Company mobile phones are as dead as the company car
11 March 2012
The days when company fleets of Vauxhall Cavaliers rolled over UK roads are over. Monty Munford reports that a similar terminus is likely for the company mobile phone.
By Monty Munford
While there seems to be some way to go until the death of the car, the end of the road for the company car has been approaching for years.
In 2002 there were more than 1.2 million company cars on UK roads, a figure that last year slumped to less than 900,000. With the Chancellor expected to push hard for increased company car tax in this month’s budget, this figure is expected to slump to 500,000 in 2014.
Many employees have opted to take a car allowance rather than have a company car foisted upon them, an outsourcing model that empowers and gladdens employees as well as cutting the costs of maintaining expensive car fleets.
This trend is now being replicated with company mobile phones and perhaps surprisingly it is a trend that companies are actively supporting.
Enterprise mobility company Good Technology ‘delivers mobile security and control and makes it easy for end users to connect and collaborate on their device of choice’ and works across sectors such as Government and healthcare and serves clients such as DHL and LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games).
The company recently commissioned a report that found that 70% of their customers are encouraging their workers to use their personal smartphones in the workplace and it is their behaviour on these devices that is helping their employers with its mobility strategy.
This Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon may sound a little like taking a bottle of wine to a non-licensed restaurant, but it has the same upside as offering employees a car allowance instead of a company car.
The last thing a worker needs is another device to lug around and the increased sophistication (and cost) of smartphones is a huge capital cost for business, especially big business.
The report bears this out. Out of the companies that support BYOD 80% have more than 2,000 employees, 60% have more than 5,000 employees and a staggering 35% have more than 10,000 employees.
Employees are also happy to pay for this personal choice. More than half of companies with BYOD models require employees to cover all costs while 45% help their staff to subsidise the cost of their mobile device.
“BYOD will become the default model in most companies as it allows the user to choose the device they prefer and it lowers the cost of mobility for the business. It’s a win-win!” says Andy Jacques, GM for EMEA for Good Technology.
But while employees may or may not be incentivised by their control over their mobile devices, this strategy by employers also throws up considerable risks. Previously IT managers could secure company data by using one phone on one platform; now it’s a vastly different story.
The challenge is for IT departments that allow employees to use their own devices to access confidential enterprise data and information without compromising their employer’s security.
QuoStar Solutions is an IT service that supports providers to the UK SME IT market and its Managing Director, Robert Rutherford is wary of the dangers that a BYOD model entails.
“Devices should be owned, supplied and controlled by the company. If you want to allow employees some freedom on these devices then so be it – but don’t take risks. No, we haven’t had a major security breach on major platforms such as Apple or Android – but we will,” he says.
Simon Placks is Director of Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services at Ernst & Young and over the past five years he has seen a huge number of devices enter the workplace.
“Mobile phones have huge storage capacities and can easily accommodate hundreds of thousands of sensitive records or documents. When we investigate cases of intellectual property theft, these devices are still the attack vector of choice. This is because suspects feel they can hide behind the noise created by so many devices and so much data,” he says.
Security alarms apart, it would still appear that BYOD heralds the end for company mobile phone, not that some equate it with the slow death of the company car.
“The company car always had aspirational value and people want that symbol of power. In terms of mobile phones I think that’s where company phones failed. They have no hierarchy of aspiration and a BlackBerry approach to life/work balance makes the phone an add-on rather than a lifestyle,” say Katerina Zherebtsova, Marketing Director of Grape Digital.
That may be so but company cars were always more functional than prestigious and a questionable perk. At least with BYOD it means employers can now bring their work home with them… not in the back of a fleet vehicle, but in the comfort of their own device.