The topic of money – who pays for what and how to get the best plans when business and consumer activities are mixed – has been a vexing one since Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) emerged. It has taken something of a back seat while companies figured out how to keep data secure and separate in the two spheres.
Those primary tasks are well on their way to being solved. Now, attention in turning, as it eventually always does, back to the money. The industry is getting serious about the issue, at least at the rudimentary level of splitting work and consumer bills.
Mobile Enterprise reports that the AT&T Work Platform will enable organizations to separate work and consumer expenditures. The story says that it is an important task from several points of view. Of course, there is the simple point of figuring out who pays for what. Beyond that are the legal, human resources and tax regulations. AT&T is cooperating with big-name vendors MobileIron, AirWatch by VMware and Good Technology on the platform.
Good Technology’s approach with the Good Work with Data product “is designed to allow organizations to start reducing … complexity by enabling them to pay directly for any data usage associated with a mobile application,” writes IT Business Edge’s Mike Vizard.
This is a good start. The mobile industry will have to grapple with more complex policy issues, though. TMCNet Contributing Editor Susan Campbell offered one approach:
For instance, a corporate billing plan could make the whole process easier. Employees would still have the option of selecting their own device, yet the company receives a monthly bill for better monitoring. Reimbursement can be sought for non-work activities, although the efforts needed in this area could negate the benefits of this arrangement.
It is not so easy. For one thing, the organization may be able to negotiate a better deal if a particular carrier is used by a larger number of employees. Perhaps it favors a particular carrier for service or feature issues. So the higher-level issue – to what extent the company can push the employee to use a certain carrier – must be considered. Another policy challenge is the amount of information sent to the corporation. Campbell’s idea seems likely to provide too much private data to the employer. What apps did the employee download? Are there calls to competitors’ offices? To head hunters?
Clearly, the level of information that the bill contains will be a big issue both at the personnel and, very easily, at the legal levels. Suppose an employee is accused of a crime. Must the company release cell phone records to the police? It is entirely possible that the company will have this information, or – as the entity paying the bill – have the right to get it from the carrier. Will law enforcement lean on the company to do so?
Solutions that separate work from consumer use in BYOD are a great first step. Much work remains, however.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.