To Outsource or Not?

Recently I've written a few stories about the growing market for "managed mobility services." In a nutshell, these services, provided by carriers, systems integrators, and specialized startups, give enterprises the choice of outsourcing the management and provisioning of mobile devices and applications to a third party. (See Going Mobile? Get Help .)

This nascent market is set to boom over the next few years, as enterprises large and small recognize the costs – some obvious, some hidden – of managing the mobile devices and applications that are increasingly critical to companies' core business. Figures on how much this market will be worth are, predictably for such a young sector, all over the place: Research firm IDC says that $52 billion will be spent on all mobile services by enterprises in 2010, including $1.5 billion, or almost 3 percent, that will go to mobile device management and security.

Bruce Friedman, CEO of mobile-services startup Movero Technology Inc. , claims the market will reach $2.4 billion in 2008 and $6.4 billion by 2011.

That raises a question that most if not all IT managers will face over the next couple of years: Should I outsource the management of my mobile deployments?

The answer, of course, will vary for each individual company. And the variety of mobile outsourcing options available, from expense management for mobile phones (from companies like mindWireless) to mobile email services (from MailStreet, 4SmartPhone, and others) to full management of all mobile devices and applications, means that the answer for each company will lie on a continuum.

A few markers, though, are becoming clear:

  • Is your corporation liable for the mobile phones that employees use? If your company has no policy toward employees' mobiles, or if the company simply reimburses a portion of the employees' cellphone bill, you probably don't need an expense-management service like mindWireless. (It should be noted, however, that the days of blissful ignorance about employees' mobiles are waning quickly.) If the company purchases and distributes mobile phones, has some say in which mobiles employees can purchase, or uses a corporate rate plan, you can almost certainly save with some form of rate-plan management from a third party.

  • How many smartphone users are there in your company? If the use of BlackBerries, Treos, or other mobile messaging devices extends beyond a few top executives, it's time to consider outsourcing the management thereof, or to go to a managed mobile email solution.

  • How much time do I, or my staff spend per week on dealing with mobile technology issues? If it's more than a few hours, aren't there better things you could do with your time?

  • What's happening with my company's bills for mobile phones and other mobile devices? If it's going up rapidly – or if you don't know – you should be talking to a rate-plan manager. Many of these service providers offer percentage-of-savings plans that involve no upfront expense to the customer. (See Mind the (Expense) Gap.)

  • What's our roadmap going forward for mobile technologies? If you don't have one, you'd better start devising it. According to a Forrester Research Inc. survey of enterprises with more than 1,000 employees, 57 percent of American companies believe that setting a mobile and wireless strategy and policy is "critical or very important" for 2006 and beyond.

These are just a few suggestions to get IT pros thinking about the value and availability of managed mobile services. We'll be covering this emerging market intensively in the coming months – and we'd love to hear front-line stories about how these services are helping enterprises deal with burgeoning mobility challenges... or not. Send your war stories to [email protected].

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

rogeryang 12/5/2012 | 3:48:13 AM
re: To Outsource or Not? I have written a series of short articles on the pros and cons of centralizing and de-centralizing mobile device management, as well as outsourcing.

Each company needs to look at their specific situation and decide if it makes sense to keep the function in-house or outsource it. This depends on their available resources and expertise, and company culture.

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