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Don't overprovision mobile UC licenses; most users just need the basics

When developing a mobile unified communications strategy, UC pros must not uniformly deploy the same set of mobile UC applications enterprise-wide. Instead, they should take a tiered approach -- basic features for most, advanced for some -- to avoid unnecessary licensing fees and management nightmares.

All of your users may have mobile devices, but that doesn't mean they all need mobile unified communications (UC) tools. At the very least, they don't all need the most expensive and expansive suite of mobile UC applications. When developing a mobile unified communications strategy, UC pros should not uniformly deploy the same set of applications enterprise-wide. Instead, they should take a tiered approach -- basic features for most, advanced for some -- to avoid unnecessary licensing fees and management nightmares.

Sixty-five to 70% [of users] don't need everything. They just need a bit more than they have today.

Brownlee Thomas
Principal Analyst
Forrester Research

"When you get an inventory of your phones, do your analysis of what features [users need] -- who's going to have what," said Paul Roybal, CIO for Bernalillo County, New Mexico, who is planning a mobile unified communications strategy. "A tiered approach is the direction we're going to go with our implementation."

"Sixty-five to 70% [of users] don't need everything. They just need a bit more than they have today," said Brownlee Thomas, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "All of these things have licenses that [add] cost … so if you buy the full thing for everybody, you're paying a premium for things that the person's job just doesn't need them to do."

Two-thirds of mobile users will likely require basic features and applications -- unified messaging, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), presence and instant messaging (IM) -- according to Thomas, who wrote the research note, How to Empower iWorkers with Mobile UC. The more advanced and expensive mobile UC applications -- audio, Web and video conferencing -- should be reserved for highly mobile workers who cannot do their jobs without such features, she said.

Enterprises should also organize mobile users into four to six user groups -- organized by job function, not title -- and map these groups to different tiers of mobile unified communications deployment, Thomas said. Remote contact center agents should receive the full suite of IP conferencing, whereas office workers who occasionally work from the road may only need find me/follow me services, she said.

As Roybal prepares to migrate Bernalillo County from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to Exchange 2010, he is planning to deploy gradually a mix of FMC, presence and IM to about 500 mobile devices across the county within the next year.

Roybal is building his mobile unified communications strategy around Agito Networks, which specializes in FMC but also incorporates presence and IM into its platform. Not all mobile users will be part of the deployment, he said. Users who work in or move between municipal buildings with Wi-Fi access will receive at least FMC capabilities to save on cellular voice expenses, Roybal said. Field workers without Wi-Fi access wouldn't benefit as much from mobile UC, so Roybal and his team are focusing more on developing mobile versions of business applications for them.

Watch out: Mobile UC vendors will want to sell you everything

Both large incumbent and smaller niche mobile UC vendors recognize the amount of money to be made in the market and are pushing every application they have on UC pros, Thomas said. Enterprises must not rely on their vendor's sales representative to give them the fairest needs assessment.

"They want to sell you one-size-fits-all -- the full package," she said. "They want to sell you everything, whether you're going to use it or not. That's the way they sold IP telephony."

After getting burned once by a mobile UC vendor that went AWOL, Roybal said he is much more cautious about purchasing and support agreements with startup or smaller vendors hawking new technologies.

"With these small companies, they're directing a lot of their energies toward the sale and I think you really need to make sure you have a post-sales support understanding," he said. "My experience has been … they're really moving toward making the sale, boosting their revenue and making themselves attractive [for] subsequent waves of venture capital."

Agito was bought last week by unified communications vendor ShoreTel for $11.4 million, stirring up a mostly sleepy mobile UC market that has also been prodded forward by aggressive marketing for a new onslaught of mobile UC-ready tablet devices.

ShoreTel will maintain Agito's open RoamAnywhere platform, which was designed to work with any vendor's IP PBX, and continue to enable customers to grow deployments at their own pace by gradually adding software licenses, according to Kevin Gavin, vice president of marketing at ShoreTel.

"You don't need to take all [mobile] employees and dump them all in at once," Gavin said. "You can begin with those workers for whom it makes the most sense because there's either a clear savings in international calls and roaming of [increased] productivity for sales personnel."

"As the economy recovers, we need to be thinking forward, smart and flexible," said Forrester's Thomas. "We need to be absolutely cost-aware and cost-efficient, so we're looking at applications in ways that we didn't before … [when] we had 350 applications that were purchased by somebody somewhere along the line."

Mobile UC strategy: Work with business groups, watch budgets

Too many large multinational enterprises have no visibility into their mobility spending because it often becomes diluted among different business groups and regions, Thomas said.

One sourcing and vendor management pro she interviewed reported that an external sales agent submitted a €25,000 expense reimbursement for one month's worth of roaming charges. When Thomas asked the respondent how he could let that happen, he said the agent replied, "Hey, that's the cost of doing business."

Centralized spending and greater visibility become more important for a mobile unified communications strategy; otherwise, the licensing fees can pile up and become unmanageable, she said.

While planning his mobile UC strategy for Bernalillo County, Roybal has met with the county's various department heads not only to identify which users need what mobile UC applications, but also to coordinate capital and operating expenses.

"We don't pay for all of the cell usage out of a centralized budget, so there's going to be an increase to the budget for [those] departments that don't have a data plan, have to acquire a new cell phone" or shoulder licensing fees, Roybal said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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