With the increasing popularity of mobile device usage in governments of all levels -- federal, states and municipalities -- IT leaders must manage a complex wireless environment for thousands of staff members and ensure that mounting expenses are kept under control while appropriate security measures are taken. As a result, most of them are recognizing the need to take control over their mobile environments by establishing policies to make devices and plans corporate-liable (rather than letting employees make isolated mobility choices), and implementing processes and tools to support those policies.

Corporate enterprises have begun to adopt wireless expense management (WEM) solutions for many of the same reasons -- deep cost savings, security and control over their full wireless environment. Public CIOs now have the opportunity to achieve these benefits by leveraging commercial solutions that have matured to address the unique requirements of the public sector. These solutions have consistently saved organizations 10 to 35 percent annually on their rapidly-growing wireless expenditures while at the same time centrally managing a number of priorities: wireless devices and plan ordering, end-to-end invoice processing, monitoring and enforcement of mobile communication limits for employees, optimization of plans and services, help-desk support, and the generation of reports that provide visibility into companywide mobile usage.

Why Is Wireless Expense Management Necessary?

Governments and enterprises share many of the same needs for a solution that automates and proactively manages wireless across the organization. Government entities can leverage this common ground to shorten their learning curve for WEM. The main impetus is high growth in the use and usefulness of wireless, driven by faster and more reliable wireless networks, more capable and varied devices, more demanding and advanced users, and an ever-expanding universe of applications. These advancements have created a significant opportunity for public and private organizations to better enable their mobilized work forces to complete their duties while maintaining visibility and control over their mobile activity and expenses. Other key drivers for WEM include:

Relentless budget pressures -- With ongoing budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels, WEM programs provide a counterbalance with proven and rapid return on investment. In the past, particularly in large agencies, it had been hard to identify who is responsible for balancing the needs of the mobilized employees with the associated costs. Often it had been several people in different departments -- a contracting officer for phones, another one for the Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPA), a director of networks, or perhaps an operations or administration official. As a best practice, public CIOs should designate a wireless manager with comprehensive responsibility and authority over these areas for wireless. Ideally this person reports to (or is) the owner of fixed and mobile telecom overall.

Renewed focus on inventory tracking for security purposes -- Wireless devices now routinely carry gigabytes of sensitive company or government information, which necessitates a tight process for keeping track of who has them and how they are being used. To capture this visibility from the start, a WEM solution provides a foundation of inventory cleanup or registration from which all future activity is tracked. One agency recently had more than 20,000 wireless telephone numbers on its wireless bill that were otherwise unknown. Beyond the inventory, there's a need to monitor and manage proper assignment of Wireless Priority Service for first responders and other key government officials. Ensuring these public servants are fully enabled contributes to national security, not just IT security.

Move from decentralized ops to centralized ops -- A certain level of manual WEM may be delivered by individual contracting officers who have responsibility for a manageably low number of mobile devices. Leveraging competitive rates offered under various contracting vehicles or BPAs, they can manually validate that the contracted rate matches the billed rate and keep an eye on excessive usage or

Christopher Corr  | 
Christopher Corr is director of government accounts at Rivermine. He can be reached at media@rivermine.com.