Government Workers + Mobility = Productivity ÷ Risk

By Tim Williams

There is no way you can do business today without relying on some type of mobile device. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet or computer, government work won’t get done without these baseline components.
Mobility starts with the user, so it’s no surprise that these devices have become integrated into all facets of a person’s life. It’s safe to say they’ve become a way of life, and while everyone works hard to implement programs and support the population, the risks associated with mobility in government cannot be ignored.
As a result, along with running local, state and federal business, government agencies are expected to be good stewards of the sensitive data they oversee. And because tax dollars were used to purchase computers and smartphones, these agencies are also accountable for the hardware investment.

Mobility Never Stops

As the shift to mobility swept through government organizations, IT departments had to move quickly just to keep up.

The first reaction was to physically lock down devices so that confidential data couldn’t walk out the door. But this interfered with the productivity and programs that mobility was meant to support.
The next step was to restrict device types and platforms so that IT could narrow the scope of the risk and focus only on certain scenarios. But employees rely on mobility 24-7 and they weren’t prepared to accept a limited experience. Sure a BlackBerry was secure, but it wasn’t cool or didn’t have the desired functionality. And no matter how hard IT tried to regulate, there were always exceptions.

Focus on the User, Not the Device

Step away from the device. Take a deep breath. Now look at the user.
When you focus on the user, you’re focusing on productivity by providing the user with the tools and technology they need to get their job done. So instead of being a roadblock, IT becomes a valued and important partner.

Mobility – Security = RISK!

You can have the happiest users in the world with the latest devices, but with no strategy to support data and device security, the happiness will be short-lived.

The District of Columbia National Guard is a great example. The organization supports many community programs including the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (CGYCA).  The CGYCA is an evidence-based, voluntary, 17-month program designed to provide opportunities to 16 -18 year-olds who have dropped out of school but demonstrate a desire to improve their potential for successful and productive lives. A core part of the program depends on cadets having access to computers so they can complete classroom work and exams.

But these computers contain sensitive information and were purchased with public funds. So before the CGYCA IT team could start handing out devices, they had to ensure they were able to secure them.
The CGYCA selected an endpoint solution that uses persistence technology so it could maintain a connection to each computer, no matter where it was. Now the organization can immediately take action if a device is missing or stolen, if data is breached or compromised, and if the status of a device is unknown — safeguarding public and confidential information. In short, CGYCA IT was able to secure its data and devices while supporting the productivity of its end-users.

So don’t ignore change. Embrace it. Support your users but never at the expense of security. Build your plan to avoid disaster, but always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. And since it’s unlikely IT administrators will ever be within close physical proximity of a security incident – invest in endpoint security and management solutions that will allow you to connect to any device regardless of user or location.

Tim Williams is the Director of Product Management for Absolute Software. A former United States Army officer with more than 20 years of experience in high tech, Tim has helped develop tools for managing multiplatform and mobile environments, and consulted with major commercial and government planning their IT lifecycle management strategies.

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