Managed Mobility Services: The Next Frontier
Mobility is essential to the modern enterprise, as the urgency of digital transformation drives demand for always-on, always-available connectivity. Unfortunately, many enterprises still struggle with implementing a cohesive mobile strategy. Their early IT transformation efforts were chiefly focused on a shift away from “big iron” and infrastructure, leaving mobility as an afterthought. The result is that in many respects, despite everything you may think based on reading trade magazines and blogs, and attending your favorite IT tradeshow, mobility in the enterprise remains nowhere near the panacea that has been promised.
The good news is this gap creates a tremendous opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs). A recent IDG study found that 68 percent of MSPs are planning to grow their mobility managed services portfolios, and with good reason. Enterprises are looking to cut costs, yet they often lack mobility expertise within their own IT organizations to move forward with a comprehensive and effective mobility effort. Moving to a managed service platform in the cloud is an excellent first step in overcoming these challenges and offering these types of services is well within the wheelhouse of today’s MSPs.
Unlocking the mobility market
The first step to unlocking this opportunity is for MSPs to understand the position in which many enterprises find themselves today. Often, their initial mobility implementations were simplistic. They probably started by enabling basic functions like Wi-Fi access, VPNs, and corporate email. Later, they began enforcing device PINs, enabling encryption, and wiping devices remotely when they were lost or stolen. The problem is that this device-centric approach – rather than an application-centric or user-centric one – left them ill equipped to tackle their broader business challenges.
Consider that today’s enterprise IT organizations must deal with every kind of device, operating system, mobile worker, application, and process imaginable. Merely making sense of the different billing issues involved with each of these aspects can be a difficult task, let alone enforcing policies to govern each. A well-integrated, managed mobility platform can alleviate many of these challenges.
For example, ensuring regulatory compliance in such heterogeneous environments can be extremely burdensome. The temptation to lock down every type of system is great, yet balancing security with usability is critical to the unique needs of a mobile workforce. MSPs that can offer not only technology solutions but also strategic guidance in this and similar areas will be very welcome.
The desire to drive down costs will always be another top motivator behind any IT effort, including mobility. MSPs have a clear opportunity to help here by creating efficiencies providing a great deal of value add to enterprise IT organizations. For example, simply staffing a front-line support desk with basic mobility expertise can reduce costly escalations. Flexibility is essential here as well. MSPs that can customize their capabilities to meet the needs of individual customers, such as managing enterprise chargeback processes, will achieve more success.
What to watch out for
While the demand for managed mobility services is clear, MSPs that want to successfully capitalize on this opportunity should also be mindful of certain challenges. Their goals should be twofold. The first should be increasing top-line revenue by expanding their customer base. Yet equally important is improving bottom-line efficiency by reducing operational costs and increasing margins. Fortunately, there is a highly effective way to address both challenges, in the form of increased automation.
Even as enterprises struggle to find qualified staff for their mobility initiatives, MSPs confront the same problem, only to a greater degree. Administrative processes that require manual intervention – such as assigning roles to individual users or groups, monitoring, and pushing out policy updates – impact their bottom lines. At the same time, the need to take on new staff as the customer base grows can reduce the scalability of managed services. At a certain scale, automation ceases to be an advantage and becomes a necessity.
This absolute requirement for automation raises another important point, which is that MSPs seeking to grow their managed mobility services portfolios must carefully consider the platform upon which they base those services. Enterprises today are evolving from managing relatively small numbers of mobile devices for key employees, to mass deployments for a wide range of use cases.
MSPs that hope to meet their needs must be prepared to easily support any mobile scenario or deployment, scaling from tens to tens of thousands of devices, without sacrificing management capabilities. VMware Airwatch, for example, offers the MSP a “single pane of glass” view into what each customer has on its network, combined with the ability to push out management and policy updates to multitudes of devices and operating systems.
By selecting a platform that meets these and similar needs, MSPs give themselves the freedom to concentrate on their best differentiator: providing not just hosted technology, but truly managed, value-added services. Those MSPs who are first into this rapidly growing market will be those that are best positioned to succeed.