Turning Microsoft Office 365 into a True Small Business Offering: How the Wireless Carriers Each Approach This Challenge
It’s always interesting to see how the wireless carriers go about appealing to the small business market. In our annual surveys, smaller businesses consistently choose the wireless carrier as their preferred mobility/communications partner. Have the carriers really earned that designation – or are they just the default choice?
We’ll dedicate a future post to examining the small business programs of our Tier 1 U.S. carriers in some detail. But today we’ll look at one example of how they each partnered with the exact same technology vendor to offer the exact same technology product … but then “personalized” the SMB offering in their own unique ways.
The solution is the cloud-based Microsoft® Office 365 product, a package of targeted collaboration and productivity capabilities that include:
- Microsoft Exchange Online – synchronizing email, calendar and contacts across a worker’s computer, phone and browser.
- Microsoft Office Web Apps – allowing employees to view and make light edits to Microsoft Office documents in the browser, either individually or in tandem with other viewers.
- Microsoft SharePoint® Online – creating public and private websites and maintaining a file-sharing capability.
- Microsoft Lync™ Online – furnishing web conferencing and instant messaging.
Microsoft clearly put some thought into which capabilities would be most appreciated by smaller businesses. There doesn’t seem to be any unnecessary padding. And offering Office 365 as a cloud-based service recognizes the financial constraints that small and mid-sized businesses have to deal with on a daily basis. Pricing on Office 365 begins at $6/user/month for its most basic package. Microsoft also offers four other plans, with the top monthly per-user rate being $22.
So what did each of the top three carriers do with this solution?
The side-by-side comparison table below provides the details, however, the three different approaches can be summarized as:
- AT&T offers four Office 365 plans ($6 - $20 price range), providing its customers with a broad selection to choose from. The carrier also recognizes that smaller businesses rarely have a dedicated IT professional available to handle implementation, so AT&T provides one-on-one onboarding and mailbox migration assistance to those who want it. The onboarding and deployment assistance costs $139.95 per account. The carrier also requires a minimum one-year contract term and minimum one-year renewal. There are no minimum seat requirements. Advanced tech support plans are available for purchase if the customer wants more than the free Tier 0/1/2 24x7 tech support that comes with the subscription. AT&T also offers a 30-day free trial.
- Sprint offers three of the Office 365 plans ($6 - $20 price range). It also recognizes the need for some expert handholding during the implementation process. Like AT&T, Sprint provides one-on-one onboarding and mailbox migration assistance. However, Sprint takes this one step further and makes their white glove “Carefree Cloud” onboarding service free of charge for the first 90 days after purchase of Office 365. The carrier does not require a minimum contract term and does not require a minimum number of seats. Advanced tech support plans are available for purchase if the customer wants more than the free 0/1/2 24x7 tech support that comes with the subscription. These plans are available at a discount to Office 365 customers.
- Verizon decided to offer only the most basic Office 365 package (the $6/user/month version) and directs users who need help with that package’s set-up, mailbox migration, etc. to Microsoft. From there, the customer will probably be referred to Microsoft’s self-help portal or to a for-fee certified partner. In terms of contract requirements, Verizon customers don’t have to commit to a minimum contract term or purchase a minimum number of seats – which is good news for the smaller businesses and their tight budgets. Also, integrated MDM features are included (remote lock and wipe; data retrieval).
We just awarded Sprint the Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Enhancement Award in Mobile Communications and Collaboration based on the excellent job the carrier has done with Office 365 in designing an offer that meets real small business needs. The difference-maker when comparing the three approaches distilled down to affordability – i.e., Sprint’s free-of-charge offer for much-needed onboarding assistance and the absence of minimum contract terms to satisfy. For small businesses, those two benefits can make all of the difference between the decision to buy and the decision to take a pass.
As North American companies and organizations increasingly mobilize their business operations, the choice of a mobility partner/provider becomes crucial. This past May, Frost & Sullivan surveyed 300 mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers in the North American business sector (Canada and U.S.-based companies). One section of questions inquired about mobility partner preferences and selection criteria.
