Companies are playing a crucial role in encouraging their employees to go mobile, and in determining how they do so. They are also finding that the same mobile devices are being used for both business and personal communication – and the convergence trend is increasing.
"However, several issues require considered attention and amicable resolution – such as costs, manner of use, ease of use, storage, quality, security and privacy," says PwC Southern Africa's communication leader, Johan van Huyssteen.
"In order to enhance their own productivity, organisations often look to the adoption of mobile services by their employees. They define what technology services they will support, who will have access to company-owned mobile devices, what expenses they will reimburse and the restrictions on how these services can be used. They do so to ensure cost effectiveness, security and capability."
One practice is that companies frequently reimburse work-related expenses and/or facilitate employee access to mobile device purchases through discounted service plans offered by their own vendor.
Companies need to have clear guidelines on these cost-issues, taking into consideration the level of the employee and the related income earned. Younger employees are the ones who more frequently use mobile devices for both work and private use, but they are the ones most in need of financial assistance. In contrast it is the more senior but less mobile employees who tend to receive the most subsidisation.
Although employers do tend to dictate mobility policies, van Huyssteen says employees have increasing influence on corporate policy.
"They are pressuring IT departments to adopt the types of devices they want: entertainment friendly, yet able to function effectively in a business environment. Companies do listen and try to ensure both corporate and private needs can be reasonably accommodated.
"But, realistically, the interests of the individual may not always be perfectly aligned with those of the corporation, and the co-mingling of personal and corporate information on a single device can raise significant issues. Employees would be less likely to relinquish control and comply with prescriptive corporate mobile policies where the device in question is heavily used for personal purposes, such as music, photos and games, in addition to company business."
Van Huyssteen says that employees readily accept that they do not own their laptops, which are property of the enterprise, although they use them for certain personal applications or services such as storing pictures or music.
"However, they may not as clearly recognise the distinction when it comes to mobile devices used for work, and may object to blocks imposed by corporate policy on certain elements of functionality. Employees who insist on retaining complete control over their devices and their lives will often have two – one for work and another for personal use."
But as application-rich devices become the norm for corporate use, employees may be reluctant to continue privately funding their second device. They would revert back to the company device as the cost-benefit perspective of two devices becomes less attractive. This then increases the risk of misunderstanding as to control over use, during convergence between business and personal use.
Employees are very concerned about privacy and would tend to prefer service plans that did not pass location data along to the employer. Employers, in contrast, would want these types of features to facilitate finding a lost device or to locate the employee.
Van Huyssteen says the use of a single converged device also raises the issue of security. "Employees, in the interests of protecting privacy, put great emphasis on password protection. Again, corporations will view the risk differently and will want the capability to 'wipe' a lost mobile device clean, to avoid a breach in security. They would want a strong security policy that will guarantee the integrity of corporate data. The employee may well prefer to wait for the device to be found, if 'wiping' eliminates not only corporate information but also personal data, pictures and music they have stored there."
Van Huyssteen concludes that companies and employees need to develop an accommodating relationship as their technology requirements increasingly converge. "A good corporate policy means a competitive edge for the employer, at the same time satisfying the private and social interests of the employee."