To control financial and human resources and reduce costs, most government agencies have standardization policies for desktop environments. Agencies routinely let their employees choose from a number of standard desktop hardware and software configurations.
In both the private and public sector, laptops, tablets and smartphones are well on their way to becoming indispensible productivity tools. As governments move toward the inevitable adoption of mobile end user devices, broadening existing standardization policies can bring many benefits to the mobile environment.
Reduce Costs, Improve Efficiencies
There are a number of state and local governments that have already standardized purchasing requirements for mobile devices. For example, the state of Iowa has extended its desktop standardization (PDF) policy to include laptops, netbooks and tablets. Likewise, North Carolina offers standard configurations (PDF) for workstations, desktops, laptops and what it calls “ultra-portable” laptops.
Standardizing mobile devices has the potential for tremendous cost savings and IT efficiencies (PDF), according to the Center for Digital Government.
- Device management is easier, because IT personnel only have to work with a few hardware and software configurations.
- Procurement is able to take advantage of economies of scale to negotiate better prices.
- Standardization improves the security of government networks, because it can help decrease the use of “rogue” devices that often create major security problems.
- Budgets are easier to develop when there are fewer devices and configurations to choose among.
- Standardization simplifies the procurement process, including ordering equipment and processing and approving requests. (Imagine the possibility of web-based self-service.)
Manage Employee Acceptance
Not so fast, you may be thinking. Fueled by a perception that government organizations lag behind the private sector and even home consumers in technology adoption, employees will complain about being limited by technology that’s not as fast and functional as their own.
It’s this perception that drives much of the pressure for bring your own device (BYOD) programs. Research firm Info-Tech estimates that nearly every employee in the public and private sectors will bring a personal mobile device to work by 2013.
Yet the results of a study on employee attitudes toward BYOD may surprise you. IDC found that only 20 percent of employees surveyed want to bring their device to work, and these were senior executives, not younger workers. Perhaps BYOD is thriving simply because employees want a better user experience, easier-to-use applications and more functionality and flexibility than their employers are willing to provide.
Some percentage of your agency’s employees will probably use their own devices at work whether you have a formal BYOD policy or not. But by crafting a well-planned mobile device standardization program, you can mitigate many employee concerns about standardized mobile devices. I’ve written about developing and enforcing a BYOD policy here on this blog before.
CDG also makes the following suggestions for getting cross-agency buy-in on standardization efforts (PDF):
- Interview all levels of agency workers to understand their business requirements, mobility needs and potential workflow improvements.
- Review your standardization policy regularly in light of changes to budgets, business needs and new technology.
- Don’t deploy without first piloting the devices, and test your program out with an agency or department with complicated workflows and business requirements.
- Develop a process for requesting non-standard equipment.
To give your employees access to productivity tools that meet your security requirements, consider creating an internal “app store,” as well as blacklists and whitelists of downloadable apps. Don’t forget mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) software, which I’ve written about before. They will bring consistency to the process of managing mobile devices and applications.
What about your agency—have you extended your standardization policy to include mobile devices? Tell us about it.
Are you getting all you can out of your mobility technologies? Or are you wrestling with renegade devices, unauthorized applications, frustrated employees and unhappy constituents? Get some help in this guide. Learn how to define departmental needs, address regulatory and other requirements, tighten security, protect sensitive data and more. It’s essential reading for IT leaders in state and local agencies, whether you’re launching new programs or looking for more control over your existing ones.