With IT resources increasingly stretched thin, enterprises find that outsourcing various aspects of mobile device deployments can be an optimal strategy for addressing the needs of mobile employees. Depending on their mobility requirements, companies can choose to outsource initial device deployment, replacement and repair, and/or ongoing management and support.
By following the steps I’m about to outline, companies can make the most of their outsourcing efforts, streamlining and speeding their mobility deployments, and finding ways to control mobility costs. With careful planning and execution, outsourcing can reduce the costs of providing the mobile work force with the tools they need to work effectively on the road, without requiring additional staff.
Step No. 1: Recognize the inherent challenges mobile devices pose before the deployment
Enterprises struggle with the specific challenges mobile devices present. One of the biggest challenges results from the many tasks a successful deployment requires, and the need to map resources and costs to each task.
For example, say you have decided that you want to provide your field service or sales organization with smart phones. You will need to ask yourself a series of questions to help determine which types of resources will be required to get those devices into the right hands and how you will ensure that they operate properly.
Start with these four questions: Which devices do I want to deploy? How am I going to procure them? How will I load the application(s) required for each of the user groups on the devices? How am I going to make sure that they work after they are shipped out?
The difficulty of dealing with initial deployment, packaging and configuration pales in comparison with the challenges of creating a positive user experience. Shipping a device is just the first step. You also need to create value for the user right out of the box, so that their downtime is minimized and their productivity is almost immediate. Individually, none of the activities needed to support a successful deployment for a few devices is especially difficult. But for large deployments (of more than, say, 3,000 devices), you will need dedicated, capable resources.
Assess Your Ability to Address Mobility Challenges
Step No. 2: Assess your ability to address mobility challenges
Organizations encounter two problems when they try to map their mobility needs to their internal resources. Ask yourself whether your company has the resources to deal with them.
Problem: A dearth of mobility experience
Very few companies have rolled out and supported large-scale mobility deployments. As a result, most do not have talented personnel who understand what such a deployment entails. They also lack proven processes for deploying devices to remote employees. Even those companies that have successfully equipped their employees with mobile devices can suffer from a lack of knowledge about current devices, device management solutions and mobility best practices.
As you consider how you would outsource your mobility deployment, determine whether you have resources you can dedicate to keeping up with the latest changes in the market, as well as to the evolving requirements of your users.
Problem: A highly-complex, mobility ecosystem
Typically, enterprises get their mobile devices from the mobile operators, who basically provide a telecommunications network and a consumer experience. The devices themselves are manufactured by multiple OEMs, and the enterprise software comes from Microsoft and others. With all those providers, it’s not always clear where to turn to for help. Many companies want to start with the carrier, but the carrier will not necessarily be able to answer the more sophisticated questions that come from an enterprise.
The most effective way to support the mobile work force is to provide support services tailored to your particular users. By doing so, you can save users time and help them avoid the frustration of bouncing from one support desk to another, looking for someone who can field their questions about specific devices, usage policies or mobile applications.
Find Outsourcing Partners Who Meet Your Particular Requirements
Step No. 3: Find outsourcing partners who provide the right combination of mobility knowledge, experience and scalability to meet your particular requirements
Look for an outsourcing partner with proven experience managing mobile strategy and/or devices. As you compare service providers, collect information on the best practices they use and their willingness to agree to knowledge transfer from their experts to your IT staff.
Make sure the provider offers the types of services your organization requires. Those may include deployment, device configuration, asset management, replacement and repair, help desk support (for your help desk personnel or your users), as well as training and recycling of obsolete devices. Your organization’s experience and resources will dictate which tasks you can handle internally and which ones you should outsource to mobility service providers. In other words, find a partner that can fill in the gaps in your resources.
Also, ask outsourcing providers how they would go about cutting your deployment costs or making some of your variable costs more predictable. For example, can your organization eliminate the costs associated with building your own mobile help desk, and investing in new mobility infrastructure and tools to configure, deploy and deliver ongoing devices across your user base?
The costs of architecting an overall strategy-coupled with managing thousands of devices throughout their lifecycle-can increase rapidly as the number of users and mobile applications grows. The outsourcing model is right for your organization only if the result is a smoother, guaranteed lower expense than you could realize without outside help-and a better overall service level.
Inquire about device management capability and experience deploying applications over the air. Many mobile device users seldom-or never-come into a central office, so the best way to keep their applications up-to-date is to deploy them remotely. Device management is an area where an outsourcer can provide significant efficiencies, providing ways to increase security and decrease user downtime.
Press outsourcers for details on the type of user experience you can expect their services to provide. Will they deliver the service level that you and your users expect? If your deployment is not smooth, and any of your mobile workers lose significant productivity getting up and running, you can end up causing more problems than you solve. This is especially true for revenue-producing employees in sales or field service, whose productivity depends on their ability to react quickly to customer needs.
If mobility is not an area where you have a lot of experience or expertise, and it is not core to your business, outsourcing may be the right course for you. By taking the steps outlined here, you can better evaluate your organization’s capabilities and resources, and carefully assess the services an outsourcer offers. In doing so, you will gain greater control over costs and, ultimately, the success of your mobility deployment.
In 1982, Mort founded Corporate Software Inc., which served as a new distribution channel that resold software to large organizations and offered a high level of technical service and support. By 1995, the company was merged with a division of R.R. Donnelly, the leading physical manufacturer of software, with Mort assuming the role of Chairman and CEO of the newly merged company, Stream International.
In 2001, Mort was inducted into the Computer Industry Hall of Fame for his time spent at Corporate Software inventing the new channel of software distribution that continues to dominate the industry today. He can be reached at email@example.com.