Mobile Insurgency and Managing Expenses
Author: Steven Zolman
Is IT ready to relinquish control of mobile communications and let users use their own Smartphones and tablets in the workplace? Are employees ready for the responsibility that comes along with having a personal device that is capable of accessing company systems? What is apparent is that the consumerism of IT is driving changes in the enterprise and that for many Clients, it is no longer reasonable or practical to restrict users to a particular Smartphone in the workplace. RIM’s Blackberry has enjoyed a long run as the business standard for communications, notably with its email capabilities and deservedly excellent security. But RIM is falling behind quickly in touch screen technology and mobile apps, and it is easy to see why employees are demanding adoption of the iPhone and Android devices in greater numbers. To add insult to injury, as their recent network outage so pointedly demonstrated, RIM also employs a legacy, proprietary communications network that is aging and apparently prone to failure which is shining a bright light on IT’s rationale for controlling what devices are permitted by end-users.
The sufficient excuses that no Smartphone device has the security of Blackberry are quickly eroding. Third party mobile device management and security software can provide most of the oversight and management IT needs to see in mobile devices.
However, this is not just about RIM and their Blackberry, you have to also assume they will use some of their hoards of cash to put more effort into Smartphone development and begin to catch up to the middle of the innovation pack (although, if their recently released tablet (the Blackberry Playbook) is any indication of this development prowess, they may have a ways to go).
With this growing insurgency of employees seeking to use their personal mobile phones or a corporate selection other than Blackberry on the company network and access email and applications, IT is acquiescing and providing this access, with 63% respondents to a recent InformationWeek survey allowing employee to access the corporate network with their personal mobile phones. The implication here is not just personal mobile phones, which is a sea-change in and of itself, but any number of phone makes and models are now in the mix, not a select few that were largely dictated by IT and the mobile phone carrier. This poses some challenges to IT in how to determine what support to provide to end-users and what support to push back to the end-user. It stands to reason that as consumers we have become somewhat savvy in operating our Smartphones and know how to get help when it’s needed, including contacting the mobile operator for connectivity or billing issues. It’s reasonable to contact IT for corporate email or enterprise mobile applications, but beyond this it’s reasonable to place the support burden on the end-user and relieving some support pressure on the IT help desk.
The other implication of this new mobile device independence is the implication on corporate mobile agreements that offer discounts based on volume and number of subscribers. Historically, IT has negotiated these agreements based on some anticipated annual spending and subscriber level, including both corporate responsibility units (bought and paid for by IT) and individual responsibility units, which offer corporate discounts to employees for their personal and family usage. With this line now blurring between corporate and individual sponsored usage of Smartphones how will this impact the IT effort to negotiate favorable term agreements based on a certain amount of anticipated volume?
With the easing of restrictions on both the type of Smartphone that users must use (that is, something other than Blackberry) and allowing users to use their own Smartphone on the corporate network, it now stands to reason that perhaps IT should get out of the business of negotiating and managing mobile carrier term agreements and on-going and highly burdensome expense management altogether. Mobile expenses are difficult to manage for the organization, with increases in data usage and texting, as well as the preponderance of international travel, it is a constant battle to keep mobile expenses from getting out of hand. While competitive rate plan discounts and other negotiated incentives help keep this cost down, it is end-user behavior that typically drives up this cost. Often this is a lack of education or governance when it comes to appropriate use or how end-user actions drive up cost. Where is the incentive for a mobile user to use discretion when using their Smartphone when it is a corporate device and little to no accountability on the part of the mobile user for this cost?
It is becoming increasingly common for the enterprise to get out of the business of sponsoring carrier agreements and managing mobile expenses, instead opting to have end-users take full responsibility for their own Smartphone and the carrier rate plan that goes with it. Employees are given an expense limit for their mobility phone each month, perhaps based on tiers depending on their company role (e.g. salespersons might have a higher limit) and the employee tendency for international travel. This becomes self-policing for the end-user who suddenly realize that they have to both negotiate their own carrier rates plans, including using friends and family plans and a little competition to their advantage, and use their Smartphone with more care and discretion to keep cost down. This shifting line of accountability from the company to the employee, and the cost efficacy it breeds can actually dramatically reduce costs for corporate IT departments in the actual usage itself, as well as the expense management costs that are usually in addition to the carrier charges.
Of course, IT still has a responsibility to support the infrastructure to provide access to email and applications, as well as security management to ensure corporate information does not get into the wrong hands. And, importantly, there is also a responsibility to provide education to the end-user on mobile carrier rate plan options and how to negotiate with carriers, as well as guidelines on how to keep their costs on the Smartnet phones in check. This may include such guidelines as when an unlimited data plan is warranted or how best to use the Smartphone when calling internationally or when in-country.
While mobility is one of the fast growing segments in IT, it is also one of the most difficult to manage. There are options to appease the end-users by giving them their choice for Smartphones and shift the administrative burden to the employees, lowering company costs and freeing up significant IT resources.
NET(net) is a clear leader in helping our clients capture value through the consumerization of IT, and has extensive experience in mobility expense management, including carrier agreement negotiation, end-user mobile usage policy development and governance and transitioning to end-user individual mobility responsibility. Get in touch with us today explore the options and get a handle on your mobility expenses now.
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