“Who should own the enterprise handset?” asked mobile analyst Philippe Winthrop in a recent article at The Enterprise Mobility Forum.
A few years ago, the answer would have been, “Duh, IT does.”
Things aren’t so simple today, as an expert panel at the Mobile Business Conference at last month’s Interop agreed:
Should employees’ personal phones be supported? YES
But who should control them, IT or the employees? NEITHER…AND BOTH?
Should companies treat corporate and individual phones differently? NOPE, BOTH NEED TO BE MANAGED
Should companies reimburse workers for their personal phones? WELL, IT DEPENDS
Can personal phones and governance, risk and compliance policies co-exist? SURE…
So crafting the perfect, non-contradictory enterprise smartphone policy is impossible.
But Sybase didn’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good.
Last June, it made a major overhaul to its employee smartphone policy that appears to be making both IT and employees happy, according to longtime CIO Jim Swartz.
“Employees wanted to use iPhones and they requested the freedom to use these devices as personal appliance and a business tool,” said Swartz. “The concern had always been security and cost. The latter we addressed with our own software that creates an ‘encrypted sandbox’ on the device separate from the personal use area.”
“We got around the cost issue by asking the employee to pay for and own the phone while the company picked up the service fees,” Swartz continued. “Additionally, the employee agrees that IT will manage the data in the sandbox.”
In other words:
- Employees can now choose among 20 different phones including the iPhone, and phones running Windows Mobile or Nokia’s Symbian operating system.
- Employees buy and own the phones, but the service bill is paid by Sybase’s corporate account. That saves the typical employee between $60-$80 a month, or $720-$960 a year – 4-6 times the upfront price of the phone.
- Sybase apps such as Mobile Office for work e-mail and contacts can be installed and run on those phones.
- Employees agree to let Sybase use its Afaria software to wipe their smartphones clean if they are lost or stolen, or if the employees leave Sybase.
Today nearly half of Sybase’s employees have smartphones running their work apps, almost 30% higher than a year ago.
Almost 600, or almost 15% of Sybase’s 4,000+ employees, use an iPhone, including CEO John Chen, said Swartz.
The second most-popular phone (in the U.S.)? The Samsung Jack, the BlackBerry-lookalike that employees can get for free.
Sybase’s cafeteria plan isn’t a buffet. BlackBerries are supported for only certain employees. And Google Android phones are not supported at all, though the latter may be changing.
Also, employees don’t automatically get a free replacement phone if theirs is lost or stolen. AT&T users can get a new phone every 13 months; the time period can be up to 24 months at Verizon.
Still, the offer is seemingly so generous that it begs the question: why don’t the remaining eligible Sybase employees transfer their service in-house?
One issue is the huge number of Sybase employees scattered worldwide. It’s not easy to get corporate contracts for every market.
Other issues: employees leery about losing their personal contacts and apps if Sybase ends up having to wipe their phone, or losing their long-time cellphone number if they leave Sybase.
But Swartz points out that many Windows Mobile/Symbian owners can back up some of their data to an SDHC storage card. With the iPhone, users should be regularly syncing their data and apps to iTunes on their own PC, anyway. Those backups can be used for reinstallation if the phone is wiped.
As for the phone number issue, Swartz is clear: employees can keep their number when leaving Sybase by transferring service to a carrier under their own name.
Sybase’s “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)” policy is working so well, that Swartz is thinking about “extending the program to other personal computing devices such as laptops.”