Systems Integrators vs. Mobile Operators: Which Are Best Suited for Enterprise Mobility Requirements?

K. Weldon
K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • IT service providers have long-established relationships with large enterprises, offering a range of advisory and managed IT services that now includes managed mobility services.
  • Operators may provide managed wireline services to large enterprises, including  managed, secure VPNs, as well as a wealth of fixed and mobile access options.  They may also provide managed mobility.  How does an enterprise decide where to go for their mobility requirements?

Recent research conducted by Current Analysis shows that a relatively small percentage (25-35%) of businesses currently utilize external service providers for mobility management and security, but this is changing.

  • 14% of the U.S. companies we surveyed look to operators for mobile security, and 13% look to operators for MDM.
  • 10% of the U.S. base looks to SIs for mobile security, and 19% looks to SIs for MDM.
  • In Europe, 20% of the survey base looks to operators for security, and 15% looks to operators for MDM.
  • In Europe, 10% uses SIs for security, and 9% looks to SIs for MDM.
  • 30% of the U.S. companies and 26% of the European base plan to use external service providers within two years for these functions.

While operators and systems integrators seem to be on similar paths when it comes to managed mobility and mobile security, there are some fundamental differences:

Operators are by definition network-centric, and they are the most obvious providers of services that touch the mobile network and add value to their core mobile connectivity services.  Operators are no longer requiring customers to get all their services from them, however, and manage mobility (TEM, MDM, mobile security, logistics, mobile applications, etc.) on a multi-carrier basis (although it would be strange to source these value-added services from a carrier which an enterprise was not using substantially for mobile and/or fixed connectivity).  Operators are also experts at understanding the impact of applications and devices on their networks, and they are becoming adept at improving performance, simplifying the user experience, and bringing in partners which may have certified applications that run on their networks.

Systems integrators have tended to go for the very largest customers, and until recently, they had still been looking at mobility through the prism of large outsourcing deals that include business process re-engineering, technology advisory services, design, integration, and custom development and may have included mobility as an afterthought.  Now that enterprise mobility is such a hot area, they have realized that they need to make their services more standardized and palatable for diverse customer segments.  Integrators have a lot of vertical experience and their professional services capabilities have a strong vertical alignment.  They are a bit behind the operators in finding the best platform partners and rolling out services with standard deliverables and utility pricing, but they are getting there quickly.

So, how does an enterprise choose?  Here are a few hints:

  • If an enterprise is already using an SI for a hosted application (such as SAP CRM apps), it makes sense to stay on the same platform with the same provider to extend the app to mobile devices.
  • If an enterprise is very distributed and uses many carriers on a global basis, it may make sense to go to a large global operator which will take over all the other contracts and provide all services on a single bill with one point of contact.  If more advanced managed mobility capabilities are required, it makes sense to continue with the same operator.
  • If a company feels that their service provider needs to have very deep vertical expertise about their industry, they may find this is truer of an SI.  However, operators have added vertical sales and solutions teams.
  • A medium-sized company may find that an operator can provide a better deal, more personal service, and better pricing, with more “shrink-wrapped” offerings that require less customization.

What do you think?

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