Watching the Herd

Employee Usage Monitoring

From our experience most of the excess usage charges on invoices are unintentional and caused either by an uninformed user stumbling into new terrain on their smartphone or bad assumptions that all services are free of charge because they are included and available on their device.  Since employees don’t have to pay for or even see the residual effects of their usage, they often draw incorrect conclusions about what usage may or may not incur charges on their mobile devices.

Studies have shown that even the threat that management has oversight to monthly usage activities can initiate a more cautious and prudent usage of an employee’s wireless device.  An even more effectiveMonitortheHerd method than the mere threat of oversight is actual monthly reviews of employee usage and charges by their direct management.  There are a variety of tools in the industry that can achieve this objective although a smaller set of solutions, such as MobilSentryTM, possess the ability to flag and generate alerts related to specific usage policy violations.  For a busy manager, the information is much more likely to be viewed if presented in a way that filters out the always present noise in a wireless carrier invoice.

Whether you wish to classify some usage as personal or consider it abuse of a company asset, there are some particularly fruitful categories to monitor.  Our experience has been the topics indicated below typically represent the most interesting areas to monitor on monthly invoices.  Some of these represent painful financial excesses and others such as downloads may elicit a more emotional response.

Fraudulent/Excessive Usage – Abuse can cover all dimensions of a mobile device including voice, data and messaging.  Sometimes this behavior flies beneath the radar because usage is pooled and one device’s spike may be absorbed within the pool, mitigating overage charges and visibility. In particular, now with Group Share plans that include unlimited domestic voice and messaging, there is a risk that a lost or stolen phone running at high volume may not raise suspicions because its usage is obscured by pool buffers.

An effective tool to flush out devices being abused is to flag devices with rapid change in usage one month to the next.  Your Mobility Management Solution should include some form of variance reporting to flag statistically significant growth in any usage area including voice, data and messaging.

International Usage – Just because an employee is vacationing in a country where their device service continues to work does not imply that the company condones its usage or will agree to pay international charges.  These types of charges can be the most painful and likely the most easily identified due to the fact that they will typically come in large noticeable expense entries on the invoice.  Often these expenses are occurring at the Pay-as-you-go rates without the moderating effect of international features.  An appropriate policy in these cases may be full reimbursement by the employee.

Downloads – The magnitude of these charges rarely reach the levels of international overage but they are more irritating perhaps due to the fact that it is wholly unnecessary as a business expense and may actually be an indicator that the employee is not completely focused during work hours on their job.  Not all carriers make the download package description explicit but those that do can provide some illuminating insights into the distractions your employees may be encountering during the day.

Directory Assistants Charges – Wireless carriers seem to enjoy raising these prices frequently and adding services to attract more usage.  If someone’s job function puts them constantly on the road then this may be an expected efficiency needed for some mobile employees.  However, for some it just represents unneeded charges when other means are easily available such as today’s smartphones where there are a multitude of free apps that will give phone numbers almost as easily as dialing 411.

Corporate 1-800 and Toll Numbers – Your organization may have 1-800 service lines for clients to call toll free.  Employees that use these lines are only causing duplicate charges each time they call, with charges on their mobile device and charges on the corporate toll number.  Automation can assist in tracking monthly calls against specifically identified numbers.

All of these categories can provide important insight on areas of unneeded business charges and oversight and inspection can increase the overall health of your mobility program.

Defining Your Mobility Management Strategy

Five Key Components

There are many issues to consider when creating an effective mobility management strategy. Employing a strategy that matches your company’s goals and culture will be crucial to insuring maximum efficiency with the resources your company has at its disposal. Selecting the right level of automation to compliment human capital investment can be challenging in the absence of clear strategic perspectives.  Failure to find the right balance for your company’s identity can result in poor customer satisfaction, overspending and reactive versus proactive behavior. Like any deliberative choice, following some simple steps can result in a more successful outcome and better organizational options.

Key 1 – Evaluate Your Current and Desired Mobility Culture. Every organization has developed a culture around mobile devices.  Some companies may be seeking to evolve that culture while others may be content with the status quo.  In our prior tip, “Dimensions of a Mobility Management Strategy”, we outlined 10 dimensions to aid in assessing and determining where your company falls along a spectrum of possibilities that can impact strategy decisions.  The end result of this assessment can be plotted via spider diagrams with each case revealing a different visual appearance. This Mobility MRI (Management Requirement Identity), as we call it, becomes the first step in formulating an appropriate investment and deployment strategy.  The range of options goes from Employee Liable on one extreme to a Best-In-Class implementation at the other.  There are many positions in between.

Employee Liable                                                                                                                               Best-In-Class


Because some mobile users will test the boundaries of mobile guidelines, it is important to establish an environment of management and control that can deliver the desired outcome.  An Employee Liable approach, depending upon the level of stipend that may be offered to the employee, doesn’t necessarily deliver the most cost-effective approach but does deliver the minimum in-house management effort if that is your overriding objective. On the other end of the spectrum, Best-In-Class will require investing in the right level of automation and external resources but when done correctly can actually lead to the lowest overall mobility investment cost.

Key 2 – Determine Your Mobile Management Objectives. Every company is under the influence of fluctuations in the economy, company evolution and internal organizational changes and over time will go through a variety of short term priorities.  There could be a short or long term focus on cost cutting influenced by business factors.  These could include downsizing initiatives due to business cycles and may instigate a priority to employ a higher percentage of temporary workers or consultants.  These can produce variations on mobility management priorities.  It is imperative to synchronize mobility strategies with enterprise priorities.

There are many possibilities for an overarching management objective which is formed once you’ve established a clear view of your mobility culture.  There will likely be a number of supporting objectives as well.  Some candidates might be:  lowering monthly recurring carrier costs; expanding end user help desk support; improving payment processing through automation; extending device acquisition support through an online, one-stop carrier agnostic provisioning portal; increasing the accuracy of cost allocations; setting security standards for protection of corporate content; or enhancing management oversight of usage and costs.

Key 3 – Assess Your Current Strengths and Weaknesses. Once you have a grasp of your current culture and overarching management objectives it will be important to assess your internal strengths and weaknesses in managing your current mobility environment. Through this candid assessment you will begin to identify where tools, automation, and even external expertise may be required to successfully deliver the desired results. Internal staffing may actually turn from weakness to strength with the welcome addition of the right tools and workflow automation.

Key 4 – Contemplate Financial Constraints. The cost of a mobility management program may ultimately be the most important concern.  Because the cost models of mobile carriers are not at all suited for highly variable usage and these carrier models are constantly changing, managing a mobile program is not without its persistent challenges.  An important part of a mobility strategy will be to identify the boundaries of cost that need to be applied when deploying a Mobility Management Service (MMS) or engaging third party resources.  It will also be important to view the totality of costs including carrier services, internal headcount and outside tools and services rather than separating these into separate cost envelopes.

Key 5 – Establish Requirements and Implementation Steps. For many IT organizations, implementing change can be a challenge and requires management buy in and support.  Executing a well-conceived mobility management strategy can generate tremendous financial and process efficiency payback.  Even a small monthly decrease in cost can become a significant financial benefit when accumulated over an extended period of time.  Predictable and accurate processes can yield significant benefit to an organization that is constantly on its heels due to understaffing. Defined processes that prevent re-hashing issues over and over again can relieve stress to those managing mobility and can result in a reduction of redundant and overlapping procedures.

Companies that can successfully define and execute the right balanced strategy matching corporate objectives, company culture, and financial constraints will turn headaches into predictable, controlled processes that can deliver unexpected financial returns as well as produce a more productive and satisfied user community.