Mobile computing creates big opportunity for small business

BoxTone grows as use of smart devices continues to expand

Since announcing the formation of a public-sector practice less than two years ago, BoxTone has seen a threefold increase in its government sales and has racked up key contract wins with several federal agencies, the military, and state and local governments.

The mobile management solutions provider was founded in 1999 to provide performance management services to commercial companies that were using the Web. But the advent of smart phones around 2005, especially the BlackBerry, created a dependency on the devices that provided a new and lucrative revenue stream for the private company based in Columbia, Md.

“There was a need to guarantee the maximum service level, the maximum performance from those devices,” said Brian Murphy, BoxTone’s Public Sector Practice vice president. “We basically built the business on providing something called mobile service management.”

BoxTone’s software solution, Mobile Service Management, manages the links between mobile devices and the networks they run on. BoxTone supplies help desk support for BlackBerry users and back-office assistance to the platform’s IT technicians, alerting them early to problems with a device or the network, he said.

During high peaks of traffic, the software identifies communication services issues and creates a one-click fix, usually performed by service desk employees within three minutes.

And although BoxTone does not repair carrier problems, it does offer subscribers service advice and might even suggest other carriers that it believes offer better service.

“We’ve had agencies and organizations use that information to negotiate better terms on their data plans,” Murphy said.

BoxTone has leveraged its years of experience providing end-to-end mobile services to commercial entities, some with as many as 50,000 mobile devices, to expand into the government sector.

For example, “BoxTone learned about addressing security requirements that were extremely stringent in the financial services community,” Murphy said.

Within just a couple of years in the federal sector, the company now manages more than 150,000 government mobile devices, including some 17,000 smart phones for the Veterans Affairs Department and about 10,000 for the House of Representatives, he added.

BoxTone is targeting every agency, Murphy said.

Customers include the State, Treasury and Justice departments; Drug Enforcement Agency; U.S. Capitol Police; FEMA; Environmental Protection Agency; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Army Corps of Engineers; GSA; and several classified government organizations that Murphy cannot name.

Last year BoxTone won contracts from the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs departments; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Environmental Protection Agency; and the Army Medical Command.

Other contracts came from the New York City Education Department and the California Office of the State CIO.

BoxTone uses its resellers, managed service partners and sales team to win and retain its government clients. The company licenses its services on a per-user basis with discounts based on the number of users.

“We also collaborate very closely with the folks at [Research in Motion], the folks at Apple and the carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint that have major market shares in the federal government,” Murphy said.

The company also works closely with HP, IBM, Xerox and Dell, “which take our solution and implement it as part of their overall service that they deliver to the federal government,” he added.

For 2010, BoxTone saw a 45 percent increase in company sales year-over-year, with sales from the Public Sector Practice more than quadrupling year-over-year.

“We’ve been growing at a 45 to 50 percent clip,” Murphy said. “In the federal sector, we’ve had a pretty big spike over the last two years because we developed the federal practice, and we’ve applied a focus there.”

Despite federal budget belt-tightening, the future looks bright for BoxTone.

As the use of wireless devices spreads deeper into organizations, IT managers will face increased pressure to support more smart-phone users for more critical activities without increasing personnel costs, according to a recent Forrester analysis of smart phone use posted on the BoxTone website.

“Solutions like BoxTone mitigate this pressure by bridging the gap between the wireless e-mail provider and the management requirements of the IT organization,” according to the analysis.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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