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National Solar Panel Installer groSolar Grows Cellular with eMOBUS Electronic Mobility Management

Nov17

groSolar, One of the Nation’s Largest Solar Energy Installers Chooses eMOBUS to Help Manage its Growing Fleet of Cellular Devices

eMOBUS, Inc. a carrier agnostic provider of cellular management services and software, today announced that groSolar (http://www.grosolar.com/) a leading national solar energy distributor/installer, is the latest mid-market company to go live with Electronic Mobility Management. After a successful account clean up and on-time implementation, the Electronic Mobility Management platform was deployed to ensure continuous account maintenance.

“Purchasing eMOBUS was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made,” claims Wayne St. Jacques, CIO – groSolar. “For less than we were originally paying the carriers, we gained better service and technology that allows us to free up internal resources for more important initiatives.”

As groSolar continues to expand their solar empire, they rely on eMOBUS to ensure their cellular infrastructure scales with the business. “It’s easy to quantify the benefits of the Electronic Mobility Management relationship,” explains Wayne. “We used to spend hours managing cellular, now we barely spend any time at all.” eMOBUS handles everything; move/add/change requests, preventative cost control, procurement, up to date visibility into end user usage, inventory tracking, invoice auditing and more. “Recently, we deployed 20 Verizon netbooks, each one did not receive the $100 subsidy credit. If it were not for eMOBUS catching this billing error, the two thousand dollars in discrepancies would have gone unnoticed.” The combined service and technology relationship allows groSolar to stay focused on what they do best; eliminating the time needed to manage the carrier’s inefficiencies.

groSolar is working aggressively to make solar power an everyday reality in American homes and workplaces. As an industry leader, groSolar recently announced major initiatives to significantly expand within the U.S. solar market through mergers and acquisitions of smaller regional installers. eMOBUS has already helped groSolar consolidate cellular accounts from newly acquired Borrego Solar’s residential arm and Chesapeake Solar. Managing such a fragmented cellular network requires a reliable, comprehensive web-based relationship that software alone cannot fix. Electronic Mobility Management provides a centralized system and business class service that minimizes the time groSolar spends managing a growing nationwide network of cellular users. By outsourcing cellular management, groSolar reduced operational overhead and direct carrier billing costs.

About groSolar
groSolar is North America’s premier distributor, installer and integrator of solar energy solutions for residential and commercial installations. Founded in 1998, groSolar is the largest 100 percent U.S.-owned installation and distribution company in the solar industry. The company has offices and warehouses across the US, distributing solar electric and solar hot water systems from offices in VT, NJ, NY, CT, MA, MD, DE, PA, and CA. groSolar integrates components from leading solar manufacturers including Canadian Solar, ZEP Solar, Motech, Heliodyne, SMA, Fronius, and UniRac into simple solar energy solutions for customers that generate clean, reliable energy for decades. groSolar is a mission-driven company dedicated to providing high quality solar energy solutions and whole energy appreciation. groSolar’s venture capital investors include NGP Energy Technology Partners, SJF Ventures, and Calvert Social Investment Fund. Learn more at groSolar.com or call 800.374.4494.

Mobility Management Best Practices

Nov15

Cell phones, PDAs and BlackBerrys, aircards and embedded devices such as netbooks and scanners are among the most menacing line items that cross a controller’s desk. On an individual basis they seem insignificant, but upon adding them together organizations are spending more than they can imagine. With the growth in mobility, IDC (www.idc.com) estimates 70 percent of the U.S. work force qualifies as “mobile” at least part of the time. As organizations deploy more cellular solutions it becomes exponentially more challenging to manage billing, inventory, logistics and maintenance of enterprise cellular accounts.

Engineering News-Record top 400 general contractor W.L. Butler Construction deploys more than 300 cellular devices companywide. With five locations across California and Arizona, W.L. Butler was forced to deploy two carrier providers for the coverage they needed. However, juggling multiple relationships and different carrier processes proved tedious for the company’s IT and accounting departments. Poor account visibility led to ballooning minute usage, incompatible plans and a buildup of unused lines. Without proper documentation and accountability, it was challenging for W.L. Butler to dispute carrier billing discrepancies. With more important issues to address, W.L. Butler could not afford to spend more time on bill reconciliation, tracking plans or users and cellular inventory.

