Is COPE Right For Business?

As businesses continue to transform digitally and put mobile at the forefront, there’s one ultimate decision that needs to be made to best serve employees and the enterprise equally: Bring your own device (BYOD), or corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE) platform.

Much has been made about the former, as BYOD made a splash around 2009 after iPhones hit the consumer market and smartphones in general became a deep and wide vertical that continues to grow. However, security measurements around personal devices have become a bear, as IT departments are tasked with managing equipment they cannot physically control.

In a COPE setting hardware devices are chosen by the enterprise’s IT management, and are prepopulated with operating systems, apps, and security protocols specific to that business, making management more streamlined and easier to access if needed.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange caught up with ESG Global, ABI Research, and CCS Insight to find out what COPE means to the company and if it’s a better fit than BYOD.

The first consideration for many companies will come down to industry standards, compliance, and regulation, i.e, security as a whole.

“Globally (COPE) has been the most mainstream approach,” said CCS Insight analyst Nick McQuire. “This is because of the challenges and complexities of implementing successful BYOD policies for many organizations. COPE allows firms to deliver a native mobile experience and straight forward security policy without having to navigate ambiguous and complicated user privacy and works council regulations.”

Industries that benefit most from COPE platforms those in the highly regulated sectors such as banking, government, and healthcare, McQuire said.

“If the business has apps and data that will be used by the employee and it requires a controlled environment, then COPE can be a necessity,” said Mark Bowker, Analyst with ESG Research. “Think of airline pilots that are regulated by the FAA… air carriers need that device to meet a certain set of standards.”

Aside from industry regulations, in-house security measures imposed by the IT department can also make COPE the best choice.

“For the IT team, COPE assures a baseline of functionality necessary to enable sufficient application and services performance while maintaining security policies in line with corporate,” said Jeff Orr, Research Director with ABI Research.

While security should be a foremost concern while pursuing a mobile platform, uniformity is also a major component to keeping productivity at its highest.

“Device support can be another issue as new devices hit the market at a rapid pace across a variety of platforms,” Bowker said. “Standardizing with COPE can help with support issues, user experience and can also have economic advantages. Businesses have better control with COPE and can meter usage, cost and productivity without having to manage corporate apps and data on personal devices.”

In addition to uniformity, the standardization of market-leading equipment could be a draw for the younger workforce, Orr said. “For employees, a COPE approach may create some “stickiness for workers that might otherwise not have a personal mobile device. Stickiness, in this sense, means a stronger sense of belonging to the ‘team.’ If the right devices are offered in a COPE program, it is plausible that younger generations entering the workforce may be lured by enterprises offering the right tools for the job; where mobile devices are more familiar to Millenial workers than offering a desktop or laptop PC.”

In a massive, global corporation, such as Aetna, the company allows its 10,000 employees to choose between BYOD and COPE. As of 2016, slightly more than one-third, or roughly 35% of the workforce, is setup on the COPE platform. In order to keep operating standards uniform across the entire workforce, Aetna deployed a wide-scope security measure that operated equally on all devices and gave the IT department more visibility throughout the enterprise.

So is COPE the right choice? Just like every other IT initiative, it comes down to what the enterprise sees as a best fit for its own business initiatives. But it’s clear that considerations such as standards, security, and cost will pose the biggest factors in decision making.

“A company that has successfully navigated COPE may be in a better position to prepare for future technology integration planning than ones that are still working through the merits of BYOD vs. COPE,” Orr said.