Contractors chart path for 'bring your own device' programs

Thursday - 4/5/2012, 1:48pm EDT

Sheila Jordan, senior vice-president for communication and collaboration, Cisco Systems

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President Obama may have fought to keep his Blackberry, but many federal employees would more options. (Pete Souza/White House)

By Gillian Brockell
Federal News Radio

In a federal climate obsessed with cutting costs, one might have expected agencies to have adopted "bring your own device" programs for its employees long ago. But security concerns have largely prevented that from happening—with the notable exception of the Department of the Interior.

Federal contractors, such as networking giant Cisco Systems, have similar security concerns and have successfully made the switch without any serious breaches. Sheila Jordan, senior vice-president for IT communication and collaboration at Cisco, talked to the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp about the company's 4-year-old program.

Under the plan, employees purchase a smartphone of their choosing—be it an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry—then bring it to the company for formatting. Employees can then join a manager-approved corporate phone plan or keep their own.

Cisco protects company information through the use of virtual private networking (VPN), data encryption and mobile device managers (MDMs). The company can also remotely wipe employee devices of all data in the event one is lost. That would include any personal data on the device, like pictures and music, so employees are encouraged to back up their smartphones on their personal computers.

Employees who don't want to run that risk can still elect to use a company phone for company business.

Employees have been quick to adopt the program. The number of phones connected to the Cisco network has increased by two-thirds since the program began.

"That's what has just been really incredible. The benefit is we have just an overall happier and more satisfied employee base," Jordan said. "When we first started this, we expected that we would have savings...but in addition to that, we're seeing that there's this extra productivity, plus gain for our employees across the globe."

The biggest productivity gain has come from company apps allowing employees to log corporate expenses, sales and other information from their smartphones.