Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tips from an industry insider: Paying Microsoft more than you should? How to negotiate the best price.

Are you paying Microsoft more than you should be?Microsoft makes it difficult not to.  
You pay a premium at the point of purchase
Microsoft's pricing structures are intentionally complex and opaque. Some list prices (Microsoft calls them "ERP" – Estimated Retail Price) are published. It's possible to get competitive reseller quotes for volume licensing programs such as Open and Select Plus, but Microsoft does not publish pricing for the direct-with-Microsoft agreements such as Enterprise Agreements.  Optelcon create an inventory of your licenses and help determine the best structure which gets you the most for your investment. 
So, how do you know if you paying a fair market price?Even though it insists it doesn't, Microsoft does negotiate its prices. Sometimes to levels well below what a typical customer sees.  The only way you will know what others are paying, is to work with a company like Optelcon. Our current market pricing database of deals negotiated, RFP's and analysis will provide you with evidence-backed data to make sure you are not paying more than your competitors?
When was the last time you renegotiated your Microsoft licensing agreements?
In any dynamic organization, things change. License consumption, new products, new releases, cloud solutions, IT infrastructure etc...
Microsoft continues to restructure and update their  product lines. Microsoft is constantly adding and removing product from their licensing bundles, revising usage terms.
The fact is, few companies are perfectly aligned with Microsoft's release cycles; it's well known that most tend to lag a cycle or two behind.
Are you running the latest releases and "The Full Stack".
Ironically, companies who are less reliant on Microsoft products the customers tend to pay less than those who are most heavily invested in the Microsoft technology "stack".  The more committed a company is to the Microsoft product set, the more difficult it is to switch vendors. You better believe Microsoft uses to their advantage.  If Microsoft believes your company is a "Captive Audience", what incentive does Microsoft have to provide the most aggressive discounts?
How does your company navigate through these challenges? 
Saving money with Microsoft is not easy.  Without a deep understanding of their selling rules and are armed with real market data, you will be hard pressed to get the best terms and pricing. 

