For most workers, business IT isn’t about databases and spreadsheets, it’s about interactions with co-workers and the outside world. That’s much more important for mobile workers working remotely from their teams – but what does social IT cost the mobile enterprise footing the bills?

It’s easy to get paranoid about social media in the enterprise. You can spend a lot of time worrying about how long everyone’s spending in Facebook or anxiously monitoring their Twitter output for corporate secrets or inappropriate humor. Those in charge of managing mobile data can add extra layers of angst over how much all that dilly-dallying is costing: after all, is this really run-of-business essential usage?

The trouble with thinking like this is that social media is, well, social. Business is a social affair, and too much control can be as damaging as too little. Better to spend time creating well-managed and flexible systems that watch where the money’s going while educating everyone about the benefits and consequences of social media – including those for mobile data usage.

For example, take the simple question: how much does one tweet cost? At one level, practically nothing – 160 bytes costs infinitesimal fractions of a penny, even under the most draconian roaming tariff. However, if that tweet comes from the CEO with a link to watch the new corporate video, then it can trigger hundreds of megabytes and many thousands in costs. Bad? What if that video is the latest pitch from your competition and your sales team needs to know what it says before they go into that next prospect?

The importance of social media within the working environment is growing, precisely because it combines flexibility and efficiency in targeting the right groups with the right information. That comes from the way it gives its users the power to decide on both; the job of those who create and maintain the infrastructure on which people depend is to make sure this process works well.

A wise approach treats employees – and CEOs — as human, social beings who want the freedom to do their jobs and accept the responsibilities that follow. The mobile employee in a different time zone needs even more freedom and support; they have to think on their feet and be more autonomous than the domestic user who can just pop into the boss’s office.

Knowing that there is a well-managed, flexible system watching their backs should be something that gives confidence rather than causing annoyance. Back that up with proper education about costs, and people will respond positively.

The truth about ‘how much does that tweet cost us?’ is that nobody knows until after the event. But you can tell people what it’s likely to cost, and let them decide.

An easy way is to gather information from various websites that claim to have average data usage examples. But that’s nowhere near as good as finding examples from your own metrics – and finding engaging ways to keep users up to date on what’s costing the mobile enterprise in terms of data. That in itself is nowhere near as good as encouraging users to understand their own usage.

Educating your users from corporate metrics, that’s up to you. Whether you create headline numbers, pull out typical usage cases, or choose to highlight interesting events (how much did the company mobile data bill vary over the Olympics, anyway?), there are plenty of ways to keep people mindful of what they’re doing without feeling like they’re being lectured. Good data and  good management will free everyone up to get on with doing good business.

Wandera is expert on mobile data management and control, with a cloud-based global network dedicated to minimizing your costs while maximizing what you and your workers can do. What can we tell you?

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