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.

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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How to make a BYOD program work

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