Why the COPE model isn't a slam-dunk alternative to BYOD

A corporate-owned, personally enabled approach to mobility helps IT regain control, but the COPE model has challenges around finances and user buy-in.

On paper, the COPE model sounds like a win-win for IT and end users, but if you pull back the curtains, you'll find that it has its own set of challenges.

Compared to BYOD, the corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) model gives IT administrators more control. But users might see such a move as a Big Brother situation, rather than a partnership with their employers. Finances can also pose problems.

Parsing the COPE model's details

COPE imposes fully managed and monitored devices. IT might offer multiple devices, apps and services from which to choose, but the available options might not be what users want or need. And employees today are used to getting exactly what they want when they want it from their mobile devices. Users don't want to juggle different devices for work and play, which is one issue that bring your own device (BYOD) helps to avoid.

Under the COPE model, workers use devices for personal tasks that are within reason, but it's that "within reason" part that companies have to worry about. On the surface, it might sound like a sensible approach, but trying to get any two people -- let alone an entire organization-- to agree on what is "within reason" is almost impossible when it comes to personal use.

Another challenge is managing the financial details of COPE. Making sure that users stay within their service plans' stated cost thresholds, deciding who pays for it when they exceed those thresholds, etc., can become a burden. All these transactions must be carefully managed.

How to make COPE work

BYOD vs. COPE

Part 1: A corporate ownership comeback?

Part 2: The challenges of the COPE model

Despite the challenges associated with the COPE model, some organizations might greatly benefit from the control it returns to their IT departments, especially when it comes to protecting sensitive data. But COPE calls for a shift in thinking on everyone's part. IT must be willing to relinquish some of its control to allow workers to use company devices for personal tasks. Workers must be willing to give up some of their freedom so IT can control their devices. In the end, it comes down to the same old battle that BYOD creates: management and security concerns versus flexibility and productivity.

An organization willing to corral its workers into the COPE model will need to build a short list of approved services and devices and be willing to reconsider and update that list as needed. The company will also need a concrete mobility policy in place and will have to invest the resources necessary to educate users about that policy. It's worth noting that these are things a company should be doing for BYOD programs, as well.

This was first published in July 2013

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