How BYOD is helping one agency ease the pain of budget cuts

Editor's note: This story was modified after publication to correct the spelling of Kim Hancher's name. 

As agency IT officials adapt to tighter budgets, some are taking an even closer look how to make the best use of mobile devices and exploring the "bring your own device" option.

In fiscal year 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had a 15 percent budget cut in its base for IT spending. A close look at where money was being spent revealed that one of the black holes was the BlackBerry program, said Kim Hancher, EEOC's CIO.

“We provide BlackBerry devices to about 20 percent of the EEOC workforce, and we were paying close to $1 million -- $800,000,” said Hancher at an Aug. 8 panel discussion at the Federal Mobile Computing Summit organized by Mobilegov.

In developing EEOC's 2012 budget, Hancher slashed the BlackBerry program by half. Discussions soon ensued about how to absorb the 50 percent reduction. One option: Let all the employees keep the devices for six months and then eliminate the devices altogether. Or, take away half of the handhelds immediately. Neither option held much appeal.

But the right solution came from some unorthodox thinking, Hancher said, that resulted in a two-prong strategy. The first step was to analyze the agency’s device use and identify cases where devices were never used. The next approach was to look at the rate plans and see how they compared to the actual use.

“What we find during that analysis were some interesting things,” Hancher said. “Seventy-five percent of our BlackBerry users never used the telephone; they just used the data. We also found that we were paying way too much for overages. “

To address those issues, EEOC conducted a rate-plan optimization. Devices were moved to a bundled data and voice plan that lets employees share minutes. EEOC also decided to roll out pilot BYOD programs, which cut costs further as many employees voluntarily gave up their agency-issued BlackBerrys and opted to use their own preferred devices -- iPhones or Android devices -- Hancher said.

Along with other government colleagues who are involved with the Digital Government Strategy, Hancher is now working on a set of governmentwide guidance in hopes of releasing it in the very near future.

“We’re working on having that available for federal agencies so you can see the lessons learned, the case studies of those of us who actually implemented BYOD and take advantage of some of the policies and rules of behavior that we created,” she said.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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