BYOD delivers big cost savings at US equal employment agency
Two-pronged strategy drives down mobile device costs at EEOC while facilitating greater collaboration.
When Kimberly Hancher, CIO at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), learned that her 2012 IT operating budget was to be reduced to $15 million — down 15% from 2011 — it was not immediately clear to her where cuts could be made without impacting on the agency’s performance.
She started gradually, reducing contractor services and eliminating some software maintenance contracts. After that, she turned her attention to the agency’s $800,000 per year budget for mobile devices, with the aim of slashing it by 50%. First, however, her team conducted a thorough assessment of how the 550 BlackBerry devices that the agency issued to around 23% of its workforce were being used.
The results were surprising. “We found that 75% of our users never made phone calls from their BlackBerrys. Email is the killer app. They either used the phone on their desk or their personal cellphone to make calls, because it’s just easier,” says Hancher. She adds that some devices were hardly used at all: staff parked them in their desk drawers and only ever took them out when travelling on agency business.
Hancher suggested a two-pronged strategy for device cost reduction. First, the EEOC would negotiate with its wireless carrier to optimize rate plans for all agency-provided mobile devices. Second, it would implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) pilot program. For the first part of the strategy, initiated in November 2011, devices that weren’t used were eliminated and remaining ones were moved to a bundled rate plan. The immediate effect was a saving of $240,000.
The second part of the strategy, meanwhile, came into force a month later, when the commission launched the first phase of its BYOD project. It convened an advisory group to work on relevant policies and later enlisted 40 volunteers who agreed to relinquish their EEOC-issued BlackBerrys and use their own smartphones.
The commission’s IT team worked with cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) provider NotifyLink to configure the exchange of email between EEOC’s email gateway, NotifyLink’s host, and the agency’s pilot participants who were using a range of iOS and Android devices. This MDM system costs the agency $120 per user, per year, and allows its IT team to manage security settings on employee-owned devices and remotely wipe government data if devices are lost or stolen.
Within the first three months of 2012, the number of BlackBerry devices the agency owned was cut from 550 to 462, and monthly recurring costs were reduced by between 20% and 30%. By June 2012, the commission was ready to extend BYOD to employees still using agency-issue BlackBerry devices, but also gave them two other options: to trade in their BlackBerry for an agency-issued mobile phone with voice features only; or to keep their BlackBerry, on the understanding that the EEOC will no longer offer replacement devices.
The current BYOD program requires employees to pay for all voice and data usage, even for work purposes. That may prompt some cost-conscious users to stick with their EEOC-issued BlackBerrys for now, the agency acknowledges. “However, for EEOC’s younger employees, their personal devices appear to be an extension of their personalities, so to speak,” says a published statement by the commission. “For seasoned workers, their personal device allows them to do administrative work from home.”
Hancher agrees. “While I’m not advocating working 24/7, it is just more comfortable to sit and do timecard approvals on a Friday night in the comfort of your own home instead of during the working day, when your attention should be on more complex and business-oriented issues,” she says.Executive insight
• A shift from BlackBerry to BYOD saves 20% to 30% of mobile overhead
• Anticipate the resistance from users with smart (and cost-effective) alternatives
• Keep the big picture in mind – fluid corporate and customer collaboration
For more on the US Government’s BYOD policies, see The White House’s toolkit.