Gary Sciuto, IT manager for W.L. Butler said, “The carriers claimed that their web-based management tools would provide all the stats and information we needed, but what they provided either never worked or was very basic and left us with little information to assess our overage charges or troubleshoot phone issues. In addition, the carriers seemed to routinely break the sites and would push us to use the reps who were completely unresponsive to our needs.”

The following best practices can help your firm avoid the situation W.L. Butler experienced:

1. Centralize the Management Process.
At most companies, a variety of people from procurement, IT, operations, and accounting contribute to managing cellular accounts. Usually, anyone in these departments has authority to place orders or make moves/adds/change/delete to the account. There is no way to prevent costly mistakes unless each person communicates his or her individual move/add/change/delete requests with the rest of the business groups before the transaction is processed with the carriers. Not being able to account for each order or move/add/change/delete is the primary reason accounts grow lopsided and cost the company significant amounts of money.

Appoint a mobility manager. By centralizing the management process through one individual, this person can become familiar with the company’s cellular infrastructure and intricate details. The mobility manager would be responsible for tracking:

  • the amount of minutes needed vs. purchased;
  • the amount of lines being used vs. unused;
  • individuals not adhering to policies;
  • contract dates;
  • warranty dates; and
  • carrier plan pricing and promotions.


2. Consolidate, Standardize and Optimize.
Doing more of your business with fewer carriers gives you greater negotiating power. This doesn’t mean you should work with only one carrier, as coverage may be an issue. Don’t be fooled by the hype of devices and applications being better on one carrier compared to the next. Each carrier has a wide range of units and third-party application providers that will meet just about any business need. Cellular is a commodity. The only concerns an organization should have when selecting a carrier are price and coverage.

If possible, standardize the equipment and services allowed. It is much less resource-intensive to support fewer variances in hardware, operating systems and services. Equipment and technology become easily interchangeable, allowing companies to maximize inventory and spare parts.

Optimizing minutes is easier than it seems. Most organizations can become more than 70 percent optimized just by utilizing two pooling plan options. The most cost-efficient way to build a corporate sharing minute plan is by using the highest-minute sharing plan and the lowest-minute sharing plan the carrier offers. For example, on Sprint you would want to build a plan using its 6,000-minute and zero-minute add-a-phone plans. On Verizon, you want to use its 4,000-minute and 200-minute add-a-phone plans. With AT&T, you want to use its 4,000-minute and 450-minute pooling plans. T-Mobile forces enterprises to buy minutes in blocks of 25,000, so there is not much room for minute optimization. You want to avoid any of the 900-minute, 1,350-minute or 2,500-minute plans on all carriers.

3. Institute Clear, Written Policies.
At some companies, especially at management level, employees are allowed to purchase any devices and plans they want. This does not make for tight controls. Organizations with liberal cellular policies end up overpaying. Companies need to be explicit about policies and controls to ensure compliance on services and usage. The two biggest culprits for overage charges are text and data. Unless the individual needs these services for business, block them.

4. Demand More From Your Carrier.
Companies do not lean on sales representatives enough. Remember that you are the customer, paying a monthly service fee. It is your carrier’s and your sales representative’s obligation to keep you happy to keep your business. Ask your sales representative if your company qualifies for any discount programs.

All carriers have implemented special discounts tied back to national purchasing programs. These allow even the smallest enterprise accounts (as low as five lines) to enjoy discounts ranging from 15-24 percent, $20 Blackberry plans, unlimited aircards for $45 and several special pricing options. For example, in the construction space, Verizon offers customers with an AGC membership a 22-percent plan discount, $20 Blackberry plans (as opposed to $44.99) and up to $100 in additional credits for new lines of service activated. Learn more athttp://www.agc-oregon.org/public/programs/verizon.shtml

Sprint is the most aggressive, offering a discount for just about every vertical, ranging from 15-24 percent. Some of these association memberships offer flat Blackberry and aircard plans up to 50 percent below market rate and aggressive bill credit and device subsidies for new business. Many of these programs only require a minimum line count of five or 25 subscribers to qualify.

