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BYOD vs. CYOD vs. COBO vs. COPE: How to Know When to Change or Adjust Your Mobile Strategy

With the number of mobile devices in use worldwide almost even with desktop computers, management of mobile devices becomes more critical than ever. Not just technical management or security management, but financial and liability management as well. There are fundamentally five variables to be considered in all permutations:

• Who owns the device?
• Who maintains the device?
• Who owns what data?
• Who’s paying the bill for access service?
• Who owns the phone number assigned to the device?

Some of the permutations are widely recognized, especially BYOD – Bring Your Own Device, which gained popularity starting in 2009 when it was implemented by Intel. Many of their users owned personal mobile devices that they were very comfortable using. This initiative enabled them to securely connect those devices to the corporate network and use the same devices in their work.

Not long thereafter, former Citrix CEO Mark Templeton encouraged people to think about choosing the one device on which they wished to live, work, and play. Some attributed this to the “consumerization” of IT, while others viewed it as a contributor to work/life balance.

BYOD Upside

The upside of BYOD for both the employee and the employer were obvious. Users used the device they were most familiar and comfortable with. Work shifted more and more from being a destination to an activity that could be undertaken anywhere. Depending upon their company’s policy they may even have enjoyed some expense reduction.
The upside to employers wasn’t as obvious, but just as valuable. Employees began working before and after hours of their own volition. Work was accomplished during their commute. The company benefitted almost immediately from extended work hours they hadn’t anticipated. Their cost for equipment was reduced as they stopped purchasing mobile devices for these employees. In many cases maintenance of the equipment and monthly access service fees remained the responsibility of the employee owner. Most employers were very pleased by the results of their BYOD initiatives.

BYOD Downside

Some employees felt that extended work hours were expected in return for the “freedom” to choose their own device. In some cases, their company IT department took actions that erased their entire device, sometimes inadvertently, incurring recovery costs and the possibility of losing irreplaceable photos and other items.

The primary downside for employers began in the IT department. These BYOD users were accustomed to great freedom in using their devices. Now that corporate data might reside on them, the IT department owned responsibility for protecting that data. It was all too easy for an employee to take protected corporate data and email it outside the company using their own personal email accounts. Clearly, a way to keep corporate and personal data separate from each other on the user’s device was critical, though not at all easy to achieve when trying to support any device a user might bring.

Enter CYOD – More Control for the IT Department

With IT departments bemoaning the expense and difficulty trying to support literally any device a user brought, some companies shifted to a more controlled approach simply called Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) which limited the user’s choices to those devices specified by the company. In some cases, specific models were made available for “power users” and others for people with fewer requirements. While efforts were made to provide multiple selections, this was far more limiting for the employee, and far more manageable for the company IT department.

Not only was it more manageable, support costs tumbled when all users had similar devices. Support personnel only needed to be trained and prepared to support one or a few devices. The fewer the configurations in use, the easier and less expensive support becomes.

Taking control one step further, or perhaps acknowledging their inability to keep personal and corporate data separate, some companies implemented a Corporate Owned Business Only (COBO) strategy, but this removed the user’s ability to use one device for work and personal applications.

COPE Creates a Compromise

The flip side of COBO, Company Owned Personally Enabled (COPE), creates something of a compromise in which the company selects and furnishes the actual device primarily for business use, and personal use such as voice calls, texting, personal email and other applications are also permitted. This prevents the user from needing to carry two phones, however it can compromise privacy as the company has visibility of the personal content. Containerization tools may be used to keep the business and personal data segregated to reduce the impact of this privacy concern.

Inter-Related Expense

The challenge in determining which strategy serves a company best is that the decision is impacted by a variety of costs relevant not only to owning and operating the device, but also the cost of managing and securing it. Companies feeling confident that they can successfully segregate corporate and personal data on a single device and readily identify the cost of doing so have a significant advantage. They’ve solved the most critical issue in mobile spend management.

The actual cost of a given device is fairly insignificant.

Companies who don’t feel comfortable that they can keep corporate data inaccessible for personal use will likely stick to COBO-like strategies and sacrifice the value of one-device programs.

For the Company It’s All About the Data - For the Employee It’s All About the Number

In company-supplied-device scenarios a very popular request from user employees is that they be able to bring their own phone number with them and take it when they leave. Many of these users have had the same phone number for many years and don’t wish to find themselves announcing a change to all their contacts.

Recently phones have become available that can host multiple phone numbers. In some cases, these are valuable to those who wish to use one phone for all personal and work calls. Another application is the world traveler who can now have local numbers on their phone for each country they visit frequently. Not only is this convenient, it also reduces their roaming and international toll charges.

The Big Question Just Beyond the Horizon

The next few years will bring the introduction of 5G, fifth generation wireless services. Purported to be significantly faster and more resilient than current 4G LTE, 5G may bring more significant change than many yet have considered.
Combine the availability of a wireless technology far more powerful than what we have today with continuing improvements in Voice over IP (VoIP) service that conducts voice communication over the computer network, and factor in the growing movement to “cordcutting” in which Cable TV subscribers obtain their entertainment instead over the Internet. Suddenly you only need to maintain and pay for one network instead of three. No more public switched telephone network (PSTN) and no more cable television circuitry coming into the home.

Will this reduce tariffs? Increase them? Will it change the considerations when selecting BYOD, CYOD, COBO, COPE and other strategies? Stay tuned.