Mats Victorin, is Ericsson Enterprise AB’s director for the Asia-Pacific region. After a number of years in the IT industry he joined Ericsson Enterprise in 1993. Mr Victorin has since held numerous managerial positions in the company’s sales and marketing division, including Regional Business Director for sales in UK, Ireland and North America, head of EMEA Sales (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and Director of Global Marketing. Mr Victorin holds an MBA DHS from Stockholm School of Economics, where he specialised in Marketing and Finance.
As the business world becomes more global, enterprises need to be more responsive, more available, more flexible and more efficient than ever—this is especially true for smaller enterprises that compete with large corporations on the world stage. Mobile enterprise solutions and services have a key role to play in ‘levelling the playing field’ for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) addressing these business challenges. For operators, such services represent a great opportunity to gain competitive advantage and address the valuable enterprise segment.
Mobile operators in the Asia-Pacific region are doing business in some of the most fiercely competitive markets in the world. They are typically experiencing falling levels of Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) and rising levels of subscriber churn, as the mass market for mobile services expands and the popularity of prepaid services grows. One key way mobile operators can address this situation is to attract and retain business users through mobile enterprise services. This should be good news for SMEs throughout the region, which will have a greater range of more easily accessible services on offer from operators. According to market analysts ARC Group, the number of mobile enterprise users in the Asia-Pacific region will grow from 61.4 million today to 163.8 million by 2008, overtaking Europe (which, currently has the highest number). The penetration of enterprise data users in the region is set to grow from today’s 54 per cent to 74 per cent by 2008, according to ARC – over which time the Asia-Pacific region will become the largest mobile enterprise market, accounting for 40 per cent of global revenues. So how can SMEs take advantage of these developments and ‘punch above their weight’ in the global business arena? The growth of the mobile enterprise There is a growing trend for enterprise workforces to become more mobile as markets and businesses become more global and flexible working practices spread. It is not just outside the office where mobility is important—indoor mobility is also a key to becoming more accessible and responsive, so that productivity and customer service are enhanced. While voice telephony still predominates in business communications—particularly outside the office—other forms of communications are increasingly complementing it. Fixed and mobile telephony, e-mail and mobile computing are all converging and beginning to interwork more successfully to support enterprises wherever their employees happen to be working. Enterprises are keen to mobilise their existing investments in office applications and it makes sense to start with the applications that are most beneficial—and simplest—to adapt to the mobile world. While enterprises adopt mobile enterprise solutions at different rates and in a variety of ways, there are three major phases of evolution taking place in the market today. The first phase involves adding mobility to ‘horizontal’ enterprise applications like corporate telephony, voicemail, automated attendant, e-mail, messaging and intranet access. This is already happening with the deployment of mobile extension and push e-mail services in China, India and other countries of South-East Asia, where there is great interest in these types of services. Mobilising such applications enhances personal control over time and supports enterprise communication and collaboration generally. For example, it makes personnel more accessible and frees up time that can be spent focusing on customers instead, while helping personnel become more efficient and motivated. The second phase involves mobilising more complex business processes, where the value of mobility—and immediacy—may be more pronounced and contributes to a reduction in process delays. Such processes include Field Force Automation (FFA), Sales Force Automation (SFA), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Mobilising this ‘acronym soup’ of applications may modify working practices, but does not change business processes in any profound way. In the third phase, mobility will enable the creation and transformation of business models. For example, new ways of delivering products or services will be created through machine-to-machine (M2M) mobility and the deployment of wireless sensors/transmitters in all kinds of products and equipment. Mobile business advantages Mobile enterprise solutions offer enterprises of all sizes new competitive advantages, for example, by making business-critical applications available everywhere and helping to drive down total cost of operations. They also add business value by encouraging the development of business and relationship skills, the creation of new partnerships and alliances and the development of new business models. Cost savings are one significant potential benefit. Money is saved by bringing the mobile phone into the corporate domain—there are fewer wasted calls, mobile call costs are more transparent and there is the potential to make special deals with network operators. Furthermore, costs become more predictable for the enterprise. Integrating mobile devices into the corporate environment can reduce IT management costs, cut mobile phone costs and improve efficiency. By implementing ‘one number, one phone’ solutions, enterprises can reduce the amount of equipment and the number of subscriptions required. Costs are reduced through savings in office space and phones and further cost savings can be made by centralising common support functions (such as attendants) and through automated functions that reduce the need for support staff. Management of telephony services is also improved. Recent analysis of a ‘one phone’ type implementation—where all employees have either a mobile or fixed extension as their communications device—has revealed cost savings of around 30 per cent in telephony costs per user, when all factors were taken into account—including device and network rationalisation, common support and the mobile tariff deals agreed with operators. Other companies that have implemented such solutions have quoted overall cost reductions of 38 per cent. PBX world goes IP In parallel to the trend towards mobility, there is a continuing move to converged IP-based architecture to support enterprise communications. The benefits of mobile-enabled converged communications include potentially substantial cost savings through reduced capital and operational costs. Following a slower start than many