Getting Ready for BYOD.gov: Best Practices in BYOD for Government Agencies

The BYOD (bring your own device) tsunami has already overtaken much of the private sector and for good reason: done right, BYOD can reduce costs, increase program productivity and effectiveness, help adaption to a changing workforce, and improve user experience. With so many potential benefits, it’s well worth considering how BYOD can be successfully implemented in a government context.

In this post (the first in a series of several to come) we will share some of our key findings about making BYOD work in a public agency context based on our own experiences with BYOD implementations for government clients.

Here’s what we have uncovered so far:

 

1. We are all learning as we go

Any project done today should be considered a starting point not a finishing one, because BYOD best practices will continue to evolve over time. Many unsolved issues remain, at least partly because the Federal government is still figuring out how to handle them. This includes basic logistical issues such as how to handle data-plan reimbursement, as well as more complex issues around additional security, privacy, and legal considerations. Until Federal guidelines are established, these issues will remain to be solved on a case-by-case basis.

 

2. Take it one step at a time

BYOD implementation works best as an iterative process. A good way to start is with supporting BYOD for commodity enterprise technologies like email and collaboration systems. You can then use that work to lay the foundation for expanding to more diverse, mission-specific applications and a broader scope of enterprise offerings.

In addition, consider the wide variety of potential applications. Depending on the context, BYOD can be facilitated through applications native to the device, downloaded or installable applications, or even a web browser.

 

3. The payoff is happier, more productive users

The private and public sector entities who have adopted BYOD solutions report that allowing employees to use their personal mobile devices to access company resources often results in increased employee productivity and job satisfaction.

This is not surprising, but it’s good to be reminded that the result of the work is not only better efficiency, but also all the tangible and intangible benefits of happy employees.

 

4. One size does not fit all

Some agencies will be a better fit for BYOD than others, because security needs will vary widely. From the Federal information security perspective, devices must be configured and managed with information assurance controls commensurate with the sensitivity of the underlying data as part of an overall risk management framework.

(Note: In a future post in this series, we will dive into a checklist you can use for evaluating whether BYOD makes sense for your agency.)

 

5. Cost-benefit analysis is essential

BYOD can and should be cost-effective, so a cost-benefit analysis is essential as the policy is deployed. It should take into account both potential increases in employee productivity and potential cost shifts.

For example, providing employees access to government services on their personal devices should help reduce the number of government devices that are provided to staff, as well as the life-cycle asset management costs associated with these devices. BYOD programs may, however, necessitate government reimbursement for voice/data costs incurred when employees use their personal mobile devices instead of government-issued mobile devices and additional enterprise infrastructure costs in handling the support of BYOD users. Additionally, overall costs may significantly increase for personnel who frequently communicate outside of the coverage area of their primary service provider and incur roaming charges.

The only way to be sure of where the cost changes will land is to do the math.

 

6. Security issues are an ongoing challenge

Implementation of a BYOD program presents agencies with a myriad of security, policy, technical, and legal challenges. These challenges are not only to internal communications, but also to relationships and trust with business and government partners. The magnitude of the issues is a function of both the sensitivity of the underlying data and the amount of processing and data storage allowed on the personal device based on the technical approach adopted.

 

Conclusion

Despite these challenges and obstacles, it’s worth emphasizing that at the end of the day BYOD is about offering choice. By embracing the consumerization of Information Technology (IT), the government can address the personal preferences of its employees, offering them increased mobility and better integration of their personal and work lives. It enables employees the flexibility to work in a way that optimizes their productivity, which in the end, is good for all of us. After all the government works for us, so anything we can do to help it work better helps us all.