BYOD or COPE: Which enterprise mobility strategy is right for you?

COPE has emerged as a promising BYOD alternative, but it can cause just as many problems if not approached correctly.

BYOD isn't going away, but it's no longer the only enterprise mobility strategy at your disposal.

The corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) model provides an alternative for organizations in which the bring your own device (BYOD) trend hasn't lived up to the hype. COPE aims to provide a user-friendly mobile experience that's a little more manageable for IT. The key difference is the device ownership; unlike with BYOD, where users purchase their own, COPE relies on company-issued phones and tablets that employees can use for work and personal tasks.

Like BYOD, however, COPE has its downsides and it's not a good fit for every IT department. Let's look at the pros and cons of each enterprise mobility strategy so you can choose the best one for your organization.

BYOD can limit what IT wants to accomplish.

BYOD programs took off as end users' personal smartphones and tablets became popular tools at work. IT administrators, some more quickly than others, realized that fighting to keep these devices out of the workplace was not the best use of their time and resources. So they began taking steps to support and integrate these devices in the corporate environment.

BYOD can bring significant benefits in terms of employee productivity, because today's consumer-friendly mobile devices and apps offer a better user experience than traditional PCs and monolithic enterprise software suites. The flexibility that arises when employees are no longer chained to their desks can also do wonders for morale and work/life balance.

Some organizations adopt BYOD policies in the hopes of saving money, but that usually doesn't turn out to be the case. They may realize savings on hardware -- especially if BYOD takes the place of a corporate-issued BlackBerry program or the like -- but they'll have to spend more on support.

Deploying an enterprise mobility management (EMM) product to secure and business-enable a wide variety of employees' devices is a significant undertaking. Organizations can address this issue by limiting the devices allowed in a BYOD program, but you risk alienating users if you allow too few choices.

Furthermore, BYOD can limit what IT wants to accomplish with its EMM platform. Employees may be unwilling to grant IT full mobile device management (MDM) control -- which can include features such as remote wipe and location tracking -- on devices they own.

Mobile application management takes a less heavy-handed approach, giving IT control only over corporate assets, which has more user appeal. But if MDM features are required, as is often the case in heavily regulated industries, BYOD may not be the solution.

The combination of personal endpoints and corporate control can also cause sticky privacy and legal problems. On IT's end, just because admins can access personal assets on users' devices doesn't mean they should. And for users, the line isn't always clear between which mobile tasks are for personal reasons and which are for business. Strong, clear BYOD policies should help define and enforce acceptable use among all parties.

The COPE model differs from other company-issued mobile programs in that it recognizes that devices will be used for both personal and business tasks. What needs to be locked down is locked down, what needs to be managed is managed and everything else is up to the user. Because the company owns the device, IT can be more assertive in its control.

COPE is easier to support than BYOD because IT can set up streamlined device enrollment and application-deployment processes, instead of scrambling to support devices as employees bring them in. IT should still give users options, but admins shouldn't feel like they have to support every device under the sun, as they do with BYOD.

Organizations may also take advantage of COPE's economies of scale. Some employers offer stipends as part of their BYOD programs, but buying devices through manufacturers' bulk-purchasing programs and paying for use through carriers' shared voice and data plans can be a cheaper option.

Corporate ownership isn't a given, however. In organizations that don't offer BYOD stipends or pay for any enterprise mobility initiatives at all, COPE's upfront capital costs present a significant hurdle.

IT must still tread carefully regarding control and privacy, too. The blurred line between business and personal assets exists in COPE scenarios, and if users feel like they're being spied upon, these enterprise mobility strategies will fail.

Next Steps

More enterprise mobility strategy resources

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BYOD expense management advice

This was first published in July 2014

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