BYOD policies on the horizon for federal agencies

The bring your own device trend has rapidly gained a wide following in the private sector. Countless companies now allow their employees to use their personal smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices for work-related purposes, as this can potentially provide a major boost to worker productivity, flexibility and job satisfaction.

The federal government has been slower to embrace BYOD policies. However, as FedTech Magazine recently highlighted, this may soon change. Numerous agencies are developing strategies and preparing to enable BYOD among their personnel.

BYOD concerns
The news source noted that the 2012 Digital Government Strategy recommended that agencies accelerate their use of mobile workforce solutions. Since this time, many IT leaders have discovered that BYOD can spur significant business process improvement.

However, adoption of these strategies has been slow. For BYOD to prove effective and safe, there are many issues that agencies must confront, as Rich Santalesa, founder of a technology-focused law firm, told the news source.

"Public agencies face many of the same BYOD challenges as private firms, including maintaining employee privacy, securing data on lost and stolen devices, and devising clear and meaningful BYOD policies," said Santalesa, FedTech Magazine reported.

The effect of such concerns can be seen in the low BYOD usage rate among government employees. The source noted that while 90 percent of government employees use at least one mobile device for their jobs, only 31 percent use a personal device. Sixty-nine percent rely entirely on agency-provided gadgets.

BYOD benefits
Yet agencies are increasingly discovering that these concerns are overmatched by the potential BYOD benefits.

For example, Brian McGrath, associate director for information technology and CIO for the Census Bureau, emphasized the cost savings offered by BYOD, thanks to its lower total cost of ownership.

"For an agency this size, the cost of procuring thousands of corporate-issued laptops and providing all the required infrastructure and help desk support is formidable," he said, the news source noted. "Rather than purchasing 6,000 laptops, we can now have 6,000 people working remotely, either permanently or intermittently, using their own equipment."

Building a mobile platform
One of the challenges inherent to enabling BYOD for any large organization is the diversity of devices and operating systems. It is difficult for the IT department to effectively oversee the mobile environment in these circumstances, which can lead to security and productivity challenges.

Organizations, including federal agencies, can mitigate these concerns by focusing heavily on mobile platform development. By providing a standardized mobile platform for BYOD users, agencies can ensure that all personnel have access to apps and other tools that are specifically geared toward their day-to-day job responsibilities. Furthermore, these apps will be fully secure and vetted, which cannot be said for the vast majority of available apps.

Working with a reputable mobile platform design services provider can help virtually any government agency embrace BYOD without incurring greater security risks.