Consumer phones in the workplace: does it make business sense?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock)

As companies move towards increased mobility, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies stand out as seemingly straightforward solutions for improving employee productivity and efficiency. This makes it difficult for resellers to highlight the downsides of BYOD and pre-empt issues which are likely to occur. But it is important for businesses to understand what they are getting themselves into if they hope to gain real long-term benefits from their mobility strategy.

Firstly, they must distinguish between personal and business mobility as the requirements employees have for consumer smartphones differ from business requirements. Workplace devices must go beyond setting calendar reminders or ordering takeaways, as they will cover multiple networks and serve wider strategic objectives for the business.

Ensuring data protection

In particular, data protection is a serious consideration as it is harder to ensure when employees are using their own devices. A European Commission report brings the risk of security breaches to the fore, stating that; 51 per cent of companies allowing BYOD experienced a mobile data breach; 38 per cent reported stolen or lost data; 31 per cent of confidential data was stolen and 7 per cent of information was destroyed.  Managing the consequences of a data breach incurs additional costs, especially in light of stringent data protection regulations and the ensuing reputational damage.

Mobile device management (MDM)

Companies that allow BYOD can implement Mobile Device Management (MDM) as a security measure, where all BYOD phones are managed centrally by the IT department. However, managing personal phones comes with its own problems. While MDM enables companies to wipe and lock devices in the event of a breach, this is often deemed excessive and may not be welcomed by the device owner; this means companies pay for and deploy MDM but still remain exposed to risk.

IT Pressures

It cannot be assumed that all consumer devices will support enterprise-class MDM solutions, leading to a scenario where employees encounter multiple technical difficulties that have to be solved by IT. Not only does this take employees away from their tasks, it also creates further work for IT departments in addition to dealing with possible fallout from security breaches, ensuring that employees are respecting security controls, and managing device access to corporate networks, applications and data.

Enterprise mobility solutions help to eliminate these hurdles and alleviate pressure on IT departments as they monitor security protocols and troubleshoot when alerts are received. Devices can be set up for remote lock and wipe in any situations of potential risk, such as when a device is lost, left idle or leaves business premises.

Device survival

Mobility can mean different things depending on the type of company and the workplace environment. Aside from the security of data on the phone, the design of the phone itself needs to be adapted to ensure longevity and that the device can withstand a range of environments. Consumer phones are not typically designed to be used in labs or warehouses, for instance, and this may increase the risk of damage if they are used in a workplace.

Eliminating black spots

A further consideration is ensuring satisfactory coverage, as mobility strategies are undermined when employees experience black-out spots; this affects productivity as workers are forced to find a spot where they can carry out tasks on their device, and it could even endanger employees that work lone shifts or who are in isolated areas. Coverage is in fact a serious issue for workers, with one in four UK office workers reporting that they would consider leaving their jobs, or have done, due to lack of mobile coverage in the office.

Repairs

BYOD policies make the employee responsible for device repairs and replacement, which can be a problem for the business. New devices will have to be set up with the right security settings and workplace software each time. Due to the high churn rate of consumer devices, it can become impossible to locate replacement parts over time.

Enterprise mobility solutions usually have a single repair agreement which allow businesses to manage repairs centrally and cost-effectively, while replacement devices already have the required features and settings. Business devices also come with a longer battery life without limitations on apps and functions which can be a drain. Some businesses need devices to last multiple shifts so strong battery life, or even removable rechargeable batteries, could be highly beneficial for operations.

Total cost of ownership

This brings us to one of the most important factors for any business: cost. Enterprise mobility solutions are a sound investment in light of the issues outlined above, but businesses must be fully aware of the associated costs. The total cost of ownership goes beyond the device and device plan, and will need to account for additional expenses such as security tools, roaming, excessive data usage, and IT resources needed to manage devices. When it comes to BYOD, the actual cost of a device only accounts for 10 per cent of the total cost of deploying a consumer phone in a business environment.

Resellers should therefore work with their customers to identify the cost of the features required as well as any pre-emptive considerations, such as the cost of repairs. A failure to do so will reduce the Return on Investment that businesses should be getting from enterprise mobility.

Too good to be true

BYOD policies may seem like an easy solution to businesses – and even employees – but they are more likely to cause a number of issues when deployed, leading to avoidable costs and headaches. Mobility policies should go beyond the notion of equipping workers with a device and encompass a wider strategy to improve internal operations. The requirements for workplace devices are far more demanding than for consumer-grade phones; business leaders must ensure their employees are equipped with devices that are well-designed, reliable and most importantly, secure.

Craig Barrass, Region Sales Lead for Northern Europe, Spectralink
Image Credit: Nito / Shutterstock