Mobile Asset Disposition – Are You Prepared for End-of-Life Management of Mobile Devices?

By Craig Boswell

Setting the Stage for Mobile Domination

Mobile is going to dominate enterprise IT transformation over the next decade. Our society, both professionally and (especially) personally, is driven by the proliferation of mobile devices. Mobile devices dominate the workplace because they are portable, convenient, increase productivity and are supported by a seemingly limitless supply of apps to enhance business functions. As a result, smart phones and tablets are now the norm rather than the exception.

As a result of the popularity and preference of mobile devices, CIOs are now faced with managing both traditional asset purchase solutions as well as BYOD programs. For CIOs and IT departments, this means the responsibility of managing enterprise applications across a broad spectrum of devices and operating systems, protecting corporate data on personal devices and safely (and smartly) disposing of the devices in a manner beneficial to both the organization and the employee.

According to a 2012 Gartner CIO survey, 26% of small or midsize business (SMB) employees use at least one of their own personal devices in the workplace. These devices are relied upon heavily in employees’ personal lives, and they have a natural expectation for their IT departments to support these devices at work. Worldwide enterprise spending on mobile devices is expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of 8.2%, higher than any other sector of IT budgets.

Forecast for Major Consumer Electronics Growth Worldwide

Devices 2012 Units Annual Growth Rate 2016 Units
Utility/Basic Smartphone 76,620 11.7% 129,094
Premium Smartphone 201,365  34.9%  592,068
Media Tablets 97,620  34.9%  260,832
Mobile PCs and Netbooks 182,860  11.5%  306,102
Units in thousands
Source: Gartner (November 2012)

Forecast for Corporate Mobile Spending

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Mobile Devices $321,760 $357,362 $378,506 $403,138 $423,323
Annual Growth Rate  12.5%  11.1%  5.9%  6.5%  5.0%
Dollars in millions
Source: Gartner (November 2012)

The rapidly growing mobile trend in the enterprise market has most enterprise IT asset managers focused on how to integrate enterprise applications on mobile platforms to meet the demands of a seamless user experience so productivity is not affected. While the need for smart and secure apps is important, it is just as important to plan for responsible mobile asset disposition.

The Importance of Managing Mobile Devices at Disposal

Mobile devices are refreshed at a much faster rate than traditional desktop and laptop computers. With a shorter lifespan, companies moving to increased use of mobile devices and BYOD programs need to be concerned with the end-of-life disposition of these products for three reasons: corporate security, financial benefit, and environmental sustainability and compliance.

Reason One: Corporate Security

Mobile devices represent a significant data security issue for the enterprise and identity security for the individual. Smart phones store as much or more data than a computer. Even though many enterprise mobile applications have remote disabling, pin destruction or encryption, the fact that data still exists on the mobile device is often overlooked by IT departments. Old mobile devices carry risk in the form of personal or corporate data remaining on the phone after it is no longer in use.

If you are a company that supports BYOD for your employees, than chances are there are company files stored somewhere among the average user’s 250-499 GB worth of hard drive storage (combined digital devices storage space of the average user). As such, your company should be just as concerned as to what happens to those devices when they are refreshed or turned in for electronics recycling.

Most people think that a simple factory reset of the device wipes the data from the device, and in doing so, tend to have a clear conscience about the security of their data and other personal information. That line of thinking is not true, especially with the amount of data that is stored in the cloud and the simple act of turning on a device can restore access to that information.

Responsible mobile asset disposition ensures no personal or corporate data ever falls into the wrong hands and that proper data erasure measures are taken. Strategically partnering with an IT and mobile asset disposition provider addresses the challenges of erasing data from a vast area of makes and models of cellular phones and mobile devices, including phones, SIM cards, and flash cards. This data is purged in a safe and secure environment so the devices can reenter the marketplace or be recycled responsibly.

Reason Two: Financial Benefit

The results of a Gartner survey of CIOs released in 2012 show that IT organizations around the world are facing increased priorities with “flat IT budgets in 2012.” Worldwide, budgets increased an average of just half a percent, while spending is decreasing in North America and Europe.

The added weight to the 800-pound gorilla on the backs of CIOs is the fact they are being asked to deliver more with less. The survey included more than 2,300 CIOs across 37 industries and 45 countries with a combined IT budget of $321 billion.

