BYOD has many benefits, but it has also created new security and management challenges for organizations. While BES and other MDM solutions are tackling security, managing mobile identity and phone bills was, until recently, unsolved.
Unlike company-owned phones restricted for work use-only (a strategy we like to call COBO), the monthly bill of a BYOD phone includes healthy mix of both work and personal use by an employee. The same goes for Corporate-Owned, Personally-Enabled (COPE) phones.
The easiest solution might seem to be for companies to simply pay their BYOD employees’ entire phone bill. But that can add up to substantial costs which profit-minded firms would rather not pay. The opposite approach – forcing employees to pay the entire bill – undermines the attractiveness of BYOD to employees, and is increasingly against the law. In California, courts ruled earlier this year that businesses must reimburse employees for work calls made on their personal phones.
Splitting phone bills between work and individual use was difficult until recently, though. Companies can force employees to comb through reams of paperwork every month to get phone calls reimbursed, or they can offer stipends. While everyone hates filing expense reports, with stipends companies run the risk of overpaying their employees – not as much as if they picked up the entire bill, but easily by 10-15%. Also, stipends are considered a taxable benefit by most local authorities, further eroding their attractiveness.
Launched earlier this month, the WorkLife solution from BlackBerry offered through its carrier partners allows enterprises to cleanly and easily split their mobile bills between work and personal use. With WorkLife, enterprises can assign additional phone numbers to employees’ personal devices or attach their personal numbers to corporate-owned devices. The phone bill is automatically split and the carrier sends two separate bills, one to the company and another one directly to the employee. No more billing surprises from roaming-happy executives, no more customers lost when employees leave and take their telephone number – and associated contacts – with them.
Buyer Beware: Not every solution that claims to split BYOD bills can do it as elegantly and comprehensively as WorkLife does. If you work for an enterprise or a carrier that is investigating phone bill-splitting solutions, here are 5 things you need to consider:
- Does this solution interject a third-party between the enterprise and the carrier? Most enterprises prefer to continue to deal directly with their carrier, which WorkLife does. But other vendors insist on placing themselves between the enterprise and the carrier, changing the billing relationship. That’s fine, until the first time there is a disputed charge or other billing problem. Then, you’ll probably wish that you were dealing directly with the carrier instead of negotiating simultaneously with two potentially-adversarial parties.
- Does this solution cover my voice, text AND data bills? WorkLife does, but many solutions do not. One provider, for example, can only split the data portion of the bill. With that solution, employees would have to continue to file expense reports for that expensive phone call they made overseas. It would also not comply with the California law that explicitly requires employers to reimburse employees for voice calls on personal phones.
- Does this solution rely on VoIP? VoIP continues to face issues with voice quality and roaming costs, and require users to use separate apps on the handset. That creates such a hassle that many users will just forget or consciously avoid using the apps. By contrast, WorkLife lets employees connect over regular mobile networks using their existing phone numbers, with the same quality of service and the same cost.
- Does this solution break when employees travel? Some split-bill solutions falter when employees roam off their home network. Employees don’t even need to be traveling far from home; some solutions break when an employee’s phone switches from 4G to 3G networks in their native coverage area (due to their reliance on LTE/IMS technology). When that happens, all of the employee’s charges will be grouped into one bill and the main SIM contract (either employee or enterprise) will be charged. This brings back the need for those unloved expense reports, which split-billing was supposed to replace. None of these issues apply to WorkLife, by the way.
- Does this solution help you retain customers? Some split-billing solutions only tackle expense management. WorkLife, by creating a virtual SIM replete with an additional corporate-controlled telephone number, also lets companies manage identities, too. That means if a top executive or salesperson leaves, the IT administrator can easily remove the corporate number from his or her phone and attach it to someone else’s device. All incoming calls of customers and business partners managed through the corporate identity/phone number stay with the company.
BYOD can be a great boon to enterprises and employers alike. But to make it work for everyone, you need to manage it right. And that includes the expense and identity side of BYOD. Make sure you don’t deploy a less than ideal solution that includes one or more of the above fails – there is a better one around.