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What is the Future of Federal Workforce...?

My first post on GovLoop!  I feel like one of those talk-radio listeners who finally calls in “first time, long time.”

 

Here goes -

 

President Obama remarked in the last State of the Union Address that the last time the federal government was restructured was in the age of black and white TV.  You may be able to debate the facts behind this statement, but ‘perceptually’ this statement rings true.  The government is slow to change, even despite all of the change (technology, demographics, how we work, etc.) that is happening in the world today there is one thing that has remained relatively free of change.  That is how the government workforce is structured.

 

For the government to take advantage in the advances in technology, the type of work we do today, and how we do it needs to become more flexible.  Without flexibility and adaptation even the best workforce plans may fail to anticipate new trends or challenges. 

 

At Deloitte Consulting’s GovLab (Twitter: @govlab), we thought that to become more flexible the government needed to adopt a new organizational model for its workers, and through our research we came up with one. Our way is called Fed Cloud!

 

In GovLab we use the term cloud to mean a cloud of government workers who are not tied to any one agency.  The cloud refers to a pool of employees that can be tapped when your objective needs require and that can work across agency boundaries in their area of expertise.

 

The concept of cloud labor is not all together new.  Many private companies leverage cloud labor concepts to complete internal projects.  Amazon.com has set up a cloud labor platform, called Mechanical Turk, which enables people to assign small segmented work tasks to users. Cloud labor concepts can also be seen in Finland in that country’s National Library project where “workers” simply play a game to help transform the country’s archives into digitized searchable text.  

 

Even forward-thinking organizations in the US Federal government are using new types of “cloud” labor.  The office of eDiplomacy at the Department of State has set up a portal for students around the world to help the Department of State complete tasks. 

 

Fed Cloud is more than just micro tasks and outsourced labor.  It is part of a three pronged structure of government that consists of government-wide shared services, thin mission-organized agencies made up of policy and subject matter experts as well as front-line service employees, and a cloud of shared labor that helps government organization's achieve their missions.


Now you might be thinking to yourself…this will never work.  Well don’t worry you are not alone in that thought, we spent plenty of time researching all of the obstacles and roadblocks that stand in the way.  We even came up with a list.  All of these reasons may be valid, but given how it is increasingly hard to predict the future, and with all of the changing work trends and challenges facing the federal government something must be done to be able to attract and retain a workforce that can solve tomorrow’s challenges. 

 

We think our idea is a good place to start from…but don’t take my word for it, come read our report and see for yourself.  www.deloitte.com/us/fedcloud

Views: 621

Tags: 2, jobs, project management, tech

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Comment by Dannielle Blumenthal on November 21, 2011 at 7:59pm

This is a good idea. Perhaps you can submit it to the Beyond Bureaucracy Challenge

http://www.managementexchange.com/m-prize/bbc

 

Comment by Noha Gaber on November 21, 2011 at 5:22pm

Very cool concept! I'm working on something very similar at EPA. But I was wondering if you have done an analysis of the IT infrastructure requirements for a Fed Cloud? It appears that we would we all have to be on the same system "GovConnect" to find the cloud workers to form a team. Once a team is formed, how will the team members be able to work together? What types of collaboration tools would they need? Where will the results of the team's work be housed so it is accessible by others in the Fed Cloud?

Comment by Charlie Tierney on October 6, 2011 at 11:17am
Comment by Caryn Wesner-Early on October 4, 2011 at 1:28pm

Sounds perfect for librarians!  Most of us have broad knowledge about how to find information, rather than deep knowledge about how to use it.  Many information-gathering jobs which are probably replicated several times across the government could be centralized, allowing the information to be gathered once, and analyzed and applied many times, depending on need.  I'll keep an eye on this idea.

 

Caryn Wesner-Early

Comment by Nateria Dickey on October 3, 2011 at 5:04pm
If there is a test pilot, count me in!
Comment by Charlie Tierney on October 3, 2011 at 4:30pm
Michael, that is a great point thanks for sharing. Some of the push back we received when coming up with the ideas in the paper had to deal specifically with how government agencies already provide services to others and that true government-wide shared services would not be able to flourish. Every agency believes their employee population is unique and that it must support them through their own in-house service/cost centers. That said, as increased budgetary pressures force agencies to make tough decisions you may see a new look an redundant cost centers across government and how they can be declined (similar to the views on what to do with all of the post offices around the country that have little traffic, can they be turned into 'one stop shops' for government services). If an agency could get out in front it could turn their own cost centers into profit centers and need to worry less about how it is funded.
Comment by Nateria Dickey on October 3, 2011 at 4:23pm
Very interesting concept! This is the first I have heard of this idea. I like the flexibility and diverse opportunities it could offer the workforce while at the same time leaning down waste by eliminating redundancies. Thanks for posting.
Comment by Michael Lawyer on October 3, 2011 at 4:11pm
The Fedcloud of employees would probably be hosted by whichever agency moved first to establish it, who would be ultimately responsible for hiring, qualifying, clearing and other paperwork. They would then bill out to other agencies as folks were used. If it could be accessed through the contracting portion of other agencies budget it could actually be self funding.
Comment by Charlie Tierney on October 3, 2011 at 12:30pm

Carol, great question on appraisals!  Some of our initial research explored the possibility of leveraging practices seen in the commercial side of the house with a greater emphasis on 360 appraisals and peer ratings for performance measures.  We also explored the idea that ratings would come from the thin agency cloud liaisons or the cloud team managers on a project by project basis vice a year-end/annual basis. 

 

John, to attain buy-in I think one of the first things to do would be to pilot some of the ideas within a single agency (take the first steps).  1. build collaboration spaces where people from different areas can come together, 2. rotate people more freely between departments and directorates (different from applying to VA), start a volunteer cloud (let workers work on different tasks outside of their AOR), pilot a cloud between departments (with a task system or work list that need to be accomplished).

 

Steve and Julie, you are absolutely right about the clearance challenges, but that is not to say that the clearances themselves can't be fuel for the fire rather than a deterrent.  The project for national security reform is calling for greater rotation between law enforcement and the various intel agencies, especially that share clearance requirements.  We have also included a sample case study in the report's appendix that paints a picture of how people from different agencies but with the same level of clearance and need to know can work together. 

 

Either way, we know there are many challenges to overcome for something like this to become a reality but that does not mean that the ideas aren't ones to try and build upon, nor are the trends something that will be easily reversed or ignored.  I love the back and forth and I hope more great ideas can come to the forefront so that we can continue exploring what could be possible.

Comment by Julie Chase on September 29, 2011 at 5:13pm
@Steve...a DoD, DoN employee, you've got that right.  Cloud computing is wonderful, but is it "secure"?  Does the Fed want "free agents" floating around on a whim with no thought of security?  My work computer now, is very limited....no downloading, no thumb drives, if want an external hard drive you have climb a mountain of paper, your organization has to have the budget for it, it has to have some anti hack software added to it, bleh, not worth the bother.  It takes over 6 months to order additional hardware.......ordering software is a nightmare due to all the "security gauntlets" that have to be run through.  I'm with you Steve, I'm not holding my breath.

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