Lord of the Devices: Who should have the last word on work-related devices?

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) came onto the scene with a force and soon cropped up fans across the private and public sectors. It was a no brainer to think that employees didn’t want to use clunky, out-of-date, company-owned devices when there was an option to use their own sleek, new gadgets. In today’s work culture, these new devices can often be essential when keeping up with social media, news, partners and constituents and companies and agencies saw BYOD as an opportunity to stay up to date with media and technology without an agency-wide overhaul.

But, of course, the bubble was bound to burst. Questions of company security and personal privacy turned BYOD from a dream come true to an absolute IT nightmare to some, swiftly putting the kibosh on many BYOD programs in consideration (or the very least, established a huge road block). Still, the idea of allowing employees to use newer devices for personal and professional activities won’t be going away anytime soon. Some believe the answer is COPE, or Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled. In a way, it puts the control back into the company’s hands, lessening many of the security and IT concerns. But does that mean COPE is the way to go?

To break it down, here are some of the basic differences of a typical BYOD program and an assumed COPE program (of course, programs will vary at different institutions):



  • Picks device
  • Owns Device
  • Pays for device
  • Keeps number after leaving
  • Decides what applications and software to install
  • Uses device for personal and work-related tasks


  • Gives access to server to device
  • May reimburse employee depending on policy



  • Puts input into what device is bought or chooses from list of approved devices/services
  • Uses device for personal and work-related tasks
  • Chooses which applications and software to install based on limitations designed by company/agency


  • Ultimately decides what device is bought or makes an approved list of devices/services
  • Owns device
  • Pays for device
  • Keeps number after employee leaves for marketing reasons
  • Provides device with access to server
  • Makes guidelines for what applications and software can be installed
  • Can wipe data from device or disconnect service in case of theft/loss
  • Decides predetermined cost threshold

Which program do you think works better for government agencies?

Have you experienced working for an agency with either of these programs?

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David B. Grinberg

While agencies may be wise to use both policies, it’s apparent that COPE will be more attractive for recruitment, hiring and retention because employees should not have to pay for their own work tools — that’s an employer responsibility that maximizes bottom-line productivity.
BYOD, for all of its attributes, is really just a stepping stone. BYOD, in addition to security and other concerns, may create a work environment of BYOD-haves versus have-nots — a new twist on the socalled “digital divide” in government.
What will we have to bring next, pens and paper?

Terrence (Terry) Hill

I am a big fan of BYOD, if for no other reason than to save the government money. We all need to save money where we can and the government tends to overpay for the same technology.

Another reason is freedom of choice. Let employees decide which device suits them.

To address David’s remark about “have vs. have-nots,” I just saw an add for a laptop that only costs about $250. Technology is now affordable by virtually everyone.

Henry Brown

A perfect world would be a combination of both where appropriate…

COPE will work MUCH better for the CIO shop and some variation of same has “worked” for years. IMO one of the reasons that BYOD has “caught on” in most organizations is the less than stellar response by some CIO’s to the needs of the organization/users….

Would offer that for BYOD devices to “fly” in any organizational environment(be it public or private sector) there has to be more than a passing interest in security, and the protection of organizational data.

Julie Chase

I just want my thumb drive back, and I’ll be happy. And finally be rid of NMCI, a big plus. I do not and should not be expected as a gov employee to “buy” my own IT and then have “bloatloaded” with security software. DoD is still thumbing it’s nose at BYOD. In our little burg, we are now working on getting wireless laptops. It’s been a long time coming. For us, I think we are just about in the 21st century. But, alas, we are broke, and the laptops have been pushed off until FY14.