Good BYOD expense management hinges on clear telecom expense policies

A cohesive telecom expense management program must be based on clear policies governing how employees are reimbursed for using their own devices.

Editor's note: In this two-part series, Tom Nolle discusses the steps enterprises must take to create a cohesive and viable telecom expense management program. Step one: Implement clear and concise policies that govern employee reimbursement.Part two covers the accounting end of the telecom expense equation.

Mobile communications, particularly smartphones and tablets, are revolutionizing the workplace and allowing employees to supply their own technology for work use -- "bring your own device," or BYOD -- has been on the leading edge of that revolution.

BYOD exposes a lot of corporate issues, however, and how to reimburse employees for using their personal technology for official work is on the critical list. Telecom expense management (TEM) in a BYOD world should start by integrating TEM policies into overall BYOD support, exploring the cost of auditing usage versus the cost of abuse, and avoiding practices that will create dissatisfaction among employees or even legal risk.

The complexity of BYOD expense management lies more in the policies surrounding BYOD use than in the mechanism for accounting for that usage. At a high level, BYOD expense management for employees' personal mobile devices differs from TEM policies applied to company-provided devices in that it reverses the default cost and the reimbursed cost. In both cases, a company has to decide how personal use of the device and service will be separated from company use and how charging back will take place.

Make sure that TEM explains how employees will be reimbursed

Read the mobile TEM handbook

Why mobility complicates telecom expense management

How to cut BYOD TEM costs

Learn to measure work-related mobile expenses

Nearly every company has a BYOD policy, and the first step in telecom expense management of any kind is to ensure that the policy includes a clear statement of the costs for which employees will be reimbursed. The intuitive approach is to say that the employee would be reimbursed for incremental costs associated with work use of the mobile device, but what are those costs? If company use accounts for a quarter or half of all device use, should the worker have a portion of the actual cost of the device reimbursed? If the incremental usage goes over a cap, should usage only in excess of the cap be paid, or should employees be reimbursed for the personal capacity they can no longer use because work capacity consumed it?

The consensus is that work traffic doesn't "consume" a device, so unless the worker is encouraged to get a new device or plan because of work usage, no reimbursement for the device or plan changes should be required. If work usage is expected to be significant, most companies agree that a fair policy is to pay for a data plan or a pricing tier sufficient to cover the work traffic -- assuming that a new plan or pricing tier is incremental to the worker's current plan. If an employee paid for a plan with a low monthly cap, raise that cap based on the expected work traffic and pay the incremental cost. Whatever is decided, write the TEM reimbursement policy into the BYOD plan.

This was first published in April 2014

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