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Maximizing Smartphone Value: A Guide for IT Administrators

Why it pays to standardize and simplify

As an IT administrator what should you do to help your organization benefit the most from the mobile revolution? This guide offers ideas in three areas: lowering costs, maximizing benefits, and mapping a strategy.


Lowering costs

The most important element in maximizing a smartphone value—lowering costs—occurs on the front end. According to research firm Forrester, 59 percent to 75 percent of the cost of a smartphone deployment is represented in your voice and data expenses.

Standardize and simplify

To lower costs from voice and data plans, consider an important lesson learned in the PC era: standardize and simplify. Standard deployments decrease costs through economies of scale. They also create better environments for negotiating contracts.

In fact there's a price war going on among telecom service providers. "They're all hungry for your business," says Carrie MacGillivray, program manager in mobility services at research firm IDC. That puts customers in the driver's seat when it comes to negotiating voice and data plans.

By dealing with a single vendor, your organization may be in a position to negotiate benefits, including lower rates and better service. Smartphone plan-related benefits include pooled minutes (sharing wireless minutes across employees) and the "right data plan attached to the right device based on usage," MacGillivray says.

Standardizing on a single vendor can also help save on the corporate administrative costs associated with dealing with multiple vendors, points out Greg Liberman, mobility specialist at Research In Motion® (RIM). "If you have to deal with multiple contracts that overlap, it's a headache," he says.

Standardize to manage the flood from employee-liable smartphones

The manner in which smartphones are working their way into the corporate environment is reminiscent of the ad hoc, bottom-up way PCs infiltrated businesses back in the 1980s. That is, many employees are now asking IT departments to connect their personal smartphones (from a variety of smartphone platforms) to the corporate infrastructure.

In this situation many organizations are standardizing on the BlackBerry® platform for employee-liable smartphones too. How? By bringing employee-liable BlackBerry smartphones into the corporate fold by setting up a dual BlackBerry environment.

For example, you can now put corporate-liable BlackBerry users on the BlackBerry® Enterprise Server, and then put employee-liable BlackBerry users onto the free BlackBerry® Enterprise Server Express. (For more the benefits of a dual BlackBerry environment see, "How You Should Set Up Your BlackBerry Environment Now.") The benefits include lowered costs, better management, and the peace of mind from increased security.

What you can expect: An example

Last year market research firm Yankee Group standardized its cellular service around one telecom provider (T-Mobile) and BlackBerry smartphones. Gene Signorini, VP of enterprise research at Yankee Group, confirms that a big part of that savings was the result of "bulk purchasing with the carrier for service." Supporting a single rationalized device platform was another significant source of savings as it cut down on the time and effort required of IT to service the devices.

Look to eliminate redundant costs

You should also explore ways to integrate wireless and the corporate WAN to eliminate redundant costs. To that end, major telecom providers such as AT&T and Verizon offer telecom account management that provides expense management services as well as some IT support, according to IDC's MacGillivray.

Also, there are third-party firms that help optimize mobile and network plans in the same way, MacGillivray says—and depending on the number of devices deployed, these third-party services may make cost-benefit sense for midsize organizations.


Maximizing benefits for business advantage

The second element to maximize your organization's smartphone investment is to maximize the benefits. That means exploiting a mobile strategy for its potential business advantages.

When you roll out smartphones to more than just the C-suite, productivity gains abound. There are mobile applications that address specific business needs—such as sales force automation, logistics, and customer service—that offer considerable ROI for making mobile devices available to a wide range of employees, including salespeople, customer support personnel, and field service employees. Additionally, inventory and supply chain employees can access back-end data sources through smartphones, making them more efficient and effective at their jobs.

For example, a salesperson entering data into a mobile platform instead of traveling back to the office to do so saves time and gas. Same for the field service technician who uses a smartphone GPS application to find the best repair route on the fly. IDC's MacGillivray points out that organizations can (and should) track and quantify those productivity gains relatively easily.

Remember business opportunities

The other mobility gain revolves around business opportunities, such as shortened sales cycles or better customer service. For example, if a service representative can answer a customer's question about inventory while in that customer's office, it may mean the difference between keeping the customer and losing him. The same goes for increased sales opportunities enabled by immediate access to data.


Mapping out your strategy

Sophisticated applications require smartphones powerful enough to support them, and back-end data access demands strict security controls. That's why it's important that you carefully weigh the pros and cons of any smartphone platform when embarking on a consolidated, rationalized mobile strategy.

First, you should map out what applications you may want to implement as part of your mobile strategy, both now and in the future. Depending on what those applications are, important questions may need to be addressed about technical requirements, says RIM's Liberman.

Similarly, technical requirements need to be resolved in terms of the mobile device platform: Can the platform handle multitasking? Is it scalable? Is it secure enough?

Security matters for your data and your customers'

Increasingly, security is an essential aspect of any mobile strategy. That's because the potential security risk represented by mobile devices isn't just to your organization's data but to your customers' data as well. The negative consequences of a security breach in that circumstance could be significant. Security must be integral to the functioning of any mobile device being considered for enterprise standardization.


The time to act is now

The best way to leverage the use of mobile applications is to standardize and simplify the technology. It's important to note that that standardization applies equally to a single telecom services provider that can help simplify and rationalize services and costs, and to a single mobile device platform that offers support for the mobile applications a company may want to use, now and going forward.

But you need to embrace that standardize-and-simplify mobile strategy sooner rather than later, to capitalize on employee interest in the technology and before a jumble of mobile devices worms its way into the corporate environment. Now is the time to act, before the exploding use of smartphone technology increases the difficulties of implementing such a comprehensive strategy in the future.

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