September 27, 2021

What You Might Not Realize About Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Programs

Debunking Misconceptions About BYOD and the Costs

Bring-Your-Own-Device, or BYOD for short, has been a trending mobile program for more than a decade. In recent years, more program and policy variations have emerged like Choose-Your-Own-Device (CYOD), Company Owned/Personally Enabled (COPE) and Company Owned/Business Only (COBO). Before you decide which option is right for your company, it’s important to know the true definition of BYOD. So, let’s start there.

What is BYOD?

If you ask most IT professionals to explain BYOD, they will tell you something like this: BYOD is when a company allows employees to bring their own smartphones to work and use them for business purposes while reimbursing their mobile usage bill, usually with a monthly stipend.

Technically, this is not BYOD. What they’ve described is an individual-liable model. If you’re surprised by this revelation, you’re not alone.

So, what is BYOD, then? True BYOD is when a company allows employees to own their device, but it’s activated on the corporate wireless account and the company owns the phone number. The company pays for everything except the device.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to debunk some common misconceptions about individual-liable and BYOD programs and policies.

Individual-Liable Programs

As we discussed, under individual-liable programs, the employee owns the device, phone number and wireless plan. On the surface, this approach seems like a great deal for companies, which can offload mobility management and simply cut reimbursement checks. However, when you dig deeper, the premise is flawed by misunderstandings.

  • Misconception: Individual-liable programs save businesses money. It’s easy to see how companies think they would save money if they’re paying employees a stipend, instead of the upfront device costs and ongoing carrier service charges. What they don’t realize is:

    • In an individual-liable environment, businesses are overpaying for mobile services. A standard mobile stipend is much higher than volume-based rates companies may negotiate and optimize in a corporate-liable program.

    • Similarly, in a corporate-liable environment, purchasing hundreds (or thousands) of devices enables companies to negotiate lower rates for devices than an individual and own the device, which has advantages that we’ll review next.

  • Misconception: Individual-liable programs reduce IT overhead. By offloading the sourcing and purchasing of mobile devices and plans to employees, it stands to reason that IT departments would reduce their workloads. Yet that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Here’s why:

    • In an individual-liable environment, IT has no control over the employee devices accessing the corporate network, which creates problems in several areas. First, the IT help desk ends up supporting an overly broad range of devices, operating systems and versions. To ensure security, IT must buy and run Mobile Device Management (MDM) software, which may not be compatible with all employee-owned devices. And when an employee leaves, there’s no way to validate that all corporate data was wiped from the device because it’s owned by the employee.

    • In a corporate-liable environment, IT retains control of the devices. They can standardize specific models to rein in the support requirements. They can also mandate upgrade cycles, so the devices remain current, easily secured and wiped by the MDM system if needed for reuse, resell or recycling.

BYOD Programs

True BYOD scenarios are few and far between. We estimate less than one percent of companies have implemented this model wherein the company owns the number and the usage plan, and the employee owns the device. Based on our discussion about the drawbacks of individual-liable programs, it may seem like BYOD is a good compromise. However, make sure you really understand the details and the true expenses.

  • Misconception: BYOD programs reduce costs. People love their phones; it’s a fashion statement or status symbol tied to their identity and self-esteem. Employees may want the latest iPhone, but let’s be real – no company is going to buy an employee a $1,500 device that might get dropped in the toilet. So, what’s the harm in letting employees foot the bill?

    • Even the newest devices will not cost retail rates in a corporate-liable environment where volume purchasing enables discounts beyond what a consumer can expect to get at Best Buy or other retailers.

    • Expenses for device purchases can be recouped in part by reuse, resale and recycling programs, making the net costs of the devices insignificant.

    • Finally, the real costs of business mobility are not the one-time expenses for devices but in the monthly recurring charges for wireless services.

  • Misconception: BYOD smartphones are not critical corporate assets. A surprising number of companies have not updated their views of the smartphone as an enterprise computing device and are happy for employees to own them in whole or in part. (Some BYOD plans specify devices and permit the employee to pay for upgrades and keep the phone if they leave the organization.)

    • Perhaps it’s because we still call them phones and they were initially personal devices, but smartphones aren’t viewed in the same light as laptops and tablets. However, smartphones rival laptops and tablets in functionality, and they certainly cost as much or more. In a corporate-liable scenario, the company owns this critical asset.

    • Thinking of it another way, how many companies would have a “bring your own laptop” policy? Few, if any, have gone that route. However, smartphones are simply computers that fit in your hand.

    • As portable computers, smartphones often are loaded with specialized applications like point-of-sale software or patient records that contain sensitive and personal identifying information (PII). This information is increasingly at risk of theft from phishing scams via text messages and trojan malware users unknowingly download to their owned devices from app stores.

    • In a corporate-liable environment, companies control the device lifecycle, including applications, security, regulatory compliance and wiping for reuse, resell or recycle.

Given these costly misconceptions, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of companies are shifting to corporate-liable strategies to gain greater control over remote and hybrid work environments. Research published in August 2021 by Strategy Analytics found that company-paid, corporate-liable smartphones given to employees increased more than 13 points during the pandemic.

If you need guidance in selecting and implementing the right mobile device program and policy for your company, reach out to the experts at vMOX for support.  

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