The government is moving rapidly into an austere financial environment, which will put enormous pressure against cost centers such as information technology and services. Perhaps as significant is the simultaneous pressure from users for more mobile devices, applications, and capabilities to work from anywhere, at anytime, which can often drive a disconnect between user expectations and service provider delivery.

Consequently, there is a pressing need for aggressive and innovative approaches to resolve this set of issues and demands. Chief information officers and chief technology officers must find empirical methods to map the right course for their agencies.

As we all know, smart devices are becoming widely accepted within the public and private sectors and mobile device management (MDM) is becoming a high priority for organizations that want to ensure the security and optimization of their networks, devices and applications.

The bring your own debate
Within this environment, the debate is often between owning all devices, servers, and other technology aspects of these services and the private sector model, where many companies simply provide a stipend or expense amount and the individual employees go out and purchase their own communications device and support plan.

As important in this debate is the trend toward more mobile applications and the security vulnerabilities posed for networks connected to mobile devices, which also must be considered.

This debate typically boils down to looking at the cost basis for the two sides of the mobile device provisioning.

In most cases, the analysis will not cost the government any money, but the resulting plan can save …often around 28% of current costs.

The first (and traditional) model says my agency provides the device, the applications, the security rules, the user policies, and all maintenance and support required. This often drives agencies to host their own mobile device servers, to purchase and image devices, to maintain devices, and to replace or repair damaged, destroyed, or inoperative equipment. This is a very high cost approach.

The alternative model is seemingly more simple, but there are other factors to consider, such as how many people have a bona fide need for mobile device capability? At what level does the agency intend to provide support? And what costs are there to the agency to provide the expense/ stipend amount to the employee? In most cases, the cost to the agency is far lower in the second model than the first.

What to assess
A good starting point in each agency is to compare these costs and see the total cost of ownership in clear terms before venturing too far into the question.

Of course, most agencies are not prepared to undertake this type of analysis and comparison. Often they will have to rely on the very contractors who provide the mobile solutions currently to prepare the analysis.

Perhaps you may not find it surprising, but in almost all such studies where the current contractor company is used for such analysis, the contractor presents the government with broad based and highly technical studies which show the government should continue to have the current contractor do the job, and in the same manner and methodology.

The alternative is to hire an outside contractor or consultant, with the right skills to review current mobile device policies, systems, plans and contracts.

Based on our experience, in most cases, the analysis will not cost the government any money, but the resulting plan can save significant amounts (often around 28% of current costs).

Regardless of which company your chose, you should expect an independent company to be able to assess:

1) whether the number of devices is optimum

2) whether there are security vulnerabilities

3) whether it would be better to protect the network with all mobile devices considered “outside the fence”

4) what mitigation could be used

5) whether the total ownership model is more efficient than an outsource or end user reimbursement methodology, and

6) which method will provide better taxpayer benefit while sustaining the ability of the agency to effectively carry out the assigned mission and functions.

Beyond the devices
Here are a few key other considerations organizations should weigh when creating an optimal MDM strategy:

  • Some enterprises lack the expertise to handle the influx of new smart devices and may choose to outsource their MDM solution
  • Review current mobile environment, identify actual security needs, then select the most effective MDM solution that will yield the best long-term benefit
  • Provide effective solutions and security for all Smart-phones as well as proactive custom notifications. MDM also includes the ability to selectively wipe applications and all company information, even if the device is employee owned.
  • Help enforce enterprise wireless policies (and rules) that help secure your corporate network, mobile devices, and applications.
  • Wireless Management can also help optimize the functionality and security of smart devices and tablets as well as reduce your mobile phone and data device expenses.

There are also other services available in the market that deserve consideration:

  • Optimization of all wireless plans, features, and data applications. This will provide ongoing cost reduction, monthly management and reporting, and full procurement and support services. Under this scenario, the vendor will handle as many of the day-to-day wireless tasks as desired, and even implement and verify all rate, feature, and data plan changes directly with your carriers.
  • Optimization services that are guaranteed to produce savings.
  • Contact (or customer care) center operations, which include tech support and procurement services, to assist end users with all wireless requests.
  • Web-based tools that offer single sign-on capability for managers to centrally view all wireless devices (all carriers, accounts and departments) in one location. These tools will provide insightful expense, usage and call detail reporting for all of your wireless services.
  • Recycling of old mobile devices to enhance green initiatives and generate additional revenue.

Of particular note, there is no substitute for experience. Make sure the provider you choose has wireless industry veterans including former carrier company leaders, customer care reps, billing analysts, and network staff.

Again, using the experience of independent private sector firms as an example, we’ve seen clients save an average of 20%-40% annually while remaining with their current carriers. These kinds of savings can be found in companies of all sizes, from those within the Fortune 500, with over 30,000 corporate liable devices, to those with only a few hundred.

As importantly, these companies identify significant savings opportunities also benefit from securing each mobile device environment.

But the first step for agencies is to gain an honest, objective assessment of the mobile device operating environment.

Richard Russell, is deputy, Senior National Intelligence Service, Army Materiel Command G-2. Rex Greer is president, OVATION Wireless Management, Inc.