Feds Give Agencies More BYOD Advice

New guidelines lay the foundation for more federal agencies to begin allowing employees to bring their own iPhones, iPads, and Android devices to work.
10 New Mobile Government Apps
10 New Mobile Government Apps
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As employees everywhere increasingly push for their technology demands to be met in the workplace their way, the government on Thursday took a step toward meeting the demands of its own workers by releasing new guidelines to help federal agencies set policies to allow people to bring their own devices to work.

The guidelines, packaged in a 43-page document that was drawn up by the Federal Chief Information Officers Council and the relatively new Digital Services Advisory Group, does not mandate that federal agencies move to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, but pegs job satisfaction and increased employee productivity as key benefits of BYOD.

"BYOD is about offering choice to customers," the document says. "By embracing the consumerization of Information Technology, the government can address the personal preferences of its employees, offering them increased mobility and better integration of their personal and work lives."

The BYOD guidelines are one piece of a much broader digital services strategy announced by the Office of Management and Budget in May. That strategy requires agencies to release more data to the public in machine-readable format, extend more government services to mobile devices, and make it easier for federal employees to use mobile devices and services at work.

[ For a contrarian view, read 4 Bogus Arguments For BYOD. ]

In this tight budget environment--agencies recently were told that their IT budgets would be trimmed next year--the guidelines also point to cost cutting as a benefit of BYOD, as long as agencies properly plan their BYOD strategy.

However, the document points out that BYOD is not without significant risks, which mainly involve security. "Implementation of a BYOD program presents agencies with a myriad of security, policy, technical, and legal challenges not only to internal communications, but also to relationships and trust with business and government partners," it warns.

Numerous agencies, including the Army, are plotting or already moving toward some form of BYOD. The document highlights as case studies numerous examples of agencies moving to BYOD. For example, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau uses a Linux USB device to turn employees' personal laptops into thin clients; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is piloting a mobile BYOD program that gives employees access to email, calendars, contacts and tasks from their personal mobile device or tablet; and the State of Delaware has transitioned employees from state-owned Blackberrys to a device reimbursement plan that is expected to cut the state's mobile costs in half.

After highlighting the benefits and risks of BYOD and outlining several case studies, the guidance outlines five sample BYOD policies already in use at federal agencies. The sample policies come from the smattering of agencies that are already moving toward BYOD.

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