Why Mobile Device Inventory Is Critical To Your COVID-19 Enterprise Mobile Management Strategy

By Adam Zipf, Customer Success Manager, One Source

The telephone has evolved substantially over the past decade. A mobile phone is essentially a mini-computer and a significant expansion of your IT and security infrastructure. In just under 10 years, mobile devices – phones and tablets – have overtaken PCs and laptops as the most often used means of connecting to a company’s data and computing applications. In the past year considering the pandemic, we’ve seen employee off-boarding become a more prevalent burden as workforce disruption, layoffs, and resignations unexpectedly hit, putting importance on efficient employee off-boarding processes in order to eliminate risks associated with employee exits as well as ensuring lines are successfully disconnected. Without these processes in place, costs accrue on devices that no one in the enterprise is using, meaning you are leaving money on the table. On top of that, mobile devices have been critical to business continuity with the extended move towards a remote workforce and onboarding employees remotely. With these factors in mind, having accurate visibility into your enterprise’s mobile device inventory has become increasingly important to ensure cost control. It’s become very clear that wireless inventory isn’t static, but a fluid lifecycle that is ever-changing. These complexities can be costly and challenging to keep track of if you don’t have the proper plans, processes, and resources in place.

Why is Mobile Device Inventory So Important?

You might be wondering what makes your mobile device inventory the foundation to successful management of your enterprise’s mobility. Accuracy and deep visibility into your mobile inventory lead to efficient cost control, streamlined procurement, detailed expense tracking, and precise cost allocation. Having a reliable strategy to manage inventory as part of your technology lifecycle will give you continuous cost compression as well as accurate visibility into cost usage. This doesn’t only prevent billing errors on the carrier side, but it can mitigate employee misuse or abuse of mobile devices. Further, incorrect inventory information impacts areas across the organization such as HR, Help Desk, Procurement, Billing, and Security. As an enterprise, it is essential that you understand who is using each mobile device, where it’s being used when it’s being used and how employees are using it.

What Challenges Come With Keeping Track Of Your Mobile Devices?

Tracking for zero usage devices – The wireline and wireless worlds are merging. Cellular backup, SD-WAN, and tablets are examples of items where zero usage indicates they are being used correctly if they are enabled to work on a carrier’s network. This means that when Wi-Fi is available you will see zero usage for these devices. If you do notice any usage on these devices, you can identify that the device and Wi-Fi are not working correctly. However, if devices aren’t labeled in accurate detail within a data system, devices where zero usage is the norm can be confused with “zombie devices” which are devices that are still active and being paid for but have no end-user. Accurate and detailed labeling of devices ensures that you know exactly which user has a device and how it’s being used to avoid the risk of disconnecting devices that shouldn’t be disconnected. Having to reconnect these devices and reestablish the IP addresses to get them back up on the network is a pain that can easily be avoided with accurate labeling of your inventory.

Accurate user information – In the past year, we found that each mobile device within an organization averages 3 tickets per year. The tickets were not limited to employees requesting new equipment; these tickets included the billing reports and alerts received, usage examination, and general account maintenance. With these constant “check-ins” on mobile devices comes an inherent risk of user information changing and inaccuracies. Inaccurate user information has a downstream impact on the Help Desk, Ordering, Billing, and Security workflows. Having a correct and reliable source of mobile inventory data, such as that compiled within an inventory management system, is the basis of which other mobile enterprise management functions are built.

It’s not just about smartphones – We’ve got to think beyond just managing a “smartphone”. Most of us know our cell phone number, but what about the other devices we personally carry? We’ve found on average, 25-35% of our clients have inventory that is not associated with a physical phone. So, what are these devices then? This remaining inventory belongs to tablets, various internet devices, hotspots, and watches to name a few. Thinking beyond the smartphone ensures all mobile devices are tracked and the associated costs are accounted for.

Key Strategies for Efficient Mobile Inventory Management

Implement a Mobile Inventory System – Information is power and knowing the actual inventory of mobile devices within your enterprise is foundational to the full inventory process. Not only that, but access to this information assists in strategic Wireless Expense Management (WEM) and can help identify areas for cost savings. It can do this by obtaining the necessary information that is critical to optimizing plan usage. Alerts are captured for current or recent billing overages so you can identify when changes are needed to rate plans, saving you money. Having an inventory system that ties directly into billing systems can also be an early alert trigger for any zero usage or zombie devices. We all know there is plenty of money left on the table each month for lines that are billing but have no usage. Having carrier and billing account information included in the inventory will save time when research or action is needed and ensure that devices where zero usage naturally occurs aren’t shut off on accident. But it’s important to understand that just a software system will not solve all your problems. Look for a solution that also has a service component as having a dedicated team to make the real-time updates that are required ensures long-term efficiency.

Integrate with HR – Having integration with HR systems not only sets the bar for how employees are taken care of when they are onboarded but also addresses the potential security risks that come when employees part ways with the organization. Having a system that directly pulls information from HR systems ensures accurate user information and labeling, providing an end-to-end integrated solution. The HR component looks different for every organization. Some companies want employee IDs to be unique identifiers to devices while others prefer using billing information like a department code. But being able to capture that information through HR integration establishes standards of what data is needed before an order can be completed. Correlating HR information with mobile inventory data saves a lot of time once it comes down to billing, procurement, and any time maintenance needs to be done on a line.

Adopt a Wireless Policy – Employee technology needs vary across an organization so what devices do you need to provide to your employees to meet their specific needs? Developing a wireless policy that incorporates device assignments based on pre-defined user types ensures employee productivity and streamlined procurement of devices. The policy should define different user-profiles and, for each user profile, determine what is acceptable use, what is not, and provide some best practices to avoid data overages. For cost-effective procurement, it’s best to define a few different user profiles or levels. Break those out and establish a corporate policy on each user level. This will flow into an HR component for onboarding employees. When a new employee is onboarded, they will automatically be put into a specific user group based on their job function or title. In their user category, they can select from the devices and carriers within their specific group. Establishing this upfront can make a difference in the cost as well as making the employee experience during onboarding easy and stress-free.

Want to learn more about COVID-19’s effect on mobile connectivity and device management? Download our eBook for 5 Mobile Myths That Impact Your Business to uncover the truth around BYOD, contract negotiation, mobile security, 5G, and more.

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