With all the hype surrounding bring your own device (BYOD), it's easy to see why businesses are so eager to adopt BYOD policies. For one thing, there's the promise of getting more productivity out of employees since they're more familiar with the devices they can now use at work. That can also lead to higher rates of job satisfaction from all who participate in a BYOD program. Beyond these benefits, many companies are also enticed at the prospect of cutting costs through BYOD. After all, having employees use their own devices seems like it would lead to lower operating costs since organizations wouldn't have to provide the devices themselves. This line of thinking, however, might not be entirely accurate. So businesses need to think beyond what is BYOD and instead ask themselves if it really saves money.
There is no true consensus as to whether BYOD by itself saves organizations money. Some studies, like the 2012 research done by the Aberdeen Group, show large businesses actually lose money as they adopt BYOD. That Aberdeen study found organizations that used at least a thousand mobile devices spent $170,000 extra on BYOD each year when compared to other mobile plans that used corporate-owned devices. While that may seem convincing, other studies and use cases show different results, where business actually saved money in the long run when adopting a BYOD policy. From these differing results, it becomes clear that simply implementing BYOD may not be enough to save on costs; it's how the expenses from BYOD are managed that is the most crucial component.
One area that certainly deserves attention is the hidden costs that can accumulate from having employees bring their own devices to work. Without knowledge of these unexpected burdens, the costs of BYOD can quickly spiral out of control, effectively minimizing any benefits that could come from the program. The biggest source of concern with hidden expenses usually originates from employees engaging in costly behaviors. When expenses are paid for by the company, some workers may end up taking advantage of this and billing their employer for expensive data plans they normally wouldn't purchase. Employees that are out on the road a lot may accrue roaming charges that the company would have to take care of. Some workers may also choose to upgrade their phones, again having their employer foot the bill. The key to ensuring none of these expenses gets out of control is to outline clearly in the BYOD policy which actions and behaviors are allowable and which are out of bounds. Equally important is the enforcement of these guidelines to make sure employees are always following the rules.
Perhaps the most important thing all businesses should focus on when adopting BYOD is the way the program will reimburse the employees. Some companies may choose to simply give employees a monthly stipend to cover the added costs that will add up from using personal devices on the job. A second option is to have employees fill out expense reports that will see them get reimbursed for specific charges. Either option is a viable strategy, but each one should be approached carefully, knowing full well that there are potential costs to each choice.
Handling expense reports is a straightforward solution with its own hidden costs. While the reimbursement is itself a cost that needs to be calculated, each expense report is also an added expense. According to business analysts, the cost of processing an expense report can range from $15 to $20. In large companies, the total cost can add up quickly. Part of that expense comes from having to deal with different parts of the company, like the finance and IT departments. The best way to manage the reports is to allow employees to file them less frequently, at least quarterly or even yearly. As for stipends, management should take a larger role in centrally planning how stipends are given out. That amount should be determined by factors such as the employee's role, expected device usage, etc. Having a centrally managed BYOD plan also allows companies to negotiate better plans with providers, thereby reducing the costs of BYOD even further.
Companies need to know that as attractive as BYOD can be, that doesn't mean they should ignore the costs that can come with it. Few policies are without some drawbacks, so a realistic approach to BYOD can foster the benefits while appropriately examining the costs. With the right plan in place, the transition to BYOD can be a smooth and productive process, paying dividends for many years to come.