, ,

Tools to Collaborate Securely in Government

GovLoop’s hosting its Fifth Annual Government Innovators Virtual Summit, an all-day, virtual event with five different online trainings, networking opportunities and resources to help government do their job better — and we’re recapping each session for you. Head here to read write-ups from the other trainings.

In a collaborative work environment, employee productivity increases, service delivery costs go down, and the overall outcome is improved. These advancements are more important than ever in the public sector. So, how do you make collaboration a reality?

Luckily. today, there are many cloud-based technologies that exist to improve collaboration by empowering people to engage and innovate – anywhere, at anytime, and on any device. These tools range from video conferencing, to cloud and hybrid collaboration services, to idea sharing and more.

In today’s GovLoop Virtual Summit training, Secure Collaboration Tools for Government, panelists discussed how to identify the right collaboration tools for your agency and how to use them most effectively — while remaining still secure. Panelists included Ann Dunkin, Chief Information Officer, Environmental Protection Agency; Danette Campbell, Senior Advisor, Telework, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; and Eric Vazzana, ‎Region Manager at Cisco Systems.

Vazzana started off by pointing out that the way we work has changed (90 percent of organizations will offer mobility to workers by 2020, for example), and the way we consume technology has changed, too. People want to access software and services from anywhere, at any time, likely via the cloud. In fact, software-as-a-service will make up 59 percent of the cloud workloads in enterprises by 2019 (likely because businesses using productivity enhancing cloud services grow 19.6% faster than their counterparts that don’t). “We have made a full-scale transition to the cloud,” he noted.

That’s where Vazzana noted that Cisco can come in. They offer a secure, reliable compliant, unified communications service from the Cisco cloud that enables organizations to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, and anytime.

The reason it’s a fit for the public sector? It offers full functionality for voice, voice mail, IM, presence and desktop collaboration; faster, cost-effective deployment of new services; reliability and security, and the flexibility to ramp service up or down. Their flagship video conferencing and collaboration tool, WebEx, is also secure by the highest government standards — meaning it’s FedRAMP compliant. “All of these collaboration tools are great, but if they’re not secure, you cannot roll them out to your audience,” Vazzana stated.

Next up was Ann Dunkin Chief Information Officer, US EPA, speaking about cloud-based collaboration taking place at her agency. Their main objective was to create a unified communication strategy for all of their employees, so they could be using a cohesive system instead of a variety of overlapping tools.

Duncan pointed out that though email is still a very prevalent collaboration tool, it is ineffective. “It’s not great for team collaboration, and if a person leaves, that history of their messages is lost.”

The EPA turned to cloud collaboration enablers that provide team collaboration, groups, document sharing, aggregation and more. And they’ve seen great benefits.

“Communications have improved via our collaboration tools, and our staff shares information much more easily. It’s a better solution than email that doesn’t provide opportunity or history for people to learn as much,” she said. “We can also connect internal data sources via the cloud, whether it’s offsite or on premise. It’s very powerful.” 

Dunkin said to drive good adoption of collaboration tools you need stronger leadership guidance, good governance, and education. “There are challenges, but with these tips and good education they can be overcome.”

Finally, Danette Campbell, Senior Advisor, Telework, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office spoke about how the Patent Office implements collaboration tools at their agency. It’s particularly important for them because they have 10,700 teleworkers in over 47 states, four different regional headquarters in addition to their main office in Alexandria, Virginia – and so with such a largely distributed workforce, the use of collaboration tools is more essential.

“Employees and managers can leverage collaboration tools to create an inclusive, dynamic team environment,” Campbell said. “These tools allow more positions to be telework-eligible as well, which creates a more productive workforce and higher retention.”

Collaboration tools also save the PTO money. During inclement weather, the use of collaboration tools allows the agency to keep going — in fact, during the inclement weather season of 2015 on average patent examiners maintained a 92 percent production rate, and attorneys mainated a 106 percent production rate compared to a non-inclement weather day.

To create an environment that has embraced collaboration tools, Campbell said the PTO employed several tips: 

• Use a top down approach and get leadership promotion and buy-in 

• Communicate expectations of how and when it should be used 

• Practice, Practice, Practice: Have several meetings and trainings conducted using WebEx 

• Make sure that in-person and online trainings are offered 

Clearly, these approaches are working for the PTO – 73,000 WebEx meetings were held by the PTO in fiscal year 2015.

You can view slides from today’s presentation here. And make sure to head over to our Virtual Summit to meet public servants and innovators from across the country!

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply