Taking the complexity out of communications costs

Large enterprises are no strangers to the benefits of mobility. Deployments of Blackberry handsets, PDAs or other smartphone devices to management, sales or field staff are almost commonplace. But how do you negotiate the best telco deal? Mia Knights investigates

Large enterprises are no strangers to the benefits of mobility. Deployments of Blackberry handsets, PDAs or other smartphone devices to management, sales or field staff are almost commonplace. But how do you negotiate the best telco deal? Mia Knights investigates

There is a growing appetite for more streamlined, effective communications technologies among staff, says Gartner vice-president Steve Blood, who specialises in networking and communications services. "If your people spend a lot of time away from their desk, why are you giving them a desk phone?" he asks.

Sixty-eight per cent of staff who use a company mobile believe it makes them more efficient, according to a survey of 1,072 UK workers by Tickbox.net for Cable & Wireless. And 65% said they would rather use a mobile than a landline because it gave them the freedom to be away from their desk. Of those who would rather have a single communications device, 64% said it would be easier than managing multiple devices.

While mobiles give staff greater flexibility than desk phones, the costs can be exorbitant, Blood warns. "I know of one bank whose mobile bill was more than its global wireless local area network costs."

He says businesses are starting to look at fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) and unified communications as part of consolidating their mobile costs. Many companies have been paying for their mobile technology at divisional levels, but are now negotiating requirements for mobile data, for instance, at a central management level so they can see the full cost to the business.

Buying power

There is a broad consensus among IT providers about the benefits of centralising enterprise negotiating and buying power to get the best out of mobile expenditure. So much so that a number of outsourced or managed service mobile offerings have been launched to meet this need.

Last year, for example, the division of Vodafone that manages multinational corporate clients launched a fully hosted telecoms management service designed to remove the operational complexity of managing both fixed and mobile telecoms through global consolidation.

Nick Jeffery, chief executive at Vodafone Global Enterprise, says the provider has reorganised its business around 600 of these clients to make things "simple, consistent and transparent", with one account team and one handset, management and security portfolio in a standardised way around the world, with simple, per seat pricing.

As to technology offerings, Jeffery says, "The most forward-looking multinationals are trying to explore a completely mobile future, but there are no clear answers yet. An internet protocol-centric approach seems the most consistent, which we can bear the investment of and roll in with Microsoft's BPOS [Business Productivity Online Standard] Suite on top of desktop software, both fixed and mobile phones and fixed-cost voice and data tariffs."

Nigel Springhall, BT Global Services mobile network operations general manager, says that hard-negotiated tariff reductions are no longer as easy to find, given the increased global competition to retain both mobile and fixed customers, except perhaps around international roaming.

"Mobile has become a commodity, so enterprises are targeting reduction in the number of operators they deal with," he says, citing the provider's Managed Mobility Expenses offering and adding that it is looking at introducing voice and data bundles. "And, with BT Global Services' Onevoice Mobile Access, customers and prospects can significantly reduce the cost of calls made to international destinations from their mobile devices by installing a small app on each mobile device."

Iskra Nikolova, Cable &Wireless head of voice and convergence, says its FMC offering uses standard GSM technology alongside picocell-based private mobile branch office networks "Typically, our large customers are looking to achieve convergence across their fixed communications estate between both voice and data and fixed and mobile services because return on investment is best achieved with these."

 

Top tips for enterprises to get the best value from mobile services 

 Try before you buy, experiment with pilots.
 Use regional or global scale to negotiate.
 Factor in roaming charges.
 Evaluate the company's needs on a per user, per month basis.
 Evaluate the company's needs on the basis of future strategic IT direction, as well as current cost.
 Evaluate flexible, outsourced mobile technology and operations management services.
Try to standardise ongoing account management relationships across divisions, geographical boundaries.

 

The big picture

Rob Bamforth, principal analyst at Quocirca, specialising in communication, collaboration and convergence technologies, says the network convergence market is keen to persuade enterprises to deploy the latest mobile dongles or calling services, so it is best to take "as holistic a view of the market as possible".

"It is no longer enough to just look at using mobile technology for calling, when you have got the widespread ability to access data on mobile devices including laptops," Bamforth adds. But when it comes to FMC, he says there are many services available, but they are not yet seamless due to the switchover required between public GSM networks and the private wireless large area network (WLAN).

Indeed, the proliferation of offerings makes it difficult to find one that is right for every business. But Bamforth says enterprises are in a better position than their SME counterparts, as they are more likely to have the skills and resources inhouse to evaluate such technologies. "But they must consider that they are making an investment decision based on criteria such as need, price and availability that might change in the future," he says.

As with FMC, Bamforth says the hype around unified comms centres around communication. When considering mobile, FMC or unified communications, Bamforth urges enterprises to look beyond traditional mobile operators. "Both the fixed and mobile carriers have their own agenda, where Vodafone is investing in a fixed line business through acquisition, for example, and BT and others are investing in mobile capabilities."

Bamforth believes most operators offer good unified communication services around the desktop. "But mobile is almost treated like a connection added onto the desktop network," he said. "I like to think of a fixed-mobile unified comms offering as the next step, which looks at the whole requirement in one." So he also advised enterprises to look at the channel, especially in areas where a strong background in IPT integration skills is a differentiator.

However business users often focus purely on costs. "Enterprises often push too hard on their fiscal needs as opposed to the business and technology needs." He recommends that enterprises look for service providers with proven management experience of helping companies negotiate the best deals, potentially on a global scale, and of managing the billing and ongoing maintenance of tariffs, contracts and service levels.


Case study: Haysmacintyre

UK chartered accountancy firm Haysmacintyre has a number of years' experience in mobilising its enterprise data, communications and people to provide financial and other business support services predominantly for entrepreneurial businesses, the not-for-profit sector and high-net-worth individuals.

"We deployed Outlook on some partners' mobiles and they liked it so much they started using their mobiles at their desk, running up costs, which wasn't cost-effective," said Haysmacintyre chief information officer, Simon Bulleyment.

Having already also mobilised access to its 'eDocs' file-sharing application, the firm chose to support mobile use by replacing an existing PBX telephony system with a managed unified communications (UC) voice-over-IP solution, to increase efficiency, reduce downtime and cut system maintenance costs.

To provide the best possible service to clients, Haysmacintyre opted for a session initiation protocol-based trunk to ensure that business continuity processes could be activated quickly and effectively. Siemens' OpenScape UC also met the company's requirements by offering easy migration and integration into the existing communications infrastructure, rather than requiring a 'rip and replace' approach.

"Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) was not key, but it was an integral part of the project," Bulleyment said. "It got rid of the issue of having multiple devices. There was not a flicker in transitioning from GSM to the office wireless network when we trialled it. And the presence features mean clients don't have to make a decision between a mobile or fixed-line phone number to reach our people."

In terms of negotiating the best deal, he said, "Anything to do with wireless and mobility has to involve security in the conversation. If the network and access is designed and deployed securely, where the devices are encrypted and can be remotely wiped, the next consideration is cost. We found FMC a cheap route into UC. We negotiated a good deal with our network operator. And we are working with a good FMC technology partner that supports our UC strategy.

"Mobile is really just another endpoint for our common communications services, and technology infrastructure has to support that."

Guide: Find the best Business Telephone System >>

This was last published in December 2009

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