Love piles upon piles of paperwork? Do you enjoy using multiple work devices that are questionably secure and most definitely not synchronized? How about heading to your office desktop before an urgent site visit instead of accessing that information in a mobile format? A big fan of these scenarios? Didn’t think so.
Mecklenburg County, NC recognized these challenges and decided to do something about them – and they haven’t looked back since. In Tuesday’s GovLoop Training, How State and Local Government is Leveraging Mobile Technology, we learned how Mecklenburg County’s once clunky and outdated technical services utilized VMware solutions to become a success story and the recipient of a Digital Government Achievement Award.
Cliff DePuy, Technical Services Director of Mecklenburg County, explained how many of the county’s public workers used to operate at least three different tech mediums for work: a desktop, laptop, and some type of mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Capabilities were not equal on each device, often forcing workers to take extra trips back to the office to scan signatures or process paperwork. And we’re talking about a lot of paperwork here – rooms designated solely for stacks upon stacks of files. Additionally, from an IT perspective, DePuy noted the difficulty in having to patch up technical and security issues on each device individually, costing valuable time and resources.
To combat this inefficiency, the county went digital, streamlining and centralizing systems with cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). They deployed tablets with VMware’s Horizon View (compare to Citrix or Microsoft solutions) to securely mobilize and empower nearly 6,000 county employees. The streamlined, mobile approach not only made the lives of public workers easier, but was also a major relief for IT management (Just think: Sending party invites to each of your friends’ 3 different devices, or just sending one mass invite). The results: a productivity increase of $3.2 million per year – calculated from increased worker productivity, reduced costs, and reduced waste (much less paper!).
Furthermore, this “One Person, One Device” initiative was embraced by virtually all of the county’s public employees. Once they got over the initial “shock” of the transition, DePuy said that less than 2 percent of workers preferred to go back to the old methods. The lightweight device, the fast boot-up time, and great features such as being able to capture signatures digitally has made the transition a hit. “We can’t keep up!” DePuy said of the excitement and demand for the new streamlined technology.
The other featured webinar speaker, Paul Armistead, End User Computing Account Executive at VMware, further discussed the benefits of cloud-hosted VDI. Armistead explained that with traditional VDI, success is usually determined by the expertise of the customer. Cloud-hosted VDI, on the other hand, allows customers to adopt a pay-as-you-go system so they can scale VDI as needed without any need for internal expertise (the service provider takes care of all that – in this case, VMware).
A simpler idea: streamlining allows employees to not have to change their passwords per application every 3 months, or have to sign in individually to different applications. “One login, one experience, any device,” as Armistead put it. While jargon may get techies excited, simple benefits such as increased work convenience and productivity can help get a broader audience on board, especially those more likely to resist change.
State and localities cannot adopt this system and become a nominee for digital achievement overnight, however. DePuy explained how they started off with a small, vetted process, making sure the business practices of targeted agencies (in this case: Youth and Family Services, Park and Rec, and Food Service) were compatible with the upgrade – because mobile tech isn’t necessarily a fit for all public services.
It is certainly working in Mecklenburg County, though. DePuy is planning to expand mobile applications for the county, looking next to the contactless payment arena. And while other services or localities may be more resistant, Armistead argues that business as usual is not sustainable. “Demand from the end-user is going to drive a lot of strategy,” he said. Especially as users get more and more accustomed to the mobilization and synchronization of personal devices. Armistead believes governments will continue to warm up to cloud services, as they prove to increase the ability to build a sustainable and successful mobile strategy.
Learn more about state and local mobile technology here!