Federal CIOs Grapple With BYOD, Mobile Workforce

Security and cultural issues are among many challenges government CIOs face in implementing mobile device management and BYOD strategies.

By Kenneth Corbin
Tue, April 30, 2013

CIO — WASHINGTON -- With the advancement of a government-wide digital strategy that puts a premium on mobile computing, telecommuting could become a reality for a greater share of federal workers, though agency CIOs face a stout set of challenges before the federal government becomes home to a truly mobile workforce.

Here at a conference hosted by the Mobile Work Exchange, a group that champions the adoption of technology and policies to enable remote work, experts from within the government and leading contractors described the challenges and opportunities of overhauling an IT infrastructure to mobilize the workforce.

Federal Employees Must Buy-In

Employee buy-in is critical to ensure a successful transition, according to Tonya Schreiber, deputy chief administrative officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has begun a major restructuring of the agency's operations that involves consolidating offices, tearing down cubicle walls and adopting a "hoteling" policy where workers float with no permanent workstation.

"I've basically been charged with changing the culture of FEMA," Schreiber says.

[Related: Federal Mobile Strategy Calls for Shift in Government IT]

"Culture is key," she adds. "You only have one opportunity to change the culture of your agency and get it right with your people."

As FEMA scales down from eight leased buildings in the D.C. metro area to three, a transition planned to be completed by 2016, the agency is aiming to mobilize more of its employees and operations, bringing the remote capabilities that disaster responders use in the field into the regular workflow.

[Related: U.S. CIO Unveils Mobile Strategy for Federal Government]

Schreiber says that as recently as six months ago, just 5 percent of FEMA's employees regularly worked remotely, but the agency has been working to ratchet up that figure.

With that roadmap, FEMA is heading down a similar path as other government agencies, which are all operating under a series of IT directives from the Obama administration involving cloud computing, data-center consolidation and mobile computing. Just as in the private sector, those initiatives come in service of the familiar goals of cutting costs and carbon emissions while increasing agility and productivity.

[Related: New Federal Mobile IT Strategy Must Address Security]

The Mobile Work Exchange, the organizer of Tuesday's conference, is focusing much of its efforts on the federal government, and recently wrapped up its annual Telework Week. From April 4-8, some 136,000 global employees pledged to work remotely, which translated into an estimated savings of $12.3 million commuting costs and nearly 8,000 tons of carbon emissions, according to the group.

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