BYOD is either a hit or a flop at most agencies, survey shows

Federal agencies seem to be going in different directions—and a significant number are digging in their heels--on whether to allow federal employees to use their own mobile devices for work.

While more than half of the agencies already allow workers to use their own devices for job-related tasks, most of the remaining agencies do not allow that and have no plans to change, according to a new survey by MeriTalk. The findings suggest that the concept is either a success or a non-starter at most agencies, with only a relative few on the fence about it.

The firm conducted the survey to explore federal mobility issues, including the debate over BYOD -- “Bring Your Own Device” -- in which workers do their work on devices they already own, sometimes when connected to agency networks.

In December 2011, MeriTalk partnered with VMware and Carahsoft to interview 152 federal chief information officers and other federal IT executives. The answers were released in a report on Feb. 27.

Asked whether workers are allowed to use their own devices on the job, the IT professionals surveyed indicated that the majority of federal agencies already allow that.

For defense agencies, 13 percent “freely allow” employees to use their own devices for work, while 40 percent allow it within a specific policy.

On the civilian side, the respondents said 18 percent of agencies freely allow employee-owned devices, while 39 percent allow it within a specific policy.

On the other hand, most of the remaining agencies appeared to be resisting the use of employee devices on the job.

For 42 percent of military agencies, and 24 percent of civilian agencies, the answer was “No, and management has no intention of changing this policy.”

A small number are looking into the possibility of allowing BYOD. Five percent of the military agencies and 19 percent of the civilian agencies haven't ruled it out. 

In other results, the respondents predicted a general increase in the use of smart phones and tablet computers on the job by 2013.

“Between telework mandates and the tablet revolution, agencies are leaving the PC behind and supporting an increasingly mobile workforce. Most are rolling out a growing variety of new devices to enhance productivity and mobility,” the survey report summarized.

The IT executives said the percentage of workers at their agencies using smart phones was expected to rise from 35 percent in 2011 to 43 percent in 2013. The percentage of workers expected to be using tablet computers was expected to rise from 7 percent in 2011 to 19 percent in 2013.

Based on those expectations, the report indicated that 355,000 additional smart phones and 533,000 additional tablets would be needed by 2013. However, the survey did not indicate whether those expectations pertained to employee-owned devices or workplace-owned devices.

The respondents said the top benefits of mobile devices at work are increased productivity and access to telework.

The main challenge to use of the mobile devices is security risk, cited by 78 percent. Other challenges include IT staffing (43 percent) and diversity of devices and platforms (39 percent) as the most significant challenges.



About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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