“In the face of continued economic uncertainty and government austerity, business strategies call for a combination of growth and operational efficiency,” said Mark McDonald, group vice president for Gartner Executive Programs and Gartner Fellow. “Present economic conditions may tempt CIOs to force IT back into cost-cutting mode, but senior executives expect technology — and this includes IT — to address the tough challenges by amplifying enterprise strategies and operations.”

Mobile devices often represent greater return than traditional IT assets. As a result, savvy organizations must address the fiscal priorities and proliferation of mobile devices through responsible mobile asset disposition programs. For many companies, IT asset disposition is a complex and daunting task. Trying to manage the process internally can be costly and time consuming, draining both financial and manpower resources. Partnering with a mobile asset disposition provider has proven to be a simple solution, and it can certainly ease the burden of IT organizations having to do more with less money.

Responsible mobile asset disposition providers understand the process of redeeming assets to extend their life and maximize their economic value. They are equipped to handle every step of the disposition process for their clients, including data erasure, logistics, deinstallation, resale and remarketing, recycling and environmental compliance. Mobile asset disposition vendors eliminate the cost of training your staff on data erasure, environmental and compliance regulations, and it offers a chance to have your assets remarketed and resold, gaining an end-of-life ROI of your IT assets.

Reason Three: Environmental Sustainability and Compliance

Sustainability programs can be self-funded, if the organization, for example, supports a reuse model for its post-consumption electronic assets. This requires a partner who can adequately mitigate any risks associated with the resale of used corporate assets.

Electronics are unique in a sustainability program in that they are without exception the most valuable assets involved in a corporate sustainability program. They also pose the greatest risk from two sources: corporate and/or client data and proper recycling of hazardous materials within the electronics materials.

As a result, corporations must take great care in selecting a disposition partner who understands how to properly mitigate all risks associated with the disposition of IT and mobile assets as a part of its sustainability program.

During the last few years a broad-based stakeholder group representing the electronics recycling industry, including the EPA, states, OEMs, recyclers, trade groups and NGOs created a standard for ITAD vendors. The standard is called R2, for Responsible Recycling, and applies a rigorous test of policies and practices to ITAD vendors wishing to qualify for this certification. The certification provides assurances to clients that your ITAD vendor is adhering to a minimum set of standards for our industry with regard to safe processing of electronic assets and protection of data.

How to Dispose of Mobile Devices

Mobile asset disposition services require qualified vendors to address key challenges including:

Reverse Logistics: Mobile assets, although smaller and lighter than many traditional IT products, are often more widely distributed throughout the organization requiring creative reverse logistics solutions to mitigate costs and maximize security. The solutions go beyond traditional ITAD pick, pack, and ship services. They often require custom solutions such as return envelopes and on-site data destruction to maximize the efficiency of the reverse logistics solution and solve the challenging problem of insuring devices containing corporate data in BYOD programs are processed to the standards specified in corporate asset disposition programs.

Asset Reporting: ITAD vendors can supply detailed reporting of assets throughout the disposition process. This includes serialized asset reporting and detailed analysis of recovery from various disposition strategies.

Data Destruction: Mobile assets require a variety of data destruction techniques to address various operating systems and device types. ITAD vendors unfamiliar with the intricacies of mobile asset disposition may not provide thorough data destruction solutions for all device types.

Financial Return: Maximizing financial return requires selecting a vendor that leverages all available disposition channels including wholesale, retail and carrier-controlled disposition channels. The resale market for mobile devices is volatile, with prices changing rapidly due to constant new product releases. Storing equipment for extended periods of time only decreases the resale market value of the mobile assets.

Partnering with a mobile asset disposition provider allows companies to provide a peace-of-mind solution for safe and secure destruction of data, higher ROI in the resale market, and ensures compliance with environmental and reporting compliance laws. Furthermore, your ITAD partnership should include an extension of service offerings to your employees as part of your company’s BYOD policy. This helps protect your corporate data and offers a green service to their employees by encouraging them to recycle their mobile devices, either through a collection or buyback program.

About the Author

Craig Boswell is co-founder and President of HOBI International, Inc. In this capacity, he is extensively involved in the design, development, and deployment of electronics demanufacturing and recycling techniques. Craig is HOBI’s chief industry consultant on demanufacturing, design for disassembly, and reverse logistics programs. Craig has published and presented numerous papers on the recycling of electronic products and the keys to designing more recyclable products.