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Reader Forum: Don’t let the ‘iDevices’ destroy your monthly expenses

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reader Forum section. In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: [email protected]

If you work in IT or handle mobile devices for your organization, you’ve likely already experienced it: requests to move to the latest, greatest, fastest smartphone on the market (for the time being), the iPhone 5. And with the recent iPad Mini announcement, you can expect even more chatter and new device requests to come your way. You may be a bring-your-own-device organization, where employees and executives are asking whether you can support the new device if they upgrade; or you may provide corporate-owned devices, in which case employees are constantly asking when they will get the newest device.

Regardless of who’s paying for the new device, there is one constant you have to prepare for: the increased data use that the device enables will increase how much each device is costing your organization.

The iPhone 5 and iPad Mini have stepped it up in terms of speed, power and battery life. These three key features make it possible for users to do more on their devices (read: consume more data minutes) – and do it faster, for a longer period of time in between charges.

There is nothing preventing your employees from using these fast, powerful devices to work harder – and play harder. Nothing, that is, except for you.

Enabling, not disabling

Both the iPhone and the iPad/iPad Mini are optimized for data consumption, not creation. This is important for you, as the manager, to recognize, as your employees may not. More data will be consumed, simply because it can be. Employees will just see themselves as being more productive. If you don’t take steps to ready your organization for the newer, faster devices, then at the end of the month you will have some explaining to do when the bill comes.

At the same time, there is a line to carefully toe. Whatever controls you put in place over usage and expenses need to not be so restrictive that the devices are no longer useful. Enabling employees to be more productive at work, on the road and at home truly does benefit the organization. So the trick is making sure you enable these devices to work well while ensuring that there is no bill shock.

Preparing the organization

The first step is not to be afraid. There is plenty you can do from a technology, education and policy standpoint to prevent data spending overages. Just make sure you time these updates in all three areas with the rollout of the iPhone 5, or whatever advanced smartphone or device your organization may be salivating over:

–Step 1 – Wi-Fi: Employees, like the rest of the human race, are addicted to their phones. E-mail will be checked constantly, games played in the restroom, texts sent while waiting for lunch. Make sure your company has a strong, reliable Wi-Fi set up that reaches throughout the whole office. Having Wi-Fi in place means little to no downloading of data over a carrier network while inside the office. You’d be surprised how many companies forget to cover the break areas and bathrooms and end up paying for it.

–Step 2 – Reviewing your mobile plan: News devices and upgrades typically give the organization an opportunity to revisit their mobile plans. Perhaps with the faster devices its time to move up to the next plan level. Or perhaps you’ve reviewed your recent bills and can tell that Jim from finance doesn’t use as much data as Laura from sales. You need to review bills every month and make sure you’ve matched need to plan. Not everyone in the organization is the same, so their plans shouldn’t be the same.

–Step 3 – Productivity and efficiency: Setting aside the obvious need for strong device security, as the manager you also should help employees find apps that will help them do their jobs better and faster. Help them work smarter – and in the process, limit the time it takes them to, for example, download a PDF or upload an image.

–Step 4 – Setting personal use policy: When you pay for the service, you get to make the rules. There’s no need to pay for employee entertainment. Employees could be observing work policy at work, but then downloading videos and music over the carrier network at home, which would still increase data costs for the organization. Direct employees to use Wi-Fi at home and on the road as much as possible. Offer to assist less tech-savvy workers in how they can do so. That said, in monitoring the bills, look at who are heavy users and make sure they don’t go over their allotments. Overage charges are often more expensive than data plans.

–Step 5 – Monitor for abuse: You hate to do this, but to keep costs in check you need to make sure there aren’t employees downloading albums or videos from their office, destroying the bandwidth of the work network and driving up the mobile spending of the company, as they’ve just gone over the allotted data limits on their plans. If you don’t identify and nip abuse at the start, then the abuse will grow.

Devices will only continue to get stronger, faster and more expensive. This is a good thing – faster and stronger means more work done and happier employees. However, if you don’t take the time to optimize the environment you’re using the devices in and around, then the increase in your monthly bills could make your finance department or executives ask if there was anyway to go back to landlines.

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