Tips from an industry insider: Mobile Device Management "MDM" 101

Mobile Device Management "MDM" 101
MDM softwareAmong the hundreds of MDM companies, fortunately, there are really only a few vendors that make up the large majority of actual sales in the market.  The major players in this space include: Air Watch, Mobile Iron, Box Tone, Good Technology, Emobius or Zenprise. 
Does RIM still matter?RIM released their own MDM software, Fuse, which will essentially extend BES' capabilities to become multi-OS. Analysts and critics question RIM's motivations in offering MDM software, since it may erode the market share of their own Blackberry's, making adoption of non-RIM devices that much easier in any given company. This will be a very attractive offering for many buyers, since it will be provided at no cost.
GUI or Compartmentalize?
Also referred to as a "secure container" approach, this method requires replacing the device's native applications for email, calendar, and contact lists. This means that iPhone users, for example, would not be able to use the Apple email application that comes with the device. This approach is very secure because the corporate data exists only within the sandbox application itself. Very specific security policies and practices can be implemented. For example, specific encryption methods can be used. The sandbox approach may not sit well with users, since the major reason that they want to use an iPhone is for its impressive user interface. Good Technology is one of the most prominent examples of MDM software that uses this approach, and if your security policies require you to use the sandbox approach, then your decision is easy, as Good is the only vendor in the shortlist. Most other MDM software preserves the native user experience of the device itself. The user is able to securely use the default email, calendar and contact applications built into the device operating system. Since the device's user interface remains the same, employees tend to prefer this.
Technical Criteria
There are many important technical factors to consider when deciding which MDM provider(s) will be a good fit for your company including:
  • Are you planning on supporting specific tablet and Smartphone operating systems; if so which ones?
  • Are you looking for a solution that you can host within your corporate network?
  • Are you interested in a product that can be run within a virtual machine or within a hard appliance?
  • If virtual machines are preferred, what type of visualization infrastructure do you currently use?
  • Will you be supporting users who bring personal devices into the corporate network?
  • Will these users be subject to different security policies than those using corporately owned devices?
  • What system are you currently using for corporate email, calendar and contacts? For example every solution offers varying support for Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes Traveler, etc. The version(s) you are currently running may also affect the functionality. For example Microsoft Exchange 2007 allows for differing functionality within some MDM product than Microsoft Exchange 2003.
  • Are you planning a transition from a locally hosted email system to something cloud based? If so which service are you considering? Some MDM services support cloud based email systems, others do not.
  • Does your current IT disaster recovery policy affect the installation of an MDM service?
  • Are you intending to use your MDM software to distribute applications to your users?
  • Are you planning to use commercial applications, or custom ones? Which operating systems will you develop for?
  • Are you currently making use of, or do you have plans to use, certificate based authentication within your network? Which services would you like to authenticate in this manner?
  • Would you like to allow your users to register their own devices?
  • Are there any government regulations that you are subject to? How do these regulations impact mobile devices and MDM?
  • How technical is your user base? If your organization is composed of a more technical group you may benefit from having fewer calls to tech support. More technical users may also be more likely to intentionally subvert security policies. Conversely less technical users may require more technical support and may not fully understand the security risks associated with mobile devices. Differing MDM providers are more suited to differing technical levels of users.
  • How many total users will make use of the MDM service you choose? Differences in volume pricing and ability to support various user group sizes will impact your MDM decision.
  • Do you intend to administer your own MDM software? Professionally administrated MDM software is available from some providers?
  • Do you have other internal or external processes involving mobile device procurement or management which will be affected by your introduction of an MDM service?
  • Do these teams have the ability to handle the changes in their process required by some MDM services?
  • Are you interested in an MDM software as subscription or perpetually licensed software?
What about pricing?
The cost of MDM software varies greatly, generally depending on amount of functionality, hosting options, and the quantity of licenses purchased. In general you can expect to pay $20-$75 per seat for a perpetual license, or $1.50 to $3.50 per seat for a monthly subscription service. Additional fees will also apply for ongoing software maintenance/support, installation services, and training. Pricing is currently fluctuating, as the market grows. Generally, pricing is higher for vendors that offer the most functionality, and that are most favored among buyers. Between the vendors on our shortlist, there are some differences in price; however, it depends on your specific requirements and volume.
What Should I Expect From Installation?
Most MDM software relies on server-side software which acts as a central hub for mobile device communication with other services within the corporate network. The installation of an MDM product can be very complex. Integration with existing network services will need to be established and properly tested; this will require involvement from your IT department.
We've been seen several failed MDM projects. The software was not properly installed or tested. The software may have been an appropriate choice; however, the attention required on installation was not adequate.
As is the case for other network software, professional installation practices, including step-by-step installation checklists should be followed.
Top reasons why MDM systems do not live up to expectation or fail. (Hint... It's not the software):
  •  Lack of clear objectives for MDM. 
  • Implementation. Lack of a good road map and plan for implementation can spell disaster. Have you taken into consideration all of the considerations above? If so, how are you planning to mitigate these risks,
  • Training. Without proper companywide training, the solution will not live up to expectation. It will actually generate more calls into your IT help desk.
  • Lack of communication with employees. Employees are going to be concerned about big brother and need to feel comfortable that their personal data will remain personal.
  • Implementation - How the applications are rolled out to users is important. Also, making sure that the right settings are in place. We suggest a small sample group to make sure the systems, processes and setting are working correctly before rolling it out to a wider audience.
  • On-going management. Everyone likes their shiny new MDM toy, but it requires daily monitoring and management. Mobile is a dynamic environment. Without the right vigilant resources managing the administration and escalations, you will not get all you paid for.
  • Carrier management. Identifying people who are abusing the phones is one thing. Fixing it is another. Your people should have the required skills to comfortably interface with each carrier's billing portals to make changes to individual accounts.
There are many benefits to MDM software, however given how dynamic mobile is within a large organization, do not underestimate the cost of maintaining it. To make it work as advertised "the devil is definitely in the details".  If you are considering rolling out MDM to a large user group, we highly recommend a phased approach starting with a small user test group to work out all the kinks prior to releasing it corporate wide. Most MDM companies 
 Like any software solution, it's only as good as data you put in and how vigilant you are at managing it. 

Thinking of secondary market phones? How to buy and what to avoid.