For the respondent sample as a whole, potential partner categories were ranked as follows:
27% Wireless carrier or operator (ex: AT&T, Sprint, TELUS, Verizon)
18% Major corporate software vendor (ex: ADP, Oracle, SAP)
13% Mobile device/handset manufacturer (ex: Motorola, RIM)
12% Systems integrator or professional services firm (ex: Accenture, DecisionPoint Systems)
11% Mobile application developer (ex: Telenav, Xora)
8% Mobile middleware/platform vendor (ex: Antenna Software)
6% Value-added reseller (VAR)
2% PBX/UC vendor
8% None of the above
The continued preference for wireless carriers as mobility partners is unsurprising, given that carriers maintain such a high-touch relationship with their huge embedded customer bases and provide the key ingredient (network) for mobile communications. Many of the more progressive carriers have also taken on the responsibility of vetting a still-fragmented set of vendor alternatives and tend to offer a broad portfolio of mobile solutions.
However, it should be recognized that top partner preferences do vary by business size. Smaller businesses (fewer than 500 employees) have a stronger preference for the wireless carrier, while larger businesses rank the corporate software vendor (CSV) first and the carrier second.
Large enterprise preference for CSVs should be causing wireless carriers heartburn. As they mobilize their traditional desktop systems, CSVs such as Oracle and SAP are leveraging their already-established relationships with larger enterprises and capturing an increasing share of the mobile business applications market.
For all company sizes, the top five selection criteria for evaluating a potential mobility partner are prioritized as follows:
- Cost of doing business
- Professional services capability
- Post-sale service and support capability
- The solutions portfolio
- Brand reputation
For all company sizes, cost is the top-ranked criterion. The availability of professional services is ranked #2 by larger businesses. Smaller businesses view post-sales service and support capabilities as their second highest selection consideration.
Additional survey results are included in our September 2012 study: “2012 Mobile Enterprise Applications: Opportunities Within Enterprises in North America,” NB68-65.
A strange dynamic continues to present itself in the mobile business software sector. Despite high satisfaction levels on the part of current users and a fairly straightforward ROI story, potential customers blame “unclear ROI benefits” as a major reason for delaying implementation. Is this a marketing failure on the part of vendors and channels?
Earlier this year, Frost & Sullivan surveyed 300 mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers in the North American business sector. Both Canadian and U.S.-based companies were included in this research. A number of questions were asked about deployment plans, purchase barriers, current user satisfaction, and ROI impacts.
These questions focused on four specific mobile application categories:
- Wireless Email
- Mobile Asset Tracking
- Mobile Workforce Management
- Mobile Sales Force Automation
Among current users of these application solutions, satisfaction levels are very high. In fact, dissatisfaction percentages can be described as minimal:
- Wireless Email: 2%
- Mobile Asset Tracking: 2%
- Mobile Workforce Management: 3%
- Mobile Sales Force Automation: 3%
This high satisfaction experience has been pretty consistent across the four years the Frost & Sullivan Mobile Enterprise Applications survey has been conducted. We think it can be attributed to a very clear return on investment.
When asked to identify their top three ROI impacts, the percentage of current users who do so is as follows:
- 67% - Increase in worker productivity
- 43% - More employee collaboration
- 41% - Reduced paperwork
Mobile Asset Tracking
- 48% - Reduced paperwork
- 40% - Reduced employee downtime
- 38% - Reduced labor expense
Mobile Workforce Management
- 32% - Reduced paperwork
- 27% - Reduced labor expense
- 26% - Increased customer satisfaction
Mobile Sales Force Automation
- 38% - Increased customer satisfaction
- 33% - Faster overall sales process
- 32% - Reduced paperwork
So a pretty clear picture re: return on investment emerges year after year.
However, when we asked high-potential purchasers why they had yet to deploy these solutions, “unclear ROI benefits” was a consistent #2 barrier for Mobile SFA, Mobile Workforce Management, and Mobile Asset Tracking solutions. (The #1 barrier? Implementation cost, of course.)
There’s a strong ROI story behind each of these mobile application categories, and both vendors and channels need to market and promote it more effectively.
Additional survey results are included in our upcoming study: “2012 Mobile Enterprise Applications: Opportunities Within Enterprises in North America,” NB68-65.
In an earlier blog post, we shared survey data that had a full 82% of North American businesses already having at least one mobile application deployed to their employees’ handheld devices. Looking forward over the next twelve months (mid-2012 to mid-2013), 68% of businesses plan to implement one or more additional applications. 9% of the total respondents actually expect to introduce more than ten new solutions during that twelve-month period.
