The emergence of WiMAX, femtocells and other IP technologies is fueling a subtle but important shift toward what one wireless expense management expert called “centralized mobility model” in an interview with TMCnet this week.
According to Erik Eames, managing director of Danvers, Mass.-based Wireless Analytics – a company that offers tools, resources, and professional services to organizations seeking to better manage and leverage their wireless mobility programs – smartphones, data cards, voice and netbooks, etc. are now centrally managed.
“The end game is to have a seamless work environment regardless of where the worker may happen to be located at the time. ” Eames told TMCnet in an interview, printed in full below.
“For the past decade, the mobile worker has lived and died in a distributed work model,” Eames said. “We are now converging to a hybrid model of distributed mobile workers requiring centralized IP communications. However, devices will still need to be provisioned, managed, tracked, and so on – and more importantly, wireless expense management is not about just tracking expenses.”
For Eames, the improved productivity associated with a well-supported mobile worker through a wireless help desk will be even more critical as technologies continue to advance and communications become more complex.
“While we do not have a crystal ball that clearly defines the future – we have been in the wireless space long enough that it’s a given that greater speeds will provide additional functionality,” he said. “Nonetheless, devices will still need to be purchased, provisioned, monitored, upgraded and ultimately recycled. So a managed services approach will still need to be implemented if for no other reason than to validate the carrier’s services and contractual obligations.”
As head of one established wireless expense management services provider, Eames knows what he is talking about.
During our talk, we learned from Eames about what’s fueling the need for Wireless Analytics’ services – and how it is that some companies need help from firms such as Wireless Analytics to save more than 40 percent on their wireless expenses, an increasingly large portion of overall telecom bills.
We also talked about security concerns that now are emerging, as more and more companies allow workers to communicate and work on mobile devices.
Our exchange follows.
TMCnet: It’s been interesting over the past several months to watch two seemingly contradictory trends emerge – the slowing down of the overall economy and increased interest in wireless communications, in part, in the form of mobile devices such as smartphones. For example, IT market research firm Gartner (News - Alert) reported that 38.1 million smartphones were sold worldwide in the first quarter of 2009. What kind of uptick has Wireless Analytics seen in its wireless expense management services, if any?
Erik Eames: Wireless Expense Management is now getting the attention that telecom (landline) expense management has received over the past decade. Most companies are now spending more on mobile communications than on their landline services and are just starting to realize this. So it’s hard now to continue not to recognize it because employees are burying the cost of wireless in T&E statements or expensing it in other ways.
On the part of our existing clients, we have witnessed major migrations to tethering devices (smartphones with tethering capabilities, such as BlackBerry Bold on AT&T, Backberry Tour on Verizon (News - Alert) and Sprint). I mention existing clients because tethering devices add additional complexity to the overall user experience and while companies can realize tremendous savings, the downside is increased workload on the part of IT and helpdesk departments. So companies need to take into account the overall process – an outsourced managed service approach like ours provides the most meaningful results.
TMCnet: What are the reasons for that?
EE: Today’s user is considered non-productive if their connectivity to the company’s servers or the Internet is interrupted (let alone their voice access). So it’s imperative that access to the emails, Internet and company’s server is as seamless as possible.
TMCnet: For many businesses, communicating through wireless technologies raises security concerns – especially as more and more sensitive information travels through WiFi (News - Alert), the network, the mobile Web and other means. Wireless Analytics, in offering wireless expense management, is a company that’s on the “front lines” as far as adoption of wireless services among enterprises and other businesses goes. What are your concerns, if any, about how increasing security concerns will affect your business?
EE: That is a very good question because some companies think that one quick way to reduce costs is to provide a small stipend for mobile usage and allow the employee to furnish and control their own devices. However, this action nullifies all corporate security protocols and makes company data and customer information even more susceptible to fraud and theft. How these increasing security concerns will affect the enterprise is still a bit unclear. What is clear is that companies need policies in place that address these specific risks. Companies need a partner like WA to manage the “front lines.”
This includes managing inventory and knowing who has what device at any given time and tracking its usage. When a device is lost, stolen or ready to be recycled it means wiping the device of all company data. WA has the resources to provide the level of tracking and support that sometimes goes overlooked in the day-to-day of an organization’s IT or telecom departments.
TMCnet: What are the most prevalent concerns that you hear from enterprises and SMBs regarding security?
EE: Just about every day there is news about devices with sensitive data being either stolen, lost or sold on eBay (News - Alert) and companies scrambling to contain the situation. Companies can severely reduce this type of exposure by creating and implementing a companywide wireless policy that takes into account who, what and how devices are maintained and administered.