There are two routes your company can go when looking to purchase phones for your employees.  You can go through the normal carrier 
b2ap3_thumbnail_Cell-phone-wall-252x168.jpgprocess which requires multi-year contracts, long wait times to upgrade, high deductibles for broken or lost phones, early termination liabilities "ETL".   The other way is through the secondary market.  Many companies do not realize that there is a very large market for refurbish devices on the secondary market.  
The secondary market can be a great alternative for low cost, contract free devices. New releases of popular handsets ensure availability and attractive pricing for previous releases of these same devices on the secondary market.
There are a few things you need to know and some pitfalls to avoid when buying on the secondary market:
Device Grades
  • Grade A: Grade "A" should deliver a device that appears like new.
  • Grade B: Grade "B" allows for moderate surface scratches etc.
What comes with the phones?
When ordering from a supplier make sure you specify what comes with the device.  The final price of the device will be determined by whats included.  If you get a "too good to be price", they will send you a phone and battery and nothing else.   You need to specify the things included:
  • Battery
  • Power cord - Ask if it is a factory unit or a Chinese produced replacement  (The Chinese produced unit will save you about $10/unit)
  • Factory box
  • Factory instructions
  • Factory ear bud head phones. 
Best Practices
Standardize on a device that is extremely popular in the market place and appears to offer longevity. This will help ensure reorder availability and price competitiveness in the secondary market. The Apple iPhone current falls into this category but, the Samsung Galaxy S will follow suit as they are following the same new release structure as Apple.
  • Order in bulk.  If you know your going to need 200 or 500 phones in then next 3 months, order them all at once to negotiate a better price.
  • Get an extended warranty.  If you order in bulk you can negotiate and extend the warranty period. 
  • Get the most current software release.  If you do not specify this, you will get a variety of releases.  If you specify this in your agreement you will save a lot of time having to update devices.
  • Unlocked phones.  Be sure to request that the supplier provides unlocked devices.  This will allow you to use the phones on different carriers for flexibility. 
  • Specify the carriers you want to use the phones with.  Each carrier operates on different platforms.  An Sprint Iphone will not work on Verizon's network etc..
  • Testing - Specify that the supplier provides tested devices.  Have your vendor test the camera, switches and primary features. 
  • Return policy - Make sure your agreement specifies that if a device does not meet your criteria or is not working they will provide a free replacement and pay for shipping. 
  • Accessories - be sure to specify the accessories that come with the phone.  Battery, power cords, original box, instructions etc...
  • Reputable supplier - make sure to ask the vendor how long they have been in business, how many clients and phones do they sell and ask for a few references. 
If you go this route, order a quantity of cold SIM cards from your carrier.  They can be inserted into the phones and will be come active when the phone is used.  
In summary, there are many benefits to ordering on the secondary market.
  • Price- You can purchase an A grade Iphone 4s and Samsung Galaxy S3 for approximately $135-$175 depending on accessories.
  • Flexibility - By getting an unlocked device, you can use it on more than one network.
  • Reduced carrier costs and no contract pricing. Since the carrier is not subsidizing a $600-800 device, You can get a month to month plan from your carrier for less money and no ETLs.
The downsides are very small if you follow the best practices above or work with a company that has experience working with various secondary market suppliers.

Tips from an industry insider: If you can't answer the following questions, you're NOT ready for BYOD.

BYOD consulting and transformation.
To BYOD or not to BYOD? That is the question. Optelcon can help your company evaluate the pros and cons of going to a BYOD environment. We also provide processes and tools which keep your data secure, your costs lower and automate the switching process.
There are 4 options when it comes to how companies manage their mobile devices.
1.Complete corporate ownership.
2.Corporate owned with payroll deductions.
2.Complete BYOD strategy.
Every company is different. What works for some companies may not work with others. There are a myriad of issues, challenges and landmines in any strategy.
Some of these issues include:
• Who owns the phone number; the company or individual?
• Security. How will you keep your company data safe in a BYOD or Corp environment?
• Privacy issues related to an employee's personal data.
• E-Discovery. In either environment , are you compliant with recent rulings and regulations?
• Devices. Are you going to buy the devices for your employees or let them purchase them separately?
• Cost. How are you going to determine a fair expense reimbursement?
• How are you going to reimburse your employee? Expense report/expense check, P-Card?
• Taxes. What are the tax implications of employees who receive money for their phones?
• Transition. When moving from one environment to another, how do you implement the new program without disruption of service?
• Carrier considerations – What is the process to change who is now liable for charges?
• Rate Plans & Pools – What will happen to your pool structure if you move large numbers of users to a BYOD environment?
• Contractual – How will any transition impact your current contract, commitments, discounts etc...?
• Policy – Who is going to write the corporate policy and what should be in it?
• Project Management – How is your already stretched IT staff going to manage any transitions?
• Political and personnel issues – How are you going to deal with employees who do not want to either transfer the phone to the company or from the company to the individual?
The key is having established tools, policies, processes and the people who can make a transition go smoothly without taxing your IT staff, or create employee rebellions.  You don't need to re-invent the wheel.

