Magazine Article | January 28, 2013

MMS: The Antidote To Your Mobility-Induced Headache

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine

MMS (managed mobility services) emerge to help enterprises rein in the complexity of mobility deployments.

Mobility has become a complex undertaking for enterprises, with more employees (both executives and line-of-business workers) utilizing mobile devices, and applications and operating systems proliferating rapidly. While a number of tools are available to help IT departments simplify the provisioning and management of disparate mobile initiatives, many companies have turned to MMS as a way to outsource the services that support their organizations’ mobility needs.

MMS can encompass everything from device selection and delivery to deployment, device management, security, training, and support. Gartner (in its “Gartner Competitive Landscape: Managed Mobility Services, 2011” report) estimates that the MMS market will grow to $3.4 billion by 2015, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 50%.

“As complexity around mobility and everything related grows, more and more time is dedicated to [mobility] within an organization — valuable time that can and should be better spent elsewhere,” says Jim Haviland, CMO of Vox Mobile and general manager of Vox Strat. “Managed mobility services put these tasks in the hands of companies that focus on mobility — not all networking — so they can more easily provide solutions and solid support for companies, enabling IT to focus on other important tasks.”

According to the Gartner report, MMS is an important strategy for “offloading tactical management and support issues that many businesses are unable, or unwilling, to address for the rapidly expanding portfolio of smartphones, tablets, and field service devices.” Because it is challenging for enterprise customers to stay on top of technology advancements and support rapidly evolving mobility solutions, MMS allows them to leave a significant amount of the work of developing and supporting a mobility strategy to a dedicated, outside entity.

“For many customers, ‘device as a service’ is a preference,” says Jay Gordon, VP of Enterprise Mobile (a division of Intermec). “This approach enables a customer to pay a single per-device, per-month fee for these services they need to achieve their mobile goals. MMS introduce an ability for customers to purchase what they need for a predictable, consistent, monthly per-device fee. This approach offers lower capitalized costs and accommodates the pace of innovation seen in the industry.”

Vendors in the MMS space range from traditional hardware providers like Intermec, Motorola, and HP, to wireless carriers (AT&T), IT services companies (IBM), and pure-play mobility providers/integrators like Vox Mobile. Because the market is so fragmented, it’s important to develop a highly specific requirements document that outlines your expectations for the MMS provider before moving all or part of your mobility operations to a managed services model. While there are some basic functions that most providers offer, additional capabilities can vary significantly.

What MMS Brings To The Table
MMS encompasses a variety of services, from hosted mobile device management (MDM) to completely outsourced models where enterprises essentially lease their mobile equipment from the provider, and automatically receive refreshed hardware on a pre-set schedule. “Under the umbrella of managed mobility services are quite a few service categories,” Haviland says. “It doesn’t vary by market so much as by organization size, obviously with larger organizations having much more complex environments within which to manage the mobility program.”

Typical services can include planning and testing, including device selection and initial pilots, as well as wireless carrier activation, device asset management, telecom expense management, and development of mobile device management policies. Provisioning and deployment services are other typical offerings, and can include staging, kitting, and set-up of devices and peripherals, along with software installation. “This phase is where most companies fail, as they do not have the expertise or resources to deploy mobile, especially in large quantities,” says Gary Lee, CMO at Stratix. “Someone needs to track every detail of a mobile project to ensure it is delivered on time and within budget.”

Most MMS providers also offer system availability and performance monitoring. “These services can be provided in either the cloud model or a remotely-managed model (where the provider remotely accesses and manages the MDM server within the customer’s network),” says Troy Fulton, director of product marketing at Tangoe. “The provider manages the MDM server software for stability and performance, and maintains secure integration with your IT infrastructure.”

Technical support/help desk services (providing Tier 1- or Tier 2-level support) are another critical component and often include on-site engineering support. “Often enterprise customers do not have the help desk to support their mobile users and the myriad devices they may deploy across the enterprise,” Lee says. “They also do not have the resources required to support applications, including MDM, and ensure a timely response in the event a device is lost or stolen and critical data needs to be protected.”

How Easing The Burden Of Mobile Helps
Is this level of outsourcing worth it? According to the providers interviewed for this story, the primary benefit is offloading the often significant costs of supporting and maintaining the mobile devices. “The cost of the physical mobile device is decreasing, yet the processes, procedures, and complexities associated with deploying and managing that device are not,” Lee says. “Someone within the organization must be in charge of deploying and supporting mobile. It often falls onto teams who are ill-equipped to do so either because of a lack of mobile expertise or resources, or both.”

In addition to reduced support costs, companies can easily take advantage of new platforms as soon as they are released, since the complexities of upgrading devices are essentially handed off to the MMS provider. “The rate of change and pace of innovation in the mobile industry presents considerable opportunity to improve employee productivity and customer service,” Gordon says. “With this innovation comes the need to support a wide variety of mobile device types, operating systems, content, and services. The value of managed mobility services for a customer is the ability to take advantage of innovative technologies and platforms to drive down costs and maximize the end-user’s experience with the device and content.”

Should You Consider MMS?
These benefits can extend to companies of any size, although the suite of services utilized may vary. Companies that manage large fleets of devices, or that operate in highly regulated industries, are more likely to look to a managed services provider for help. The largest customers (more than 500 devices and with global requirements) can get the most out of an MMS offering, although smaller companies can certainly benefit from reduced support costs and streamlined deployments. Customers of any size are also good candidates for MDM software, although the largest companies seem best suited for telecom expense management services.

The BYOD (bring your own device) trend is pushing more companies toward MMS. “BYOD programs can be complex to manage and maintain with internal resources, making them good candidates for managed mobility services,” Haviland says. “Likewise, MMS companies can provide for better security and administrative procedures as well as portals and other tools that even the largest organizations wouldn’t invest in.”

When selecting a provider, look for companies with experience with your peers and that are able to scale with the size of your deployment. Do they provide 24/7 monitoring? How large is their call center? Also, look for providers that have partnerships with a wide variety of OEMs, carriers, MDM providers, and content companies.

Evaluate their strategy for making sure your mobility platforms remain relevant. “Make sure that the provider is committed to training and bringing to light new technologies, that it has the ability and interest and drive to continually suggest things that will further improve business processes and automation,” Haviland says. “Mobile technology is changing so quickly, you need a provider that will help you stay abreast of developments, opportunities, and threats. Simply outsourcing what you are already doing won’t be enough to show return.”

Before signing a contract, make sure you’ve scrutinized the service level agreement and understand exactly what is expected of the provider. “Demand information about data security practices,” Fulton says. “Look at their delivery, back-up systems, and practices. Which applications are native or HTML5-based? Find out about their outage/incident reporting practices, and evaluate the lifecycle management of the SaaS platform and infrastructure.”

MMS Expands its Scope
According to the recent VDC report, “Managed Services & Hosted Applications,” the MMS market will experience continued consolidation, with telcos dominating the space for the time being. However, systems integrators are expected to “wield a strong advantage over competitors,” according to VDC. “As trusted advisors to the enterprise, with extensive experience and resources to support mobility as a service, maturation of the mobile managed services market will favor the systems integrator business model and vendor community,” the report said.

More companies will continue to turn to managed services as the rate of change in the mobile space continues. With increased market consolidation, the capabilities of the newly combined providers will also continue to expand, making it easier for you to find the suite of solutions necessary to meet whatever outsourcing requirements you may have.