Might your employees pushing your business to go to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) be merely a symptom of larger technology and infrastructure issues in your organization? A recent conversation I had with Art King raises that possibility. King is director of enterprise services & technologies of SpiderCloud Wireless and board member of the Small Cell Forum. Formerly, he was the mobility/collaboration lead in Global Architecture for Nike Inc.

Early in our conversation King made it clear that the doesn’t think BYOD doesn’t make sense. To King, BYOD might be a misdiagnosis of deeper infrastructure and mobile device issues. He’s a proponent of Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) sometimes known as Choose Your Own Device (CYOD).

“I actually came to the telecom equipment universe because I was desperate to get the right set of services in my building to satisfy my mobile enabled employees because mobile was so mission critical to the people who walked around our campus,” King explains. “That we just had to have signal everywhere.

BYOD vs. corporate devices

King starts with, “You have to have operator relationships, and you have to have an investment pool from the operator to make sure things are awesome in your infrastructure.”

While King traces BYOD to enterprises holding back employees from having the phones they wanted, thus driving them to opt out of corporate phones, it’s his next point that’s far more important.

“Where we were ending up in my prior role was the cost to process the physical expense check was about $84.00 and the phone bill was $40.00,” King adds. His company was spending extra money in overhead costs on top of the employee’s regular phone bill. King’s point about the overhead costs should prompt you to review such costs around your current or planned BYOD initiative.

King also remembers, “If the mobile device was mission critical for the employee, something they needed to do their job, if they lost or damaged the device it would have to be replaced for $700-800.00. That would also get expensed off to the company where the corporate phones if they got damaged we could actually get a replacement phone.”

“We held back on iPhones until there was essentially a corporate plan available that for AT&T was June 2009,” King recalls. “We threw the doors wide open for iPhones and we went from 500 devices to 19000 devices over the space of a couple of years. Everyone stayed on the corporate plans because it made much more sense.”

“We checked with our taxation authorities and business people and told them we want people to be satisfied,” King says. “We wanted to recognize the fact they are going to use it for personal calls and we don’t want to do a lot of accounting and management work on behalf of the financials.”

“So what we did was we implemented a plan to essentially charge the employees $18.00 a month for a mobile phone and it would give them essentially unlimited voice, texting, and data,” according to King. “The bill would be run through the company.”

According to King, running the employee’s phone bill through the company gave them latitude when and if mistakes happen like with international calling and data. A corporate customer/operator relationship carries more weight in resolving such mistakes than a consumer/operator relationship.

He further adds, “The financial leakage and lack of relationship made us say we have to stay with corporate phones but we have to transfer control to our customers and allow them choices so they buy into it.”

Corporate owned devices, BYOD, and financial frameworks

King advises that you have to implement right financial and business operations frameworks to contain costs and keep mission critical devices managed properly.

He states, “I believe IT must manage mobile and it must be a strategically managed resource for the company because it’s a future innovation foundation.”

“In many organizations, procurement has been handed the role of managing mobile, and they are buying devices and SIMs,” King cites. “They setup a contract.” The IT department doesn’t have a view into the costs.

“You end up with a situation that the management of the finances is not with the same people who have the mobile strategy,” according to King.

King adds, “That disconnect causes a big financial leak in the organization which and you also miss out on the critical discussions around investment pools.”

Negotiating with mobile operators

King advocates leveraging the mobile operator to get better coverage. For example, “I’ll buy more phones. I’ll get more lines, but you have to get a better signal inside my building so I can take more people on your service.”

He recommends the following negotiating strategy with mobile providers:

  • Pursue at least two mobile providers
  • Base your negotiations on two-year contracts
  • Pull your minutes and your megabytes for economies of scale
  • Provide device choice to your end users
  • Allow users to upgrade their devices even before the subsidy runs out

King cites pooling as an effective way for managing cost overruns. He gave me the example of buying let’s say 2 GB per device. If you have 10,000 devices, you have a 20,000 GB of data for your mobile user community.

Final thoughts

King’s position reinforces a few things I’ve come to see about BYOD, over the past two years especially having mastery over the finances and infrastructure for your BYOD and enterprise mobility users at large.

Some enterprises are going to enter a post-BYOD world for a range of financial, technological, security, and compliance reasons as King reasons. While other enterprises will continue to steam along with BYOD because the organization has found the right financial, technological, security, and compliance mix that meets their business and budgetary requirements. In the end if mobility is mission critical, you need to know the financial numbers and maintain relationships with your operator to be successful whether it be with BYOD or COPE.