How to Keep iPhone Killers from Killing Your TCO (total cost of ownership)

After moderating a panel before CTIA that included some folks involved with Sony Ericson’s new Xperia device, and reading the latest Android hype, I wonder how organizations are preparing for the TCO challenge of convergence – and how badly will the C-Brigade (CEO, COO, etc) undermine those efforts?

Xperia panels

Xperia panels

Mobile device convergence is a hip concept. The average human constantly balances work, personal and family responsibilities through the day and into the night. So why have a cell phone for personal calls, a smartphone (itself a “converged“

 device) for business tasks and a portable DVD player or game console for those times you get to ignore the world? Converge everything into one super handheld device, right? 

But what does this do for the average organization? It’s rough enough trying to control the costs to implement and manage mobile apps along with a slew of true business devices. Now organizations have to gird themselves for a convergence onslaught, the Attack of the iPhone Killers. Devices with more features and add-ons than you can shake a USB port at. 

Here are a few recommendations to try to keep total cost of ownership (TCO) in check.

Look under the covers early.

Vendors’ marketing mavens are convincing your execs and workers they MUST have the new [fill in the blank] device. “Use it at play, use it at work! Hype, hype, buy, buy!!” And of course, once they’ve bought or received one as a gift, the proud new owners will bring these devices to work.

Next time you run to the store to buy headache relief, grab the Device of the Month to determine – and prepare for – the effect of several hundred of these banging on the VPN door. You may have a “we only support X” policy, but in reality, if a converged device reaches iPhone popularity, it’ll be like having tribbles on Star Trek’s Enterprise. (click if you don’t know the trouble with tribbles). Plan now, save TCO later.

Understand key issues that contribute to high TCO

Employees responding to direct marketing can circumvent your purchasing process, making accounting and reimbursement more difficult. People may get devices through carriers the organization doesn’t support. Picture taking and video capture capabilities put company secrets and employees’ privacy at risk. Devices may not use the operating system IT supports. Devices may not be able to support business apps beyond e-mail and contact management.

Address these and other issues with the vendor, as well as learn their product roadmap of future features.

Guard your Achilles Heel

The C-brigade and business unit managers who are supposed to be IT’s partners in implementing mobile tech strategies can actually undermine the organization’s best interests. They see a converged devices, swoon and before you know it, buy them for the entire management team with no thought to data security, IT support or business strategy.

Though a touchy tactic politically, convene the management team and explain why it’s bad for the organization to independently purchase devices that haven’t been vetted for enterprise use. Otherwise, once management buys into the hype and start using a device, it’s hard to execute a mobile business strategy if you later discover the device doesn’t meet your needs. 

Resolve the culture wars

Converged devices are extremely personal and breed a strong attachment from their users, mainly because they store personal data, and users keep the devices on their person. This me-my-mine mindset feeds into increased feelings of us-vs-them among middle managers and workers towards the company in these hard economic times. This makes it difficult to keep folks from buying devices heavily marketed with the “me” focus, or to get people to follow network and security policies. How will you tackle this?

Needs analysis – or the art of TCO pain avoidance

T-mobile says they’re receiving so many pre-orders they have to increase production of the new GI device. It’s a safe bet many of these G1s will find their way into organizations that have done zero needs analysis to determine how, or if, these devices should be part of the business operation.

If you have a mobile business strategy plan, determine how these new converged devices fit the plan. If you’re still trying to determine what your plan is, get out there among mobile execs and regular workers to learn what mobile tech will help the organization save money, make money or operate more effectively. You may discover that these devices should have a role in your business. But if they don’t, the needs analysis results help you better fend off the next digital device rock star.

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