Tips from an industry insider: When is the best time to renegotiate your telecom, mobile and IT contracts?

Mid-Term Re-negotiations.
(If you're not renegotiating every 12-18 months, you could be losing millions in opportunity cost).
Due to the constant drop each year in telecom, mobile and IT cost, if you're not renegotiating your contracts at least every 12 -18 months, you could be paying more than 25-35% more than market and leaving millions on the table.
The most common objections we hear from prospective clients is. "We are in the middle of a contract and can't touch it". Or "We are going to put together an RFP as we get closer to the end of the agreement". Most companies do not realize that most contracts can be renegotiated well before the end of the term.
Optimal Renegotiate chart 659x637

There is formula that can identify the most optimal time to renegotiate early. The variables include the term, cost per unit of your existing services and the current market pricing at any point during the term of your agreement.  As a simple example, in the graph above, we assumes a 20% year over year decrease in costs. In this example, 18 months into this 36 month agreement is the most optimal time to renegotiate. At this point, the client will save over $1.4M compared to staying with their existing contract pricing and terms. This ratio will be different for each deal. It depends on the services covered; the market conditions contract terms and corporate objectives.
Your corporate objectives play a big role in determining the right time to renegotiate mid-term. The timing may not save you the most; however your quarterly numbers need a boost. In this case you may want to accelerate the renegotiates early to hit your numbers. Vendor leverage and commitments also play a factor. How much you have spent relative to either a MARC "Minimum Annual Revenue Commitment" or MTRC "Minimum Term Revenue Commitment" also plays a big part in our leverage assessment. There are many factors why vendors will come back to the table early. Some include the desire to extend the term, add new business to the account, or a fear of lost business.
Other factor includes present value of money and opportunity costs. Depending on the curve, if you wait 6 months to pick up an extra 20%, the amount of money left on the table waiting may not justify the wait.  While not every situation is ideal for mid-term negotiations, in our experience we find that over 98% are.

Tips from an industry insider: What every CIO, CFO and CEO needs to know about how cloud storage.

