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Business mobile solutions: what's driving innovation?

by Andrew Stillwell , 02.04.2014

Today, mobile working is the norm. Businesses and employees demand a high level of service and ease-of-use from their mobile-working solutions, and many are looking for new ways of optimizing return on investment (ROI) from these services.

Yet despite this demand, vendors are seeing growth slowing or even declining for their core products. How can these once booming businesses maintain revenues, emphasize their value to customers and, ultimately, ensure survival?

Keeping up with soaring expectations

The 21st century employee expects to be able to work anywhere, anytime and from any device. For businesses, this too makes commercial sense; it enables greater employee productivity and flexibility, constant communication and collaboration, faster reactivity to customers, and the scope to ensure the best person is on the job regardless of location.

And whilst mobility has already significantly transformed business practices, there is scope for even greater change. Mobile working was initially about access to key work tools (such as email, calendar, and contacts) while out of the office. Most businesses quickly evolved past this point, recognizing the ability of increasingly-intelligent apps and workflow tools to allow employees to work as if in the office while mobile.

Ultimately, however, businesses are aiming to optimize their mobile working and turn it into a competitive advantage. It is now common practice that mobility is a core part of business strategy. Whether utilizing apps and productivity tools to provide customers with enhanced products and services or to enable sales teams to become more engaged with potential clients, businesses recognize the unique potential offered by innovative mobile solutions.

Implementation is no easy task

Of course, there are significant challenges in the development of business mobility.  Key elements of any mobile strategy include:

  • Provisioning employees with multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, and laptops)
  • Providing reliable connectivity (3G/4G networks, Wi-Fi)
  • Ensuring data accessibility and security via software, business applications, cloud solutions and services, Mobile Device Management/Enterprise Mobile Management and virtualization.

This requires a coherent strategy and significant cost and resource investments.

As the market matures, vendors have challenges of their own

But businesses are not alone in facing considerable pressure to make innovative mobile-working strategies a reality. Vendors of mobile solutions are finding themselves at the core of maturing markets. Growth that previously came so easily is now significantly harder to achieve.

For example, mobile network operators are seeing voice and data revenues decline as Wi-Fi becomes ubiquitous and customers move to online communication platforms (known as Voice over Internet Protocol) such as Skype and Jitsi. At the same time, providers of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software face new competition for their services as they get subsumed into a portfolio of hosted cloud services, or more traditional infrastructure providers enter their market with end-point security solutions.

So how can vendors survive in this competitive market? Many mobile service vendors are striving to become partners for businesses by offering innovative value-add services. Generally they offer one of three options:

  • Additional solutions as part of the same service
  • Enable customers to bundle multiple services with one provider
  • Offer an enhanced version of their current service

Innovating to offer unique value-added services

Mobile network operators, for example, offer a range of value-added services – cloud solutions, productivity services (e.g. Microsoft Office 365), hosted MDM, UCC collaboration software, enterprise applications stores, location-based services and conferencing services; they also offer bundles of services such as mobile, broadband, and fixed-line telephone.

Other brands (such as IBM, Symantec and McAfee) have made the most of already-existing customer loyalty and trust to innovate and diversify their services. Moving into mobile endpoint security, they have almost unnoticed gained significant share in the rapidly-growing Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) market.

These value-added services are particularly attractive to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that are less likely to have the technical expertise, resources, or capital to invest in a coherent end-to-end mobile strategy. For these companies, value-added services offer the opportunity and elasticity to compete with their larger counterparts. Indeed, many SMBs develop their mobile strategies through trialling solutions such as cloud services or device management tools via offers from existing vendors.

Increased competition and an even greater need for innovation

This trend brings heightened competition for all vendors of mobile products and services. No longer competing against like-for-like companies, vendors are also battling against those businesses that are providing their service as part of value add, possibly even as a ‘freemium’ lower-spec service. This convergence will cause cannibalization of once-profitable mobile services. To survive, vendors need to be agile and innovative. Value-added services will soon too become the norm; they must consider differentiating themselves through their account and channel management, expertise and bespoke offers, and service bundles.