The Electronic Communication Tools of Today’s Government

This blog post is an excerpt from our new research brief, The State of Electronic Communications in Government, in which GovLoop surveyed more than 300 qualified government officials across local, state and federal levels who deal with records management. 

While they modernize, governments are facing a transformation – not just in the change in demographics, but also in the unique preferences that each generation of employees brings to the workplace.

As one might guess, the ways in which millennials and Generation Zers prefer to work and engage with coworkers or citizens look very different from Generation X and baby boomers’ preferences for email, voicemail and face-to-face meetings. In fact, younger employees’ preferences for chat and text messaging reflect more than a need for immediacy in communications; they’re also a function of the tools with which they’ve grown up. These seismic societal trends have a grand implication for government: The great amount of data generated from all communications channels must be captured and made available for public records requests.

In asking which communication types were allowed in offices, the clear standard was organizational email accounts, such as Microsoft Office. It’s no surprise that agencies have been using and retaining email for years, but it is noteworthy that close behind are SMS/text and social media platforms.

These forms of communication are hardly novel. By comparison, the private sector has blazed the path to newer instant messaging and collaboration platforms for chatting, and the public sector has begun making the pivot as well. Text is now more likely than not to be accepted as a form of communication, according to respondents, and many governments are widely considering or adopting other communication technologies like Microsoft Teams, WebEx Teams and Google Chat – all popular instant messaging platforms.

The Top 3 Channels Allowed In Government:

  1. Organizational email
  2. SMS/text messaging
  3.  Social media

The Top 3 Channels Under Consideration In Government:

  1. IM & collaboration
  2. Public instant messaging
  3. SMS/text messaging

The Top 3 Channels Prohibited In Government:

  1. Public instant messaging
  2. Encrypted channels
  3. Other types of email

Even though encrypted channels, such as WhatsApp and iMessage, remain prohibited in most respondents’ departments, a surprising number of respondents are hearing employees want to use encrypted apps for work – which is contrary to best practices for electronic records retention.

The worry specifically with encrypted messaging apps is retention. Encrypted channels automatically delete messages after a period of time – a practice that defies government records regulations. News stories of national significance have centered on the deletion of important messages from government employees, and therefore organizations must prohibit technologies that cannot be archived.

“There’s a basic premise that if you’re going to allow communications through a specific channel, you have to be able to reliably capture it,” – Robert Cruz, Senior Director of Information Governance at Smarsh

To read more about the state of electronic communications in government, download our full report here.

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