In the pre-mobile app era at the beginning of the millennium, mobile phones had already made a marked impact on business by ensuring people could be contacted while being away from the office, were able to access email, send SMS’s and use services such as GPRS for basic data connectivity. These were ground-breaking days where mobility was giving us a small taste of its potential.
Fast forward to the present day. The smartphone era where the reliance on mobile phones and mobile connectivity has firmly entrenched itself in our lives. According to research from Rescue Time, in 2019 people spent an average of three hours and 15 minutes on their phones every day – that’s 14% of an entire day! The top 20% of smartphone users spent upwards of four and a half hours on their phones or nearly one-third of their waking day.
What are people doing on their phones? The answer is “everything”.
Mobile apps have opened new horizons that allow us to communicate, navigate, surf the web, make payments, do our banking, shop, stream music and videos, be a part of social groups, find information and, during working hours, be more productive. It turns us into superhumans by enabling us to perform tasks we couldn’t easily do before.
Data is the fuel for our productivity and entertainment.
Data-only packages and data dongles have further connected our private and business lives, allowing our laptops, tablets and IoT devices to access the ever-expanding ecosystem. According to Statista, global data consumption has experienced double-digit growth of 46% per annum compounding annually since 2017. By contrast, voice usage grew by a total of 27% between 2012 and 2019, with growth being flat since 2016. And data consumption is forecast to continue with its staggering growth.
The impact of mobility on organisations has been enormous and largely positive, allowing workforces to operate remotely, enabling business tools to be accessed in the field, improving productivity, providing a multitude of flexible communication channels, and the delivery of new products and services to customers to name a few.
While the benefits of mobility to business are significant, it brings along challenges in the form of data abuse, excessive or unauthorised phone calls, roaming costs, protection of company data and assets to name a few. These issues are the new frontier that business CIO’s, CTO’s, CDO’s and CFO’s need to navigate to drive effective business mobility. To this end, businesses make use of a variety of available technology and tools to control the cost, risk and security around mobility effectively.
On the cost management front, many organisations make use of Technology Expense Management (TEM) systems that provide insights into communications expenses that include fixed-line costs, APN’s, mobile costs, PABX and printing. Conveniently most of these systems provide information between billing periods enabling a business to view and manage expenses as they happen rather than reacting to them after the fact. Some TEM’s offer extended features that go beyond simple reporting and billings, and enable a business to intervene to manage costs through mobile network interoperability. These systems can soft-lock lines, manage SIM swaps, top-up lines and perform a variety of other administrative functions to better self-manage mobile connectivity without having to visit or engage with your service provider constantly.
As with many management systems, what you put in is what you get out, so to realise savings and enjoy the administrative benefits of a TEM, having resources dedicated to monitoring the flow of information and using the functionality to take corrective action is vital. Proper use of a TEM can reduce data and voice costs significantly simply by ensuring that users stay in the allocated bundle and that if they stray out of the bundle, then the lines are topped up cost-effectively with a suitable bundle. Conversely, knowing the actual usage of post-paid contracts helps to identify under-usage trends where data and voice minutes are left on the table at the end of each month, presenting the opportunity to downgrade contracts and streamline connectivity costs.
Mobile Device Management applications (MDM) have come to the fore as a means to manage the usage of business handsets. MDM intends to enforce and manage mobile device policy and protect the business data as devices in the field, especially in BYOD environments where segregation of business information and usage of company applications can become challenging.
MDM’s can manage which applications are permitted to be loaded and used on a device, distribute software and updates, remote wipe stolen phones, protect company data, and unlock devices where employees have been locked out or have left the employ of the business. The use of MDM applications can serve to curb certain costs related to mobility, but the real value of MDM comes in the protection and control it offers to business.
While MDM applications are useful for mobile devices, remote management of computer hardware used by mobile employees is a growing focal area for businesses wishing to track and manage computer assets. The ability to monitor device health, hardware warranties, conduct software audits, deploy patches and software updates, ensure antivirus software is installed, and monitor device resource usage (detecting torrents and so forth) provide businesses with the assurance of secure hardware that is performing optimally while enabling a field workforce to remain in the field. This ability to support the business platforms used by mobile staff without being intrusive also often results in significant savings to businesses. According to Comptia managed services have resulted in savings of between 25% and 50% in nearly half of companies using remote management services.
While the above examples of services, tools and platforms mentioned are certainly not exhaustive it does show the emphasis being placed by businesses on how to support the mobility of employees while still being in a position to properly manage and protect their assets and information and contain costs. The current global COVID-19 outbreak has forced entire workforces to operate remotely to ensure business continuity, and it will be interesting in the weeks and months ahead to gain insight into the potential differences in experiences between those businesses that use effective mobile management systems and those that do not.
Vickie Janssen is a professional that assists corporates and SME’s optimise costs through technology-based solutions. She is a Technical Solutions Engineer at Agora Tec with many years of telecommunications and entrepreneurial experience that have given her a solid understanding of business.