Editor's note: This story was modified after publication to include more background information on the Digital Government Strategy.
In response to the Digital Government Strategy (PDF/ HTML5) — part of the President's directive to build a 21st Century Government that delivers better services to the American people — we at TTB took a closer look at how to increase the mobility of our staff, save taxpayer dollars, and improve our services. One of our solutions was to implement a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policy.
Our BYOD policy was recognized by the Digital Services Advisory Group and Federal Chief Information Officers Council as a successful BYOD program launched at a "forward-leaning agency," and was highlighted in the group's Toolkit to Support Federal Agencies Implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Programs (08/23/12). The toolkit presents government–wide BYOD guidance based on lessons learned from successful pilots at federal agencies and cites examples of agencies working to open up services so they are available "anywhere, anytime, on any device."
(To learn more about how we made this transition, please see the Advisory Group/Federal CIO Council case study on TTB: Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) Virtual Desktop Implementation: Allowing Bring Your Own Device with Minimal Policy or Legal Implications.)
|TTB's IT staff implemented a virtual desktop environment with thin-client hardware to access the network. This cloud initiative has saved the agency money in hardware costs.|
Within our first ten years as a bureau, we transformed the way our personnel accessed information technology (IT) resources to a virtual desktop environment (see Additional Information: Growing Pains of Building the TTB Network below). Our BYOD policy allows employees to access to the network anywhere at any time. This virtual environment has not only saved the government over a million dollars in equipment, travel, and labor costs, it allows our employees to work smarter and provide better service to the public.
In 2012, we deployed a “virtual desktop” with about 450 employees. The virtual desktop allows the user community to securely conduct business over the Internet from anywhere. TTB teleworkers no longer need dedicated office space, workstations, phones, or fax lines - hence “bring your own device (BYOD)” was born!
Gone are the days of weather delays, office closures, and power outages, which would typically prevent or delay our work with the public. During these types of events, TTB employees simply go home (or stay home) and work! Our employees can now respond to customer inquiries and access TTB's internal systems from anywhere.
Not only was this concept convenient and cost effective, it also enhanced our IT security by eliminating the need to have information stored locally on employee machines. This helps reduce data loss, protect our information, and increase centralization of information.
We at TTB are making good progress and saving taxpayers' dollars by cutting waste and increasing efficiency. We are focusing on improvements in our high priority programs, being more transparent, increasing accountability, and accelerating innovation. As a result, we will see a large return on investment from this cloud initiative as low-cost thin client devices, computers which rely heavily on its server to fulfill traditional computational roles, are deployed to access virtual desktop, rather than costly personal computers. The refresh of laptops and desktops cost the Bureau about $1.2 million in the past; the deployment of virtual desktop with thin clients will save about $800,000 in hardware costs. Old computers converted to thin client costs us about $10.“If you look at it a different way - client equipment refresh occurs at 3-4 year intervals at $2M,” said Bob Hughes, TTB's Chief Information Officer. “Virtual desktop refresh occurs at 5-6 year intervals at $800,000. For us, it was an easy case to make.”
|Bob Hughes, TTB Chief Information Officer, has led several cost saving IT initiatives improving the security and accessibility of the agency's network.|
TTB was created as an independent bureau on January 24, 2003, by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which split the former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and moved some of its functions to the Department of Justice (DOJ). As a tax collection agency, TTB remained under the Department of the Treasury - the grass roots of tax collection. When TTB was established, all of its IT resources, including capital assets, personnel, and the funding to procure equipment and to develop core business applications remained with the portion of ATF that was transferred to DOJ.
After the transition, we identified significant impacts of an obsolete infrastructure including risks to excise tax collection, public safety concerns, decreased customer satisfaction, management reporting issues, staff productivity inefficiencies, and inability to comply with federal policies and requirements relating to security, privacy, and accessibility.
Between 2004 and 2005, TTB acquired desktop and laptop computers, servers for security and email operations and for the operation of our mission critical business applications, network equipment, remote access equipment and data storage hardware. These applications and equipment support our tax and regulation activities, as well as headquarters and field operations personnel. In February 2005, we successfully completed the transition of all IT operations from ATF well ahead of schedule and on budget.