Enterprises have always wrestled with what they feel is the best approach in terms of handling mobile devices: Do we employ a corporate liability model such as COPE (corporate owned & personally enabled) or embrace a bring your own device (BYOD) approach, which most often utilizes a reimbursement approach and offers less corporate security?
Given the shift to more remote-based or hybrid work, enterprise management teams that manage information technology and finance responsibilities will be thinking more about how they oversee their corporate communications relating to mobile devices.
Naturally, there are pros and cons to each and hence the perennial debate regarding the matter. Let’s weigh factors that help organizations decide which model fits them best.
Mobile Phones Overview
Personal mobile phones have been in the mainstream since the mid-1990s, and their use has exploded ever since. Smartphones, in the basic form that we know them today, were introduced in 2007 and became extremely popular soon thereafter. Almost everybody has one now and they would feel naked and at a disadvantage without one.
Because of the ubiquity of these devices and the personalization that comes with the territory –like the single-action six-shooters of the Wild-West – corporate management teams recognized early on that there could be an advantage to leveraging the privately owned mobile devices of their employees for corporate communications purposes.
Who would complain about using their own device for corporate purposes so long as they were compensated in a fair way? If you could have all the comforts of your personal phone while being reimbursed for its expense by the corporation, most employees would gladly say yes as supported by Forbes research.
Since you need to speak to customers during work hours anyway, what does it matter if you are doing it on your personal phone or a company phone? Most people do not want to keep track of two mobile phones any more than they would like to manage two wallets, so this type of model has been popular because of its win-win dynamic that it creates for both the corporation and the employee.
Despite the natural allure of a BYOD approach for the reasons mentioned, this model is not without its downsides.
Mobile Phone BYOD Plan Cons
The number one con for corporations is centered around BYOD mobile security concerns. If a device is stolen or lost there will be concerns around the breech of sensitive data. Employees who leave the company, especially to join a competitor will also trigger this concern.
With labor more transient than ever in late 2021, this is something that enterprise management teams will be giving thought to as they develop their plans for 2022 and beyond.
Let’s consider additional BYOD plan concerns:
- BYOD – IT Support Team Increased Labor & Costs: The lack of centralized control translates to more variables and complexity for the IT team to support. Employees will each have their own behavior patterns and preferences, and this will demand more time and effort from your mobility support team relative to supporting end-users.
- BYOD – Policy Overhead Costs & Visibility: If your enterprise is going to reimburse employees for their use of phones for business purposes, there will be internal administrative processing costs related to the reimbursement process along with overhead incurred by enforcement of the rules of the overall BYOD program. (The costs may not be as high as a COPE plan, but overhead maintenance costs are still material.) Moreover, when finance teams run expense reports, there will often be a lack of cost visibility resulting from less direct control over this expenditure.
- BYOD – International Data Implications: Each country will have its own culture and legal system, which will treat data ownership rights differently. Depending upon the size of your company and the extent of global reach, this could pose challenges for the management team. For example, Germany’s rules around redaction are much stricter than many other countries. And a device that is not directly under corporate authority is more vulnerable to issues than one that is as relates to international business and political protocols.
- BYOD – International Roaming: Generally speaking, most enterprises will not be able to gain discounted roaming rates for employees when they are travelling outside of the United States.
Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled Plan (COPE)
The advantage of this corporate owned and controlled plan is that it offers the strongest security. This plan allows employees to use their corporate phone for personal reasons in addition to business purposes.
This is smart because it acknowledges the obvious: Yes, of course, people are going to be compelled to use their corporate smart phone for personal reasons as well. This plan concedes this natural reality without judging it or penalizing the behavior in any way and therefore provides both the corporation and employee with what they need.
The corporation puts itself in a position to obtain the greatest security possible and the employee is given the latitude to go about using their phone in the most natural of ways, for both corporate and personal purposes.
This is a win-win situation overall so long as the corporation understands that this plan will cost it more on the front-end in terms of implementation costs and ongoing administrative requirements, such as keeping current on the latest technologies to ensure tight security.
Mobile Phone COPE Plan Cons
- COPE Plan Cost – As noted, this type of plan will cost the corporation more to implement and maintain given the strong premium on security that this type of plan is focused around. The corporation must keep up with the latest technologies and place focus on related user support and systems and policy administration. Corporations on stronger financial footing will deem the decision worth it given the peace of mind that this model can deliver over its BYOD counterpart.
- COPE Plan Employee Flexibility – Since the corporation is funding the plan, this naturally leaves the employee with less overall freedom over their smart phone choice and/or device use. Even if freedom is not materially restricted, the employee may have some level of concern over the privacy of their personal data and activities tied to their mobile phone and its use. Many people will not be overly bothered by this reality but for the ultra-private, this could pose a problem.
- COPE Plan Employee Non-Compliance – Some employees, perhaps because of privacy concerns, may choose to continue to use their personal mobile phone for business communications. Mobile phone plan compliance is difficult to monitor and manage effectively for those going “off the reservation” so-to-speak. This could naturally cause minor issues such as ineffective plan use or more serious liability issues if the employee does something illegal or improper on the corporation’s behalf on a device that cannot be properly secured by the corporation.
Each enterprise expense management team will want to think carefully about the mobility plans they utilize going forward in 2022 and beyond. We are clearly in a very transformational period in history. Technological advances continue to explode in exponential fashion while social changes keep just as ferocious of a pace, which is not typically the case.
Employees are working remotely more than ever due to COVID, and this trend will continue even when the pandemic eventually subsides. Because of this, many enterprise mobile management teams will want to consider a hybrid mobility plan as well, which works to incorporate the best of both the BYOD and COPE plans in one.
We will explore in greater detail what a hybrid enterprise mobility plan will look like in a subsequent blog.
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