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Managed mobility services growth driven by complexity, bigger user base

Enterprise need for managed mobility services is on an upswing, but getting traction in the market can be tough for some providers.

Mobility. It all started with a single seemingly innocuous device that enterprises provisioned and managed, and has now evolved to include a multitude of devices owned by a rapidly growing user base. The complexity associated with mobility is driving enterprises to seek help, paving the way for managed mobility services.

"Managed mobility services is a range of offerings generally encompassing the entire lifecycle of a mobile solution. It tends to have certain elements that are almost always offered and others that are increasingly offered," explained Kathryn Weldon, enterprise mobility practice lead at Current Analysis, a Washington D.C.-based analyst firm. "A service provider is either helping with some or all of the deployment and management aspects of a solution, or they may be hosting the solution or taking an active role doing everything on behalf of the customer."

MDM is a critical part of this overall mobility stack or solution, but it's just a piece.

Ken Lienemann, senior vice president, Tangoe

At the very least, managed mobility services (MMS) include mobile device management (MDM), Weldon said, and generally include containerization, application management, security, enterprise application stores and telecom expense management as part of an enterprise mobility management suite. These services are often tied together with a range of professional services, consulting, management, and support in terms of device integration, testing and deployment, she said.

Stephanie Moan, a Calgary-based independent consultant and owner of mobility management consultancy Moan Enterprises Ltd., explains further: "Many vendors provide a cloud-based [MDM] solution, so they are offering a managed mobile service on an MDM front, but in terms of the procurement of devices, user support, the application of roaming packages, swapping devices between users, that becomes a whole different layer of support. … MDM becomes one component of the managed service."

The need for managed mobility services

If it sounds complicated, that's because it is. And that's exactly what's driving the need for MMS. "The complexity of mobility has increased -- more BYOD, more operating systems, more devices -- making companies feel like they need some outside help with this stuff. If you're going to do it yourself with three or four [telecom] contracts, it can get pretty messy," Weldon said.

Moan agreed. "Mobility requires a lot of resources," she said. She explained that mobility tends to touch three groups. "You have IT that works with managing mobile devices, because they have a technology component. By default that falls to IT; however, there's a component that falls to HR: the provisioning process. The other group that touches mobility is finance, because at the end of the month, somebody always gets a bill. And the left hand doesn't always talk to the right hand," she said. An accounts payable clerk will get the bill and pay it every month regardless of any discrepancies, because she doesn't know that a device is broken (IT's realm) or an employee has left the company (HR's realm), Moan explained.

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"Three people trying to manage mobility just from a carrier standpoint, that's a challenge," Moan said.

Companies are addressing this challenge by turning to managed services. Current Analysis conducted a study of 600 companies and found that 40% were managing mobility internally, Weldon said. Of the other 60%, half were explicitly using MMS and the other half were taking a hybrid approach, outsourcing a portion of their mobility management to a services provider and handling the rest internally. Comparing this to a similar survey the analyst firm conducted two years ago, in which only 20% to 30% of companies wanted to go to an MMS, underscores the business opportunity to service providers.

And, according to Weldon, "The opportunity will increase over time."

How to get into managed mobility services

Moan acknowledged that it can be difficult for service providers that want to move into managed mobility services to know where to start. She worked with a small managed service provider that had that very problem. The company saw the opportunity in MMS, but had a hard time knowing how to bundle it and what services to actually provide. "Their challenge was spending the money to build a practice that they're learning how they're going to deploy," she said. "I don't know that there's a skeleton of this is how you do it and this is how it works, because there are so many different components."

Some existing MMS providers like Tangoe have their roots in telecom expense management. According to Ken Lienemann, senior vice president of the Orange, Conn.-based MMS provider, Tangoe was founded in 2001 on the basis of assisting large enterprises with the task of managing their telecom expenses. As mobility grew, Tangoe evolved to assist customers first with mobile billing, then provisioning, management and end-of-life services.

"It is complex, and we believe it requires quite a bit of investment, which doesn't happen overnight. MDM is a critical part of this overall mobility stack or solution, but it's just a piece," Lienemann said. "We are in the fortunate position to have built our capabilities over a period of about 13 years at this point."

And if you don't have a history of delivering some piece of the MMS puzzle? "It's increasingly easy [to get into MMS] because third-party platform providers who are at the heart of the EMM [enterprise mobility management] side are adding stuff on their own. They used to have MDM, but now those providers have added on a lot of the other capabilities," Weldon said. Service providers could conceivably white label one of these platforms and use it as a means of offering a MMS, she said.

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Do you have a plan for building a managed mobility services practice?
Managed mobility service providers should not rely on organizations and businesses being able to have control over mobile devices. They should work under the assumption that most firms will adapt a bring-your-own-device(BYOD) policy. This should enable the provider to target the largest customer base possible. Another critical aspect is controlling access to organizations’ computing resources. Increasingly, most organizations are grappling with controlling access especially to data on mobile devices and in particular, those of employees. This enables the managed mobility services provider to tap into this growing field and to offer it to organizations with a system lacking the feature.