by Craig Riegelhaupt

EPD or BYOD Oxford-Samsung study looks deep into the costs and benefits

Aug 28, 2018
CareersIT StrategyTechnology Industry

A recent study confirms that “use of mobile devices is essentially mandatory” in today’s remote workforce. Employees are generally more favorable towards using company-issued devices than using their own. Employers that provide devices (EPD) to employees rather than reimbursing them for bringing their own (BYOD) are leaders in their fields. In this article, the author examines what organizations need to consider when deciding on EPD or BYOD, and then how to decide whether to outsource or acquire internal skills to manage the programs.

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A recent report by Oxford Economics, commissioned by Samsung Electronics America, confirms what most employers and employees have known for some time now – that employers expect employees to be available remotely, but that the two groups are often at odds over what mobile devices to use and how to pay for them.

The Oxford-Samsung’s survey of more than 500 IT executives and managers in diverse industries across the United States found that 61 percent of organizations expect employees to be available remotely, even if they don’t provide employees with a company phone. “The use of mobile devices is essentially mandatory,” the report states.

Yet the survey also showed that only about 50 percent of organizations use Employer Provided Device programs (EPD) for their employees. The rest rely on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, reimbursing or providing monthly stipends to employees for using their own phones. The costs and benefits of BYOD versus EPD policies are weighed extensively in the interesting and informative Oxford-Samsung report.

One item I found particularly interesting: employees who use their own devices show a lower satisfaction with using those devices for work compared to those who are given a device to use (69% vs. 78%). I am married to a statistician, so I am always weary of how stats like this are represented (i.e. correlation doesn’t always equal causation). So, my first thought was: of course, people will be more satisfied if they are given a device by their company to do work on, compared with them knowing that they are using their own personal device to do work, when they view that hardware as “their own.”

That aside, it’s clear that end-users are indeed more satisfied with a company-provided phone. So, an organization should view mobile devices – and whether they want to provide them to their end-users – as an opportunity to incentivize engagement and motivation within their workforce.

Oxford-Samsung took a deep look at costs, showing “how they can accrue on multiple fronts over time, both at companies that issue phones to some or all of their employees and at BYOD firms. These include the following ongoing costs:

  • Monthly stipends and cellular connectivity costs. As mobile phones have become essential, even BYOD companies are assuming more post-purchase costs from employees….
  • Mobile device management (MDM). Companies need to ensure mobile devices that access corporate data are effectively secured and managed. A vast majority of respondent companies, regardless of their device enablement strategy, have an MDM solution in place (including 88% of BYOD-only respondents). This entails a significant investment of resources: the smallest organizations in our survey, in terms of annual revenue and employee count, tend to employ three or fewer people to manage their mobile devices, while most of the largest typically employ at least 10.2.
  • Outsourcing. Many companies choose to engage third-party vendors to deal with the details of mobile management. Those with mixed EPD/BYOD strategies are less likely to outsource—39% of these hybrid companies do so, versus 67% of pure-play EPD firms and 75% of BYOD firms. Broad EPDs are even less likely to outsource (31%). These strategies are likely driven by available resources: the largest companies in our survey are much more likely to manage devices in-house, while the smallest are most likely to outsource.

What I also like about this study is how it shows that just saying “we do BYOD” is not as simple as it sounds when you consider the full cost (from a financial, resource and security perspective) of deploying it. Organizations need to look at mobility holistically – not just at the upfront cost of the phone plus the service contract.

Organizations that require employees to provide their own mobile devices (BYOD) save much less money than they might expect, when compared to organizations that issue devices to their workers,” the report notes, adding: “Organizations providing mobile phones to more than 20% of employees lead across virtually all maturity indicators.

In other words, organizations that provide devices for their employees are the leaders in their fields.

To me, using mobile devices in the field today is much like using laptop computers in the office, starting a decade or two ago. Some organizations provided the laptops (and still do), recognizing the benefits of mobility. In other places, employees used (or use) their own laptops because they recognized the same thing. The big difference is that mobile phones are focused on the end-user, whereas laptops (and personal computers) are focused on the business.

The Oxford-Samsung report notes: “Companies tend to see their own strategy as the one that works best, in terms of workforce productivity and satisfaction. But broad EPD organizations are more satisfied with the effectiveness of their mobile enablement strategy, while BYOD respondents are least likely to say their mobile enablement strategy allows workers to access work-critical information quickly and efficiently.”

This reinforces my longstanding belief that an organization needs to take stock and make a proactive decision on how it wants personal devices integrated within the company. Only after that decision is made can it decide whether to outsource its mobile device programs or bring in the needed internal skills to manage it effectively – from end-to-end.