services at O2. The first is managed email. Craggs says O2 is expert in the delivery of managed email, with an end to end service view from the device to the network, he claims.

Managed services for device management is the second area Craggs point to. He says customers want peace of mind over security of data in the field. “It is resource intensive to manage devices in the field and ensure timely applications updates and compliance with company policies. Many customers look to their managed service provider to do this for them.”

Field force and sales force applications is the third area, Craggs comments:

“There is increasing popularity for applications to support field force and sales force workflow management. Overall, customers are looking to increase their productivity for field staff.”

Craggs says that over the next 12 months, as well as seeing existing managed services increase in penetration, we will also see a new breed of requirements for the area. He says things such as lone and vulnerable worker mobile applications, driven by recent changes in health and safety legislation, will come to the fore. Also, he adds: “Managed services will need to support a broader level of applications and company policy, driven by the trend for devices to support both consumer and business applications. We will also see niche vertical sector applications coming out.”

While Cordingley says: “There will also be a greater uptake of mobile applications such as location based services, mobile security including anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-malware, and anti-theft, credit card transactions, and informational services.”

 

How to sell

The managed services market is being driven by a need for increased efficiency and productivity, and the desire to be different to the competition in order to create and retain a competitive advantage. This can be achieved through better use of technology, says Craggs. However, organisations are looking for their partners to demystify the technology and potentially manage these services, he claims.

A recent survey by the Aberdeen Group highlighted the mobile applications that businesses were most interested in exploiting over the next year. Most popular were diagnostic capabilities, job management, customer feedback and scheduling. Claims Perry, given the difficulties businesses have in integrating and supporting these business critical applications within their mobile networks, the popularity of these tools as managed services, whether from dealers, operators or specialist integrators, looks set to rise over the year.

Yet evidence in research from Vanson Bourne suggests that currently the mobile industry is not working with managed services to their full potential, says Perry. “One in four of those surveyed blamed the potential failure of mobile projects on the mobile industry’s lack of experience in supporting business customers. There is clearly an untapped market of business customers for mobile dealers; dealers should be targeting these customers with tightly focused managed service packages to enable them to make the most from their mobile strategy, while also expanding the dealers’ own pool of customers.”

Perry adds: “Directly or indirectly, managed services benefit all parts of the business mobility eco-system. Most obviously, customers can take advantage of the huge breadth of services available that would be inconvenient, if not impossible, to implement and support by themselves. Mobile operators and mobile dealers can use the valueadded dimension of managed services to encourage uptake from potential customers, for example by bundling various managed applications, such as scheduling and resilient email, as part of a business mobility package.”

 

Educate users

A large number of businesses are still unaware of the benefits of hosted services, Seeman notes: “There’s a big marketplace to go at and plenty of revenue that can be generated. The main benefit of selling hosted or managed services is a regular margin over a prolonged period of time. This margin can be further increased by bolting on extra products and services or adding more users as the relationship with the customer progresses. This is a real value add solution, which can improve customer stickiness and reduce churn.”

While Salvin concludes: “My advice to any dealer would be to find a service provider who can add to their existing package, and to move into their customers’ business as much as possible. You can’t just sell a phone any more; you need to look at email, fixed line networks, applications and other communications devices, and try and integrate them together.”