If the current pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we are far more dependent than we ever imagined on the more than 5 billion mobile devices in use in the world today. With so many information workers now working from home many are solely using their mobile phones to make and take all calls, access information, and do actual work than ever before.
Corporate executive management, pre-occupied with helping their businesses survive the crisis, need to carefully consider the many implications of this change in communication channels. Telecommunications was becoming a larger and larger component of corporate budgets before the virus outbreak began. The impact of the virus has accelerated and broadened bringing all manner of new exposure, including new financial uncertainty.
Here’s guidance on how and where to look to better protect your business.
Publish, Promote, and Enforce Telecom Policy
People say the darndest things, which is perhaps the best reason the first thing you should do is to make sure you create and publish a clear mobile device policy for all personnel. The number of organizations that fail to even have policy in place is surprising. Add to that those who fail to enforce their policy and the number becomes vast.
Legendary efficiency expert Peter Drucker reminds us that, “you cannot manage that which you cannot measure.” As we examine the various areas that must be covered by your Telecom Policy, keep in mind that a policy that is not enforced is not as valuable. As such you must make sure policy violations can be detected, benchmarked, and fully evaluated.
Regulations exist at three key levels: governmental, organizational, and vendor. The most important thing to pay attention to in this last segment is to advise all users not to do anything that could void the manufacturer’s warranty or otherwise decrease vendor responsibilities. Regulatory compliance with governmental acts is non-negotiable as penalties for failure to comply keep growing larger each year.
The bulk of your policy should define your organizational regulations regarding mobile device use. This includes defining the user’s expectations of privacy, the allowable and acceptable uses of the device, the rules around protecting corporate technologies, devices, and data, and the procedures required around obtaining, returning, maintaining, and repairing corporate mobile device assets. This must include rules carefully defining what personal use may be made of a corporate-funded device.
Once you’ve written your policy you must invest full credibility in it by obtaining complete buy-in and endorsement by all key organizational stakeholders.
Most corporate communication policies are completely defeated by the same mistake: the failure to actively and effectively enforce the policies.
Distinguishing and Dividing Data
Some say “Data is the new bacon” while others say it’s the new oil. Clearly everyone is coming to fully appreciate the tremendous value of business data.
Mobile devices represent perhaps the most vulnerable portal for unauthorized persons to access corporate data. As such they must be carefully and comprehensively protected from a security perspective, but this doesn’t consider the exposure presented by the registered user.
Whatever your personal use policy permits, people will make some personal use of their company-issued mobile device. This means that both personal and corporate data will reside on it, and personal communication applications as well. This makes it all too easy for users to convey corporate data to others outside the organization. The existence of the ability is in itself a complete violation of most corporate data privacy policies.
There are two fundamental approaches to mitigating this exposure. One calls for the “containerization” and separation of corporate and personal data so neither is available to applications installed for the other.
The second is the use of Virtual Device Interface (VDI) in which literally no data is sent to the mobile device itself. Instead all corporate data and applications run on servers in the data center only sending results in the form of screen appearance, screen-taps, and keystrokes between the device and the datacenter. Having no corporate data on it also mitigates against device loss or theft.
Traveling Globally? Plan Communications Carefully
Roaming charges are still among the worst surprises corporate TEM managers face. Global Travel Procedures should be part of your policies and procedures manual, and processes should be put in place to make TEM managers aware of impending travel plans.
Some carriers now offer integrated global access programs which make this planning easy. Others do not. Some countries also prohibit these integrated programs. Other countries, China for example, have complete access to all mobile device content so it is advisable to always encrypt all data in transit and at rest in storage.
Once you’ve determined where your traveler is going you can make the necessary arrangements for local device rental, feature activation within your existing carrier agreements, or other ways of keeping long-distance carrier charges in check. Also, make sure users are encouraged to use wi-fi whenever available to avoid carrier charges.
Maintain Granular Vigilance at All Times
What you don’t know can hurt you.
Most organizations have learned the value of creating thorough procedures for issuing telecom services and equipment to new employees. Unfortunately, not as many have been as careful in planning what must be done with telecom assets when an employee leaves.
The worst result of this is that many devices may never be collected or may be collected and tossed into a drawer without termination of service. As such, many pay for many devices and related services long after they are no longer in use resulting in waste. Worse, many purchase new services and equipment for subsequent new hires even though these abandoned devices are available.
Simply establishing TEM notification from HR when an employee terminates usually resolves these gaps.
Be sure to regularly inspect your TEM inventory to identify any circuits or devices which have not been used for 90 days or more. Investigate each of these before taking action to terminate billing. One unpleasant outcome of failing to do this comes when a senior executive who seldom uses their corporate has their phone terminated and they go to make an important call.
It’s inescapable that some users are going to experience device failure. Things break. How you resolve that situation can be the difference between commendation and condemnation from your user community.
Depending upon the carrier or device vendor to provide repair services directly is probably not your best option. Invariably the repair will not be completed in a timely fashion, or will go lost, or the repair will not be properly completed. The consistent fault underlying all of this is that your TEM team is not in control of the transaction and you cannot assure anything.
Instead, consider maintaining a limited supply of standby devices readily available to send to users when their own unit fails. If you’re using VDI and nothing is on the phone, or if you’ve effectively implemented server-based backup of apps and data, the user can receive a new unit and simply activate a restore function. They ship the damaged unit to the TEM team and receive an immediate, expedited replacement.
The failed unit can then be repaired and returned to inventory. Many operations simply purchase more and more new units when needed to resolve a vendor-service delay. The end result is a far more enormous inventory of expired devices at end-of-life. That’s a very expensive solution.
Also consider aggregating all returns and having them processed by a service provider dedicated specifically to telecom device refurbishing. This can be a tremendous cost reduction step.
Be sure to properly code your backup units as backup units, transferring them to an active user when replacing a down unit. Proper tracking yields proper accounting.
The Importance of Inventory
Every time an invoice arrives from a carrier or related service provider the importance of maintaining an accurate inventory of all circuits, telecom services, and equipment at all times. The ability to validate any invoice is rooted in that inventory, as is the ability to assure that all inactive services are no longer being paid for. Going forward, the ability to accurately forecast future requirements is greatly facilitated by a constantly accurate inventory.
Once crucial point in the total lifecycle of telecom devices is when it is nearing end-of-life (EoL). You have units in the field that you will not be able to replace with a discontinued model. What will you use to replace it? How different will provisioning and deployment of the new device be? These new units should be in spares inventory in time to service your user community without interruption. Such preparation will also dramatically improve the organization’s leverage when it comes time to re-negotiate carrier agreements.
Treat Them Like a Lifeline
Already companies like Twitter have announced that none of their employees need to ever return to their office. From now on they can work from home if they prefer.
For those who do decide to keep people working from home their mobile device becomes a critical lifeline of vital communication. Whatever the “new normal” resulting after this pandemic looks like, mobile communications will be more critical to it than ever. This calls for all TEM managers to step up their vigilance, accelerate their planning, and assure that the mobile devices used by their organization are all highly effectively managed. To discuss how to best begin this planning, reach out to Calero-MDSL.