How a trickle of BYOD costs can turn into a deluge

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I fixed one of my toilets this past weekend. It wasn't completely broken -- in fact, it performed its main function perfectly. You used it, you pushed down on the lever, and all the crap was gone. But apparently the seal between the bowl and the tank wasn't watertight and a little water leaked out -- nothing major, just the tank would refill every 15 minutes once the float sank about two inches.

As I repaired the tank, I thought about what that leak meant to me. It was only about a half gallon of water, so it didn't seem like much of an issue. Then I started to do the math: I was losing two gallons of water every hour. That was 48 gallons of water each day. Every day that I didn't repair it, another 48 gallons got flushed down the sewer. It still didn't seem like a lot. It was only 1,440 gallons a month.

It hadn't dawned on me that the water I was losing every 15 minutes meant money out of my pocket. (I get my water bill only once a quarter, so out of sight, out of mind). I also have a family that doesn't know the meaning of a short shower, so it didn't occur to me how much this could really cost. Then my sewer bill came: The utility devised a new rate based on the amount of water used. I was now paying for that leak in two separate places. Needless to say, my toilet no longer leaks.

My toilet episode reminded me of how many organizations handle BYOD. Their users choose their devices, and if they are using them for work, in most cases they end up getting a stipend. In some cases that stipend covers the cost of the whole bill; in others, it covers a subset of the bill. As it's almost always a personally liable device (meaning your company didn't pay for it), the only discount you get on your contract is whatever your company may have negotiated for employees' personal devices -- and only if you remember to apply for that discount.

Now let's look at a large company that has invested in corporate-liable devices (those it buys and provisions to employees -- the old approach). Yes, they end up paying for the mobile devices the employee would typically cover under BYOD: $200 or so for most subsidized smartphones, and $500 to $1,000 for a tablet. But many large companies have the option to pool their voice minutes and their data bucket, so if one person goes over his or her allotment in voice or data, the company can use unused voice or data from another person's allotment to make up the difference. That gets rid of much of the overage fees their employees would otherwise end up charging back to the company.

Invariably, the carriers give bigger discounts to these larger companies than what they grant to a single customer. They also offer different types of plans that allow the business users to roam internationally at greatly reduced rates -- sometimes even at a fixed rate. This compares to the $1-per-minute voice costs and $10 per 10MB that many individual users pay for when abroad. These numbers vary based on the size of the company, but it represents significant savings over what many companies are paying for today for personally liable devices.

As each person who participates in BYOD does his or her own expenses, the cost difference doesn't seem like a lot. It's a slow leak, $10 or $20 a month. If an employee travels overseas only occasionally, you never really notice the $100 bill for roaming that he or she submits. It didn't seem like an issue; after all, the employee had to get business accomplished.

But take that one person's extra costs and multiple them by the other 5,000 people in the company who are doing the same thing every month. Now you have a run rate of $50,000 a month -- that's $600,000 a year. It didn't seem like much when it was only $10 for each person. It was easy to ignore. But when you add it up, it can be a real issue.

Sometimes that nuisance of a toilet leak is worth fixing. It doesn't seem like much, but when you start to look at the whole picture, it can make a major difference. You should run the numbers in your own organization to see if your BYOD program is unnecessarily raising telecom costs. If it is, you can still empower employees with mobile devices and even allow them personal use, but under better financial terms.

This article, "How a trickle of BYOD costs can turn into a deluge," originally appeared at A Screw's Loose and is republished at CITEworld with permission (© Brian Katz). 

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