24/11/10

By Craig Whitney, Managing Director, Europe West, Middle East & Africa, iPass

There is a growing feeling that mobility expenses are spiraling out of control - corporate spending on enterprise mobility is grow¬ing exponentially across the board with no apparent ceiling. In a recent survey from iPass, a company that provides enterprise mobility services, 42 percent believed mobile connectivity costs would likely outpace inflation with an increase of at least five percent over the coming year — 30 percent believed costs would increase by more than 10 percent.

Most worryingly of all perhaps is the fact that most busi¬nesses can only estimate their mobile connectivity costs, because much of it is hidden in departmental budgets and expense reports. In fact, for 30 percent of enterprises, the mobility budget is departmental, but only 35 percent rarely (if ever) audited their mobile connectivity costs.

The bottom line? You can’t manage what you can’t see — so gain visibility. In order to bring mobility costs firmly under control, you must have complete awareness and centralized control over the mobile user experience.

Organizations need the ability to control and manage all mobile users, devices and wireless network services throughout their separate lifecycles − from purchase and provisioning, through configuration and testing, to deployment and service management. By obtaining end-to-end visibility and control, enterprises can then identify areas for improvement and slash the costs of mobile connectivity.

Here are six realistic, profitable and widely available cost-reduction opportunities:

Tip #1. Avoiding international roaming charges. While recent price caps imposed by the European Commission have gone some way towards reducing roaming charges, the potential for roaming costs to escalate is still at threat, particularly across multiple users within an Enterprise. Really big surprises create bad internal PR for users, management and IT, and the problem will only get worse as 3G/4G access bandwidths increase. Finance teams need insight to anticipate and manage these expenses.

Tip #2. Deal with Breakage Most organizations don’t know what their breakage is and doing a thorough inspection of which 3G cards are not being utilized may uncover some interesting discoveries. Re-allocating underutilized 3G cards and providing IT departments with the technology and tools to be able to report on how services are being used can really help businesses control their costs.

Tip #3. Offloading megabytes. The era of all-you-can-eat pric¬ing for 3G data services is coming to a close. As networks have begun to creak under the strain of soaring mobile data usage, an industry-wide shift to usage-based pricing is on the horizon. This will almost certainly raise costs dramatically for heavy users and bandwidth-hungry ap¬plications. Moving megabytes to lower-cost connections — such as free WiFi — can deliver significant expense reductions. Documenting data traffic and distribution lets companies understand their actual consumption, giving them the ability to confidently reduce contract commits and safety buffers.

Tip #4. Optimizing your connectivity plans. Usage-based pricing isn’t the only change coming in mobility costs. As growing data traffic makes bandwidth increasingly scarce and valuable, carriers are introducing tiered pricing schemes designed to boost profitability. Companies that “set and forget” their user plans will inevitably incur avoidable charges, particularly in the case of high volume, unpredictable users. Regularly optimizing plan assign¬ments requires detailed information on individual consumption patterns, but the costs and savings add up rapidly in a world where 70 percent of all employees have 3G data access.

Tip #5. Reconciling Billing. Carrier billing systems are notoriously unreliable, and many companies have lacked any automated solution for cross-checking the usage data in aggregated invoices. Companies can now use services that provide granu¬lar variance analysis and reporting that compares carrier invoice utilization data with internal records. Alerts can be automatically sent to IT and line-of-business managers when errors are detect¬ed that exceed a predetermined threshold. Control functions include the ability to conduct in-period sampling of carrier portal records for comparison against internal data, to identify errors before invoices are created. Dispute communications can be gener¬ated automatically, and resolution workflows can be effectively automated.

Tip #6. Renegotiating carrier contracts Finally, companies that possess detailed per-user data on their 3G service utilization and can aggressively manage that utilization in real time are ideally positioned to ex¬tract favorable terms from their carriers at contract time.