BYOD: Roll Out or Roll Back?

David Cram
Director

Managing mobility on an enterprise level can be a daunting and complex task. Each major mobile carrier is continually rolling out new plans and features, discontinuing others and also maintaining their own list of “custom offerings” that many organizations are not aware exist. The vast number of plan options and combinations is staggering — over 14 million different combinations for an organization with 1,000 managed devices.  As a result, many organizations are paying 20 to 40 percent more than what others are paying for the exact same service requirements.

Over the past few years, the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) approach to enterprise mobility management has dominated conversations. On the surface, BYOD sounds like a simple solution to the complicated task of managing mobility for hundreds or thousands of employees. But this seemingly simple decision comes with an array of hidden challenges. Here are three key considerations organizations should take into account before updating or implementing a new mobility program:

  1. Examine cost drivers. The first step to managing any expense is to understand the cost drivers. Organizations should start by looking at the number of current corporate mobile users, and then dig deeper into how many users are eligible for BYOD stipends. Next, they should review the mobile adoption rate and consider how the adoption rate would change if the program was altered. Having this information is critical to ensure organizations can make data-driven decisions about a go-forward strategy.

    From there, organizations should analyze how expenses are currently paid. For instance, are any expenses paid via expense reimbursement or charged back to employees? The best way to evaluate both BYOD and corporate mobility programs is to establish a total monthly cost-per-device. By translating both the corporate managed costs and reimbursement costs into a monthly cost-per-device, organizations are able to allow that data to guide their decision on what BYOD stipend amount will breakeven with the corporate mobile device plan. A significant hurdle many organizations face when analyzing their established monthly cost-per-device summary is an understanding of what corporate costs could be if their mobility program was fully optimized. As stated earlier, most organizations’ corporate mobile costs are 20-40 percent higher than they should be, which should be factored into the analysis. Setting the stipend amount too high can lock in wasteful spending. Yet setting the stipend too low may lead to the risk of potential liabilities.
     
  2. Understand the liabilities. Many organizations handle a significant amount of sensitive data. Therefore, it is important to consider IT security rules when allowing employees to work on their own personal devices. When employees leave the company, for example, a BYOD plan can leave an organization vulnerable to the misuse of company data. This is why it is critical that all BYOD programs have processes in place that allow organizations to remotely access and clear devices in the event that an employee’s device is lost or stolen, or if the employee abruptly departs from the organization.

    Separately, it is important to fully understand the liability risk of setting the stipend amount too low. In Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Services Inc.1, California courts ruled that employers must reimburse BYOD employees for a “reasonable” percentage of their phone bill.  Although “reasonable” is not defined, and this ruling is state specific and not yet nationwide, employers should understand that there are risks to setting stipend amounts too low.
     
  3. Do not overlook indirect costs. Oftentimes the cost and time drain of administrative work is disregarded when evaluating mobile program financials. To get a true sense for how much the company’s mobile strategy costs, leaders must look at the time employees spend tracking and requesting reimbursement for their mobile usage – time they could have put towards other work. Leadership should also look beyond the end-user and consider the time finance and accounting spends reviewing and reconciling reimbursements, as well as the resources IT puts into troubleshooting or updating devices. BYOD is not the only solution for relieving mobility management pain points; outsourcing this function to a managed service provider is an increasingly growing trend and strong option for organizations looking to focus more of their resources on operational activities that directly add value to their clients.

A Shift Away from BYOD

While having an understanding of the organization’s internal needs is important, it is also vital that business leaders carefully evaluate the ever-evolving options that exist in the mobile marketplace. In our work with clients, we are seeing the traditional BYOD framework continue to change, with many organizations delaying or moving away from the BYOD model due to one or more of the following reasons.

For starters, many organizations have lost pricing leverage when moving from corporate-managed mobility to individually-managed. Early BYOD adopters have realized that the biggest winner in a BYOD deployment is usually the carrier. Effectively, the carrier is shifting volume from a highly negotiated and managed contract to hundreds of individual contracts with no negotiation leverage. Many organizations are also facing a lack of device management options, which results in higher costs. For instance, if an employee incurs significant overage expenses, the responsibility is on the user to correct the overage going forward. The organization cannot make plan changes to an individual-liable device, further limiting the cost efficiency of most BYOD programs.

While carriers are beginning to create more simplicity in plan offerings, they are increasingly bundling more charges into base plan offerings. The risk with these bundles is the lack of transparency into true cost, and the potential to overprovision and buying more than what is needed — which is often a surreptitious objective of the carrier. At the same time, better mobility managed services are allowing organizations to capitalize on, or move away from, the BYOD model. Managed services in this area have grown in sophistication and can manage the entire mobile purchase cycle – from device ordering through to device termination. 

Overall, there are a myriad of ways that an organization can roll out or roll back BYOD. The decision is unique to each organization, and must be made with consideration to culture, policies and goals. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, organizations must ask the right questions, take the time to gather all necessary information and carefully identify their goals before charting a course down either path. In the end, organizations will be glad they did, and so will their end users.

For more guidance on managing enterprise mobility, schedule a briefing with me at dcram@hbrconsulting.com.