Is BYOD really that important to millennials?

One of the main reasons pushed for BYOD is that it’s needed to both attract and keep younger workers, and that they and others are more productive when they can use personal devices at the office. There’s truth to that, but it’s not clearcut.

There are a number of advantages claimed for a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment, and the reduction in the costs of procuring devices and then paying for their use is just one. Another is the need to attract and keep the newer generation of workers, who are adept at using mobile devices and expect the services they provide to be available to them in the workplace.

Is that true? As with most things in this “digital native” argument, it depends on whom you ask. Jeremy Sherwood, product manager of virtualization and cloud at ScienceLogic, for example, believes there is “absolutely some huge validity” to this demographic argument.

“Because younger people grow up with the devices and constantly use them, they are accustomed to them being available and expect to be able to leverage the devices and the offerings that are made through them,” he said. “It’s not the devices themselves so much but that the apps they use are in the cloud, and it’s more their choice as to whether they use them for [the work] they have to do.”

Agency managers also readily recognize the potential. Daniel McCrae, director of the Service Delivery Division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of the CIO, said NOAA can “certainly take advantage of employees walking through the door [who are] familiar with the computing platform they are going to be using.”

“It’s clear that millennials and younger employees probably do feel more comfortable with the kinds of things BYOD offers,” he added, “and in many ways will expect them.”

GovLoop, the social network for “government innovators,” recently surveyed its members about BYOD issues. Of the responses provided by the survey, “allowing people to work on the most comfortable device” was the greatest benefit of BYOD (71 percent agreed), followed by improved productivity (58 percent). Nearly 80 percent of respondents added employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity as a positive impact.

Kimberly Hancher, CIO at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, one of the earliest adopters of BYOD in the federal government, was quoted in the report as saying that, from an employee standpoint, smart phones and tablets have become an extension of an individual’s personality and personal productivity.

“One of the benefits [of BYOD] is that if a person is very proficient on a device, they should take that proficiency into the workplace rather than learning how to be minimally proficient with the government-provided device,” she said. “I can’t overemphasize how important personal productivity is across the enterprise.”

On the other hand, only a little more than half of the people surveyed by GovLoop believed BYOD could serve as a retention and recruitment tool, though millennials and teleworkers were those who most believed it would be.

Pat Fiorenza, a research analyst at GovLoop and a principal author of the survey report, said in an interview that he thinks the generational split in the use of mobile devices is “often over-generalized.”

“I do think that millennials have a different perspective of what resources should be available and where the attention should be placed,” he said. “But I think all generations have things they do with these new technologies.”

Overall, Fiorenza said, BYOD is just one part of the overall IT trends in government, though it’s one that falls into the critical area of collaboration and speaks to how agencies will open up access and communication channels to enable that.

“So, for me, this is a silver lining about how government is thinking about how to engage with major stakeholders,” he said. “It’s a key for the whole area of data movement and how to use information and knowledge for better decision-making.”

About this report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please e-mail us at [email protected].