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Device-as-a-Service Opens the Door to IT Efficiency (Contributed)

State and local governments can benefit financially and technologically from the latest trend in subscription services.

A few months ago, the Georgia Technology Authority inked a $219 million deal to outsource responsibility for the state’s digital services to a major technology vendor. In the past, such a huge agreement might have been unthinkable. It is well known that information technology professionals loath to cede control of departmental assets unless forced to do so.  

The challenges faced by gov tech leaders is daunting, with security risks, exploding data requirements, access to information and an emerging millennium workforce that demands technology that can adhere to their “One Life” approach to technology. This new reality is an opportunity for government and industry leaders to leverage their mutual talents.

When we think about the pace of change in IT, it was only a few short years ago that the concept of “cloud” computing was considered an emerging technology. Many early skeptics suggested they would never put their data in the cloud, never mind their most sensitive data. We know today that the pace of cloud adoption continues to accelerate and the value of “as-a-Service” models has proven to be both efficient and a cost benefit. With technology improvements, it has become increasingly less economical and efficient to operate IT infrastructure in silos — especially within specific governmental departments. Instead, there has been a clear and dramatic shift, with more state and local government agencies not only outsourcing cloud and data center operations but also embracing as-a-Service models for devices.  

Unlike the older Low Price Technically Acceptable procurement approach, Device-as-as-Service (DaaS) offers these agencies a way of limiting costs, assuring regular access to the latest technology and maintaining a deep bench of experts to manage and secure their endpoint fleets.

If you are a state or local government CIO, this probably is not new. More than half of CIOs polled in the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ (NASCIO) 2018 State CIO Survey say they plan to downsize state-owned-and-operated data centers, with 75 percent shifting toward as-a-Service and IT-shared service models. In fact, 65 percent are embracing managed services while 57 percent are moving towards outsourced service models.

CIOs recognize the value of cloud technology to enable true, cross-departmental communication, cooperation and collaboration. What may not be considered, however, is how cloud-enabled shared services can drive better cost savings, efficiency and cybersecurity from thousands of endpoint devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, network printers and any other Internet-capable computer hardware device) in your enterprise. 

The Financial Picture

From a purely financial standpoint, most state CIOs see as-a-Service models as an innovative way of generating capital funding necessary to modernize legacy systems and bring on new innovation. The NASCIO survey, for example, found 76 percent of CIOs polled are turning to outsourcing and as-a-Service models to free up capital by shifting spending from a capital to operating expense. This same dynamic applies to devices. DaaS typically involves a one-price-per-device model — scalable up or down. This simplified consumption-based pricing makes the IT spend more predictable and efficient. It also frees up funds to spend elsewhere, like on new digital equipment.

Access to Modern Technology 

With DaaS, agencies also have constant access to a broad selection of best-in-class, multi-operating system devices and accessories so they can shorten refresh cycles and keep users happy. This not only enables agencies to ignore chronic operational and productivity issues related to using outdated equipment but also helps them recruit younger workers — millennials and Gen Zers — who tend to favor employers that use modern technology. In fact, a Microsoft survey determined 93 percent of U.S. millennials see modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.

DaaS also enables state and local organizations to tailor the mix of devices and accessories they receive to meet the needs of individual agencies. For example, if one department needs powerful computers for heavy number-crunching and another one needs less powerful machines for more general operations, that can be arranged by DaaS. And because management is centralized, all of these disparate systems can connect and communicate with one another. Digital silos are eliminated.

Management and Security

Device management can be a huge drain for IT resources in business as well as in government organizations. In fact, an IDC study, sponsored by HP, found half of IT decision-makers polled believe they spend too much time procuring and managing devices, and 63 percent said resources drained by device management could be used on other more strategic IT projects. DaaS options keep workflows moving more smoothly.

The same can be said about the value of outsourcing cybersecurity for endpoint devices to a qualified third party. Cyberassaults against government agencies continue to increase in frequency and intensity. In fiscal 2016 alone, U.S. government agencies reported nearly 31,000 information security incidents, of which 16 could be considered “major incidents.” Yet, a recent survey from security consultancy Netwrix found the public sector lags behind the private sector in cybersecurity, and only 14 percent of government respondents consider themselves "well prepared" for IT risks.

Such risks involve all forms of connected technology, but endpoint devices are one of the most serious because they tend to be less defended than network perimeters. A recent McAfee report found most Internet of Things (IoT) edge devices provide no built-in defenses, so one successful exploit can essentially own the device. Hackers know this and have been targeting edge devices more aggressively. DaaS helps solve for this by assuring that endpoint devices provided to government organizations always contain the latest built-in (not added-on) security measures available at any given time.

The shift toward DaaS will not be a natural one for many state and local governments. It will take recognition by leaders at the top that older procurement and management models are no longer working. But it is possible for agencies to reap significant financial benefits, assure regular access to the latest technology and ease the burden of managing and securing endpoint device assets.

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine.