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BYOD cost sharing: Who pays for what?

BYOD cost-sharing plans aren't perfect, but setting boundaries and limits on devices and data can help make a bring-your-own-device program work.

An effective bring-your-own-device strategy and implementation must consider the issue of BYOD cost sharing. To avoid misunderstandings about who pays for what, it's vital to set policies, educate users and put the necessary systems and support in place to ensure that funds flow quickly, smoothly and accurately.

The first question is, "Who pays for users' devices?" Since the devices are essentially personal, it’s a good idea for users to own devices exclusively. When a user purchases a device, he owns it; there's no room for debate over who pays for loss, repairs or depreciation.

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How to make a BYOD program work

The organization should state any devices it won't support for cost, logistical, security or integrity reasons, but the device itself should belong to the user. Some companies have relationships with carriers or suppliers that can result in special deals for employees, but, in general, organizations should stay out of the purchasing phase of bring your own device (BYOD).

The real debate is over BYOD cost sharing, or compensation for business use of personal devices. Many firms apply a fixed fee or percentage of a monthly service plan for business use (usually including voice and data) with no actual accounting or documentation required. This is the easiest approach, and both businesses and users can anticipate costs up front. Again, the organization could have access to special deals with carriers for service, but besides informing staff of the deals, the company should stay out of any relationships between users and wireless carriers.

Companies that want to use a more elaborate BYOD cost-sharing approach can use software that monitors usage and costs and that tags specific voice and data activities as business or personal. This allows for more precise accounting and absolute accuracy when assigning costs and calculating reimbursements, but it can make users feel like big brother is watching. Errors in tagging specific activities can also occur, but when it's properly implemented, such a strategy gives both the user and the business a great deal of visibility into usage. The monitoring can lead to more cost-effective behaviors over time.

No matter what direction you choose, always consult your legal and financial advisers before putting any given BYOD cost-sharing scheme in place. BYOD is a new area of corporate endeavor and financial and legal rules are not well-established at present. Always have written policies and agreements, and make sure they are up to date. It's a good idea to host a brief education and training session, and any help desk staff should be well-versed in policies and procedures.

Remember that the best way to create a satisfied customer -- or employee -- is to set expectations up front. You should expect the BYOD landscape to evolve over the next few years, but the basic tools for a successful reimbursement or BYOD cost-sharing plan are available today.

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I believe that, as usual with IT projects, the main issues (and costs) are NOT with the start-up phase rather with the support and maintenance.

Should IT guarantee that (and, if so, HOW ?) :

a. EVERY company application is gonna work fine with ANY kind of device the users are going to choose (!!!)

b. IT Helpdesk is gonna be able to support users with ANY of the specific device they've chosen (!!!)

Whenever my company will ask me to face BYOD my suggestion will be that IT will test and support a SMALL SET of devices (the most common ones, of course) ; employes' devices will be entitled to join the project just in case they belong to the "certified" subset.
In the end I know who companies will *want* to be paying for it. All I can see with BYOD is a way for companies to push off equipment costs to employees. This year it's optional; in a couple years you'll *have* to buy & bring your own equipment according to *their* specification.