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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Reader comments

Tue, Aug 28, 2012 Adam

BYOD can make sense for certain government agencies. Tablets and smartphones are the perfect devices for field staff and top managers that need to be on-call. Does BYOD come with headaches? Of course it does. However, security issues and IT management headaches (how do I support all those devices?) can be addressed by using new HTML5 technologies that enable users to connect to applications and systems without requiring IT staff to install anything on user devices. For example, Ericom AccessNow is an HTML5 RDP client that enables remote users to securely connect from iPads, iPhones and Android devices to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run their applications and desktops in a browser. This enhances security by keeping applications and data separate from the employee's personal device. Since AccessNow doesn't require any software installation on the end user device – just an HTML5 browser, network connection, URL address and login details - IT staff end up with less support hassles. An employee that brings in their own device merely opens their HTML5-compatible browser and connects to the URL given them by the IT admin. Check out this link for more info: http://www.ericom.com/BYOD_Workplace.asp?URL_ID=708 And yes, I work for Ericom

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