This is obviously a growing market. But just which applications are getting the attention? And which are not?
The research cited was conducted earlier this year by Frost & Sullivan, surveying 300 mobile and wireless decision-makers in the North American business sector. Both Canadian and U.S. companies and organizations were included in this research.
The percentage of respondents reporting that they have already deployed a particular mobile employee-facing software solution (whether as a trial or a full-blown implementation) are as follows:
- 80% - Wireless email
- 48% - Access to internal databases
- 44% - Standalone corporate instant messaging
- 38% - Mobile sales force automation
- 37% - Employee-to-employee social media
- 35% - Mobile workforce management
- 33% - Machine-to-machine remote monitoring and diagnostics
- 29% - Mobile asset tracking
- 27% - Standalone video capture
- 13% - Fleet tracking and management
Typically, around half of those companies that have already deployed also anticipate expanding their implementations within the following year.
There is also a segment of respondents who are sold on the app’s value proposition, but have not yet gotten around to implementing. These “planners” report that they will be introducing the app for the first time within the next three years. Adding these planner opportunities to those current users who state they will be expanding within the next year, the new deployments opportunity during 2012-2015 can be ranked as follows:
- Mobile sales force automation
- Access to internal databases
- Wireless email
- Mobile workforce management
- Mobile asset tracking
- Standalone corporate instant messaging
- Machine-to-machine remote monitoring and diagnostics
- Employee-to-employee social media
- Standalone video capture
- Fleet tracking and management
Additional survey results are included in our upcoming study: “2012 Mobile Enterprise Applications: Opportunities Within Enterprises in North America,” NB68-65.
Earlier this year, Frost & Sullivan surveyed mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers in the North American business sector. Both Canadian and U.S. companies and organizations were included in this research. Their responses indicated a continuing strong attraction for employee-facing mobile applications.
The mobile enterprise applications market is clearly on a growth trajectory, with at least 68% of the 2012 survey respondents planning to introduce one or more new mobile software solutions on their employees’ mobile handhelds (smartphones, tablets, basic cell phones, and/or ruggedized devices) during the next 12 months.
At the time of the survey (May 2012), the majority of businesses (52%) already had from one to four mobile applications in place for their mobile workers. Another 17% of respondents had between five and ten applications deployed. An additional 13% of businesses had over ten mobile solutions in place, with two-thirds of these heavy users deploying an impressive twenty or more mobile handheld-based applications.
In all, 82% of North American businesses (across all size segments) report having at least one mobile application deployed to their employees’ handheld devices.
When asked to project the volume of new mobile worker software apps to be introduced during the upcoming twelve months (mid-2012 through mid-2013), 68% of businesses planned at least one new introduction. Another 9% of the total respondents expect to introduce more than ten new solutions over that twelve-month period.
This level of mobile software deployment for workers is great news for application developers, mobility platform vendors, and their various channel partners. But it also raises a number of IT and LOB issues, including how to effectively manage the expanding array of solutions. Businesses must also carefully plan how to train employees on these apps. Given the level of cost sensitivity that surfaced with other survey questions, executives must also determine how to measure the business value and benefits of the mobility software.
Additional survey results and charts are included in our upcoming study: “2012 Mobile Enterprise Applications: Opportunities Within Enterprises in North America,” NB68-65.
Hospitals continue to suffer major data breaches – earning negative headlines and possible costly fines. Their embrace of mobile healthcare (mHealth) solutions is only exacerbating the security risks. So why aren’t more healthcare providers – hospitals, physicians, EMT, etc. – instituting stringent security mechanisms? Especially on their much beloved, but easily misplaced, mobile devices?
One answer seems to be a simple lack of awareness. Traditionally, an IT laggard, the healthcare industry is being driven by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) legislation to digitize its health records. Caregivers, in turn, recognize the many benefits of now being able to access these digital records on their mobile devices. Unfortunately, some parties did not seem to realize that new security measures had to be put in place before data could safely go mobile. Mobile devices can be lost, stolen, and hacked. The result? Vulnerable patient information, vulnerable caregiver information, vulnerable healthcare facility information.