Back in 1988, I worked for Apple Computer in their college development program. I remember my ugly beige Macintosh box with that funky greenish screen. The computer had very little storage, so I went and purchased an external hard drive. It was a whole 20 Megabytes! It cost a fortune.  It weighed about 5 pounds, was a foot long, 6 inches wide and 6 inches tall. How things have changed.
Today, physical hard drive demand is actually dropping yet cloud based storage is one of the fastest growing IT sectors. According to Gartner, the public cloud services market is forecast to grow 18.5 percent in 2013 to total $131 billion worldwide, up from $111 billion in 2012, according to Gartner, Inc. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS), including cloud compute, storage and print services, continued as the fastest-growing segment of the market, growing 42.4 percent in 2012 to $6.1 billion and expected to grow 47.3 percent in 2013 to $9 billion.
Whether or not you realize it, cloud storage has already gained a foothold in your business. How and where your corporate data is stored and accessed has a dramatic impact on productivity, security and cost. More and more employees are using cloud-file sharing services like Drop box, Icloud, Google Drive, Sky drive and others for work. The largest driver behind this incredible growth is the rapid adoption of smart phones and tablets. The value is undeniable. The need to have your data accessible from any device anywhere has become a necessity. In order to deal with this paradigm shift, IT, vendors and marketers are responding in kind with new tools, such as IDaaS, SaaS and EUC platforms. If you've never heard of those terms or you don't know the difference between SoMoClo and SoLoMo, you're not alone.
Here is a high level explanation of what these terms are.
Identity as a Service is a kind of single sign-on for the cloud. It's an authentication infrastructure that a third-party service provider builds, hosts and manages. Usually, companies buy IDaaS as a subscription service. For an additional fee, cloud file-sharing service providers sometimes also host apps and give subscribers role-based access to certain apps or virtual desktops through a secure portal. For corporate IT, a secure solution is a must. Unless secure and approved, commercial services must be avoided and locked down like the plague.
As an example, you have probably seen websites that allow you to login using your Facebook, Twitter, Google and other accounts. This gives the user the ease of having to remember one password. Be very careful with this. When you select one of these options, Google or Facebook will ask your permission to give access to the service you are signing up for. When they ask, they typically tell you what the new services is requesting access to and what they can use it for. To mine data, many companies request access to all of your information, your contacts, your posts, your emails, your friends and basically all of your personal data. The next time you use one of these commercial identity as a service's IDaaS, think of what is shared. Once you give another service access to your personal, corporate and social data, it is hard to put the Genie back in the bottle. From a corporate IT perspective, policies should be set and measures should be taken to prevent the use of unsecure IDaaS services.
EUC platform
Vendors use the term "end user computing" platform to explain to customers how and why businesses should bring desktop and application services together. EUC platforms deliver services in a way that leaves users unaware of whether the service is managed locally or in the cloud.
Software that runs on a remote Web server -- as opposed to on a mobile device, PC or an on-premises server -- is known as "cloudware." Using this delivery model lets users subscribe to an app instead of buying it, so employees will always have the most recent version of that application. A few simple examples are Google Docs and Office 365. These applications can be access from the web.
Cloud storage
Cloud storage is a service model where data is managed, backed up remotely and delivered to users over the Internet. There are three main types of cloud storage models: public, private and hybrid. Public storage providers include, Dropbox, Google drive, Icloud, Sky drive and others. Private storage providers include, VMware, Oracle, Nirvanix, Savvis and others. Hybrid storage providers include, Ctera,, Tegile, Nirvanix and others.
Community cloud
when several organizations with common computing interests -- such as regulatory compliance and performance requirements -- share a multi-tenant infrastructure, it's known as a "community cloud." Such clouds let organizations reap the benefits of the public cloud, but with the added privacy and security of a private cloud. Participating businesses can administer the community cloud, or choose to leave that up to a third-party managed service provider.
"Bring your own app" is the name given to employees' use of cloud services and third-party applications in the enterprise. Employees bring their own devices to work, so it's only natural that they also would bring their own applications. Allowing BYOA can increase employee productivity and satisfaction, but when consumer technology accesses the corporate network and stores company data outside the data center, it raises security concerns. If an employee loses his device or it's stolen, administrators can wipe it. But if that user has stored data in the cloud, the options are very limited for protecting that data from theft or breach of the cloud environment. Examples of this are Drop Box, Box, Icloud, Google Drive, Sky drive and SharePoint. If you have a smart phone, changes are you are already using one of these solutions. These services represent the largest threat to keeping your corporate data secure.
The amalgam of 'social," "mobile" and "cloud" technologies, SoMoClo allows users to access their data and applications anytime and from anywhere. For IT, SoMoClo is an employee-driven movement that means data and apps can live almost anywhere, can be accessed from limitless endpoints and can be shared easily. Companies like Facebook have really been a big driver in this area. Linking your social data with other apps and other files is convenient, but has its risks.
Not to be confused with SoMoClo, SoLoMo is the convergence of "social collaboration," "location" and "mobile" technologies, and is something that marketers commonly use. SoLoMo let advertisers -- such as Foursquare, AroundMe and Yelp -- push notifications to customers who are physically nearby, using gamification to keep potential customers engaged. SoLoMo is also emerging in search engines as a way to give users location-based results.
How can this transform your business?  Imagine a scenario where a company creates a database of their competitor's employees from LinkedIn profiles and who their connected to. GPS data on competitor's employees can be bought from any number of online apps or social sites that they give phone location access to.  From this data, a company could determine which of their competitor's customers haven't been visited for 6 months or more and "go knocking".  A company could predict possible mergers by determining if the competitor's Sr. executives, lawyers or accountants are spending a lot of time at another competitor's offices.  Depending on whether you're the data "miner" or "minee", this can have dramatic impact on your business. Used properly, this type of data mining could dramatically increase sales.  If your company is not taking measures however to protect your data, this could be very damaging to your business.  Cell phones are one of the lynch pins to this risk. If you do not have the right mobile policies and security in place, you could be exposing your company to more risk than you could imagine. Your competitors don't have to hack anything. They just need to buy the right data and query the right questions. The scary thing is that you won't know about it until you see your customers disappearing.  
As a C level executive, or corporate IT manager, new strategies need to be implemented to take advantage of this data and minimize your company's exposure.
Software as a Service is a software distribution model where vendors or service providers host applications and make them available to customers over the Web. There are two general kinds of SaaS. In the hosted application-management model, a provider hosts commercially available software and delivers it over the Internet. In the software on-demand model, the provider offers customers Internet access to one copy of an app that was created for SaaS distribution. SaaS simplifies administration, patching and application version management for IT pros.
Hybrid cloud
A hybrid cloud is composed of at least one public cloud and at least one private cloud. A hybrid cloud is a cloud environment through which an organization offers and manages some resources internally and contracts others from external providers. For example, a company might use a public cloud service to archive data, but still use an on-premises storage system for customer data. This is quickly becoming the trend for Companies looking to keep the benefits of cloud storage and protecting sensitive data.
The cloud is here to stay. Understanding the different flavors, the benefits and the risks are the first step toward creating the right strategy. If done right, cloud storage and social data mining can give your company a competitive edge. If not, cloud storage could be catastrophic to your business.

