What is the Difference Between Mobile Expense Management and Mobile Device Management (MDM)?

If your company isn't tracking all mobile devices, you may be overcharged by your providers. When employees leave, devices should be accounted for and the lines and devices reassigned or canceled. That way, you don't get charged for services you aren't using. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long for these bills to get out of hand. Luckily, there's a category of software that can help your IT staff manage the process easily.

What is the Difference Between Mobile Expense Management and Mobile Device Management (MDM)?

Mobile Expense Management: refers to the process of investigating the lifecycle management, comprehensive inventory and ongoing bill payment of your organization’s smart devices.

Mobile Device Management (MDM): refers to software applications that let your IT team secure and control your company's policy on smartphones and other devices. Using sophisticated tools to manage your devices allows each department to accurately forecast telecom costs or effectively budget for new employees.

So what’s the difference?

Well, MDM’s don’t work directly with invoice auditing or bill processing - they work with the inventory and devices themselves to create a bridge between companies and their carriers. This way you can secure updates, maintenance, and so forth from one provider (the MDM) vs. tackling all the

Mobile Expense Management, on the other hand, focuses on the environment as a whole with expert analysis to ensure you’re aren’t paying for unused lines and inventory isn’t getting lost or wasted.

How Mobile Device Management Works

Mobile device management uses endpoint software, known as an MDM agent, and an MDM server in your data center to track and control your devices. IT administrators maintain policies via the MDM server's management dashboard. The server distributes these policies to the MDM agent on each device. An application programming interface (API) communicates with a smartphone or tablet through the device's operating system.

IT administrators can simultaneously deploy updates to managed devices thanks to the MDM server. This helps administrators prevent bad actors from accessing corporate data. Yet, that's just one of the things a solid MDM solution can do. A comprehensive platform merges mobile device management (MDM) with wider telecom expense management (TEM) functionality. These overarching platforms can save you up to 30 percent annually.

Mobile Lifecycle Management

Top management solutions handle diverse devices and have features that cover the useful life of each one. Devices can be both company-owned and "bring-your-own devices" (BYODs) owned by employees.

Visibility of mobile device usage is key, but many companies shy away from it due to privacy concerns. However, your company should be tracking everything that impacts expenses, including voice, text and data usage. International roaming and other activities multiply the monthly cost quickly.

Advanced Management Functions

A device lifecycle management platform can automate the approval process for issuing devices and service plan limits. Using a hierarchical approach, the system tailors plans and usage by department and user profiles. This way they can be bundled to reduce costs.

A full-featured device management solution typically unearths payments for devices for employees who are no longer with the company. Tracking down and decommissioning these devices takes some time and effort but can save your company thousands or tens of thousands over time. Both MDM and MEM services touch on this service.

Visibility lets administrators identify and flag devices that violate company the minimum requirements for hardware and software. It also reveals which plans and devices are eligible for upgrades.

These capabilities help you vet out platforms when you shop around for new solutions since the capabilities and automation vary between vendors.

Is MDM Worth It?

The bottom line is that it's worth it if it saves your company money. Does your business want granular assistance and analysis on the devices within your company?

It is suggested to use Mobile Expense Management (not MDM) in such cases:

  • You want a lower cost option

  • You trust your employees to follow usage guidelines

  • You want ongoing invoice audits

  • You want to leverage expense management for your wireline environment

MDMs and MEMs both offer a great return on investment due to initial cost savings associated with finding and decommissioning unused lines. There are many other compelling reasons to invest in this technology, such as device lifecycle management and other cost-saving impacts.

Tracking real-time patterns allows IT administrators to manage devices proactive activity and make changes on the fly. This avoids cost overruns and keeps monthly charges down. Automatic alerts and features such as automatic change-orders also drive down the total cost of ownership for managed devices.


MDM and MEM, like the smart devices it manages, is a constantly changing technology. Select a great platform that performs both device and expense management and you can turn a cost center into an opportunity for savings.

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About the Author: Jeff Poirior

Jeff brings 25 years of telecommunications and information technology management experience in voice and data networking, server support, and telephony and security; with a significant emphasis on customer service. Prior to joining Valicom, he was chief of the infrastructure support section for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Jeff was the vice president of operations for CC&N, overseeing telecommunications, help desk, data and desk side support services. Prior to that, he served as the associate director of technical resources for Covance, responsible for managing systems and network operations supporting 1700 users in Wisconsin and Virginia. He has also led data center operations at Magnetek Electric, supporting mainframe systems, client/server applications, telephony systems, and computer-aided design. Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cardinal Stritch University and a master’s degree in business administration from University of Phoenix. In addition, Jeff is a past board member of the Wisconsin Telecommunication Association.