There is no doubt about it, the South African economy is not performing at its best at the moment.  With words like IMF Bailout rumbling around, corporate South Africa are not in an investing mood. It’s “baton down the hatches” and get ready for a bumpy ride. I have never felt this atmosphere in the last 20 years more keenly that I am now.

In the drive to streamline costs and reduce overheads lots of our customers are asking questions about their telecommunications spend.  Where can we reduce? What don’t we need?  How can we do the same (if not more) with less overheads spent on Telecommunications?

A big-ticket item on the income statement is Mobile Telecommunications – cell phones and 3G cards. And the big-ticket items get the attention.

Here is what I think on this.

  1. Some companies have been overspending on corporate egos, not corporate phones. What do I mean by this?  The FD does not need the unlimited package or the flashiest phone.  Why give someone who is mostly at the office, in meetings, the sky’s the limit VIP package, when the people out there dragging in the money have to spend unnecessary time monitoring their prohibitively low limits and waiting to connect to WiFi before they can respond to email and close deals and use Waze to navigate them to their next meeting on time. Think about the essentialness of connectivity and device functionality related to job function, not status.  This is an unpopular position to take.
  2. Employee cell phone allowances are about contactability and enablement. The world is becoming more and more connected, not less. WhatsApp (from Facebook) groups are now an acceptable common place productivity and culture building tool in the workforce. 34% of the workforce sees an email on their mobile phone before they see it on their desktop (Informz 2018). Companies looking to radically reduce costs are questioning whether or not they should pay for phones at all. The answer is found in this question: “Do you want your employees to be contactable on their personal mobile phone? YES?” Then pay them something. A minimum of R200 per month, enables an employee to have a personal phone, and compels them to use WhatsApp for work and answer when the boss calls.  If the employee is expected to return calls on their mobile phone as well then this may need to be higher. If the employee is expected to use the device as a productivity tool for work, then the organisation absolutely should not skimp on the cell phone allowance. Bottom line: make sure your employees are contactable and can return an important work phone call, otherwise it’s the bottom line on the income statement that could suffer. Allowances enable Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies which have been shown to increase after-hours productivity.
  3. When should the company pay for the phone and the contract? If the company wants to dictate in any way shape or form the type of productivity apps, security, or operating system (Android vs. iOS) then the company should provide the device to ensure compliance.  Your employees will certainly see it this way. We should be treating cell phones the same way, with as much care and concern as we do our company laptops – they are after all almost as powerful these days.  If you wouldn’t allow BYOD laptops then why would you allow BYOD mobile devices? High risk employees, in terms of revenue leakage and data protection should not transact on their personal devices.  Any company owned high risk employee’s phone should be locked down with Mobile Device Management software which can facilitate the wiping of the device. Data cards?  If the data card is inside the company owned laptop, to enable the user to work remotely, from home, then the company should probably foot the bill.  What is the potential cost to the revenue line item of the user not being able to connect? To remove connectivity from users may give short term gains on the income statement, that could have long term effects on future profitability.
  4. Myth buster – “Everybody abuses their phones and data cards” No, they don’t. In fact, our research has found that within the average base of 1000 data cards, 20 people have questionably high usage, sometimes accounting for 80% of the cost. Our research has also shown that this over spend and abuse can be completely eradicated with policy implemented on a demand management platforms and assertively administrated on an ongoing basis.


Mobile access to the internet has surpassed desktop access (Comscore 2018). We cannot afford to place additional constraints on our workforce’s contactability and productivity in in a climate where there is stiff competition for the customers wallet.  Our companies should be thinking about how to make sure we respond to a customer first and best.