Since its introduction, the use of mobile technology in the enterprise has proved its worth. From board directors to graduate trainees, people at all levels in business make use of mobile to enable more efficient working. But even as its benefits are acknowledged, many companies choose mobile services without assessing the full requirements of the business. In almost every business, travelling, working offsite or home based staff will have different needs. Add this to an increasing number of apps connecting into operational functions like sales order systems and expense processing, requiring more data and device functionality, the need to aid productivity impacts an increasing number of mobile requirements.
As is often the case, it’s the IT department that has to bear the brunt of the problems. The choice of purchasing a business mobile system can simply seem like nothing more than the CapEx outlay. But when corporate mobile is not capable of working to meet the needs of an increasingly agile employee workforce, a company can suffer commercial and potentially reputational damage through the lack of being able to respond in a timely and competitive way. The choice of mobile service, as a result, has become a more involved and considered purchase.
How do you choose, then? When looking for a new mobile provider for your business, it can often feel that there are a wealth of options. Lots of networks offering different bundled contracts; the choice can seem overwhelming. It’s one thing to regret a one-off poor technology decision, but it’s quite another to have to pay for that decision on a monthly basis over a contracted period.
There’s a wealth of information to consider, but here’s a couple of points that should be on top of the list:
Assess business needs
The most common piece of advice for telephony buyers is to assess the needs of their business and ruthlessly research their company’s calling habits. That’s certainly true, but that research involves asking a lot of questions. Many questions are linked to your business’s fixed line functionality and whether that needs to be replicated and connected across your mobile fleet, which is now possible with VoIP systems. But there are some other factors worth considering, bearing in mind the way mobile phone usage has increased with the introduction of more business applications and attitudes to usage.
For example, the way operators set contracts and pricing structures has become a lot more flexible. Turning back the clock a few years, most operators used to set a contract for 24 or 36 months with little to no flexibility with regards to the use of hardware funds and discounts to line rentals. There’s been a shift in attitude recently to reflect customer demand for more control and visibility over their telephony estate. Coterminous contracts, which let customers know exactly when all their contracts will end, are now offered more frequently. This is especially true if as a buyer you have a large number of mobile contracts within the business to manage.
Take for example, an estate of a couple of hundred mobile users which a customer wants to migrate to another provider. A percentage of those users might be in contract for an additional month or months as more mobile devices and services were needed for new employees mid contract. A coterminous contract enables IT to set one concrete contract start and end date and also add additional users without extending the original contract date. Which is much preferable to staggering the contract termination for each user across a range of dates. As well as tidying up their estate, this adds the benefit of putting customers in a good negotiation position when it comes to re-contracting.
Choose the right contract
Your choice of contract may also affect the kit funds available – i.e. the devices that are effectively leased during the contract and not owned until the period is completed.
It’s worth trying to ensure when negotiating a deal that handsets are unlocked or get written confirmation it will be unlocked for free on the last day of the contract. If you take a handset as part of the contract, then at the end of the two years you can try to reduce your payments if you do not negotiate a new contract.
Don’t overlook operators’ data coverage and allowances either, as this can have a crucial effect on productivity and operational costs further down the line. It’s fair to assume that most employees will use their data responsibly. But that is not always the case. With data usage fast increasing with the use of mobile devices supporting flexible working and productivity when out of the office, many businesses have experienced rogue use of mobile data from staff, either at home or, in the case of global businesses, when roaming overseas. While most employees use their data for emails, texts and calls – others might stream video, log onto social media, download podcasts and documents, and send large files. Mobile bills can jump tenfold as a result.
Fortunately, operators now accept that flexibility in data allowance is a key requirement for businesses. Choosing a provider with strong data coverage will ensure effective mobile working now and into the future. Check if they offer data ‘bolt-ons’ or ‘add-ons’. Most operators should work by having a data bolt-on for their business use. If a user goes over their data limit, they are automatically given more but they don’t get charged an extortionate rate for each megabyte they exceed. IT can agree to receive data bolt-on alerts from their chosen carrier so that it gives them that much needed visibility into where devices and data are being used and by whom. It also gives IT the chance to authorise extra data spend if needed, and prevent spiralling costs.
Making mobile work for your business
Buying business mobile services has changed a lot. It’s no longer good enough to just give an employee a mobile phone, have a standardised service plan, and let them get on with it. It’s also not healthy for IT to have little visibility over the estate and not understand what the real needs of the business are as there are real gains to be made from increased productivity. There’s plenty to dissect in a mobile services contract; data coverage, coterminous contracts and data bolt-ons are just a few out of many factors that can help avoid nasty surprises and make it work to your organisation’s advantage.
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