BYOD: Trend or trivia?

Is 'bring your own device' the next big thing for government or is it just a fad?

The concept of employees using their own personal technology devices at work has started to catch on in the government — or at least in the government’s vocabulary.

BYOD, short for “bring your own device,” has become a common phrase almost overnight, and it has taken root in the private sector, too.

But whether the idea itself is practical, or even desirable, is far from clear. Peter Silva, writing in a blog at Sys-Con Media, wonders if it’s the hottest trend or just the hottest term.

“It goes by many names: ‘Bring Your Own Danger,’ ‘Bring Your Own Disaster’ and what most people call ‘Bring Your Own Device,’ and everyone, it seems, is writing, talking and surveying about BYOD,” he wrote.

In an unusual twist for articles that begin by raising the possibility that something new is just so much vaporware, Silva comes down on the side of the trend. In particular, he cites a survey by Avanade in which 90 percent of respondents said their employees are already using personal devices for work.

The survey, which was also cited by Gina Smith in a TechRepublic article titled “10 myths of BYOD in the enterprise,” focused on private-sector companies. But federal managers share many of the same concerns.

For example, the third myth on TechRepublic’s list is that BYOD policies will result in employees “trading cows, updating friends on their lunch choices and making fun of the boss publicly.” In other words, employees will be playing games and chatting on social media sites rather than working. Instead, Smith said research shows that the greatest use of personal devices in the workplace is for accessing enterprise applications. “Not an angry bird in sight,” she wrote.

In the government, managers might be embracing the trend a little less enthusiastically. Rob Burton, a partner at Venable law firm, summed up a common sentiment when he said the government is moving toward a BYOD environment “whether we like it or not,” as reported by Alice Lipowicz on FCW.com. Burton warned, however, that “this train may be moving too fast.”

On the other hand, Tom Kaneshige wrote an article in CIO magazine that tells managers not to expect BYOD policies to save money. Citing research from the Aberdeen Group, he writes, “BYOD's dirty little secret is that most CIOs aren't seeing cost savings. In fact, mobile BYOD often costs more in the long run than company-owned mobile devices.”

Ever-practical ZDNet published an article by Rob Shaughnessy on how to make BYOD work in practice. He advised managers to enlarge their network capacity or make it more efficient through wide-area network optimization techniques.

Then, he wrote, organizations should carefully evaluate the risks and benefits associated with employees using personal devices for work and clearly communicate their best practices and acceptable-use policies for the devices.

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