Tips from an industry insider: Is Your Company A Victim Of "Telecom Extortion?" A Negotiating Tip From A Telecom Industry Insider.

Every day I hear clients say they that they feel they should wait 2 years before they can start renegotiating a new 3 year telecom contract.
This can be a very costly mistake. For large enterprise data networks, it is imperative to start the data gathering and preparation for the negotiating process at least 12-18 months into a 3 year deal. If your company does not have a viable alternative in place to use as leverage by at least 12 months before your current contract expiration, your carrier may have already won. Carriers will only react to either the promise of more business or the threat of losing of business. The bigger you are, the worse it is. If you are a large company, it can take upwards of 8-12 months to move to another carrier. Your carrier knows this. Collecting requirements, putting together RFPs or RFQs can take 2-5 months. The bigger the company, the longer it takes to gather the necessary data. Now there is only 7-8 months until contract expiration. Even though other vendors are offering a 30% reduction, your incumbent will typically offer a nominal 5-7% discount for a 3 year renewal. Upon showing the incumbent how much savings could be achieved by moving vendors, they will most likely play the "partner card" and start working on a better proposal. If it is one of the "Big Two" carriers, they are experts at stalling. They can easily delay proposals for 2-3 months while they "get special pricing approval and run it through finance and engineering" a half dozen times. Now there is only 6 months remaining until expiration. At this point, your incumbent has all the leverage.

Have you ever noticed that the big two's carrier's contracts are structured in such a way as to provide a 85-95% discount off their standard rates where other carriers will quote a fixed rate? Say what they will, but this is how vendors turn into professional extortionists. No broken limbs, but extortionists just the same. With only 4-5 months left, your incumbent will come back with a new 3 year renewal proposal offering a slightly better 10-15% discount off of their current rates. Remember, much of the telecom market has been experiencing 12-25% year over year, CAGR price decreases. By the end of your first 3 year term, it is likely that market prices have already dropped over 30%. They will also continue to do so for the next 3 years. At this point, there may be one final push to get your incumbent to lower their rates. The incumbent will say no. Why would they lower their margin when they have all the leverage? To buy some extra negotiating time and be in a better negotiating position, some will ask for a 1 year contract extension instead of a 3 year extension.
This is where the extortion comes in. In a polite way, your incumbent will tell you to either sign the deal on the table, "or else" rates will go up 10 fold when the 90% discounts disappear when the contract expires. When this happens, their are very few options other than to renew for another 3 years and be stuck paying 30-50% over the pricing that even smaller companies enjoy. This reduces your company's competitive cost advantages.
There are a number of ways to mitigate these risks however; I will save that for another post.