Another reason for the lack of serious mobile security implementations is the perceived cost. However, healthcare providers are realizing fast that stingy upfront budgeting can have costly negative repercussions. Healthcare providers can be fined up to $1.5 million and/or put in prison for up to five years if they do not comply with HIPAA standards for securing and protecting patient data. Under HITECH, they can also lose government funding and be publicly shamed on a list of security breach incidents maintained by the government.
The losses, in terms of both money and professional reputation, can be devastating.
Mobile technology is not going away. The increasing percentage of physicians using smartphones and tablets on the job is clear proof of that. And application developers continue to create fascinating apps that include drug and clinical references, ever more sophisticated diagnostic tools, and real-time patient record-keeping. The genie is out of the bottle. Now mobile devices – both those belonging to the facility and those that are owned by the individual users -- have to be secured.
We had a briefing from the experts at Apriva (www.apriva.com) the other day who described their mobile device security suite – including a two-factor authentication smartcard reader plus software applications for secure email and VoIP calls via the mobile device. Apriva has secured classified government communications for years, and now sees the need for the same high level of security products in the healthcare sector.
The solutions are out there ready to be deployed. Now it's time for healthcare providers to get smart on their security alternatives and loosen the purse strings.
Earlier this year, Frost & Sullivan surveyed mobile and wireless purchase decision-makers in the North American small and mid-sized business (SMB) segment. A number of interesting findings surfaced, with all of them pointing to high SMB interest in mobile applications for their remote workers.
The value proposition around mobile enterprise applications is being successfully communicated to today’s small and mid-sized businesses. In addition, the substantial level of interest in mobility management platform products indicates an increasing level of mobile sophistication in the small and medium business (SMB) sector.
Current mobile application users are very satisfied and represent a significant incremental sales opportunity, with half of current users planning to expand their deployments. Meanwhile, one quarter of SMBs do not currently use, but are planning to introduce, one or more mobile enterprise applications during the 2011-2013 time period. This “Planner” segment is convinced of the benefits of mobile solutions, and now needs to be actively motivated to actually make the purchase.
The wireless carrier reigns as the preferred mobile applications partner with the SMB sector. This is not surprising given the high-touch relationship carriers maintain with SMBs.
Out-of-box deployments are enjoyed by 24 percent to 35 percent of current users. When faced with a need to customize some aspect of their mobile solution, smaller businesses are more likely to handle this job in-house, rather than employ a third party.
Hard-dollar return on investment metrics are noted by current application users. Reduced paperwork and increased worker productivity are cited most frequently.
Lastly, SMBs have strong brand preferences in each application category: BlackBerry for mobile office, AT&T and Oracle for mobile sales force automation (SFA), and AT&T for mobile workforce management.
A quick, consistent, hard-dollar ROI
The entry of major corporate software vendors
Increasing emphasis on creating vertical-specific solutions
Growing line-of-business (LOB) involvement in the purchase decision
Continued dampening impact of the current economy
A perceived lack of business value
High upfront investment requirements
Concerns regarding corporate data security
A lack of confidence and expertise on the part of the prospective customer
The Mobile Asset Tracking category is part of a growing collection of premium next-generation wireless data applications that are designed for use by businesses. This is a category that is still defining itself; however, as a whole, it encompasses enterprise solutions that utilize wireless and location technology to remotely locate and track mobile and semi-stationary assets in the field.
Some mobile asset tracking devices are the size of a pack of cigarettes -- small enough to place unobtrusively into shipping pallets or boxes. Other devices are larger and more brick-shaped, designed to be attached for prolonged periods of time to large pieces of company equipment out in the field. In addition to the hardware (typically a cellular modem with a GPS receiver, battery, and one or more sensors -- all packaged within a ruggedized outer casing), the mobile asset tracking solution is usually comprised of application software, a web-based administrative portal, data network service (for connectivity and location pings), and selected support services. Sensors can monitor motion, vibration, temperature, light, humidity, and tampering. Solutions can be pre-configured or customized.
Businesses are exhibiting growing interest in tracking a broad range of asset types, including:
Semi-stationary company equipment, such as trailers or containers, that are deployed for long periods of time in the same general location.
Large pieces of company-owned equipment that are shifted often from place to place, such as generators, recycling bins, or construction equipment.
