IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

2012 Year in Review: BYOD

A look at the trends that shaped how we work and live.

Editor's note: Over the course of a year, we write hundreds of stories covering myriad topics. And at year's end, we attempt to make sense of it all. We looked for trends that had a profound impact this year — and that are likely to be even more influential in the future. We think our choices fit that mold.

In this Web series, we'll look at social media, which is steadily reshaping how agencies deal with the public; big data, which holds new promise for improving government performance; BYOD, cloud computing and software as a service, all of which are challenging long-held assumptions for how agencies acquire and use technology; and the emergence of chief innovation officers, which hints at eventual challenges to traditional organizational structures themselves. We expect these trends, which took root in 2012, to impact our work and world as we move into next year and beyond.

Year in Review Timeline ... continued

BYOD: Resistance is Futile

CIOs this year who attempted to stop the adoption of personal mobile devices in government computing can perhaps sympathize with King Canute of England who sat in his throne on the beach, ordered the tide to stop and nearly drowned. Some 6 billion mobile devices have been purchased worldwide, and they have revolutionized personal life and society.

If our interviews with IT leaders throughout the year are any indication, 2012 is the year that bring your own device (BYOD) strategies reached a tipping point. Instead of resisting, many CIOs had begun to embrace the tsunami of privately owned mobile devices into city, county and state computing. Cities and counties struggled with the risks of lost or stolen devices, the acceleration of mobile malware, and troubling requirements such as discovery and Freedom of Information requests. But they recognized the efficiencies of replacing some government-owned devices with personally owned ones, the trend of "blurring" work and personal life, and welcomed new capabilities such as mobile apps for everything from transit schedules to pothole reporting.

The pioneer in mobile government computing — Research in Motion's Blackberry — had a good reputation for managing security but could not compete with the explosion of newer devices. This fall, even the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency dropped the Blackberry in favor of the iPhone.

Michael Armstrong, CIO of Corpus Christi, said BYOD isn’t the first disruptive idea to shake up government computing. "We’ve been through this in the old days when PCs came into the mainframe environment, and that’s a very close parallel." he said. "I think you are always more successful if you try to embrace new technology rather than keep it out of your environment. Your customers will stay happier, and you’re going to get more work done. And I think there are ways of mitigating the risks with that.”

Mobile device management (MDM) is a comprehensive method of risk mitigation, and MDM firms have proliferated this past year. "I’ve seen a veritable explosion of new mobile device management software," said former Seattle CIO Bill Schrier, who is now deputy director of e.  Republic’s Center for Digital Government. "It used to be a niche for certain companies like Good Technology and MaaS360. Now mainstream companies like Microsoft, Symantec and AT&T have their own MDM [systems]." However, cautioned Schrier, adoption is still not widespread, citing a Network World article that maintains accelerating security issues are dogging BYOD adoption.

Many CIOs we interviewed said that BYOD is the future, and that attracting young tech-savvy people to government depends on keeping up with the latest technology developments. Without BYOD, the Canutes of the world might be surrounded by the bones of former employees with not a nibble from the coming generation.

And what happened to King Canute? He took some lessons learned, changed course and defeated "Ethelred the Unready."

Read more 2012 Year in Review stories