Bring Your Own Device- BYOD lessons from American federal government agencies


Photo Credit: Dell’s Official Flickr Page via Compfight cc
I attended a fantastic online panel discussion last night hosted by Chris Dorobek who I learned about through GovLoop, an invaluable resource for government people interested in technology and new ways of working. Chris’s Dorobek Insider is a blog and audio programme that focuses on the business of government and last night it delivered an hour long live discussion with people in federal government bodies who have implemented BYOD programmes. My hand nearly caught fire with all the note taking I was doing (on paper with pen!) so I’ll do my best to break down what I thought were key points of the discussion. Chris Dorobek’s own written breakdown of the discussion and the full audio can be found on the GovLoop website.

Representatives from two federal agencies, Kimberly Hancher from Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Steve Cooper (now retired) from Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shared their experiences of bringing BYOD programmes into their organisations. EEOC and FAA had different motivations for looking into a sanctioned BYOD programme- EEOC needed to look at ways to lower costs and it’s $800,000 a year bill for government provided devices for employees was a good place to start and FAA felt it needed to respond to increased use of personal devices in the workplace. Steve’s take on how to deal with the situation made my heart swell: either IT could block and be considered a villain or IT could become the enabler and as FAA was seen as a leader in the federated IT community he decided to be the enabler.

BYOD programme models: productivity vs. cost

EEOC and cost reduction motivations Kimberly looked at EEOC employee usage patterns of their government issued Blackberry phones and discovered that 75% never used their work phones to call anyone, they were mostly used for email. She had a target of cutting wireless costs by 50% and after implementing a Blackberry opt out option for staff she reached 23% of that goal right away. The remaining 27% was made up through moving everyone to a shared minutes plan which essentially subsidised the phone calls of the 25% of employees who do use their Blackberries to make phone calls.

FAA and productivity motivations Steve’s decision to become the enabler for his staff to use their own devices led to a pilot project called Alternative Forms Factor Operation Pilot through which 1,200 staff members participated. They started with tablets (iPads as they were recognised as the most popular)- purchased by FAA but kept off their network- and as they didn’t have usage statistics like EEOC did, they chose pilot users based on a written business objective with metric.Ā Pilot participants then had to deliver and to report customer feedback meetings or their devices were taken off them.

Very interesting points from the general discussion

  • EEOC staff who opted out of using their government issued Blackberry phones were directed to connect with a cloud based mobile device services vendor to set up their device for work use. This in turn meant that IT support for BYOD staff shifted from Kimberly’s team to the vendor. Nice.
  • Information/records management was not seen as being as big an issue as liability and privacy in setting up BYOD. I don’t know that if this discussion was being had in the UK the emphasis would be in the same place.
  • I asked about records and information management and how they planned to deal with people storing emails in personal spaces or documents in personal cloud spaces. Interestingly, the response was very light touch. EEOC’s BYOD policy says people are not allowed to do such things and FAA asked that people ‘please don’t do this’ but both agreed it can’t really be enforced. I commented on Twitter last night that Scotland has a lot to learn from these case studies, especially as no one is more careful than those in a litigious society and they’re pulling off BYOD. But I wonder if a light touch works in America because individuals are acutely aware of potential lawsuits around every corner. Could that fly here?
  • And in the end security, policy/governance and procurement were named as the big challenges to creating BYOD programmes.

Again, these are just my takeaway points but visit the Dorobek Insider webpage about this BYOD session for a detailed breakdown, the recorded discussion and incredible resources for anyone wanting to look into their own BYOD programme.

It would be great to hear what you think, why you think BYOD would or would not work in your organisation, what’s happening now with people working away on their own devices anyway and if you think there are differences in the way an American government body can implement these forward thinking ways of working as compared to what’s happening in Scotland.


3 thoughts on “Bring Your Own Device- BYOD lessons from American federal government agencies

  1. Thanks for writing this up – I agree, this was a great panel and provided an awesome discussion on BYOD. It’s always fascinating to hear the similarities and difference between the US and UK in terms of technology adoption. I think it’s important to remember that BYOD is happening within agencies, and it’s important for government to be proactive in managing usage – the EEOC from here in the states is a great case study. Thanks for listening and writing up this post! Much appreciated.

  2. Thank you for dropping by, Pat and thanks for all the great research you do. I’m interested to see how or if sanctioned BYOD programmes start rolling out here like the EEOC or FAA model, especially if things kick off at agency or service level. We’ve got very high level strategic steers to become more efficient using new technology or using existing tech in different ways but the resistance at granular level is quite strong. There is a lot of discussion going on in other public sector online forums about records and information management and the living nightmare for our Records and Information colleagues that is cloud solutions (even G-Cloud) and BYOD. Information security and management is definitely the paramount issue here in Scotland as opposed to what I was hearing from the American panel which seemed to be personal privacy and liability. Totally fascinating. But how long do information managers have much control of their organisation’s information if they’re not enabling BYOD? I think FAA’s decision to be an enabler is really powerful and let’s hope some high heid yin over here is taking from the examples that were shared at the seminar.

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