Viewpoints

Building effective mobile workforces in state, city and county governments

By Jeffrey Ait

There are numerous benefits to creating a mobile workforce, including improved information sharing, increased productivity and greater work flexibility. For more than a decade, enterprises across the U.S. have recognized these advantages and allowed their employees to use smartphones and tablets for work-related tasks.

While federal, state and local governments have been more restrained in embracing mobility due to security concerns and strict regulations, they, too, are increasingly recognizing the advantages of mobile workforces. For instance, states like Delaware and Michigan have publicly championed the benefits of implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. At the federal level, President Obama took action this year to bolster mobile work options by issuing the “Presidential Memorandum – Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Program” – aimed at helping employees find a more harmonious balance between their responsibilities at work and at home.

With 15 years of experience serving government customers and helping states, counties and municipalities implement mobile strategies, BlackBerry understands the challenges that these agencies face when deploying this technology. We’ve identified several factors that governments should consider as they seek to create a mobile workforce that satisfies user expectations, organizational objectives and compliance requirements.

Productive Public Service – In today’s always-on, always-connected society, constituents expect responsiveness from their local officials and want to know that their voices are heard. By increasing mobile work capabilities, state and local governments can help their employees respond to citizen requests and concerns quicker and more efficiently – whether they’re working in the office, from home or in between. This increased responsiveness not only helps employees perform their daily responsibilities more resourcefully, but also has the potential to increase citizen satisfaction with government. Agencies should select devices that have features for work, such as a great typing experience for email and messaging as well as document editing tools.

Satisfying User Experience – Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, has become a common approach to satisfying user demands to use their own smartphone or tablet for work. While this allows employees to use a device that they are familiar with, it also complicates the security that is essential for government information. A great BYOD alternative is something called COPE, or Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled, which means that users choose from a selection of approved, corporate-owned devices that allow them to access both work and personal data. In this model, “dual persona” technology keeps information separated for stronger security and a user experience like employees would see from traditional BYOD.

Seamless Mobile Management – While not always visible to the end user, IT administrators know the importance of having technology that is easily maintained. A Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution ensures that devices meet government policies and that users can securely access all of the tools they need such as email, documents and apps. Today, many enterprises and even those in the public sector are supporting devices with multiple operating systems, and it’s important to choose an MDM solution from an established provider that can seamlessly support and secure all of today’s dominant mobile platforms. 

Security – Last but certainly not least, security should be a primary factor for governments. With mobile devices, sensitive information is literally in the palm of civil servants’ hands, and leaders and the community expect that data to remain private. Organizations such as NATO and the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which manages technology for the Department of Defense, rigorously test and validate solutions that meet key security requirements. These certifications help identify products and services that organizations can trust.

There is no doubt that state and local government organizations face legitimate challenges adapting to the mobile era. To get the most benefit from a mobility strategy, leaders should look for a partner that delivers the functionality and security they need to enable a satisfied, productive mobile workforce that efficiently serves constituents and communities.

Jeffrey Ait is vice president and head of US public sector at BlackBerry. In this role, he is responsible for the sales strategy and execution for federal as well as state and local government business.

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It features the Editor's Viewpoints and contributed commentaries.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...

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Jason Axelrod is an award-winning journalist who has reported for The Seattle Times, The Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Business Journal and Mother Nature Network, among other outlets. Jason...
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