IT should not be the telecom police
As for employees whose mobile data plans you contract and manage -- perhaps the sales or other field force, or your CEO and other senior execs -- that cost should not be something for IT to manage. IT has no place in managing such business expenses, any more than it should pay for pens, paper clips, paper, travel expenses, or business meals. Data usage should be a business unit expense, and the costs -- whether for company-paid plans or employee reimbursements -- should be borne and managed by those business units. Believe me, they'll take care of those who waste money; if they don't, that's not IT's problem.
Yes, if you have people who do a lot of international travel, it makes sense to deploy MDM tools to enforce basic policies on devices used abroad, such as disabling the 3G or 4G radio or popping up a message telling the user that he or she is about to incur hundreds of dollars of roaming costs. These situations are a tiny minority in most companies, and IT's role should be minimal to nonexistent beyond implementing the roaming policies in any MDM tool already in place or selecting a cloud-based MDM tool for those users who need such roaming policies applied via technology.
Whoever manages telecom (maybe that is IT where you work) should facilitate the use of such policies and, where travel is expensive, help users get better roaming plans or learn how to use local SIM cards and VoIP apps to keep costs down.
I get why some of the MDM vendors stoke these fears -- their job is to scare you into spending your money on them, and IT unfortunately seems to be an easy mark when it comes to issues around newfangled technology.
But I don't get why IT itself takes on so many management challenges unrelated to technology operations or strategy. IT complains it's overwhelmed, but then goes out and tries to manage employee behavior, such as blocking access to Angry Birds or Facebook, monitoring employees' time spent on the Web, and even trying to monitor employees' personal communications over social networks. What is this, Soviet-era East Germany? I bet IT spends more money on such Big Brother activities than it saves the company.
Why is this not a business-unit management issue? If people are wasting time and hurting productivity, their managers should penalize or fire them. If managers and their executives don't care, neither should IT. If the cost is in the business unit's budget, you'll quickly see how small of an issue this data consumption "problem" really is -- or how small it will quickly become.
This article, "Worried about 4G data costs? Here's a simple solution," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.