It is generally recognised that communications represents one of the largest areas of any organisation's expenditure, yet for many it can be one of the least transparent and controlled if the right tools and processes are not in place.

A recent pan-European survey undertaken on behalf of Vodafone Global Enterprise, which reflects the views of 500 senior executives and managers directly involved in the purchase of telecommunications, highlights three areas where CIOs are increasingly looking for improvement:

  • As companies emerge slowly from the recent economic downturn, budgets remain resolutely tight. As a result, senior executives pinpointed the need to gain a clearer picture of what is happening with their telephony costs, as the first, and most critical, step to gaining more visibility and control, both locally and centrally, and so drive down expenditure.
  • Businesses are under unprecedented pressure from all sides to adopt flexible working practices across the enterprise. However, progress has been relatively slow, as they look to ensure that they operate the right processes to enhance rather than inhibit productivity.
  • Corporates are concerned over the need to maintain effective security, as traditional responses are often considered insufficient for the protection of corporate information in a remote, wireless environment.

Keeping cost under control
As firms have seen their telecoms infrastructures become more diverse and complex, an overwhelming majority also confirmed the need to streamline global communications management as another important priority for the business.

So how can firms best tackle these challenges? A key factor would appear to be implementing unified reporting. Without this firms can suffer from a lack of visibility and therefore awareness of what is happening at a local level. Almost one-third (30 per cent) of respondents expressed a desire for flexible, simple tariffs, and 32 per cent for data in a format that is easy to analyse.

With growing workforce flexibility, the increase in mobile device usage as a share of total telephony expenditure has brought even greater challenges for multinational companies. Many companies are unable to identify rogue spending until it is too late.

Only one in five businesses believe they manage this effectively. By contrast, 61 per cent admit they are only able to identify excessive spending once it appeared on monthly bills, while for 15 per cent, it can take months before unauthorised spending comes to light allowing any corrective action to be taken.

As CEOs increasingly demand more from less in their telephony spend, it is essential to put the right global tools in place such as fixed, per-user billing and a fixed and mobile converged responses, underpinned by a single centralised service level agreement, which allows managers to see and keep track of expenditure.

Coping with increased mobile working
Another challenge is the need to adopt flexible working practices across the enterprise to enhance productivity. Growing employee demand, as well as increasing social, commercial, regulatory and environmental pressures, have also helped to push this to the top of the agenda.

Many multinationals have clearly identified the benefits from implementing mobile working. In ensuring business continuity, for example, an overwhelming 82 per cent saw flexible/mobile solutions as part of their planned response to potential disruption. Improving employee satisfaction emerged as another key driver for change, as more than three-quarters reported significant demand from staff in individual departments across the business.

To be truly effective, mobile flexible working has to be addressed as a strategic issue providing true underlying flexibility for employees, not just a tactical implementation of one-off home-working or part time working initiatives, for example. By taking an enterprise-wide approach, the full social, economic, regulatory and environmental benefits can be secured across the business.

Securing the mobile environment
In providing remote staff with real-time wireless access to corporate data, enterprise businesses have also highlighted new security challenges, as traditional behind-the-firewall measures are typically inadequate for today's wireless environment.

Enterprise businesses identified a number of specific security threats in the use of mobile communications tools. The two most significant issues were managing the use of mobile devices on insecure networks and dealing with unauthorised data access through lost or stolen devices.

Despite such worries, only 34 per cent of telecoms managers across Europe were confident that their business had robust security measures and systems in place to protect sensitive data stored on the device.

When asked how well they were able to monitor the status of mobile devices in issue across their organisation's global footprint, for example, nearly one half agreed that they knew how many had been issued but were unsure how many were now dormant. And, if a device is lost or stolen, only half of respondents were able to remotely erase data stored on that device, so protecting sensitive corporate data.

  • It is essential to protect each mobile device against attacks and threats such as loss or theft, malware or local wireless networks.
  • Service security should include both the device and the network, such as mobile email and secure access to corporate applications.
  • Network security should ensure that a mobile network offers both high availability and strong access control, at the same time running secure protocols over a single wireless network or between networks.

Competitive edge
As markets become more competitive and international, businesses are intent on driving productivity and responsiveness in order to meet new customer needs and challenges. Mobilising the workforce and enabling employees to access the corporate network, wherever they are located, is proving to be critical in enabling the agility that is essential to respond to these new demands.

This brings with it new security challenges. It is no surprise that security concerns remain one of the biggest hurdles to enabling a more diversified and flexible workforce. Yet once overcome, the application of secure wireless mobility throughout the enterprise will help substantially in creating the agility and flexibility needed to enable real competitive differentiation in the marketplace.