From The Editor | September 25, 2014

Defining Your Mobile Device Strategy: BYOD Vs. COPE Vs. Corporately Provisioned

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Not only is there a plethora of devices to choose from today, there are a growing number of strategies for how to deploy those devices to your mobile workforce. While there’s no hard and fast rule on what strategy works best, there are some clear pros and cons of each that can help you determine which strategy is the best fit for your organization.

The traditional approach is one of corporately provisioned devices, where the organization chooses, purchases, and provides devices to the workforce. The clearest benefit to this approach is the control the organization maintains over device usage. Under this model, workers are typically not able to use the device at all for their own purposes — it’s strictly for work-related applications. The organization is able to supply, provision, and control these devices however it sees fit. Consumerization of IT has really become the drawback to this approach — employees have more of an opinion on device selection they have ever had, and they can object to a.) having to use a device they don’t particularly like and b.) having to carry both a work-specific and a personal device.

In comes BYOD. With a BYOD approach, employees select and “bring” their own devices, which they use for work-related tasks in addition to their personal use. Most companies I’ve spoken to that have rolled out a BYOD strategy have done so to reduce costs and/or maximize employee engagement. The latter is one clear benefit of BYOD — if employees can choose to use a device they like and are comfortable with, they’ll likely use it with less resistance and more efficiency. However, the reduction in costs that BYOD has been touted to bring is questionable. Many say that the savings in hardware acquisition and cell plans (which many companies provide a stipend for anyway) are more than counterbalanced by increased IT management and mobile security costs. And the security aspect is a big one — it’s the number one concern companies have about BYOD and an important consideration when evaluating strategies.

Is COPE The Best Of Both Worlds?
Some think that a COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) strategy is the happy medium between a corporately provisioned and BYOD approach. In a COPE environment, the organization supplies the devices (and therefore maintains control), but the employees are able to personalize them for their own use as well. This is thought to alleviate the security concerns many have with BYOD, while providing the opportunity to maximize employee acceptance and engagement in a similar way. With a COPE strategy, an organization can determine a set of approved devices that workers are able to choose from or can evaluate options with their workers and go with the overall group preference. While you may need to set some guidelines around personal use on company-provided devices, the idea here is to build an environment of trust and to have your employees feel empowered.