March 23, 2006
 

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November 2003

What Are They Thinking?

Data Monitor argues that mobile hardware vendors still canít figure how to make the enterprise pitch.
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By Teresa von Fuchs




Mobile hardware manufacturers still do not understand the enterprise sell, according to a recent study by Data Monitor, a U.K.-based business information company specializing in industry analysis. The report “Enterprise Mobile Devices: Strategies to enable the shift from devices to solutions” calls for vendors to stop leaning on individual users, or prosumers, who purchase devices and then bring them into the enterprise. Instead, vendors should begin to look at devices as part of holistic solutions.

“At the moment manufacturers really need to look at their channel strategies,” says Richard Clifford, mobile analyst with Data Monitor and author of the report. While Clifford says counting on the prosumer is slowly successful, “that’s really not the way manufacturers need to grow these markets. To get these devices into the enterprise, vendors need to explore three or four areas in terms of channel partners: solution providers, application developers, ISVs and systems integrators.”

Citing slow economic growth, the report points out that only large enterprises currently have the buying power to invest in these solutions. And the best channel to reach the large enterprise market is through systems integrators. “Because it’s a nascent market, uptake is going to be among larger enterprises,” Clifford asserts, “integrators will be the main channel to market. Large enterprises typically have ongoing relationships with large integrators, so they will always go to them first.” And for vendors to get the attention of systems integrators, they must be more specific about device functionality. “In terms of looking at and addressing the enterprise market, device manufacturers need to bear in mind company size, vertical industry, solution type and device type,” Clifford adds.“Because they are not, for example, going to sell a mobile field service solution with a smartphone.”

The potential increases in productivity provided by basic mobile tools, such as wireless e-mail, is not enough to sell enterprises in this economic climate because it is difficult to prove hard ROI, Clifford contends. Device manufacturers need instead to provide hardware for fundamentally improving business processes. “Take a field service solution where you can tangibly improve and effect business processes, and thereby attach an ROI to that. That’s easier to sell. We’ve actually seen the mobile solution market stall, because the first step—the easy-to-understand, relatively cheap solution: mobile e-mail—people haven’t been able to prove an ROI on it,” Clifford notes. “What we have seen is people skipping the first phase and going right to something a little more complex, like a mobile field service solution.” With a field service solution the business process is altered, and gains in efficiency and productivity are easier to demonstrate.

If IT spending eventually increases, Clifford says, the market can count on a proliferation of simple, mobile e-mail deployments. For now, however, vendors need to be specific about who they are targeting and how—and be flexible, “Integrators are the right channel to market now. But in a year’s time, as these solutions commodify and become more attractive to the midmarket, it will be the ISVs who will be selling these solutions—so they should be the main channel to market.” Though wireless carriers have not been successful pitching mobile enterprise solutions so far, Clifford says it’s still possible. “The solutions will change according to vertical market, and in two or three years it could be the operators who are selling solutions.”
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