AT&T is on board as well, providing increased vertical discounts up to 22 percent, special plan pricing and additional bill credits and device subsidies. In addition, it has shown a willingness to compete with fellow carriers – matching or even beating offers. All you need is proof of an offer from a competing carrier, and AT&T likely will match the pricing.

5. Consider a Mobility Management Provider.
Above a certain threshold of mobile users, about 200, companies may want to hire a mobility management provider. Considering the cost of a full-time person (salary, payroll taxes, benefits and opportunity costs), a mobility management service usually makes more business sense.

Cellular Carrier Industry Discounts; is your enterprise taking advantage?

Nov10

In today’s economy saving money is a popular topic and the cellular carriers know it.  As opposed to past years when carriers remained firm on pricing, today’s economy has them changing their tune to drive new business and fight churn.

What discounts are available?

Verizon, Sprint & AT&T all have now implemented special discounts tied back to national purchasing programs, associations or other affinity groups.  These discounts can allow smaller enterprise accounts (as low as 5 lines) to enjoy discounts ranging from 15%-24%, $20 Blackberry Plans, unlimited Aircards south of $45, plus several other special pricing options that used to be exclusively reserved for mega conglomerates with yearly cellular spends well into the millions.

For example, Verizon who has been successful selling the value of their network and protecting a high ARPU (ARPU: average revenue per user) for years, now allows clients in the Construction space, with as little as 5 lines and the necessary industry association membership (AGC, BIA) to reap the benefits of a 22% plan discount which includes; $20 Blackberry/PDA data plans (as opposed to $44.99) and up to $100 additional bill credits for new lines of service activated.

http://www.agc-oregon.org/public/programs/verizon.shtml

Sprint by far is the most aggressive and evolved in this vertical marketing concept offering a discount for just about every vertical that exists today.  Discounts range from 15%-24%, include flat Blackberry + Aircard rates up to 50% below the competition and aggressive bill credit and device subsidies for new business.  Many of these programs only require a minimum line count of 5-25 subscribers to qualify.

AT&T is on board as well providing increased vertical discounts up to 24%, special plan pricing and additional bill credits and device subsidies.  In addition, they have shown a willingness to compete with their fellow carriers matching or even beating parallel offerings.

How do you get these discounts?

Reach out to your carrier rep and ask about the available programs.  Some of the carrier discounts require an industry association affiliation, which may require a fee, but in most instances the fee is minimal in comparison to the savings created by the new preferred pricing.  Other programs require new business or existing account growth.

The challenge that many enterprise customers run into is that their primary carrier interaction is with their carrier sales rep, who is by definition sales driven (not service driven) and has minimal incentive to offer better pricing to existing clients unless it is going to quickly result in new business. This is where you have to perform your due diligence, start out by asking your friends or associates what type of pricing their organization is receiving.  Run pricing benchmarks by the competition. Once you have some data points to reference use this to your advantage when trying to renegotiate with your current carrier.  This will put some weight behind your request and help your sales representative when they go back to their finance or contracts department to plead your case.

What if your carrier says discounts are not available?

It is never a bad idea to entertain bids from competing carriers as they are generally far more aggressive and thorough in providing the best deals available when there is a chance their efforts will result in new business (carriers LOVE new business). Letting your carrier know you have options will get their retention wheels turning and generally get you the pricing you deserve.

Is there always a vertical discount available?

The simple answer is NO.  Depending on your enterprises vertical, line count and carrier there may not be additional pricing available.  But, in this economy it is no surprise that price is open for discussion and it never hurts to benchmark competition in a commoditized business like cellular.  You will be surprised what a carrier is willing to do to keep your business once they realize your eyes are wandering toward the competition.  If your carrier tells you NO, ask their competition.

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