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Mobile Device Usage Policies

Are Your Employees Adequately Informed?

Practically every business with corporate liable mobile devices can point to some recent cases of mobile device usage gone bad.  More often than not it isn’t because the employee was irresponsible or devious, but is due simply to unclear company policies or the lack of visibility to usage of their device.  The stories are numerous. How about the user that didn’t understand mobile billing changes at our national border and that downloading movies in another country can quickly run up thousands of dollars in overage charges?  Or the individual that thought a free account for a satellite radio channel also included the data usage needed for the radio to work on their smartphone.  Or how about the new controller of a company that somehow thought because the device was paid for in full by the company that it therefore must have come with unlimited voice, data and text usage plans.   The financial enforcer in an enterprise doesn’t look good at the top of a mobile abusers list.

Setting, monitoring and enforcing standards and policies for any corporate function are difficult and even more challenging PolicyLogoin the mobile arena.  In any discipline, when a user of a service understands the cost implications, it is usually easy to adapt behaviors to fit within acceptable cost guidelines.  With corporate liable devices, the users rarely, if ever, see their costs.  Without a well enumerated policy employees are not likely to understand the impact of a wide variety of usage behaviors.  There are four practical actions that can significantly improve the challenges to this dilemma.

Creating a Mobile Device Policy – There can be a wide range of detail in a mobile device policy and corporate cultures will have a strong influence on the scope of each company’s policy.  An effective approach will include four general components.  First, be clear the employees receiving this business tool understands the reason they have been granted this communication benefit.  Many companies have set criteria that qualify an individual to have a mobile device. This helps emphasize that receiving a mobile device comes with responsibility and that not every employee has the right to use a mobile device.  A clear understanding by the employee that they have been entrusted with an asset that requires some level of discipline from the very start will minimize future misunderstandings.

Second, establish classes of mobile devices (i.e. phones, smartphones, data cards, tablets) with accompanying job criteria indicating which employees are eligible for which device types.  It is no longer sufficient to lump devices together as the gap in cost between low-end flip phones to high-end tablets and smartphones is vast, not only in the initial acquisition charge but in ongoing monthly service fees.  Best practice in this regard is requiring more stringent approval protocols for the tablets, smartphones and even data cards which may entail more management approval stops along the way and/or higher management job titles required for final approval of these more costly device types.

Third, be clear on the boundaries related to device usage.  With the current shift from voice minute-centric billing to data-centric already beginning, having clear guidelines for the business and non-business usage of mobile devices for voice minutes, texting, data and international usage are essential.  Lack of understanding in these areas can create expectation gaps that can be hard to close.  Be sure an expectation is set that there will be monitoring so the employee understands the policy will be reviewed against their usage behavior.

Finally, establish consequences for policy violations. Some leniency may be appropriate for first time offenders but for repeated violators the only way to cause a change of behavior may be through a process of reimbursement for personal usage charges considered beyond policy limits.

Employee Understanding and Acceptance – It is important to have the policy readily available to any mobile device user. It is even more effective to require that an employee indicates they have read and accepted the company policy prior to receiving their initial corporate-liable mobile device.  This acceptance can come via hardcopy signature or a more efficient path would be electronically recorded via a checkbox in an online provisioning workflow process.  An approach requiring employee acceptance is a key aspect of instilling individual responsibility. Because the vast majority of policy violations occur unintentionally your success at broad company compliance will be substantially influenced by the depth of the employee’s understanding of the policy guidelines.

Monitoring Policy Compliance – Without oversight a company policy can be hollow and irrelevant. If you are operating only from a paper bill the process of monitoring will be a significant challenge.  You will be left to randomly sampling users to review from the bills.  A more effective solution would be through automated capabilities of a Mobility Management tool.   A solution such as MobilSentry provides automated alerting to management for usage violations. Regardless of the method, best practice suggests you conduct some level of an annual review of usage with feedback to the employee.  When employees sense an absence of oversight, it can result in a lower level of attention to policy guidelines.

Regularly Reviewing the Policy – What can always be said about mobility is that it does not stay the same.  There is a continuous stream of change that needs to be periodically reviewed against reasonable device use expectations.  An example of a recent change that has had a big impact on some companies is the Hotspot feature on smartphones.  In some companies, this has replaced the need for some individuals who travel frequently to have a second billing device for ready internet access.  Some enterprises have used this cost saving opportunity to rewrite their policies on data card usage.

We have seen companies who have implemented, monitored and enforced well-conceived mobility policy reduce their monthly spend by 2-5%.  This has brought a positive change to their mobility culture and reduced their carrier invoices, in many cases in excess of the cost of a Mobility Management solution.  If you don’t yet have a Mobility Policy, you should make plans today to create one.  The effort will bring clarity, control and cost savings to your mobile device environment.

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