Mobile Usage Policies

Foundation to Control Data Waste

Practically every business with company-provided mobile devices can point to cases of mobile device usage gone bad. Often, it isn’t because the employee was irresponsible or calculating, but was simply unclear about company policies or lacked visibility to the usage of their device.  Case in point, take the user who didn’t understand mobile billing changes at our national border and then proceeded to download movies.  What about the individual who thought a free account for a satellite radio channel also included the data needed for the radio to work on his smartphone?  Or, how about the new controller of a company who thought because the device was paid for in full by the company that it surely came with unlimited text, voice and data usage plans?   Recent studies show workers are increasingly distracted during multiple work hours each day, fueled by the many useful apps and social media venues easily accessible on their mobile devices.  This can result in a real productivity drop.

Setting, monitoring and enforcing standards and policies for any corporate function is difficult, particularly in the mobile arena. Regardless of industry, when a user understands service cost implications, it is easier to adapt behaviors to fit within acceptable cost guidelines.  Without a well considered 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 employee accountability and help curb mobile expense growth.

Creating a Mobile Device Policy

An effective approach should include three general components. First, be clear that employees receiving these business assets understand the rationale behind the assignment of this communication benefit.  Many companies have set minimum criteria that qualify an individual for eligibility to receive a mobile device; meaning, it helps to emphasize receiving a mobile device comes with responsibility.  A clear understanding by the employee that they have been entrusted with an asset requiring some level of discipline from the start will help minimize future misunderstandings.

Second, with the current shift from voice-centric to data-centric billing, having clear guidelines for business and non-business mobile device usage for domestic and international data is essential. Lack of clarity in these areas can initiate assumption gaps that can be hard to close.  When the employee understands the policy will be reviewed against their usage behavior, usage behavior will more closely emulate policy guidelines.

Third, 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 extending beyond policy limits.

Employee Understanding and Acceptance

It is important to have the policy readily available to mobile device users. It is even more effective to require that an employee indicate they have read and accepted the company policy prior to receiving a company-liable mobile device. This acceptance can be done 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 to instilling individual responsibility. Because most 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 usage will be a significant challenge leaving you to sampling random users from your wireless invoices. A more effective approach would be through the automated capabilities of a Mobility Management tool. A solution such as MobilSentryTM provides automated alerting when there is a usage violation. Regardless of the method, best practice suggests you conduct an annual review of usage and provide feedback to the employee.  When employees sense an absence of oversight, it results in a lower level of attentiveness to policy guidelines.

Regularly Reviewing the Policy

Since there is a continuous stream of change when it comes to mobility, it needs to be periodically reviewed against reasonable device use expectations. An example of a recent change with big cost implications is the Hotspot feature on smartphones.  Proactive companies have eliminated the need for data cards for individuals who travel frequently instructing them to instead utilize smartphone hotspots for internet access.

We have seen companies who have implemented, monitored, and enforced well-conceived mobility policy reduce their monthly spend by 8 – 10%. This has brought a positive change to their mobility program and reduced their carrier invoices, typically by more than the cost of their mobility management solution.

With an increasing number of ways to use data on devices, having a clear, monitored and enforced mobile policy will bring the control and cost savings needed today to combat the explosive growth in data consumption on smartphones and tablets of tomorrow. If your company doesn’t currently have a Mobility Usage Policy, you should make plans to create one.  The effort will not only create cost savings but will bring clarity and control to your mobile management program.

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