High-value consumer products which are in transit from Point A for delivery to Point B, such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, or tobacco products.
Cars or other vehicles which are under surveillance and being covertly tracked by law enforcement officials.
These various asset types and use cases are driving the creation of an array of tracking devices. As a result, hardware can vary in terms of:
Form factor (size, shape, ruggedization)
Battery life (rechargeable or not)
Frequency of locates ("pings")
Mobile asset tracking solutions appeal to all sizes of businesses and a broad range of vertical industries, including transportation, construction, energy, business services, and the government. Three major benefits emerge from this ability to shine a light on remote assets which had previously enjoyed no or low visiblity:
Efficiency -- Especially in the context of mobile supply chain management, being able to know the real-time location and condition of a mobile asset results in cost savings on multiple fronts. It reduces the labor required to manually locate, inventory and report on products. It can also locate equipment that is closest to job sites, reducing transportation costs and employee downtime.
Security -- Certain industries have been ripe for theft and shrinkage. Construction sites are prime examples. As are high-value consumer goods such as electronics and tobacco. Mobile asset tracking solutions alert when an asset is moved out of a pre-defined geofencing zone, and then help in subsequent asset recovery.
- Revenue Generation -- Businesses that track consumer goods in transit are beginning to quantify this capability's value-add and charge their customers for certain mobile asset tracking services, such as real-time status reports and alerts.
Mobile asset tracking solutions are perfectly aligned with the wireless carriers' goal to increase the number of data connections and expand their overall revenue stream. These solutions are now viewed as a subset of the larger M2M category, which is receiving strong attention and resources from each of the carriers.
Other large distribution channels are on the horizon, including major corporate software vendors and traditional security firms. Once the carriers, CSVs, and security companies are all fully engaged in this sector, application revenues are projected to rapidly increase.
Recognition on the part of traditional CRM vendors that mobile access can increase both utilization and seats
Growing involvement by Sales and Marketing departments in the adoption decision
Clearer ROI benefits
More powerful networks and mobile devices
A stronger focus on targeting the SMB sector -- resulting in more user- and price-friendly solutions
A perceived lack of business value on the part of some segments
Concerns regarding the security of corporate data
A lack of user-friendliness in the product design
High upfront investment requirements
Anticipated implementation/deployment difficulties
This past Spring, we administered our second annual survey of North American companies, examining preferences and plans around specific mobile enterprise solutions. The survey focused on Canada and the U.S., specifically targeting the decision-makers or very strong influencers of mobile and wireless purchases in 307 businesses.
Four mobile solution categories were addressed:
- Mobile Office – Allows employees to use push email on their wireless devices and also manage their work by using PIM and calendar tools.
- Mobile Workforce Management – Uses GPS-equipped mobile handsets to locate, track and manage mobile field workers and their tasks.
- Next-Generation Fleet Management – Tracks local field fleet vehicles, typically via hard-mounted black boxes. Leverages GPS location technology and web-based tracking systems.
- Mobile Sales Force Automation – Extends corporate CRM/SFA systems to mobile handhelds, and allows sales reps to access product info, pricing, inventory status, customer data, etc.
Similar to last year, we asked respondents about the company’s perceived need for each of the app categories above, their deployment plans over the next few years, purchase barriers, and how they measure ROI if they’ve already deployed the solution. This year, we added a number of questions for current users of an app, including: level of satisfaction, type(s) of devices used, level of customization required (and whether that was handled internally or by a third party), use of pilots, premise or hosted approach, etc.
Overall, the deployment story for each of the four application categories was impressive. However, the delta between Canadian and U.S. implementations was eye-opening. In each application category, Canadian respondents as a whole were significantly more entrenched in the belief that they would not be introducing the app anytime soon. Why? They just don’t see the need. When asked “How necessary would the mobile solution (Mobile Workforce Management, Mobile SFA, etc.) be in helping to meet your organization’s business goals?,” a far lower proportion of Canadian companies responded positively. For example, regarding Mobile SFA solutions, 41% of U.S. respondents viewed the solution as Very Necessary compared to only 22% of Canadian respondents. That's a substantial gap in perceived value.
We believe this mobile app "disconnect" between U.S. and Canadian companies can be laid directly at the feet of the wireless carriers – and in our next post, we’ll explore why.
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