6 Things Companies Do to Mess Up Their Mobile Mojo

By  Roger K. Yang — December 06, 2010

While smartphones have improved the productivity and convenience of the corporate road warrior, they have also opened up a host of challenges, including expensive cost sinkholes and new vulnerabilities to corporate security. Following are the most common mistakes companies make in designing a mobile workforce strategy.
 
Paying carriers too much
Most companies routinely pay 15% -- and even as much as 40% -- more than necessary. Costs can be brought under control with thorough plan optimization and negotiation of contract terms with vendors. Beyond plans for voice calls, don't forget to take into account text messaging, data usage, and special considerations such as frequent trips to certain countries. While these may seem like obvious steps, very few companies do a good job of implementing them.
 
Believing individual liability is better than corporate liability
Because of the onerous amount of work in managing wireless devices, some companies attempt to reduce administration and costs by assigning the accountability for mobile devices to their employees. The theory is that a limit can be placed, and anything over that amount will be paid by the employee. But how do you know what that limit should be, and how do you handle all the exceptions? Is $100 per month sufficient, or maybe it could be $50? What do you do whenever employees have a legitimate business use for roaming, and you need to approve the difference? What about purchasing new equipment or accessories, which could cause the monthly bill to exceed the threshold?
 
Individual liability more commonly increases the amount of work involved with wireless expense management, but transfers it onto employees, their managers, and the accounting department. Overall, is it simpler to have one well managed invoice every month, or 500 managed on an ad hoc basis? Corporate volume pricing and pooling plans are also forfeited, raising the costs even higher.
 
Additionally, there is no visibility into usage patterns, and therefore no leverage for addressing legal or performance issues.
 
Another unforeseen issue with individual liability is that the phone number is tied to the actual person. Should that person switch companies, the phone number goes too. This impact is critical in the case of transitioning salespeople, since your clients could now be calling your competitor directly.
 
With corporate-liable devices, a better way to streamline these tasks is with a centralized system to process invoices, send out usage reports, and track inventory. You would then have complete visibility and control of these devices, which can then be subject to benchmarking and internal analysis.
 
Lack of communication with employees
When billing is centralized, many companies don't let their users know how much their devices cost each month. Without any concept of cost, users are much more likely to spend frivolously--with some people racking up thousands of dollars in a single month! This could be remedied through e-mailing a report automatically to each user every month--essentially a simplified version of an individual phone bill. Make it bold enough to get their attention and simple enough to glean important information at a glance.
 
In addition to policies on costs, all companies need to set clear policies regarding mobile device use, both from a legal liability standpoint as well as in the interest of the employee. Examples of this include restrictions on texting while driving, business use only, not paying for ringtones or games, and others. Even if an organization has policies but they aren't clear, enforced, or communicated, a company can still be liable for the actions of its employees.
 
Ad-hoc procurement and support
 In this "do-it-yourself" model, employees are responsible for procuring their own devices and accessories. When troubles arise, workers are also responsible for finding their own support, which usually involves spending many frustrated hours at a time with the carrier's call center or dealer stores. This leads to reduced employee productivity and morale, compared to a help desk that is trained in the specifics of your company and its policies. Whether it's internal or an outsourced help desk service, technical staff who specialize in mobile technology can solve your users' issues much more quickly.
 
With centralized procurement, a company can offer a selection of standardized mobile devices and operating systems. These devices can be limited to those that are known to work well with your security standards and that would work best for your workforce.
 
"Disaster waiting to happen" security
Today's smartphone has the computing power that laptop computers had not too long ago. Nothing is more vulnerable for enterprises than employees traveling the globe with sensitive data on mobile devices that are one misstep away from being left on an airplane or at a coffee shop. Without standards for security, the possibility of breaches and legal liability increases dramatically. And now with the proliferation of iPhones and Android devices, security becomes even more complex. Companies need the ability to set standards for security, such as password policies and controlling which apps can be installed, and be able to do things such as remotely wipe smartphones with sensitive data in the event of a loss.
 
Losing track of inventory
Companies need a way to accurately track mobile users, mobile numbers, devices, and other information. In large firms it is very possible for employees to retain their old devices, even after they've left the company. The employer continues to pay the monthly fees indefinitely, unaware of the situation until some sort of audit is done many months, or years, down the road. This can be solved through integrating mobile inventory with HR records, mapping employees to devices, and maintaining this database as changes are made. An effective mobile telecom management strategy and system can help enterprises reduce costs, improve productivity, and protect the company from potential liability issues.
 
Roger K. Yang is CEO of Avema.

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