At the end of the day, our wireless expense management services are about saving money, and we estimate savings of between 18 percent and 43 percent.
TMCnet: What’s the reason for such a wide margin there?
EE: In reality, there are some companies out there that are managing their mobility spending and usage fairly well. We have saved only 18 percent in those cases. But there are many enterprise organizations that don’t realize the money that is being left on the table, and in fact given to the carriers. In one case, we saved 64 percent for a customer with a monthly spend of over $200,000 per month. That’s a lot of money, even if we were not in tough economic times. We sometimes joke that we are the “Robin Hood” of the wireless world.
The analogy may not be perfect, but it is safe to say that we take from the relatively well-off carriers and give to the maybe not-so-poor customer. Either way, it is safe to say that the carriers are making a reasonable profit if a company’s wireless account is optimized to full efficiency. If the account is not optimized, they are making a killing. Companies that have a hybrid system of corporate liable and individual liable (expensing) devices realize the most savings with our programs. That is because, while most employees feel that they can manage their cost more efficiently – the reality is that there much more scale to a corporate program that includes large discounts on devices, usage and in most cases no termination fees.
TMCnet: Does it depend on the size of the business, or simply on the rate of wireless penetration?
EE: As in many business processes, there are economies of scale. But, in some cases, we have found that the larger the company, the higher the costs. This is because that a small or mid-sized mobility program (say 200 to 1,000 devices) can sometimes be managed to about 80 percent efficiency, without the proper systems, technology and visibility, yet a 2000-10,000 device organization may gain a few percentage points in the contract negotiation, but give up 10 to 20 percent in poorly managed wireless program.
A company with 5,000 devices can realize more savings by the very nature that its buying power is greater and its fixed costs can be spread over more users. A client with 500 devices still can realize close to the same percentage discounts (within a few percent points). WA’s services can help in the area of carrier contract negotiation. Butwhere we really shine is in squeezing the pennies out of the day-to-day management of wireless.
TMCnet: Following up on that, it seems that businesses migrating toward increasingly wireless-based communications face a complicated picture in terms of ever-shifting and ever-emerging carriers and plans. How much of a role does that complication figure in bringing enterprises and SMBs to Wireless Analytics for wireless expense management services?
EE: This is where outsourcing to a managed service firm such as WA is fundamental to a company’s overall success in their wireless program. Our proprietary applications normalize all of the various carriers’ data and deliver vast amounts of visibility such as trending reports and allocated charges; our dashboard contains many specific reports that provide our clients with a complete and comprehensive view of their wireless program.
Of course, delivering vast amounts of data does not necessarily provide savings, efficiencies and increased user productivity – that comes from our analysts who spend a tremendous amount of time culling the information from our applications and providing best practices recommendations – companies are then free to make informed decisions based on their overall strategies. Once a recommendation is deemed attractive to the company’s overall strategy the workload falls to WA’s help desk staff along with the dedicated account manager.
TMCnet: We know that you offer online reporting tools, so that companies can track their cost-savings with wireless expense management services from Wireless Analytics. Given that many analysts see wireless communications – especially with the emergence of 4G technologies such as WiMAX and LTE (News - Alert) – as the future of all IP communications – can you tell us about what you see in the future of wireless expense management in terms of wireless expense management technology itself?
EE: The emergence of WiMAX, Femocells and other IP technologies, in a strange way, may be bringing us towards what we call a Centralized Mobility Model. In the past, a traditional desk phone or PC on the desk, would be centrally managed and if one desk had dial-tone for instance, then all desks were functional. For the past decade, the mobile worker has lived and died in a distributed work model. We are now converging to a hybrid model of distributed mobile workers requiring centralized IP communications. However, devices will still need to be provisioned, managed, tracked, and so on, and more importantly, wireless expense management is not about just tracking expenses.
The improved productivity associated with a well supported mobile worker through a wireless help desk will be even more critical as technologies continue to advance and communications become more complex. While we do not have a crystal ball that clearly defines the future – we have been in the wireless space long enough (is it possible that it has only been 10 years that the transition from analog calls to digital occurred?) that it’s a given that greater speeds will provide additional functionality. Nonetheless, devices will still need to be purchased, provisioned, monitored, upgraded and ultimately recycled. So a managed services approach will still need to be implemented if for no other reason than to validate the carrier’s services and contractual obligations.Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Erin Harrison