How do other large global companies handle purchasing, redeploying, and disposing of company-owned cellular devices (e.g. iPhones?)

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How do other large global companies handle purchasing, redeploying, and disposing of company-owned cellular devices (e.g. iPhones?)

The ways in which multinational corporations handle their company cell phones are diverse. Companies often have varying security needs and a variety of different cultural aspects to consider during the development of a corporate cell phone policy. However, I was able to pinpoint currently most common procedures. In short, the two most common methods used by multinational companies to handle cell phone logistics are BYOD (bring your own device) and COPE (company owned personally enabled).

Prior to the rising popularity of these two methods, corporate cell phones were designed to be used for work-related calls and texts only, leaving no space for personal use, but as the digital world has evolved, corporate cell phone policies have been amended to keep pace with the changing times.

How do multinational companies MANAGE cell phone LOGISTICS?

Multinational companies handle cell phone policies in much the same way fully domestic companies do. In recent years, the most common methods for enacting a company cell phone policy includes methods that are now called BYOD and COPE.
BYOD (bring your own device) is currently the most common method of corporate phone management. With this policy, employees can use any device they choose as a corporate device.

Some companies elect to allow employees to use a personal phone as their corporate phone without caveats. This means employees don't need to change numbers and they are responsible for their own billing, plans etc. In this case, the approach is very informal and comes with security risks and additional issues surrounding branding and corporate cohesion.

However, the more common BYOD method is the use of a managed mobility service (MMS) provider to enroll employee's selected device into a specific corporate account that provides access to corporate networks. This means that, though the employee will use personal devices, they are directly connected to company systems and networks. In many cases, these networks are heavily secured to minimize risks to proprietary information.
COPE (company owned personally enabled) means that employees use company-owned devices that are enabled for personal use. This means that the device can be used for personal calls and browsing the Internet, texting, etc. but, the device itself is owned and maintained by the company. COPE has become more popular in recent years, because it allows for tighter reins on security, but also eliminates the complaints many staffers have about carrying two devices.

One con to this option is that it allows IT/management to have access to any personal information stored within the COPE device. Many people consider this a privacy issue, but many employees prefer this option to carrying two devices. Either way, the COPE method is the closest, commonly-used method to the traditional, corporately owned and issued devices.

How are corporate phones purchased?

If a corporation elects to use company-owned devices, the organization will usually establish a corporate account with a major service provider. In many cases, service providers offer wholesale and bulk discounts to corporations that choose to provide cell phones to staff members under a single umbrella account.

In this case, depending upon the size of the company, a specific device may be obtained and issued by human resources. In some cases though, staff members are allowed to take advantage of a CYOD (choose your own device) policy, which allows employees to select a device from a limited number of company-approved options. Sometimes, the staffer is required to pick their device directly from a provider's store location, and sometimes the device can be chosen in the office, procured by human resources and issued to the staff member, on-site.

Depending upon the company's policy, staff members may be issued a cell phone by HR personnel during orientation or in-processing, but sometimes, staff members are required to visit a provider location themselves, to obtain a device and enroll with the company's account. In the case of multinational corporations, many companies find it more efficient to have staff members visit a local provider location, which ensures compatibility with local standards. Again, the method a company chooses is largely based on that company's culture, needs and expectations.

How is billing handled for corporate cell phones?

Billing for corporate cell phone accounts is handled in a number of different ways. For BYOD policies, corporations often provide stipends to staff members allowing for some of their device coverage to be paid for by the organization. In other cases, as is often true for COPE, the entirety of the bill is paid for by the organization.

Depending upon the scope of the company, the expense may be directly covered by the IT budget, or it may be considered an organizational-level cost. Speculatively, this budgetary/billing choice is dependent upon the quantity and cost. If everyone in the company has an issued phone, it's plausible the billing would take place at the organizational level. However, if only a select number of staff members are issued devices, the logistics may be maintained at the department level. Again, this is heavily dependent upon the company and its respective culture.

However, it is important to note that company policies, security needs, culture and economics may impact the way in organization handles billing. For example, in the case of companies wherein staff members are allowed to use personal devices without caveats of any kind, staff members may be made 100% responsible for billing. On the other hand, another company may choose to offer a flat-rate reimbursement month after month, as part of their cell phone policy. In general, it really depends on what works best for the unique organization.
In either case, companies will likely require the services of a managed mobility service provider, whose representatives will have experience and expertise in the management of bulk-device distribution and logistics.

What happens when an employee leaves?

For BYOD, when an employee chooses to leave an organization or is dismissed by the company, his or her chosen device is simply disenrollment from the MMS program that allows connectivity with the corporate network.

However, in the case of COPE, companies may require that staff members turn in devices to human resources, in order to reuse those devices for incoming employees. In many cases, the device is passed to the outbound employee's direct successor.

Typically, personal information is wiped and the phone is returned to factory settings prior to being completely reestablished as the new staff member's phone. However, it is also possible that, in the case of traditionally corporate-owned devices that are used for corporate purposes only, the phone may be directly passed to a successive employee under the same phone number and same account, requiring no resets or amendments at all.

In short, corporate-owned cell phones are often redeployed to successive employees. However, the method by which this is done depends on the needs and expectations of the company and the intended use for the specific device.

How do companies dispose of old corporate cell phones?

When it is time for a company to retire a cell phone, there are a number of methods used to dispose of devices. Many organizations simply throw them out. In fact, "a study by the EPA showed that only 11% of e-waste is made up of mobile phones, which means almost 90% of them are ending up in landfills or sitting in desk drawers. Also, according to the EPA, for every million cell phones we recycle, we can save 35,000 pounds of copper, 774 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium."

Thankfully, there is growing popularity among the corporate landscape for recycling old phones. There are a number of organizations that will purchase old IT devices and cell phones and retrieve the otherwise-wasted copper, gold, and palladium. Those organizations then recycle the plastics, glass and as much of the phone's casing as possible, thereby reducing overall waste.
In some cases, companies will allow staff members to keep old devices, as long as they are removed from the corporate account, but here again, it depends largely upon the company's culture.


Typically, corporate cell phone policies remain among the collection of documents managed by human resources for onboarding new staff. Most global organizations don't fully publicize their policies.

However, I was able to locate some sample policies, as well as a short list of companies who are finding success with today's most popular phone-logistics option, BYOD:

The two linked sample policies are in PDF format. They offer a glimpse of the detail that goes into formalizing a device policy:

Three companies that are doing well with the BYOD model

"The company was at the forefront of the growing BYOD movement and has figured out some of the best practices for implementing an organization-wide policy smoothly. Considering that Intel’s policy covers more than 30,000 employee mobile devices."
"The software services company has developed a specialized mobile platform that’s filled with applications, allowing employees to work from anywhere as long as they have their mobile devices at the ready. SAP has also created a system which allows them to decommission a device in only a minute, helping increase security in case a smartphone or tablet is lost or stolen... With a 100 percent enrollment rate in self-service, it’s clear that employees are enthusiastic about SAP’s BYOD program."
"Unlike other policies, however, the company has actually posed some interesting limitations to the types of devices employees can use. In this case, the policy only allows for Apple products such as iPads. While this regulation may appear to defeat part of the purpose of BYOD, executives at Blackstone insist this was the best way to implement a BYOD policy."


Though it's clear that phone policies are as diverse as the companies that use them, it seems the most popular choices for multinational corporations are BYOD and COPE.

The BYOD policy is trending among tech-oriented organizations seeking to appeal to a youthful employee demographic.

COPE is used more commonly by more traditional companies, and those that require higher levels of security and accountability, like the government and military.