Software maker gets its mobile house in order

Hosted service from Visage Mobile tracks and manages enterprise mobility costs, including cellular plans

Chordiant Software has nothing against Microsoft Excel. But the software maker no longer wants to use it to track and manage its mobile users, devices and carrier service plans.

Instead the company plans to go into production with a hosted software service it has been beta testing for Visage Mobile. The service, called MobilityCentral, pulls user information from Chordiant's Active Directory and combines it with asset data from the mobile devices and cellular plan data from the various carriers. A series of up-to-date reports now replaces the hours of work that Chordiant's telco analysts invested in trying to keep track of and manage the company's mobile users, devices and services.

"By deploying a platform like MobilityCentral, we could look at what we owned, at the different types of service plans, devices and applications," says Deshen Yu, vice president of information technology for Chordiant, which focuses on CRM and business process management software for financial services and telecom customers. "We quickly realized many [of these elements] didn't make sense."

As a result of analyzing the MobilityCentral data, Chordiant decided to standardize on one carrier, AT&T, and one device platform, Research in Motion's BlackBerry.

MobilityCentral is based on software originally developed by Agistics, a software firm acquired by Visage Mobile in June 2007, to add mobility management for enterprises to the company's existing portfolio of subscriber management services used by mobile virtual network operators. Released in April, the service will be showcased the Visage Mobile booth in next week's Wireless Enterprise Symposium, RIM's annual BlackBerry user conference.

Managing the various elements of enterprise mobility -- devices, applications, users, cellular plans, security and so on -- is largely an ad hoc affair, stitched together with homegrown tools (such as Excel spreadsheets), and an array of third-party point products, such as applications to manage mobile devices or update their software. There's little that brings together asset management for financial purposes, with device management, user support, and service plan management.

Microsoft's just-released System Center Mobile Device Manager (MDM) is focusing on one part of this complex issue: managing the physical Windows Mobile 6.1 devices, for example. And various vendors in the mobility food chain are forging an array of partnerships to address some of these issues.

The time was ripe for advanced tools that would let enterprises, faced with burgeoning numbers of mobile workers, track these mobile assets and use them cost-effectively, says Dean Alms, Agistics founder and now a general manager with Visage Mobile.

MobilityCentral is a hosted service that uses a number of inputs. It draws from the enterprise directory an array of data about mobile users, who are assigned to mobility groups with associated policies, privileges and budgets, all based on user job requirements. Each user receives a profile, which includes service information drawn from carrier invoices, and device information from third-party device management applications (such as Microsoft's MDM) or from manual input. The software creates a complete inventory of devices and services.

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