Rethinking the BYOD Stipend: Why Better Data Will Yield a Better Strategy

This post was written by Neil Cohen from Visage Mobile and originated on the Visage Mobile blog. It has been re-posted with permission for use on the Concur blog.

It’s a multi-dimensional issue that’s tempting to ignore: BYOD expenses. They can feel overwhelming: Your employees all have different devices and use a variety of carriers, and it’s a hassle to itemize each expense and calculate costs. Hence, the popular BYOD stipend which automatically eliminates headaches and puts a cover on that complicated mess. But wait — do stipends really work in a company’s favor? Are they the right answer to BYOD expenses?

We understand the temptation to use a simple stipend solution to address the mobile fees your employees incur. Some are on their phones constantly for work purposes, making sales calls or using data on the go, while others make the occasional work-related call and spend the rest of their battery power playing Angry Birds. Stipends can be a quick fix for a big problem — something you can easily write off, and generally make employees happy with.


The Quick Fix Isn’t Always the Right Fix

You can’t put a Band-Aid on after open heart surgery and expect the chest cavity to close itself up. If you’ve taken the plunge into BYOD-land, it’s necessary to deal with the associated costs accordingly.

As we’ve come to see with BYOD, each employee and each business unit uses their mobile devices differently. Some need more data, others, less. Some are okay with WiFi, while others need 4G. Why, then, would a flat-rate stipend be the answer for multi-faceted mobility needs?

We see companies take a variety of approaches to reimbursement: one flat amount for all employees, differing amounts depending on roles, a percentage and so forth. These decisions are often made somewhat arbitrarily, and not really examined after the fact. You have an employee who receives a $75 stipend and uses his phone twice for work purposes — what’s happening to that leftover spend? Or how about an employee who goes over her $100 stipend and is asking you for a special dispensation? That seemingly “simple” stipend has really just become a game of “wireless hot potato” — with every special dispensation comes the need for extra approvals, extra expense reports, which is simply transferring this messy responsibility from IT to the finance department.

You’ll find that with these catch-all stipends, you rarely have the Goldilocks moment of the amount given being “just right.”

Things become even more complicated with the introduction of multiple devices. How do you introduce a new device (and it seems like there are new ones every five minutes) into your existing program? What about a second stipend for an employee who has both a smartphone and a tablet? Trying to fit square pegs into an inflexible round hole of a stipend program is more than just a pain — it’s a waste of time.

Justine Stein, a San Francisco-based interactive producer who has worked at a number of different advertising agencies, has experienced the stipend process a few times. She notes that her company’s stipend “helped contribute” to her monthly bill, “which was nice, considering I was always on the phone for work.” But, the $50 amount she was given didn’t come close to covering all of her expenses.

Part of the problem? No one was tracking how and when she was using her phone for work; there was no attention paid to what kind of device she was using, or what plan she was on. On the flip side, an employee could be spending $5 on mobile work expenses a month and pocketing the rest.

This quick-and-dirty approach means that most companies are ignoring the details: They’re rolling everything up into one large monetary amount, stamping “MOBILE” on it, and calling it a day. Can you imagine if IT reported that they’d spent $10,000 on “TECHNOLOGY” or marketing billed for “MARKETING”?

Usage Data is Key

What’s needed here is more visibility into the nitty gritty of your mobile spend — and more strategy geared towards meeting the different needs of each user. The way to get this granular view is, of course, data. Data on your employees’ usage, their plans and devices, allows you to properly tailor your stipend or reimbursement program to your employees’ — and your company’s — actual needs.

Data gives mobility managers leverage, too. Let’s say a certain percentage of your employees use AT&T. If you have that information, you can likely get a discount code for your employees directly from the carrier. Seems like a win-win situation, right? Consider detailed usage data the best weapon in your stipend arsenal, and the first step in creating a smarter, more productive program for handling mobile costs.

Here’s a three-step plan:

1. Gather data.

2. Evaluate who needs what — and make sure they’re getting it.

3. Create a policy that addresses the different billing needs and mechanisms that support your employees.

You’ve heard it before — knowledge is power. Knowledge about your employees’ mobile behavior may not make you your next million, but it can certainly help improve your mobile strategy and stipend program by a long shot. BYOD may be a beast you’re still grappling with, but the right data and the right tools can help you avoid leaving money on the table, while keeping your employees happy and productive at the same time.


Curious about how Visage and Concur have teamed up. Read more here



Featured image courtesy of: adactio


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