American Red Cross - Cell Phone Policy Benchmarking MBA 541 | Spring 2019

American Red Cross' challenge

In 2019, the American Red Cross was looking to cut $250,000 from its operating budget by fiscal year 2022, and its procurement category managers were challenged with looking for cost savings opportunities.

One such opportunity was identified within the company’s telecommunications operations, where there were large inconsistencies in the allocation of cell phones and phone accounts.

This highlighted an area for improvement, cost savings and risk mitigation.

The assignment

The American Red Cross tasked a team of Jenkins MBA students with researching the cell phone policies of eight large firms and comparing them to its own. Afterwards, the team was to provide recommendations for the company’s policy that would help minimize cost and mitigate risk.

The students' approach

First, the American Red Cross provided the student team with several resources to help facilitate the market research process.

The students then acquired and analyzed policies from a variety of organizations that had well-defined technology and cell phone policies, including government agencies, health care companies, and multiple Fortune 500 companies from various industries.

Their research provided the following insights:

  • A decline in COPE (Corporate Owned Personally Enabled) policies is giving rise to an increase in BYOD (Bring your own device) policies, meaning lower costs for the company, especially in midsize to large companies.
  • There is a common trend for companies to award a monthly stipend on a tiered basis.
  • BYOD programs that come with a stipend create several benefits including high employee satisfaction, improved productivity, increased mobility and a reduced need for company IT support.

The analyses of other companies’ policies shed significant light on the structure, format and content of a comprehensive cell-phone policy, which was found to be one that includes clearly defined scopes, reimbursement cost standards, permissions and disciplinary actions.

Additionally, the NC State team analyzed what the American Red Cross was spending to maintain their distribution of cell phones to employees, as well as the associated costs required for the IT department to support it.


The team’s research and benchmark analysis provided several insights on the best way the American Red Cross should restructure the current phone policy.

The students ultimately recommended that the American Red Cross strongly consider implementing a BYOD policy while using an “a-la-carte” option to tailor the policy to the company’s specific needs.

If implemented, the team estimated that the strategy would provide potential cost savings between $300,000 to $800,000.

“The student team did a top-notch job of helping the American Red Cross get to a better place in regards to cell phone policy considerations. Recommendations, based on across industry benchmarks and better practices, were both practical and meaningful. Faculty advisor Craig Weeks’ leadership was instrumental in the success of this project.” — Tom Nash, Vice President Supply Chain & Chief Procurement Officer
“The most challenging aspect of the project was nailing down the scope and sticking to it. With only a short window of time to complete the project, it was imperative to constantly manage expectations to ensure we could deliver what we promised. The most valuable part of the experience was the real world experience interacting with clients, managing and briefing expectations, balancing relationships and delivering tangible value. My favorite part, though, was showing our client the bottom line cost savings and seeing their excitement.” — Trevor Roberts, Jenkins MBA alumnus
Trevor Roberts, Jenkins MBA alumnus
“I really valued getting to communicate with top executives and developing a strategy to collect information to best answer the problem. We developed questions for Chief Procurement Officers to answer about their cell phone policies, and we learned to be concise and specific in our requests to get the best information. We also had face-to-face time with top executives at ARC and honed our presentation skills in front of large groups. Overall, we had a great time working on the project and it's something that comes into play in my current role. I also enjoy looking at how my company handles their use of cell phones and technology for employees and how that compares to the research our team did.” — Sara Neil, Jenkins MBA alumna
Sara Neil, Jenkins MBA alumna



The NC State team

Gretchen Grajales

Trevor Roberts

Bhagya Shrikrishna

Sara Neil

Craig Weeks (faculty advisor)

The American Red Cross team

Tom Nash

Tish Whitaker

Rich St. Aubin

Phyllis Sills