Cross-Carrier, Cross-OS Mobile Solutions (Part 2)

I just had the opportunity to speak with a respected industry analyst, Nicholas McQuire from IDC, at BlackBerry World 2012 in Orlando. We got to talking about cross-carrier, cross-OS mobile solutions – the topic I covered in my last blog post. Nick has been following this space for a long time, and I always enjoy brainstorming with people who have a point of view on enterprise mobility.

So I figured, why not invite him to share some of his insights with you? I asked him a number of questions on the topic of interoperability, and here’s how he responded:

Me: Nick, do you think we’ve lost our mind in going cross-carrier?

Nick: To answer your question bluntly, absolutely not! We certainly feel that, from a customer perspective, multinational corporations (MNCs) are increasingly looking at mobility solutions separately from the underlying network technology and connectivity service they deploy.

Don’t get me wrong, connectivity is still critical. But you hit the nail on the head in your previous post when you suggested that trends such as globalization, an increasingly volatile global economic climate and consumerization of IT make standardizing on a single carrier network for all mobility needs impractical. I would argue that for many global firms, it’s virtually impossible.

Also, most organizations today are at a critical stage in forming their enterprise mobility strategies and require a trusted advisor that can help them architect mobile solutions that drive innovation, growth and business transformation. This requires solution know-how that should not be tied to, nor driven by, a specific connectivity service in my opinion.

Me: It’s good to know you don’t think we are crazy, but are customers open to the idea of letting a carrier manage their cross-carrier enterprise mobility solutions?

Nick: I am sure there will be some skeptics, at least initially. But the reality is that most firms are not prejudiced by the type of service provider they choose when it comes to sourcing mobility solutions. I have a wealth of empirical evidence from surveys and several very recent anecdotal conversations with MNC clients that back this up.

That said, what firms DO require is specialist knowledge and trust in that knowledge. The pace of this market and the dynamic nature of the ecosystem make it difficult for firms to keep up. Naturally, CIOs want to quickly implement secure, modern mobile IT strategies that meet the needs of the business and its users, but they’re stuck in “fire fighting mode” as support requests for mobile devices roll in. Many still struggle in terms of where to start so they are turning to service providers for help.

If a carrier has this knowledge and is going to market in the right way, they will often be considered. But it’s important to note that many carriers haven’t got out of their legacy, Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)-obsessed mindset and don’t know how to win over IT managers. This is why some skepticism around the operators remains.

Me: What drives customers to look for mobility services in general? I listed a few points in my previous post. Are we directionally correct? Anything you would add or edit?

Nick: What’s fascinating is how quickly needs change in this space.  Our Bi-Annual EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Enterprise Mobility Survey, which questioned over 750 firms across EMEA, showed that interest in outsourcing mobility solutions  amongst international firms doubled in 2011.

Key solution areas such as mobile strategy and policy management, mobile device management, mobile security and mobile application management are now top areas. This is in contrast to 2010, when sourcing and logistics, contract novation and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) were dominant. This is the consumerization of IT impact in action. The speed at which mobility is taking hold, often through the back door of enterprises, is causing many to look at managed services.

One global CIO recently asked me two things that illustrate this: 1. “Where is Windows 8 taking me so I can align my IT resource to that upgrade path?” And 2. “In the meantime, should I just outsource mobility management so I don’t have to worry about consumerization of IT and its impact on my support model?” Two great questions, which I think are indicative of where many firms currently stand.

Me: What kind of customer reservations or barriers to managed enterprise mobility solutions do you see? 

Nick: I think firms fear security issues, cost increases and loss of control. But we have to bear in mind that IT managers have to deal with more than the traditional connectivity and lifecycle management needs of its employees today. Firms have to manage a wide range of constantly changing mobile endpoints and ecosystems, a growing set of mobile applications, and multiple integration points with backend data systems, as well as govern multiple liability and policy programs!

This world is far more diverse and nuanced than ever before, and CIOs have to handle it within a declining budget. I always say, “the more you try to control it, the more it will consume you,” so out-tasking is bound to become more natural in time.

Me: In closing, is there anything else you would like to add or counsel us or our customers on?

Nick: Keeping up with the pace of innovation and fickle user preferences around mobile is not the core business of many IT departments, so I would say to firms to seriously consider a managed service approach  – but only in specific mobility areas with which you need help.

If you go the managed route, make sure you find a trusted advisor that understands mobility, can architect a solution that aligns to your business plan and mobile strategy, has specialist implementation capabilities across the diverse vendor ecosystem and can provide you with the appropriate support guarantees you require. There are options out there but choose wisely!

So what do you think? How do you see organizations and their IT departments adapting to the rapid pace of mobile evolution? How are you addressing the issues of Mobile Management and Mobile Security? Join Nick and my conversation!

Abhi Ingle Big Data and Advanced Solutions Senior Vice President AT&T About Abhi