So your agency is a bit strapped for cash. Sadly, its not surprising given the Great Recession’s far reaching impact on the operating budgets of law enforcement agencies across the nation. In fact, IACP’s 2011 study showed that 1/3 of agencies surveyed nation-wide expected budget reductions in 2012. Just this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that his department would lose 500 officers without a $200 million tax increase to fill the department’s budget gap. It seems agencies everywhere are challenged to do more with shrinking resources but for most communities taking cops off the street to cut costs [is a last resort]. So where else can you find cost savings?
Technology as a Force Multiplier
As cash-strapped communities are looking for ways to cut spending while keeping more officers on the streets, many agencies are cutting back on costly tech budgets while others are shifting their operational models to use technology systems that improve efficiency and cut costs. Take for example San Francisco PD, who recently developed a mobile application that enables officers to file reports when out on patrol. Designed for use on smartphones, the new application eliminates the need to run back to the office to deal with paperwork which enables officers to stay on the streets up to 4 additional hours per day.
BYOD-Bring Your Own Device
Unfortunately for the San Francisco PD, they can’t afford the $1.5 million necessary to put smartphones into the hands of every officer. Chances are your agency can’t afford to buy the department that needed batch of tablets, smart phones or other necessary mobile devices either. But why should [the agency] dish out, if those devices are already in the hands of the workforce? Today there are more iPhones are sold per day than babies born in the world; as mobile devices proliferate in the hands of consumers, corporations and government agencies alike are adopting policies that let employees use their personal mobile devices for and at work. In fact, according to a March 2012 GovTech study 40% of state and local IT government professionals say their agencies already have some sort of BYOD policy.
Cutting Costs and Boosting Efficiency
While there are many reasons an agency might consider implementing a BYOD policy, cost savings is chief. According to a May 2012 Cisco Business Solutions study of 600 U.S. IT professionals, savings based on reduction of IT costs and increased productivity ranges from $300 to $1300 annually per employee. So how are government agencies using BYOD to cut costs and boost efficiency?
- Device Purchase and Maintenance: By letting the force use their own smartphones and tablet devices, IT doesn’t have to purchase as many (if any) smartphone/mobile devices. Additionally, BYOD reduces (if not eliminates) the time and resources necessary for maintaining a fleet of devices (software upgrades, hardware fixes) as the responsibility for device procurement and maintenance falls to employees who own their devices.
- Device Training: Specialized hardware and software can be a pain to get the force to adopt en masse. But, BYOD can enable employees to utilize the everyday devices that they are already comfortable using, eliminating the need for employee downtime for device training.
- Phone/Data Plan Savings: Faced with a 15% IT budget reduction 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission decided they were paying too much for employee mobile phone service, noting that many users weren’t even using their company phones, preferring their own devices. Implementing a BYOD policy gave employees access to agency email, calendars, contacts and tasks on their phones, monitored their data/phone minutes using mobile device management software and reimbursed them for work use. The result: the agency’s cost for phone service was slashed in half.
- More Efficient Time in the Field: BYOD and the development of specialized applications (like San Francisco PD’s app to file reports on smartphones) can result in officers spending more time on the streets and less time in the office. BYOD gives police increased access to resources and communication when in the field, additionally giving mounted officers, cops on bikes and others mobile access they could only achieve previously by lugging around clunky ruggedized laptops.
Ready or not, BYOD is coming. Heck, it may have already arrived.
As more and more consumers get smartphones and tablets, its likely BYOD is already happening at your agency whether sanctioned or not; perhaps a detective uses his personal smartphone to check work email or maybe a crime analyst checks documents or pulls up crimereports.com on her iPad. Since people’s attachment to their mobile devices doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, BYOD is most certainly on its way if not already here to stay. Our advice: Don’t fight it. Leverage it. Save some dough to keep more cops on the street, and more streets safe.
Already Doing This?
Let us know how its working for you, what cost savings you’ve found, and what other hitherto tips and insights that can help fellow agencies successfully implement BYOD. Use the comments section below to share your best practices.