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Key skill sets for capturing the booming enterprise mobility market

IT solution providers need a fairly broad set of skills to tap into the range of enterprise mobility demands. Read up on the skill sets that channel firms are obtaining to bolster their mobility practices.

The unabating growth of enterprise mobility market is compelling channel partners to build or bolster mobility practices.

Just ask Accenture. The company's federal services subsidiary earlier this month agreed to acquire Agilex Technologies Inc., a Chantilly, Va.-based solutions provider with an enterprise mobility business. In a statement, Accenture said the Agilex deal will augment the consulting company's mobile technology capabilities. Agilex develops mobility offerings for government customers, partnering with Apple, Google and Microsoft.

The channel's interest in enterprise mobility is easy to understand. Strategy Analytics Inc., a market research firm based in Boston, recently reported that mobile workers now comprise about 30% of the total corporate workforce. The growing mobile workforce is fueling demand for applications. Strategy Analytics expects the market for mobile enterprise business applications to hit $61 billion in 2018, compared with $31 billion in 2013.

Businesses need to manage those applications -- as well as the devices accessing them. 451 Research, an IT research and advisory company, projects that the enterprise mobility management (EMM) market will expand from $3.8 billion in 2014 to $9.6 billion in 2018. The company defines EMM as a toolset encompassing mobile device management, mobile application management and mobile application platforms, among other components. 451 Research forecasts an EMM growth rate of 22% through 2018.

The trends point to a large and rapidly expanding enterprise mobility market for solutions providers. Many organizations now face the task of creating a practice to tap into the enterprise demand. To that end, companies are looking to obtain specialized skills through hiring, training and acquisitions. Key items on the wish list include expertise in radio frequency (RF) communications, application design and development, user experience and strategic business consulting. Companies that sharpen their focus on mobility could well see their investment pay off.

"We are in the midst of a technological boom with mobility technology as the focal point," said Ramon Thomas, a pre-sales engineer at Force 3, a Crofton, Md., network security company that offers wireless products.

Radio frequency expertise

Mobility covers a range of technologies, products and services, so solution providers will need to possess a fairly broad set of skills to succeed. A foundation in RF is one such skill.

"Wireless and mobility technology is driven by radio frequency, spectrum-related technologies," Thomas said. "It is crucial to employ engineers who have an understanding of the basic components detailing how data traverses the air, as well as the factors that may impact stable RF functionality."

Such engineers are integral to building a mobility practice, Thomas explained. He said their fundamental RF knowledge lets a company create a vendor-agnostic mobility practice that can keep up with the advent of new mobility technology.

RF skills are also key to planning a wireless network that supports enterprise mobility. Engineers need RF know-how to properly conduct a wireless site survey to prepare for a network deployment.

"Wireless surveys are critical to the success of an implementation, and, to perform one, a strong understanding of RF is absolutely necessary," said Chris Radford, a senior technical consultant with Force 3.

As for relevant RF-related certifications, Radford and Thomas pointed to tracks offered by Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP), a vendor-neutral Wi-Fi certification and training organization. CWNP offers programs ranging from the entry level Certified Wireless Technology Specialist program to the Certified Wireless Network Expert.

Radford also pointed to certification programs from vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. and Aruba. He said both companies offer programs ranging from entry level to expert.

Business consulting expertise

At the other end of the spectrum, mobility practices should look into providing business consulting in addition to technical skills. Nearly two-thirds of the 400 IT managers who reported using mobility services said they are currently buying the consulting and assessment offerings of third-party providers, according to a Current Analysis survey.

Kathryn Weldon, a research director at Current Analysis, a market intelligence firm based in Washington, D.C., said that finding suggests that companies providing EMM products and related services have an opportunity to wrap additional services around those offerings.

"They are able to cross-sell and up-sell a variety of other services ... along with managed mobility services," she said.

Mobility, in and of itself, has evolved from something companies dabble in to what companies are now using to reinvent themselves.
Sam Gangaexecutive vice president of the Commercial Division, DMI

A mobile practice could take its consulting and assessment services in a number of directions. The practice, for example, could conduct an audit of an organization's current use of mobile technologies and its strategic goals, Weldon noted. The mobility specialty group could also assess different employee groups and identify what particular kinds of mobile services and applications they need. A BYOD strategy and implementation service is another possible avenue for consulting.

Building your own mobility practice

Developing a mobility practice that covers everything from RF communications to business consulting is no small task. Acquisitions or strategic partnering relationships can provide the desired skills, but some companies have opted to build their own practice.

Digital Management Inc. (DMI), a mobile enterprise solutions and services provider based in Bethesda, Md., considered the partnering route about three years ago, but decided to build out a mobility business on its own. The goal: become a one-stop shop for customers.

"We wanted to be a full-service mobility company and have the size and capabilities ... to help them with overall strategy as well as the ability to execute on that strategy," said Sam Ganga, executive vice president of the Commercial Division at DMI.

The 1,800-plus employee company now spans mobile strategy, brand and marketing, user experience, app development, mobile commerce, big data and managed mobility services.

Ganga said he believes DMI has all the necessary components in place, but will look to push into global markets where it lacks a presence. The company may expand its activities in Latin America, for example.

"It's more about depth than breadth," Ganga said.

Bluewolf, a business consulting firm and systems integrator, has also built an in-house mobile strategy consulting team. The company has used a number of approaches to cultivate mobility talent. In some cases, it will take developers from other areas of the company and cross-skill them in mobile technology, noted Patrick Bulacz, global head of mobile at Bluewolf. On other projects, seasoned mobile developers will train personnel so they can take on the more challenging customer builds.

Bluewolf also hires mobile experts. Bulacz said talent was hard to find a few years ago, but added that the availability of mobile skill sets has opened up somewhat. In particular, the company has found a large pool of talent in Australia, where Bulacz is based.

The demands of complex deployments

Channel partners expanding their mobility practices do so to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated customer deployments.

Force 3, Thomas said, has expanded the scope of its mobile and wireless service in light of more complex customer environments. The company, for instance, has embraced Cisco's Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) technology, which provides business analytics via mobility services, he noted.

In addition, Force 3 has made Cisco Meraki Cloud wireless services -- geared toward medium-sized and small enterprises -- a core competency, Thomas said. In security, the company has expanded its wireless intrusion prevention and wireless intrusion detection deployment.

Bulasz said Bluewolf will place its mobility focus this year on bolstering its user-experience skills. He said customers are looking for a different angle in taking on a consumer engagement or employee engagement problem and finding a way to deliver that experience on a mobile device.

Customers, in general, need a more comprehensive set of services as mobility becomes a central part of how they provide products and services.

"Mobility, in and of itself, has evolved from something companies dabble in to what companies are now using to reinvent themselves," Ganga said.

With that in mind, a mobility practice must recognize customers' business objectives and design an offering that gets them there.

"We have to be able to understand and translate a business need," Ganga said.

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