BYOD policies in the public sector: challenges and best practices

BYOD

Desktop and laptop computers have long been incorporated into the work environment. With the device landscape having been expanded by substantial degrees in recent years, mobile phones and tablets are being added to the list of gadgets plugged into the office environment. The bring your own device (BYOD) movement encourages employees to use the technological tool of their choice, but while the trend has taken off in the enterprise arena, it has been slow to pick up steam in the public sector for numerous reasons.

Like private enterprises, government agencies and other organizations in the public sector have plenty to gain by incorporating BYOD into the mix. When employees can use the devices they are familiar with, the potential to boost productivity increases tenfold. Tremendous cost savings are also possible due to the reduction in capital expenses needed to acquire devices. However, the challenges are significant and in many cases, come attached with legal ramifications that could make this a gamble not worth taking.

The biggest concern organizations have regarding BYOD is the increased potential for a security breach, which could have severe consequences for the company, its employees, partners, and clients. An overworked city employee could forget their laptop on the bus, leaving unencrypted data accessible to whomever finds the device. A physician could lose a smartphone, exposing the names and medical records of patients. Without the proper controls, human error could lead to costly litigation that threatens an organization’s very existence.

Creating an Effective BYOD Policy

Implementing BYOD policies is something agencies in the public sector especially must approach with extreme caution. Following are some of the known challenges and best practices for overcoming them in the development stage.

Securing the Network

A BYOD strategy cannot reach its full potential unless employees have convenient access to corporate resources. Unfortunately, it is this seamless access that puts corporate data at risk. The presence of multiple devices and connections essentially creates multiple points at which the network can be compromised.

Evaluate the Network

One of the first steps in developing a BYOD policy is evaluating the state of the network. What devices are currently connected? Who has access to them? What privileges do they have with each individual device? These insights should be combined with the information pertaining to any hardware or systems you plan to incorporate into the network. Start building transparency from the beginning so problems are easier to identify later.

Trusting Employees With Corporate Resources

Organizations that incorporate BYOD into their operations are placing an enormous amount of trust in the hands of their employees. Everything from daily handling to the downloading and installing of apps impacts those operations. There are also software upgrades and ongoing maintenance to consider, factors that may not be of urgent importance to the user, but become vital once implemented into the corporate network.

Establish Rules That Protect Corporate Resources

The employee may own their personal device, but ownership issues comes into play when that device is housing corporate data. Companies need to establish polices that account for keeping personal and business information in different silos, removal of company data, using certain functions, and so forth. Technologies such as virtualization and cloud computing are extremely useful in ensuring that proper parties have access, but incorporating the right rules and language into the policy is key.

Managing Business and Personal Responsibilities

BYOD provides the type of flexibility that allows employees to be productive from anywhere. Individuals can get a nice headstart on their work by tending to emails, videos, documents, and other incomplete office tasks at the living room table or out in the backyard. Having the content so readily available is a double-edged sword of sorts for employers because while productivity is maintained, schedule and wage issues may develop over time.

Balance Usage Beyond Corporate Resources

Employers will want to make sure their policies aim to create an optimal balance between work and personal life. Workers should not feel pressured to go above the call of duty just because they have the tools at their disposal. Combined with crystal clear communication, setting expectations will help ensure that satisfaction, moral, and productivity remains high.

BYOD Education Is A Must

Pubic sector organizations should be aware that devising a policy is only one part of the BYOD conundrum. Implementing and maintaining such an infrastructure comes with all new challenges. Companies would be wise to create mandatory training programs that educate employees on software requirements, security protocol, backup procedures and other important elements. With technology rapidly evolving and the likelihood that new devices will be added frequently, continuous education is necessary to ensure ongoing BYOD success.

Written by Aidan Hijleh

Aidan Hijleh is an SEO specialist, marketing expert and blogger for Benchmark Email. An accomplished writer and former nonprofit organization liaison, he works with numerous top-tier blogs to deliver valuable intel to the small business owner. Get more from Aidan on Twitter and Google+.
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