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Can employee-owned devices save companies money?

Ellen Messmer | Jan. 20, 2012
The "bring your own device" (BYOD) phenomenon is sweeping through the enterprise, and businesses such as Chicago-based design firm Holly Hunt have embraced it with gusto, offering stipends to employees to use their own mobile devices for work.

Aberdeen found that the cost to a company from the carrier, such as AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, averages $70 per user per month for BYOD launches, while more traditional corporate enterprise deployments average $80 per user per month in direct costs, says Aberdeen analyst Hyoun Park. "At first glance, this looks like a clear win for the BYOD approach," says Park. "However, this ignores two key points."

First, he says, enterprise deployments can be highly optimized through rate plans, contract negotiations and ongoing cost management practices associated with best-in-class wireless expense management. "Aberdeen finds that these practices typically result in over 25% savings and many of these practices cannot be performed in a direct fashion through BYOD deployments," Park claims.

"Second, there is typically a high degree of overhead associated with compensating BYOD users," says Park, noting the majority of BYOD users are reimbursed through monthly expense reports. Aberdeen research shows that the average total cost associated with processing an expense report is $29, making the average total cost per month $99. However, because this management cost is typically hidden to the enterprise, it is typically not considered in context of the total cost of BYOD, Park points out. "In contrast, the total cost of expense management for a formally managed enterprise mobile device is typically around $5 per month," he notes, for a total corporate average of $85 for non-BYOD.

"There's no vendor in the telecom management expense management space that has come up with an elegant approach to aggregate BYOD billing," Borg adds. "Bills are getting disaggregated because of BYOD," he says. Consequently, businesses embracing BYOD may be giving up the ability to aggregate the bills.

For these reasons, though it may seem that costs have shifted to the employee, the opposite may be occurring as operational costs are actually going up because of BYOD.

BYOD is here to stay

However, it's unlikely that BYOD is a passing phenomenon. Borg notes that while it may be seen as a disruptive change, driven by the employee enthusiasm for new technologies, it can be utilized effectively through clear planning.

But more challenges appear to arise from the "dual-use" device that BYOD engenders as one employee-owned mobile smartphone or tablet is carried for both business and personal communication. For one, how will business and personal apps be differentiated; how will sensitive business data be cordoned off from personal use?

Newer mobile virtualization approaches put forward by VMware and Citrix, though not yet widely deployed, will be among possibilities that businesses examine to create "dual-use" mobile devices. But other choices are also there to be explored.

One of them is Mocana Corp.'s Mobile App Protection, available for Android now and Apple iOS in a few months, which takes mobile apps and wraps a security compartment around each designated app. This means specific apps and their data can be encrypted, or several other securities policies applied for each app, such as requiring storing passwords or blocking cutting and pasting data, says Kurt Stammberger, Mocana's vice president of marketing development.


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