"Mobility is here, and we need to allow our users more efficient use of technology to be more efficient in the public sector. We are stewards of the taxpayers’ money."
City of Fresno
With “efficient local government” as the mayor’s motto, the City of Fresno’s IT department is always looking for ways to streamline operations with technology.
City employees in the field had been using laptops and a VPN (virtual private network), but connection issues and lack of a strong signal in certain locations created additional problems for the IT department. Employees often had to return to the city offices to re-input data from the field. Many asked to use their own smartphones or tablets at work.
CIO Carolyn Hogg recognized the need for a mobility solution. “Mobility is here, and we need to allow our users more efficient use of technology to be more efficient in the public sector. We are stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” she says.
Paul Pedron, senior network systems specialist, began studying how various city departments could use mobile devices to improve their business processes.
“We didn’t want the liability issues of BYOD, we wanted to issue corporate devices,” he explains. “The business processes of each department determined the device. Some departments needed iOS devices and some needed Android devices, and some apps required Java, which doesn’t run on all devices.”
In addition to multiplatform support, the city’s mobility solution would also require data and device security, mobile file sharing, and compatibility with the city’s existing IT environment.
Pedron’s team experimented with six different devices and four different mobility vendors: MobileIron, Fiberlink, Cisco, and Novell (now part of Micro Focus). They soon determined that the cloud and hybrid solutions were too risky.
“With a cloud solution, you never really know where your data is and who has access to it,” he says. “And when your data expires, is it really deleted?”
At the end of the six-month study, the City of Fresno chose Mobile Management and Filr from Novell (now part of Micro Focus). Security, device tracking, remote management, ease of use, and cost all factored into the decision.
The IT department implemented the solution in-house. After an initial deployment of 50 managed devices, they quickly expanded to more than 150 mobile devices and just renewed their contract for 250 users.
“Both products are fairly intuitive, applicable to our environment, and very cost-effective. Filr was a perfect fit—an on-premise solution with manageability at the user end, without IT getting involved in how departments manage their files,” Pedron says.
Bryon Horn, manager of computer services, adds, “The tracking of devices, remote delivery of applications, security of the device as well as the data—we required all of these features in a mobile device management solution. Now if a device gets compromised, lost, or stolen, we can wipe it and limit our liability by ensuring that no City of Fresno data exists on that device.”
Providing secure mobile computing to field employees is helping the City of Fresno save time and fuel by reducing back-and-forth trips to city offices. It has also increased employee efficiency by eliminating repetitive data input. Plus, the IT department doesn’t have to spend time troubleshooting VPN-related problems anymore.
“Being able to allow field staff to use mobile devices while performing their jobs throughout the city, and use them securely, is invaluable to the City of Fresno,” Pedron says.
The CIO agrees. “Now many of our departments—Community Redevelopment, Parks, Fire, City Council, Retirement Board—save precious time by using their smartphones or tablets to get the information they need to do their jobs,” she says. “And, we’re addressing one of our mayor’s strategies to be an efficient local government.”
Today, Fresno city council members can immediately access files during meetings without returning to their desks. The city attorney can use a tablet to access documents securely—from the city offices or from the courthouse. And in the field, the fire department can quickly identify property owners and notify them in an emergency.
“Novell had the solution that fit our needs,” Pedron says. “It has alleviated a lot of our mobility issues.”