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Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Workshop Everyone knows that mobility is pretty important to most businesses today, with needs having moved way beyond simple phone voice connectivity. We have seen a dramatic shift in requirements as the IT and business aspects of mobility have become much more closely intertwined.

The challenges faced by the business have multiplied, both internally – getting stuff to work together, dealing with issues like device management, security and privacy etc – and externally – identifying and negotiating the right deal with the right supplier.

But only when you start to think about the different aspects of mobility, and just how they impact the business, do you get a real appreciation of just what ‘going mobile’ entails.

Mobility is something that touches people across the spectrum of the organisation, with an increasing number of business processes comfortably slotting into the mobile world. The need for access to corporate email servers - essential for a growing number of employees and potentially even contractors that need to interface regularly with the company - is an obvious start point, but is unlikely to end there for many.

Some organisations will have sales teams that are regularly on the road, and require remote access to customer information held within the company CRM systems. Others will run field service operations which, by their very nature, are inherently mobile, and which rely on interaction with a wide variety of data from disparate sources.

On top of this, businesses may increasingly find themselves faced with the need to exploit areas such as the opportunities around unified communications in the mobile domain and the benefits that brings to collaboration – indeed some would argue that unified communications doesn’t make sense unless it sits within a mobile world .

This mobile diversity suggests an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, mobility is common across pretty much all companies. On the other hand, every business will have very specific needs in terms of the mobile applications they run within their business, the reach of those applications and the devices needed to support this, making overall mobility requirements highly customised. An added dimension to this already complex environment is the blurring of the boundaries between personal and business usage.

If you start to list all the things that you are faced with when dealing with mobility, you very quickly end up with a whole raft of ‘not particularly easy’ issues that need to be taken into account.

Take mobility cost management. This in itself is a minefield, and one where many will struggle to get it right – either knowingly or otherwise. Businesses have to select from a myriad of constantly changing packages from various operators and match these to their specific requirements, taking into account their usage, as well as their desire for things such as contract flexibility, price competitiveness, overall cost predictability, billing flexibility and manageability of roaming charges, to name but a few. The likelihood is that each package will bring with it slightly different features and slightly different terms and conditions which makes comparison across the spectrum an art in itself.

Even if a company is reasonably confident it has secured the best deal today, the likelihood that it will remain the best deal a few months down the line is pretty slim. But testing whether this is the case at a given point in time is no easy task.

Of course, operator selection and subsequent operator management aren’t just about keeping the costs down. Issues such as network availability and reliability, the ability of the operator to deal with coverage issues (for example with picocells), and its capability around mobile data performance, will all figure in the equation, as will the quality of the support it is able to provide.

Another consideration for businesses is just how big a role should the mobile operator have in the overall communications play? Will they always be seen as a separate service provider, tasked solely with delivering mobile voice and data connectivity? Or, in an increasingly convergent voice/data/fixed/mobile business world, can they be trusted to take on a bigger share of the overall communications services burden? And if so, how big a share?

The story doesn’t end with external challenges. Companies may well strive for a seamless working environment, but to achieve this raises a number of particularly pertinent internal issues for the business, from things such as security and privacy, to application integration and compliance – all major issues in their own right. Mobile device selection – smartphones, laptops, PDAs etc – also figures in this mix, with a major concern for businesses being the issue of mobile device management, as few have the in-house expertise to deal with the problems this brings. Moreover, all of these internal challenges need to be handled in the context of continually changing business needs.

The mobility picture is unlikely to get easier for businesses, raising the issue of management to a whole new level. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring just how much of a challenge mobility presents to businesses, and how you are dealing with it. If the issues above resonate with what you are experiencing in your organisation, do share. Conversely, if there is something we have missed, let us know just where your mobility headaches lie. ®

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