Wireless expense management shouldn't spook employees

Tom Nolle discusses the dos and don'ts of wireless accounting and the steps enterprises must take to address BYOD expense management.

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. Part one talked about the need to create clear and concise policies to govern employee reimbursement. Part two covers the accounting end of the telecom expense equation.

The most difficult question about BYOD TEM is whether employees actually use the capacity they are reimbursed for.

The next step in bring your own device (BYOD) telecom expense management (TEM) is accounting for the change. Employees expecting BYOD reimbursement should not be required to show their personal mobile device records, but they should be required to show evidence of the personal data plan they're in because TEM reimbursement is based on the incremental cost of company data over the employee's personal plan. There are no risks of privacy violations if employees present only their plan data, not their usage history.

BYOD and wireless expense management programs should watch for signs of excess costs or even abuse by monitoring for the following:

  • Employees who report overages on their new BYOD-modified plans. Overages could indicate that the usage-cap increase for work was inadequate. In this case, it's best for the company to raise the cap because it's usually cheaper than paying regularly for excess usage. But the excess could also mean that the employee has increased personal use and started to consume additional time or data plan resources that the company is paying for.
  • Employees who increase their plan cap at their own expense. Increased plan caps could be due to excess work usage for which the employee isn't being compensated, or it could be simply that the employee has more personal use to account for. The marginal rate paid for excess work-related traffic might be lower under the new plan, and company policy should consider whether the employee should be reimbursed only for the actual incremental cost of company traffic under the new plan.

Monitor mobile applications from server side to ensure accuracy

The most difficult question about BYOD TEM is whether employees actually use the capacity they are reimbursed for on company business. The best way to track this is to monitor the mobile applications used from the company server side, not from the mobile provider side. If an employee's application usage doesn't match the expectations used to set reimbursement policies, the policies should be reviewed or employees' application use should be examined to ensure they aren't holding back on company activity to preserve usage for their personal applications.

BYOD TEM policies can also be used to enforce BYOD policies at a broader level. Companies should always require BYOD registration as a condition for reimbursement. They should also require that some form of mobile management tool be downloaded on the employee's mobile device to ensure that it's free of malware and that company policies on downloading and storing data haven't been violated. Linking reimbursement to compliance with these policies will help BYOD management overall.

Corralling telecom expenses

Denver firm gets tight rein on wireless bill

Avoiding expense confusion

The largest TEM issue associated with BYOD is excess reimbursement because the presumed usage for work is too generous. Companies report, however, that it's important not to lower this presumed usage level too much because excess usage costs for legitimate business use can quickly outrun savings, and because accounting for precise usage is often expensive and creates employee morale issues. It may be better either to set plan usage levels high enough that they are not exceeded more than about 10% of the time, or to have different usage tiers for different types of employees based on expected work activity.

The final point in BYOD TEM is to beware of intruding into employees' lives. Collecting specific information on calls, website visits or personal usage will certainly create resentment that could boil over into retention problems, and in many cases will expose the company to invasion-of-privacy charges. BYOD policies must spell out exactly which information will be reviewed in wireless expense management, and those policies must be validated against federal, state and local regulations. Keep in mind prevailing practices -- not only at the start but annually or when the company is notified of changes. Problems with TEM enforcement can quickly overwhelm the savings associated with savvy management.

This was first published in May 2014

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