MDM (mobile device management) is a must-have service for many of your customers and a great way to increase your monthly recurring revenue — if you take the right approach.
Most MSPs are well aware of the fact that the BYOD (bring your own device) trend is real for their customers. It’s also obvious that there are opportunities to manage mobile devices. Yet many service providers haven’t figured out how to capitalize on this opportunity. I spoke with several industry experts about this matter and, among them, Alistair Forbes, general manager at GFI MAX, summed up the problem — and opportunity — best: “Mobile devices have overtaken conventional computing devices in the market. Yet very few MSPs have defined a service proposition around MDM — many are supporting mobile devices in an ad hoc fashion and often without managing to bill for these services as they have not structured this as part of their overall service offering.” Forbes and several other industry experts agree that the market for a well-defined MDM service offering, in which the benefits are articulated in a clear manner and allows MSPs to charge for the service, is a huge and almost untapped opportunity right now.
Defining Customers’ MDM Needs
The first step in developing a successful MDM offering is discerning why your customers even need this service. According to Marco LaVecchia, VP of channel sales, North America, AVG Managed Workplace, “By far, the most important need is security, and this covers not only personal information, like credit card numbers, but also sensitive corporate data. More than two-thirds of small businesses rank security as a paramount concern, so comprehensive monitoring and management for Macbooks, iPads, iPhones, and Android smartphones and tablets is critical. Users must be able to lock down devices, remove pass codes, wipe them, delete devices, and mark them as lost.”
Because the churn rate on mobile devices is so much faster than traditional workstations (e.g., cellphone users typically update their phones every two years, whereas most PCs aren’t replaced for at least five years), Forbes says provisioning services is also a top customer need. “This device churn means that keeping track of the devices in use [i.e., asset management], and tracking which services they are accessing and which applications they are running, are difficult challenges. And using manual methods to achieve this simply is not practical,” he says. “An MDM solution can give visibility into the number, type, and configuration of devices and can be used for location tracking in applications where this is appropriate.”
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all mobile devices in use by your customers’ employees are the employees’ personal devices; sometimes employers purchase tablets or smartphones to enable their workers to be more productive. “In these cases, application whitelisting and blacklisting controls are a top priority,” says Tony Thomas, director of product management at LabTech Software. “In other words, business owners need to make sure employees are not installing nonbusiness apps on mobile devices that have been designated for use in the work environment.”
Focus Your MDM Sales Efforts On Clients In Regulated Industries First
Mobile devices are making their way into every vertical market, but that doesn’t mean you should take a horizontal approach to uncovering MDM sales opportunities. For some of your customers, MDM will be perceived as a “nice to have,” but there are others that recognize it as a “must-have.” Finding that latter group will greatly improve your win rate. “Any vertical with its eye on compliance such as healthcare [HIPAA], finance [FINRA, Sarbanes-Oxley], and banking [FDIC, PCI] will require MDM,” says Brandon Shopp, senior director of product management at N-able by SolarWinds. “Additionally, decision makers in these verticals are not concerned with or distracted by BYOD; they rely on corporate management for their machines and devices and readily accept that all mobile devices used in the work environment are going to be managed.”
Don’t assume, however, that just because you encounter prospects in a regulated industry that they understand the potential risks mobile devices present. “The users of these mobile devices often are not fully aware of the potential risks they run if they do not have effective security and management systems in place for these devices, so it is incumbent on the MSP to outline the issues as well as the ways in which an MDM service addresses those risks,” says Forbes.
The Top MDM Sales Challenges And Pitfalls To Watch Out For
Even if you’ve honed in on the right vertical markets and you understand the common drivers behind MDM purchases, there are still a few challenges you should anticipate before selling MDM. The first challenge is presented by clients who don’t recognize their need to manage mobile devices. “According to recent industry research, about half of mobile device users don’t feel that there is a big enough security threat to warrant the investment in MDM,” says LaVecchia. “Also, many of these respondents feel that they lacked knowledge about MDM, so education will be crucial in convincing these prospects that they need MDM. As an industry, we need to inform SMBs about the importance of mobile security.”
One pitfall to watch out for, according to Shopp, is trying to sell MDM as a stand-alone service. “MDM is a subset of mobility management, which encompasses other management disciplines such as mobile application and content management,” he says. “MDM is the foundation of a strong mobility management strategy, but it should not be a partner’s sole focus. The MDM portion of mobility management has largely been commoditized to the point where even native features in Exchange ActiveSync are good enough for many environments.” The key, he says, is bundling MDM with other mobility management solutions and services.
Alistair Forbes, general manager, GFI MAX
Out of all the MDM challenges, however, the one that causes MSPs the most headaches is figuring out how to define the service, price it, and present it to customers in a way that demonstrates why it’s worth paying for. “One approach is to consider moving away from a device-based pricing model to a user-based pricing model,” advises Forbes. “The challenge of building MDM into the overall service offering can be eased significantly by taking a more holistic approach to the service. This will pay dividends in the introduction of MDM services, and the same approach will make it easier to add complementary cloud-based services down the road.”
After the initial sale, dealing with mobile device owners can present another set of challenges. “‘You’re not going to do anything to my phone.’ ‘I don’t want you to see any of my personal text messages, read my email, or see what sites I’m going to.’ These objections represent real concerns MSPs will face when managing mobile devices,” says Thomas. “The misconception is that by managing users’ personal mobile devices, you’ll have the capability to spy on them, too. It’s important to state in the form of a BYOD policy or IT services excerpt in your customer’s employee handbook that mobile device management is about service, not spying [i.e., what we do vs. what we do not do].”
Forbes concurs with Thomas and adds, “Segregation of personal and business data and applications is being introduced into MDM solutions, but it is still relatively early in its development. There are also limitations with different devices and device families, and they cannot all be managed the same way. MSPs must understand both the capabilities and the limitations of the MDM solution so that they are very clear with their customers which services they are able to provide on each mobile platform.”