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Mobile expense management strategies reveal wasteful BYOD spending

BYOD shops could spend far more than necessary. Strategies for managing mobile expenses, such as corporate mobile plans and split billing, can help.

Bring-your-own-device shops that reimburse employees more than $40 per month for a mobile bill are just throwing money out the window.

The reason is simple: Organizations with thousands of mobile users have the power to negotiate for and obtain cost-friendly plans to keep expenses low, unlike an individual, who could pay upwards of $130 for an unlimited plan, said Hyoun Park, a mobile analyst at the Boston-based research firm Nucleus Research.

Part 1: Mobile expense management tools significantly reduce IT costs

Part 2: Mobile expense management strategies reveal wasteful BYOD spending

Nucleus Research published an April 2013 study examining the hard costs of bring your own device (BYOD) compared to a corporately managed mobile program, and determined that organizations typically can negotiate employee plans that cost $40 to $65 per month. "The carriers have no reason to help companies move off BYOD or help them manage it," Park said.

Companies should examine their options as part of a mobile expense management strategy. Organizations can get carrier plans with pools of minutes, data and texts spread out among a group of employees to lessen the chances that one employee will cause an expense aberration. If one employee does go over, IT departments can shift unused minutes or data from another employee to cover the overage, said Jack Gold, an enterprise mobility consultant at J. Gold Associates, based in Northborough, Mass.

Even then, those monthly deviations are less of an issue when an organization has more consistent monthly operational expenses, said Michael Green, IT director at a Dallas-based energy exploration company.

For example, international roaming expenses can cause huge spikes in an employee's monthly mobile spend. It's not uncommon for an employee travelling overseas to run up a massive expense downloading a high-definition movie from iTunes using roaming cellular data. However, setting a policy that limits employees from using their cellular data in those instances defeats the purpose of supplying a mobile device, Park said. "There's a limit to how much you can talk that would increase that monthly overage by thousands of dollars, but downloading apps and movies can easily ring up monumental charges," he said.

Various roaming plans from carriers offer business users reduced rates when they travel abroad, unlike the standard costs -- $1.00 per minute for voice and $10.00 per 10 MB for data -- that individuals contractually pay.

Another mobile expense management strategy for companies that support BYOD is split billing. Rather than reimburse an employee for the full amount of their monthly plan -- which many companies still do -- they pay a portion of the bill, said Katherine Burgess, expense management team lead at MOBI Wireless, an expense management vendor based in Indianapolis.

Split billing is a fairly new trend, and organizations are still determining the best way to split monthly bills with employees, Burgess said. For example, some companies pay for the voice plan but not the data, other companies pay for everything but international usage, while some split the entire cost halfway.

"It's kind of all over the place at the moment, as organizations try to find out the best way to cut costs," Burgess said.

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How do you pay for employees' mobile plans?