BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is a concept that allows employees to use their personally owned technology devices to stay connected to, access data from, or complete tasks for their organizations. BYOD is a growing trend that is still in its infancy, but shows early promise as a driver of cost savings, increased productivity, and improved user experience.  

The business case for implementing BYOD programs vary from agency to agency, but often involve the following drivers: to reduce costs, increase program productivity and effectiveness, adapt to a changing workforce, and improve user experience. Agencies considering allowing employees BYOD have a new toolkit at their disposal to ease the transition. 

In May, the Office of Management and Budget unveiled an ambitious Digital Government Strategy, which also promised to develop government-wide BYOD guidelines. Since then, a digital advisory group worked with the Federal Chief Information Officers Council to comb through lessons learned from agencies that have already jumped on the BYOD bandwagon. The CIO Council has released the results of its research in August in the report “Bring Your Own Device: A Toolkit to Support Federal Agencies Implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Programs.” The BYOD Toolkit includes key considerations, best practices, and examples of existing policies. The key takeaway is that while BYOD may not be right for every agency, it can, given the right environment, succeed in a secure and records-managed way. 

In a blog post, CIO for Executive Office of the President Brook Colangelo writes “A key goal of the administration’s Digital Government Strategy is to enable the federal government’s increasingly mobile workforce to perform their official duties even when away from the office by accessing government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device. By exploring options to increase the mobility of government workers, the administration can save taxpayer dollars and improve its service to the American people.… One way to meet customer expectations is to let employees utilize personally-owned technology devices to do their work.” 

Key Considerations 

The Toolkit asserts that the implementation of BYOD needs to be an iterative process: “Implementation of a BYOD program presents agencies with a myriad of security, policy, technical, and legal challenges not only to internal communications, but also to relationships and trust with business and government partners. The magnitude of the issues is a function of both the sensitivity of the underlying data and the amount of processing and data storage allowed on the personal device based on the technical approach adopted.” 

The Toolkit offers the following list of points to consider when determining whether a BYOD program is right for your agency and its staff:

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  • technical approach
  • roles and responsibilities
  • incentives for government and individuals
  • survey employees on benefits and challenges
  • consider voluntary vs.mandatory participation in byod program and impact on terms of service
  • security
  • privacy
  • ethics / legal questions
  • service provider(s)
  • devices and applications
  • asset management. 

The toolkit notes that the rise of BYOD points to a change in thinking in how IT managers adopt new technology. "Gone are the days of long projects that address every demand," the guidance states. "We must now integrate new technologies in a rapid, iterative, agile, interoperable and secure method to meet changing market and customer needs."  

Best Practices and Lessons Learned 

Along with those key considerations, the Toolkit also highlights lessons learned and best practice case studies from agencies that have already embarked down a BYOD path.

  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) implemented a virtual desktop that allowed a BYOD solution with minimal policy or legal implications.
  • The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was among the first of sev­eral Federal agencies to implement a BYOD pilot that allowed employees to “opt out” of the government-provided mobile device program and install third-party software on their own smartphones that enabled the use of their device for official work purposes.
  • The State of Delaware initiated an effort to not only embrace the concept of BYOD but to realize sig­nificant cost savings by having employees turn in their State-owned device in favor of a personally-owned device, which could save the State approximately half of its current wireless expenditure. 

Moving Forward 

According to Colangelo, the Toolkit is just the beginning of the BYOD conversation. He writes, “While the toolkit is a great starting point for agencies considering BYOD programs, our work is not finished. We still need to address the more complicated issues related to BYOD, including how the government can reimburse employees for voice and data costs as well as additional security, privacy, and legal considerations, including supply chain risk management and legal discovery. I look forward to continuing the dialogue with my government and industry partners as we work together to capitalize on the promise of BYOD.”