In the first post in this series, I talked about looking at Platforms as the first “P” in a mobile technology strategy. The next important “P” is Procurement. In some ways, this is a simple topic, but it is worthy of thoughtful consideration because it can be puzzling at times as well. Each of these steps is an interlocking part of the mobile strategy and influence the choices you have to make in the other areas.
When you hear Procurement, you probably are thinking that it just means an enduser makes choices and then goes out and acts on those choices, right? Sure, those are the basics, but there is always different factors that can affect those choices. If, back in the Platform stage, your organization decided to adopt a single, standard mobile platform, this can be an easy step. This follows the traditional, familiar model of standardizing on a single software package or hardware vendor, which is why it is often recommended in mobile strategy plans. There are several variables that are similar in purchasing mobile devices. For instance, what type of organization are you buying for? Most educational institutions have separate channels to go through. Apple has many schools and colleges listed in their online store. Many large vendors have a GSA-approved channel for government organizations, too. Keep in mind that there are also volume enterprise programs to consider, if you are making a substantial purchase. There may be a process to request a quote and a possibility to negotiate on the price. It could be time-consuming, but it really is no different than the process of purchasing any other technology hardware for the organization.
Another factor to consider is if you need smartphones and service. If so, you will need to work with one of the wireless carriers. This adds the issue of negotiating for the service rates, and possibly a Service Level Agreement (SLA) or guarantee policy. If the device or platform selected for your organization is exclusive to one carrier, you may have less negotiating power. Until February, if you wanted iOS, AT&T was the only carrier in the US with the iPhone. There was no leverage for the consumer in shopping multiple vendors (and when it comes to Apple devices, there still isn’t: one manufacturer, one price.) The other side of that decision is that maybe your organization is locked into a contract with a carrier already. In that case, you may be limited to the smartphones available on that provider’s network. If your organization has chosen a platform that is not available with that carrier, it would be necessary to negotiate an Early Termination Fee (ETF) to break that contract. Depending on how many devices are under the contract, it could add a large expense for your organization to change carriers.
If your organization has chosen to support multiple mobile platforms, the questions of vendors and carriers are multiplied. Also, with exclusive devices being tied to specific carriers due to hardware, international trade laws, or contractual restrictions, the actual devices to choose from may be restricted. For example, the Motorola Droid X, in it’s current incarnation, will never be available on AT&T since it is a CDMA-only device.
There is another option that is becoming more common, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. Rather than the company supplying a smartphone or tablet for people in the organization, employees have the choice to use their personal device in the organization. More companies are choosing to support multiple platforms and the BYOD policy allows an organization to implement this at a lower cost. There are some policy issues, such as creating a list of supported devices that will be allowed on the network and determining who is responsible for the cost of data plans and applications that must be determined before implementing a BYOD policy. With more Mobile Device Management (MDM) products that support multiple platforms, this can be a good way to handle your mobile strategy.
Once you have chosen your platform and devices, you will have to consider the management policies for your mobile devices. Once again, this shows how these are all pieces of the same puzzle. Your policies will determine what you want to use for device management, based on what features are offered in the MDM products on the market. Good Technology is a well-known and frequently used MDM platform that supports a number of devices on the various mobile platforms and carriers. AirWatch is another MDM product that does a good job of supporting many mobile platforms. Your organization will have to determine what works best for you and choose the delivery method that works best: SaaS, locally installed, or appliance installations. The MDM platform is one more thing to consider in your Procurement planning. Depending on who owns the devices, and how they were purchased, the considerations in how to deploy your software and configuration profiles may vary. Next time, I will talk about some of the Policies that you may need to put into place as you create your mobile strategy.
In conclusion, while Procurement can seemingly be a simple part of the plan, it illustrates how each part is woven into the others. Each subsequent decision in the development of a mobile technology strategy builds on the last. Without vision, perseverance and documentation it will be difficult to achieve success no matter how simple the step seems.