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Rethink mobility offerings, focus on mobility policy

In the ChannelCon session, 'Quickstart to Crafting a Mobility Offering,' Dan Shapero explained the fundamental ideas behind mobility services. Among his recommendations, he suggested focusing on mobility policy as a source for adding value.

At the CompTIA ChannelCon conference last week in Phoenix, Dan Shapero introduced an audience of partners to the fundamentals of creating a mobility services practice in the session, "Quick Start to Crafting a Mobility Offering." Shapero, director of global marketing at Ingram Micro Cloud and a CompTIA Faculity member, addressed a wide range of concepts and considerations related to mobility, which underscored the highly flexible and broad area of services that mobility offerings can represent.

He began the session by referring to factors that have pushed mobile devices to the forefront of business considerations. He attributed the surge in mobile devices in part to millennials, who tend to work on mobile devices and incorporate the same mobile devices they use for business activities into their personal activities: "If they can't work on their smart phones or on their tablets, they won't take that job. That's a big decision factor for that next generation." He cited the consumerization of IT as another driver. "Some of the best ideas and best uses in technology and some of the best innovations in technology are now coming from consumer apps," he said.

He also illustrated businesses that have greatly benefited by integrating mobile devices into their business strategy. For example, many retail stores have now equipped their sales staff with mobile devices, allowing them to move freely throughout the sales environment and work with customers beyond the stationary cash register, he said. With these devices entering into business practices, however, comes many critical considerations and security issues, he said. What if an employee's device contains sensitive corporate information and the device is lost or stolen? The average amount of time it takes to crack a four-digit passcode is six to eight seconds, he said. "What we're doing is … we're giving … loaded weapons to our employees to empower them and enable them to be more collaborative or more productive or more cooperative with one another in the work environment."

The many ways a business can drive innovation, competitiveness and responsiveness through mobile devices calls for channel firms to adapt to their customers' unique needs. "In your mind, when you're thinking about mobility, it's not just, 'How do I get the CEO's email secure for one of my clients?' It could be, 'How do I actually reengineer business processes for the profitability and flexibility of that business?'"

The vendors that you've had relationship with in the past: Maybe they do or don't have the mobile strategy.
Dan Shaperodirector of global marketing at Ingram Micro Cloud

Entering this new frontier requires a fresh look at your resources, because "technology is changing." In the past, "we used to say [technology changed] in 18-month cycles. Now it's nine-month cycles or less," he said. This "rapid pace of change" may make your current skillset obsolete, which means you must assess who's working for you. "The people that you have today may not be the people that you need tomorrow."

But he noted the support team or technical experts you have should not be underestimated. "Your support staff might have to be retooled or retrained, as well as your technical expertise."

He also urged audience members to evaluate their vendors and whether they align with their company's mobility goals. "The vendors that you've had relationships with in the past: Maybe they do or don't have the mobile strategy. So you need to take a look at that and [ask], 'Are my suppliers in line with where I want to go?'"

Sharpero made it clear that everyone differs on addressing how mobility services should be charged. Right now, "there's really no standard pricing," he said. "There are really no preset margins on mobility. It doesn't work that way today." But he said that "with mobility, there's definitely a need for a consultative approach."

You must think beyond simply providing the customer with the device and mobile device management, he said. "When you're looking at companies with mobility, think about how, from a marketing standpoint, you could package up your solutions to include training for employees, security scanning [and more]."

He also noted the drag revenue that could potentially go along with mobility offerings, such as fitting the client organization's network to their mobility objectives. "You want to make sure that your network is up to snuff. Not only is it secure … it's robust."

"If all of a sudden you've got a bunch of mobile workers running around the office with their tablets or they're expected to do work on their smartphones, you better have good network access in that organization," he said.

Down the line, further drag revenue could come from offering mobile solutions when customers begin demanding customized applications.

For security-related services, he advised engaging a customer before a catastrophe has occurred, rather than after. Have a call to action for a mobile security assessment, he suggested. "You could always charge for policies and procedures," he said. "Tell the horror story of 'What would happen if you lost that device? How much critical data could be exposed?' A little fear, uncertainty and doubt. 'Let me help you before the crisis comes your way. What would happen if you lost all of your customer's data?' We read about it daily. It's a daily occurrence."

Shapero told the audience to engage customers in a business discussion to create a mutual understanding of the services upfront. Cover the basic areas that mobility touches upon. "You're looking at their networks. You're looking at their security policies and procedures [and] their written policies and procedures. You want to take into account how they're using their mobile devices today. Do they have any strategic objectives? Do they have any business drivers when it comes to mobility?" He stressed that these conversations with the customer must be business discussions, not simply technical discussions about the latest state-of-the-art technology. "Try to keep the dialogue elevated," he said.

Shapero dedicated part of the session to suggesting how channel companies can add value to their mobility services by focusing on mobility policy. He told the audience to identify who owns the devices in use by your customers' employees. "Is it an end user or [bring your own device] strategy within your [client] organization?" he asked. How will the end user use mobile devices in their work? "That could drive 'acceptable use' or mobile device policies. Either way, you're going to have to lock down and make it clear: If it's a corporate-owned device, what do you do out of hours, can you use it [on-premises] for personal business -- yes or no? [And] if we have to wipe the data, can we wipe just the corporate data or the personal data, too?"

Shapero said that if instead it's an employee-owned device, your considerations are "just the reciprocal." "Same amount of issues here. You have to factor in how many different devices the employees have," he said. He suggested recommending mobility policies to regulate how employees use permitted devices on the client organization's premises.

Companies offering mobility services have to create a mobility policy concerning the loss of a device, he also said. He asked the audience to address a number of critical questions in the situation of a lost device: "What happens when the device is lost? How do we replace it? Do we have a policy or a procedure for quickly getting new devices out in the field? Are the devices secure? Are we securing the devices physically if they're lost or stolen? Do employees know what to do when it comes to losing a device? … What do we do with the data on the device?" He referred to several security options -- encryption, containers and the ability to wipe the data off the device if necessary.

The session made it clear that channel firms could profit from creating a mobility offering, even if, at this point, mobility is still in its early stages.

Next Steps

How to write a strong mobile device policy

Mobility's network access security challenges

Dig Deeper on Managing mobile devices in the enterprise

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Do you believe mobility is critical to your company's future?
As a producer in entertainment, I am dependent on my IT department to keep my devices synced to all members of the production. Mobile devices went from cute toys to indispensable tools for my business. Having the IT capabilities to oversee productions on mobile devices has become a critical and crucial part of my business. I can see this only becoming more so as the sets and productions become more tech advanced.