Rock icons The Who may have immortalized the mobility generation best with their song lyrics: “I can stop in any street and talk with people that we meet, goin’ mobile.”
Was song writer Pete Townsend a visionary, predicting the mobility revolution back in 1971 when he discussed the free-wheeling gypsy life so many of us enjoy today?
While that’s not likely, the onslaught of smartphone and tablet devices has become such an integral part of our everyday lives that it’s now almost an essential part of business. But do IT service providers have the skills and support capabilities to “keep them movin’?”
While several experts predict the office phone will become extinct in a matter of years, industry vendors are hedging their bets on a more connected approach. Not everyone can run their business from a smart phone; between remote signal issues and other challenges, as well as personal choice. At a recent telecom conference, unified communications, VoIP and other convergence technology vendors rolled out a number of new devices and applications to streamline and enhance business systems. After all, it would be difficult to leverage all the functionality of a call center or integrated CRM solution using an iPad (for now, at least).
Other manufacturers at the show touted their fixed mobile convergence (FMC) solutions, essentially a system that allows you to seamlessly move calls from mobile to desktop phones without interruption. This hybrid or integrated approach is a logical transition for business communications, leveraging the advantages of both systems. Faster than find-me-follow-me features, these solutions provide quality phone line or VoIP coverage inside the office that allows the users unlimited mobility, inside and outside the building. In addition to the portability benefits, FMC provides a single phone number for your clients so they save time by not having to maintain and check multiple voice mail systems. While it may seem like a minor advantage for some businesses, others who bill by the minute (lawyers, financial advisers) can truly benefit. These converged solutions are just one part of the mobility revolution for business.
Tablets and Smart Phones Take on the Business World
Unless you’ve been deep in the in Antarctic for the last two years, you are likely well aware of the prevalence of tablet PCs, such as the iPad, Xoom, and Galaxy—or have one yourself. The portability and ease-of-use of these devices provide the flexibility needed for a number of business applications, including use in solution provider’s healthcare IT and hospitality solutions.
Tablets are a logical next step in the evolution of the computer, though the support needs can be a little more complicated. In addition to their Wi-Fi capabilities (and the related network enhancement opportunities for MSPs), these devices typically offer touch and mobile/wireless communication features, not a typical core competency for solution providers.
Unless you’re willing to invest in a number of new training programs for your technical team, focusing your limited resources on key client support needs is a requirement. But that can leave serious gaps in the support of your solution portfolio, especially with the addition of devices such as tablets and FMC systems.
While You May be Willing, Are You Able?
Now that I muddied the water with the vast array of mobile business opportunities, how can an MSP support them all without hiring an extensive team of highly specialized professionals? Quite simply, it comes down to leveraging the right employees to handle certain service aspects and relying on outsource partners to handle the larger number of everyday mobility duties.
One option is to focus your team on broad support needs, such as desktop and network support, and have a third-party provider manage the complex parts of your solutions. This approach is often best for MSPs with a very disparate set of clients with a wide array of technical needs. You can’t be everything to everyone, and trying to can be extremely detrimental to profitability and customer service. With the wide-ranging support needs of mobility solutions, a qualified outsource partner can help you meet your service objectives as well attain your margin goals.
The other approach is to employ an outsourced helpdesk for first line support, while training your team to be complete solution specialists—managing the more complicated service needs of your clients. For MSPs who support a single market or have the resources to staff several technology practices, this can be a viable option. To better leverage this bench of professionals, first-level support is often managed by an around-the-clock outsourced helpdesk. With 24/7 access, you can ensure your clients have help whenever needed—especially when travelling or telecommuting from a variety of locations.
Mobile solutions are a great opportunity for MSPs to expand their portfolio and become more integral in their clients’ businesses. But first you have to have the support options in place to ensure their success and yours…by keepin’ them moving.