VARs can help their midmarket customers cut the costs associated with their wireless strategies, even as the number of mobile devices within enterprises continues to explode.
The number of mobile users within companies is growing, as is the number of services they're buying. At the same time, the devices themselves are becoming more complex as smartphones begin to gain a foothold in the market, said Philip Redman, research vice president at Gartner, Monday at Everything Channel's Midsize Enterprise Summit in Los Angeles, an event that brought together nearly 300 midmarket CIOs. Everything Channel is the parent company of Channelweb.com.
A primary reason for the popularity of smartphones is that users want access to wireless e-mail. "Today, greater than 50 percent of phones coming into enterprises are smartphones," Redman said. Over time, the proliferation of smartphones will enable enterprises to consider ditching desk phones altogether, he said.
"I predict by 2011 enterprises will be supporting more cellular phones than desk phones," Redman said.
While plenty of mobile device buyers are consumers, it's not a phenomenon CIOs or their VAR partners can ignore.
"Mobile wireless is a critical capability that's growing within many organizations," Redman said. "It has changed from becoming a toy that everybody has ... It has definitely moved toward being a tool."
The emergence of the 802.11n high-speed wireless standard, ratified late last week by the IEEE, creates the first opportunity for businesses to forgo wired networks altogether in favor of all-wireless offices, Redman said.
Where many companies run into trouble is in neglecting to develop a mobile strategy, Redman said.
Gartner recommends several steps enterprises can take to control costs. For one thing companies need to determine eligibility, looking at which employees should get mobile phones and which services they should have access to.
One option is to develop a tiered support offering, designating one device as company-preferred and company-paid, giving it top-level support, while designating others as "tolerated devices" that aren't subsidized by the company but are still given low-level support. Tiered support policies give IT departments a means of controlling costs and maintaining security while still providing diversity to users, Redman said.
Another area CIOs can examine for cost savings is their contracts with mobile carriers, looking at plan choices, options for overseas roaming and pooling of user minutes, which allows unused minutes from one employee to be used by others, Redman said.
Whatever policy CIOs put in place, the most important things they can do is publicize them and then enforce them, he said. He also noted that they don't have to be complex.
"Polices don't have to be long. They can be a page and still be effective," he said.