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    Mobile Device Usage Policies

    Are Your Employees Adequately Informed?

    Practically every business who manages corporate liable mobile devices can point to an instance of mobile device usage gone bad. Typically, it isn’t because the employee was irresponsible or negligent, but caused by unclear company policies matched by the lack of visibility to their device usage. The stories are numerous. How about the user who didn’t understand mobile billing rates change at our national border? Downloading movies in another country can quickly turn into thousands of dollars in overage charges. Or, the individual who thought a free account for a satellite radio channel also included its data usage for their smartphone? What about the new controller of a company who thought because the device was paid for in full by the company it therefore must have come with unlimited voice, data and text usage plans? Needless to say, it doesn’t look good if you’re the financial enforcer of an enterprise and at the top of the list of mobile abusers.

    Official Policy

    Setting, monitoring and enforcing standards and policies for any corporate function can prove difficult but tend to be more challenging in the mobile arena. As with any discipline, when a user understands service cost implications, the user will typically adapt his or her behavior to fit within acceptable cost guidelines. Specific to corporate liable devices, the users rarely, if ever, see their costs. Without a well enumerated policy employees are unlikely to understand the impact of a wide variety of usage behaviors. There are three practical actions that can significantly improve challenges to this dilemma.

    Creating A Mobile Device Policy – company culture plays a pivotal role around the range of detail in a mobile device policy. An effective approach should include four general components. First, be clear the employee understands the reason they have been assigned the wireless device. By establishing a set of qualifying criteria, the individual receiving a mobile device will understand the privilege of receiving a mobile device and that it comes with responsibilities, hopefully minimizing future misunderstandings.

    Second, since the acquisition charge and ongoing monthly service fee for today’s mobile devices is so vast, establish classes of mobile devices (i.e. phones, smartphones, data cards, tablets) with an accompanying job description noting which employees are eligible for which type of device. Since it is no longer sufficient to lump devices in a single category, best practice requires stringent approval protocols for high end devices like tablets and smartphones versus lower end data cards creating different management approval stops along the way.

    Third, be clear about device usage boundaries. With the current shift from voice minute-centric to data-centric billing, setting clear guidelines for business and non-business usage for all areas of usage is essential. Lack of understanding in usage areas can create expectation gaps that can be hard to close. In addition, set an expectation of usage monitoring ensuring the employee understands their usage behavior will be reviewed against company policy.

    Finally, while leniency may be appropriate for first time offenders it’s important to establish consequences for those who consistently violate policy. An effective way to change behavior is through a process of reimbursement for personal usage charges considered beyond policy limits.

    Employee Understanding and Acceptance – establishing a policy and having it readily available becomes even more effective when the employee is required to agree and accept the terms prior to receiving their corporate-liable mobile device. This acceptance can come via hardcopy signature, however, a more efficient path would be to electronically record acceptance via an online provisioning workflow process in the form of a checkbox. Because the vast majority of policy violations occur unintentionally, an approach requiring employee acceptance is key to instilling individual responsibility which will substantially influence compliance success.

    Without oversight, a company policy can be hollow and irrelevant. If your monitoring approach stems from a paper bill, you will be left with an arduous process of randomly choosing users to sample. A more effective solution would be through the automated capabilities of a Mobility Management tool. A solution such as MobilSentry™ is enhanced with automated alerting tools for usage violations. 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 can result in a lower level of attention to policy guidelines.

    Regularly Reviewing the Policy – one thing that can always be said about mobility is it does not stay the same. There is a consistent stream of change requiring periodic review against reasonable device use expectations. An example is the hotspot feature on smartphones which had a big impact on companies. For some, it replaced the need for those individuals who travel frequently to have a second billing device for ready internet access. Enterprises 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 two to five percent. This has brought a positive change to their mobility culture and reduced their wireless expenses which in most cases exceeds the cost of a Mobility Management solution. If you don’t yet have a Mobility Policy, you should make plans to create one. The effort will bring clarity, control and cost savings to your mobile device environment.