Cloud services can help agencies manage the security and logistical concerns that arise when employees bring their own tech devices to work, writes Jim Lucier.
Jim Lucier is senior vice president and general manager of the Government Business Unit at Concur Technologies.
As government initiatives are introduced to promote more efficient spending, agencies are pursuing new ways to cut costs. And with the spike in personal mobile devices (such as smart phones, tablet PCs and laptops) in recent years, one cost-reduction strategy is an emerging trend known as “bring your own device” (BYOD).
Executives, managers and employees who participate in the often hit-or-miss BYOD practice know all too well the pros and cons of using personal devices for government agency work. Cost savings, increased employee productivity and less burdened IT departments certainly fall into the pro category. However, a controversy looms as many agencies struggle to mitigate risk and control employee behaviors.
Compliance and visibility are two major concerns for agencies considering a BYOD program. Unmanaged devices can prevent agencies from seeing whether employees are adhering to policies, spending responsibly and complying with the law. That lack of visibility can lead to unplanned or non-compliant spending, adversely affecting budgets while drawing unwanted scrutiny.
Despite those concerns, 62 percent of government agencies have instituted BYOD strategies, and that percentage is increasing, according to a recent CDW-G report. So the question now is: How can agencies reap the benefits of BYOD while mitigating the risks?
Cloud services can help bridge the gap by providing the needed level of visibility, compliance and even security. Employees generally want to do the right thing, and it is just a matter of providing them with the appropriate tools and training. Cloud services offer an automated system that enables employees to properly perform tasks, ensuring accuracy and reducing the potential for fraud, unintentional or not. Policies and workflow reside in the cloud, which enforces the same rules and security protections for all access points whether they are computers or mobile devices.
Travel expense management is one powerful application of cloud services that addresses a crucial business need. The business of travel has become increasingly complex, with each agency tailoring its policies to meet evolving mission goals. Travelers seek to perform mission-critical activities via mobile devices in a way that complies with policy without their needing to know the details of policy shifts.
By using cloud-based services to manage travel and related expenses, agencies can give employees direct access to resources for booking or planning their travel where and when they need them. Those cloud services also help enforce policy compliance and provide agencies with insight into traveler behaviors and costs.
Cloud services are not one-size-fits-all solutions. Agencies need to ensure that a cloud provider can deliver a level of service that matches their specific needs. Therefore, agencies should look for a provider that:
- Has a long track record of successfully delivering services in the cloud in a highly available and secure manner.
- Delivers a more productive, efficient, cost-effective alternative to your current method.
- Integrates with your existing cloud services or integrates with another service you could use.
- Provides visibility into business elements such as employee spending, which can affect your agency’s productivity.
- Adapts to the size and needs of your agency without additional implementation or configuration requirements.
As BYOD strategies continue to be adopted, federal employees using well-established cloud services on their personal devices will become the norm. For agencies, the trick is finding a balance between the benefits and risks because the scalability and ease of use offered by cloud services will benefit your employees and your bottom line.