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Bye bye, corporate phone

By Beth Stackpole
July 2, 2012 06:00 AM ET


As can be imagined, not every employee was happy with the changes. Some who'd had unlimited company-paid plans in the past didn't want to have to start thinking about costs, Egan says. Others questioned the reimbursement rates, disliked the process of filling out expense reports, or simply said it was time-consuming to work with carriers.

Egan said his team did everything possible to make the experience less of a headache for users, including training, inviting carriers in to make presentations to users, and what Egan claimed was his ace in the hole: The company's internal SocialCast collaboration platform, which served as a central place for disseminating information and for users to help and support each other through the transition.

I don't add a lot of value [just] being 'the phone guy.'
Mark Egan, VMware

While Egan's rip-off-the-bandage approach to BYOD might be somewhat controversial, he said it would have been far more difficult to manage a phased approach and the decision fit with what he says is VMware's "all-in" culture, which eschews phase-ins in general in favor of sweeping moves and quick decisions.

In the months since the program's been in place, the company has already achieved significant cost savings -- about a third of what it was spending on cell phone fees in the United States, which Egan says is easily in the seven figures. Savings came primarily from more stringently monitoring which employees needed a corporate phone at all and from directing managers to keep a closer eye on their employees' monthly usage reports.

Now that he no longer does phones, Egan is happily shifting his focus to more strategic endeavors. "I didn't know how to add a lot of value [just] being 'the phone guy,'" Egan says. "Now we can roll out programs and services that increase revenue and help VMware build better products."

Checklist: How to phase out the corporate phone

With BYOD adoption in full swing, are you ready to get out of the business of supporting the corporate-issued phone? Just because the timing may be right, it doesn't mean the process is simple or without significant change-management challenges, IT managers warn.

Consider the following checklist of basic steps to ensure the transition goes smoothly:

Identify eligible users. While everyone has a phone for personal reasons, not everyone needs a phone to get his or her job done. Evaluate your user base, with input from managers, and determine who is eligible for any reimbursement or stipend program your firm might offer.

Formalize a reimbursement program. Working with management from lines of business and, potentially, with HR, determine a reasonable stipend plan and reimbursement amount for users based on their job function and their phone and data plan usage. As part of this exercise, determine whether the employee or the company help desk will be responsible for supporting the device as well as who pays what for service plans and hardware.

Establish payment processes. Consider the tradeoffs between processing the stipends as part of the regular pay period or requiring users to fill out weekly or monthly expense reports.

Create formal usage policies and processes. Just because IT is getting out of the business of supporting phones doesn't mean you can abdicate responsibility for protecting corporate data. To enable BYOD, you have to determine which applications you will support on employee-owned devices, and you need to establish policies allowing IT to remotely wipe data, even personal media, if a phone is lost or stolen. Consider as well the use of mobile device management (MDM) software to encrypt and protect corporate data.

Communicate and train. While plenty of users will be jacked about using their own phone at work and getting a stipend to defray the cost, there will be others who see the move to BYOD as a hassle and lost perk. Consistent communication about the policies, especially around support, is essential as is walking users through any additional security measures.

Longtime contributor Beth Stackpole last wrote for Computerworld on IT execs learning to let go of their 'command and control' mindset .

Read more about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Computerworld's Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Topic Center.

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