BYOD: Game-Changer, or Fad?

By Brittany Ballenstedt

June 18, 2013

A recent study by Gartner predicted that more than one-third of organizations will stop providing devices to workers by 2016, instead opting for bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, programs that give employees more control over what tools they use to perform their jobs.

And while agencies have yet to fully come on board with the BYOD trend, it may be wise to consider it, even for just the cultural and workforce impacts alone, according to a new report by GovLoop and HP.

“What defines consumerization is not BYOD or mobility, but building an infrastructure that can support BYOD or mobility,” said Bruce Michelson, a distinguished technologist at HP, in the report.

In the age of falling federal employee satisfaction thanks to budget cuts, pay freezes and sequestration, one way agencies have proven to boost morale is to integrate the consumerization of IT, Michelson added.  

“When so much of what is happening in agencies these days feels as if it is out of an employee’s control, enabling personnel to select the kind of device that makes them most comfortable and productive goes a long way toward improving morale and mission achievement,” the report stated.

Michelson pointed to agencies like NASA and the State Department -- two agencies that have embraced mobility by incorporating tablets and smartphones into their culture -- and the role that mobility likely has played in those agencies receiving the highest scores on job satisfaction and innovation across government, according to recent employee survey results. “The cultural impact of these devices cannot be overlooked,” the report stated.

Other benefits to mobility include access to government data on the go as well as using mobile devices to improve agility, accuracy and efficiency, the report stated.

Meanwhile, data security remains a huge challenge for agencies in implementing BYOD and mobility, but that alone is not reason enough to dismiss the trend, Michelson noted. A recent GovLoop survey found that more than 40 percent of feds use their personal phones to access work email, and of those who use BYOD, 80 percent did not have a formal BYOD program at their agency.

In addition, agencies also must evaluate the legal considerations of BYOD and mobility, as having employees connected 24/7 can bring up legal issues surrounding overtime, pay and fair labor standards, Michelson noted.

“You can’t sacrifice governance because of an indiscrete trend, you have to find ways to embrace it,” Michelson wrote. “We are still managing from a governance policy process procedure acquisition standpoint, which means that we are managing devices that didn’t exist five years ago the same the way we manage desktops and laptops.”

Is your agency looking at BYOD as a game-changer, or simply a passing trend? What challenges surround its implementation? 

By Brittany Ballenstedt

June 18, 2013