Embracing Mobility: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

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With the frequency of mobile integration increasing in daily office life, many organizations found the best approach was to purchase phones for their employees and supply itemized data plans. This process worked, as employees were able to easily access client contacts and make calls while on the road. Everything was fine and dandy until the Smartphone took over.

Pricing plans dramatically changed to include data service. Employees were given a tool that unified all their communication benefits, and it fit in their palm.  This, however ushered in a new fad of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Rather than spend money on high-priced devices, organizations started to permit their employees to bring their own personal mobile devices to the office, giving them access to company email, file servers and databases.

The concept is straight forward. Since the device belongs to the employee, there is a higher chance that they will take better care of their own property. This should lead to fewer services errors, and allow the company to access technology quicker, as employees are more apt to upgrade their phones when available. Employees were happy because they could use any phone they wanted, and not simply the device the organization deemed appropriate. It is a seemingly win-win situation.

Of course, BYOD has its negatives. Companies cannot track and control access to corporate and private networks. This presents security issues, particularly when an employee no longer works for the company. There are concerns surrounding delicate company information, which, without strict security defined by a company’s IT department, could be considered at risk should an employee lose or break their device. Many companies are also paying for an employee's phone service that is also being used on personal time. Still, the debate of the mobile phone is similar to the debate of the car versus public transportation: people want to use their own things.

This brings to the forefront the issue of voice and data plans. With company-dispensed devices, organizations can establish relationships with carriers for mobile voice and data service. Allowing employees to bring their own devices means reimbursement for the mobile costs through expense reports and itemized carrier bills. This makes it harder to control mobile bills, as they are plan- and option-based, and, while the amount of money an organization will pay toward mobility is contingent on the employee’s job description and pay grade, many companies simply don’t know what they are paying for because they don’t have the tools or resources to truly allocate costs.

Whether or not companies control the phones, they do have input into plans and how much they are willing to pay for them, which is really where the chaos begins. Companies will pay 'X' amount towards minutes, text messages, and data plans. The problem resides with the wild fluctuation of voice and data plans, which happens for a variety of reasons, most notably an employee’s increased or decreased amount of travel, where that trip takes place (domestically or internationally) and the time of year. Sudden high-minute usage, continuous overages, and high texting can skyrocket mobile costs. Many offices keep minimal, if any, documentation justifying their employees’ use of cell phones and other electronic devices. Approval processes are surrounded with red tape with very little paper trail.

Inventory is often not maintained, which is highly problematic as budgets become more and more publicly scrutinized. Lack of documentation makes cost allocation difficult to manage and many institutions continue to utilize confusing, outdated spreadsheets and finance software to manage their expenses.

How has your company tackled the issue of BYOD? As both sides of the argument have valid points, a company can excel in either direction. Are you a BYOD...or not?
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