Infrastructure

BYOD light: how Leeds took its first steps towards bring your own device

Tracey Caldwell Published 02 April 2012

BYOD light: how Leeds took its first steps towards bring your own device

Tracey Caldwell finds out how Leeds city council became device agnostic €“ and employees' unexpected reaction to the scheme

Rising employee demand for smartphones coupled with an ageing Windows Mobile operating system have driven Leeds city council to take the first steps towards bring your own device (BYOD).

Over 6,000 council employees are supplied with corporate-owned mobile devices, 800 of which are smartphones on Windows Mobile 6.5. "We had an operating system on the corporate mobile devices that was end of life, and then we had the pressure from 'bring your own device light' as we call it," says Marcus Hunter, who handles ICT strategy, architecture and commissioning at the council.

The project is referred to as bring your own device light as staff are only able to choose their phone, rather than being able to have full control over every device they use no personal laptops are allowed for now, for example.

"I think it's the first stage of 'bring your own device' as a council could do it, because obviously there are unions and issues of awareness around the soft side of things rather than the technical infrastructure," he adds.

Hunter had expected concern from employees around the fact that the council would have the facility to monitor their smartphones. "We said will switch that off on personal devices. We thought that would be a massive issue but it wasn't, it didn't even register with them," he says. In fact, employees leapt at the idea of BYOD: "We took it to the unions and they said, 'When can we have it?'"

In order for staff to be able to use the phone they preferred, whether Android or iPhone, the council needed to manage its mobile estate in a way that was device agnostic. "We were really focused on device agnostic and also management only of corporate data," says Hunter.

Work began on the BYOD implementation early in 2012 with the selection of a supplier. Hunter looked at how other councils had approached BYOD but found none of the approaches he looked at met Leeds' need for granular management along with solid GCSx compliance.

It decided to commission Qolcom to put in a mobile device management (MDM) solution from MobileIron enabling the council to encrypt devices, while allowing users to silo personal and work data.

Users who want to be part of the BYOD scheme can install MobileIron after signing a text message disclaimer saying they will make sure their phone has the latest operating system, will make sure security updates are applied, and that they won't try and get around any of the security measures. After staff have downloaded MobileIron client app from the relevant app store, their work information, emails and documents will all be encrypted.

As well as encryption, MobileIron mandates a PIN. "This is part of the acceptance process that the user goes through to say, 'Yes, I accept that Leeds City Council can enforce a PIN code. I will accept that they will enforce a timeout'," says Hunter.

The council hit teething problems with smartphone upgrades happening at the same time it was implementing the device management software. "We had a bit of a bumpy start because it was extremely fresh and new, but we've overcome that," says Hunter.

To date, 130 employees have signed up for BYOD. "We're seeing a more educated society I think, a more connected society, which is helping corporations like us to be a bit innovative," he adds.

Hunter is keen to ensure that the BYOD approach does not lead to more complexity and add to the load on the support team, and expects that the central management functions and the self-service nature of the platform will reduce operational overheads. "We are testing the waters. Because it's a self-service portal, we're testing to see how successful that is and see what calls are coming in through that."

The council is now developing a mobile apps strategy and is starting by trying out specialist third party apps for employees in the highways department and housing association teams. It will use MobileIron's App Storefront for the discovery, deployment and security of both internal and external mobile apps.

Leeds city council is also looking at extending the solution across the city's 270 school sites; it already supplies all the schools in Leeds with ISP services. "We're looking at understanding how we can do it for schools, because kids love smart devices don't they? If they can bring their own devices like iPhones into their lessons and use them productively, that can only be a good thing. And if we can manage that at low cost then I think everybody's winning there, because the standards go up across the city."

Once BYOD has bedded in, in the council has plans to extend it to other councils: "Everybody can see the value of shared services, so we're working with MobileIron to have a look at hosting environments, whether they host it and everybody benefits from the licensing, driving down the cost for everybody," says Hunter.

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