The BYOD trend is taking enterprise mobility to a whole new level. Over the past year or so, a slew of companies have started equipping their employees with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, with the goal of streamlining operations and improving productivity in the workplace.

Major organizations like Ford, Nordstrom, The Home Depot, even the British Parliament, have started equipping employees with mobile devices. Lowes, the second largest home improvement store in the world, announced a massive iPad roll-out – 42,000 tablets across 175 stores – signaling a major shift in enterprise mobility.

BYOD is clearly making significant progress within the corporate environment. According to a recent BT survey, 60 percent of employees are now using personal devices for work. The research also showed that 82 percent of companies surveyed say they already have a BYOD program in place or have plans to implement one within the next year or so.

BYOD has had a huge impact on the growing adoption of these data-heavy devices in the enterprise. Regardless of how positive an impact these devices have on increasing productivity, streamlining processes and improving worker satisfaction, the fact of the matter is that most enterprises are unprepared when it comes to widespread adoption of tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices within their own organizations.

These devices have undoubtedly changed how employees work-creating an always connected world where only one device is used for work or play. The problem is they also change the enterprise IT cost structure, driving company and employee mobility costs way up.  Companies now need wireless throughout the office and need to have plans in place to support the massive amounts of data that will be consumed and paid for on a monthly per device basis.  There have been several articles that have stated just how BYOD has successfully brought Apple products into the enterprise-but the unfortunate side of that is that Apple has left it up to the enterprises to deal with it.

What many organizations aren’t prepared for are all the services, varying rates and expenses associated with these devices that now need to be managed under one roof.

Another key point is that while the influx of faster, better mobile devices helps keep companies more innovative and cutting edge, it is now changing the office experience and IT’s role forever.  With the complexity involved with so many employees using completely different devices, IT department needs to take an active role, managing device bills (often with different carriers and plans), balance all of the different allotments/expenditures involved so that the companies aren’t losing money-and at the same time do so in a way that does not hurt morale or productivity by preventing wanted devices from accessing work data.

In order to carry out a successful BYOD program, enterprises need to properly understand how to manage their mobile expenses.  Organizations need to ensure that employees are on the right plans and are not being taken advantage of with overage charges, insurance, or unneeded minutes.  Here are a few tips and best practices to ensure your BYOD program is a success:

  • Make sure your corporate mobile usage policies are in-place before you launch any corporate mobility program. Create guidelines specifically around out-of-work policies to govern use.
  • Understand group plans in order to optimize individual usage with price points and avoid overpaying for unused services.
  • Review and inspect service plans on a regular basis. Pay close attention to your mobile device service bills to ensure that they match the contract you signed. This will help you to avoid missing discounts and ensure contract compliance.
  • Beware of unnecessary charges. Employees that are using mobile devices may be getting crammed. Unauthorized phone charges cost Americans over $2 billion a year; don’t let your company fall victim to cramming.
  • Re-negotiate your wireless service plan often. This should not be a one-time negotiation; it must be done on a consistent basis to get the best rates and optimal service plans. Using powerful mobile expense management analytics tools can be very helpful in automating this arduous process and keeping your costs down.
  • Weed Out Abusers. In every office, there is an employee or two who is abusing the system and downloading movies over their phone while working on their desktop. Without the regular review of usage, these issues would never be found and costs would remain artificially high.
  • Understand your policy for adding new devices, replacing broken devices or upgrading. Work with your service provider to make sure you will not be hit with large fees when you need to add more devices to your plan.
  • Set up a private WAN (wireless WiFi) for employees to access whenever possible. This will limit the data usage on the carrier’s bandwidth and in turn save retailers money.

For all enterprises incorporating BYOD, a critical success factor will depend on how well they understand and manage their mobile expenses. By adhering to these guidelines, the savings in unused minutes/bytes alone will have a significant impact on the bottom line – and true mobile management can be achieved without impacting employee choice and company morale.

David Snow, CMO, has more than 20 years of network communications experience with both large and small companies.  Before joining Xigo, he was vice president of field operations at Cerylion, where he designed and launched the company’s network financial management product and service offerings.