Telecoms expense management: Why you need to nail it to keep your BYOD workforce happy

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Picture credit: "Blackberry Curve black closeup", by "David Precious", used under CC BY / Modified from original

Feature It’s by no means the sexiest aspect of enterprise mobility rollouts – but telecoms expense management (TEM) is fast becoming one of the most important.

It's always been there, of course, whether you had to laboriously filter through your phone bill with HR each month, or in a lot of cases today, carry two phones with you. But times are changing.

A few recent cases have highlighted its importance to CIOs. Earlier this month Ovum’s ranking for enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions providers listed TEM as one of its six key factors, which was, frankly, a bit of a curveball. It was part of the reason why TEM provider Tangoe made it into the overall list, scoring a full 10 out of 10 in that category. No other vendor came remotely close.

It’s also reached the courts too. In August a court in California ruled that an employer had to reimburse its employees for work-related calls taken on their personal phones. Of course if there are any concerns it’s always best to ask for specific legal advice, but the verdict here was clear: organisations can’t expect to dump company call costs on their employees.

Phil Barnett is UK sales director at EMM provider Good Technology. He admits TEM is currently ‘in its infancy’, but notes its importance to BYOD policy going forward.

Ovum's ranking for EMM vendors listed TEM as one of its six key factors, which was frankly a bit of a curveball

“When we started out people were saying, bluntly, that [they] were retiring BlackBerries, and they were spending so much therefore the business case stood up – as long as the numbers added up, then life was good,” he tells Enterprise AppsTech. “Then it quickly became apparent that people predominantly use BlackBerry for voice and text, and email, so suddenly I’ve put rich apps in the hands of people and that telecom expense has changed its profile dramatically.

“If I’ve suddenly got CRM, and BI, and all these rich tools because I can on tablets, [it’s] going to change that. Organisations became very savvy that this drives up productivity but actually, [with] the telecom expense, BYOD may fall if we can’t manage that for the user, if we can’t manage their experience in a better way.

“Suddenly that became really important,” he adds.

At the time of the California court case, EMM vendor MobileIron noted how the ruling shows BYOD had “grown up.” Barnett holds a similar view.

“The exciting thing for it is it really says ‘this is getting fit for purpose, I can put a lot of applications in the hands of people, I can get them working on multiple devices, not just mobile devices, I can get them really productive in here, and I can probably retire a bunch of costs that I had before,’” he says.

With the telecom expense, BYOD may fall if we can't manage that for the user

Another potential upside – and one Good is examining – is the use of analytics. Telecoms expense management could be beneficial in assessing employee performance. It’s a level of management information that could put the expense line in and see which employees are logging into, for instance, Salesforce, how their sales numbers relate to that, finding the correlation and assessing who’s performing well and who isn’t.

It almost sounds too good to be true. But it’s always a fine line between getting an employee to buy in to working mobile and annoying them. Issues over who’s responsible for data may just clinch it.

For Barnett, simplicity is the key. “The customer really wants to have a simple way of the measurement and billing being provided for them,” he argues. Yet this raises the question of where telecom operators fit in.

Telcos and EMM vendors often go together like Fred and Ginger – Vodafone is Good’s biggest partner in the UK, for instance – but the advent of BYOD changes things. It’s not so clear cut to just have a load of contracts handed down.

With so much on offer, Barnett argues companies want a bit of everything. “I think customers [are] looking for an ideal situation where they can have three or four carriers, have a roaming solution, and actually the billing is going to come through in a nice easy to use way from their side,” he says.

With voice, SMS, voice over IP, Wi-Fi, and so on to deal with, it quickly becomes a unified communications (UC) story.

The customer really wants to have a simple way of the billing being provided for them

“It becomes a thing where suddenly, whereas a lot of our time with our sales teams would have been into the mobile guys in the IT department, into the COOs who are into business transformation…all of a sudden, customers are saying ‘let me introduce you to the head of UC,’” Barnett explains. “It quickly becomes something where it’s not just us, it’s the UC guys, and the customer, and the service provider, coming to the table.”

As you might expect, companies have different bets on where this is going.

When BlackBerry released its square-shaped Passport phone last month, it was evidently designed as business users’ second phone. Yet workers want to do everything off one phone, and not have the consequences of data privacy loss, or getting a huge bill at the end of the month.

Dell’s most recent EMM offering allows two distinct numbers on the one phone, one for work and one for play. Good themselves are trying a concept which automatically filters work based calls onto a separate bill. It’s a compelling idea, and will aim to diffuse the inevitable tension between employee and employer to come.

BYOD is certainly growing up. From being a couple of years back about executives “bringing in executive toys to work, swagger round the place and show off” as Barnett puts it, now sales, marketing and operations employees can practically do their entire jobs on their remote devices.

Yet sometimes you can have too much of a good thing – and that’s why telecoms expense management, whichever way you choose to go about it, is vital to keep your workforce onside with enterprise mobility. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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