predicted, IP-based enterprise telephony is gaining ground fast. Significant inroads have already been made and dramatic growth is expected over the next few years. Enterprises not only gain cost savings and future-proof architecture, they also benefit from the fact that new multimedia services and applications will be easier to implement and manage in a converged infrastructure. While pure-play IP-PBXs still represent a relatively small proportion of customer premises equipment (CPE) shipments, the deployment of IP lines is expected to grow rapidly over the coming years as hybrid IP-enabled PBXs dominate the market. Businesses value these hybrid solutions because they enable them to take advantage of the cost savings generated by using their IP infrastructure for voice traffic where it makes sense (for intra-site traffic or branch office integration, for example), while still protecting their investments in existing business-class communications systems. In parallel to the growing popularity of IP-based CPE, the increased availability of broadband connections is enabling the deployment of Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services such as IP-Centrex—of particular interest to SMEs. According to market analysts Probe Group, by the end of 2008, nearly 27 per cent of the global fixed line market will be using voice over packet technology. The deployment of IP telephony, particularly in branch offices, provides cost savings through convergence and lower transmission costs. In addition to cost savings, IP-based branch office solutions can provide local survivability, automatic recovery and PSTN access with direct media routing. Hosting enables focus on core business Many enterprises—particularly smaller ones—can improve productivity and business performance by focusing on core activities and handing over responsibility for communications to a managed service provider. This not only helps reduce costs by optimising corporate communications, it also enables the active development of corporate communications to support the business. Smaller enterprises can save the often significant capital costs of purchasing and upgrading converged communications solutions through such hosted services. Mobile and IP Centrex services give small enterprises access to the latest mobile enterprise capabilities, with the ability to manage the services themselves. Total cost of ownership can also be reduced by expert consulting services to optimise corporate communications. For the mobile operator, there are big potential revenues to be earned by helping enterprises go mobile—after all, enterprise users tend to spend around four times more on their mobile services than consumers do. Enhancing productivity and customer satisfaction Mobility-enabled converged communications solutions help enterprises boost productivity by enabling employees to make better use of their time. Through seamless and secure mobile access to corporate voice and data applications, employees are more available to callers and so spend less time returning missed calls. They have faster access to information and colleagues wherever they are. In addition, mobile enterprise solutions enable flexible working so that employees can work effectively at times and places that suit them. Business processes are not interrupted by the unavailability of people or information. Enhanced mobility and communications convergence can have a positive impact on customers’ perceived quality of communications and general satisfaction in a number of ways. One key area is improved availability and responsiveness of employees. Tasks get handled quicker and customers are dealt with more efficiently, even if the primary contact person is busy or unavailable. Availability while working around the enterprise premises is improved through the use of in-building coverage solutions for wireless access to the corporate network—whether using WiFi or mobile network technology. In this way, corporate policies for maintaining professional customer communications are supported. Security matters As enterprises begin to implement IP-based telephony systems and services in their networks, what were once isolated circuit-switched networks are becoming part of the global IP infrastructure. That makes them just as open to abuse and attack as any other IP-based solution, especially as voice becomes more integrated with data-oriented applications. With mobility-enabled converged solutions, security becomes an even more important issue—it is no longer possible simply to build a secure ‘shell’ around the enterprise network in the form of a firewall. More sophisticated and flexible protection is needed. Security is as important off-site as it is on-site. For mobile enterprise communications, this means having secure remote access both to and from mobile phones, remote PCs and laptop computers. For smaller enterprises particularly, hosted services for security, back-up and disaster recovery not only ensure that corporate data are secure, they also provide access to carrier-class infrastructure and storage capabilities. For smartphone users, secure access can be provided in three main ways. At the most basic level, Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS) web server security can be used. A higher level of security is provided by securing the connection with Transport Layer Security (TLS), which supports the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). A third level of security can be provided using IPSec (IP security protocol), with a Symbian (mobile operating system) client, to secure a tunnel to the server. Towards the mobile multimedia future While business-class mobile telephony is the obvious starting point for mobilising the enterprise, mobile access to multimedia applications is becoming increasingly important. The aim is to make corporate access to data applications in the wide area as seamless and simple as possible for the user, to maximise cost, productivity and customer service benefits. New technologies and standards—like IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem)—are becoming available to enable operators to offer single-source provision of integrated fixed and mobile services. There are also fixed cellular access solutions that enable mobile operators to serve the fixed communications needs of SMEs cost-effectively in areas such as rural locations or business parks. One of the first IMS-based services is provided by Push-to-talk over Cellular (PoC) standard solutions that offer feature-rich services for group communications, chat rooms, personal alerts and presence management. PoC solutions can operate entirely in the packet-switched domain, using common service enablers for group, list and presence management and multi-party conferencing. The future prospects for mobile enterprise services look very promising. Operators in the Asia-Pacific region have a great opportunity to start offering value-added services that will attract and retain enterprise customers and SMEs will be among the major beneficiaries of this trend.