What Social and Collaborative Tools Could Mean for Your Agency

Social and collaborative tools help people or groups interact and share information. Often, these tools find a natural home on the internet. Examples include Slack, Google Drive and Basecamp.

“Too few federal workers and teams leverage modern collaboration tools like real-time shared documents, instant messaging, video conferencing, wiki-based sites for team projects, and more…. The situation is a hidden tax on productivity; it wastes time, creates missed opportunities, and slows coordination and creativity and can even pose a challenge for recruiting and retaining employees.” — GSA

We’ve compiled several case studies that show how social and collaborative tools have begun to impact the public sector.

Requesting Collaboration Tools

In late 2016, GSA published a request for information for “industry input on modernizing and securing email infrastructure while simultaneously improving collaboration capabilities within and across federal departments and agencies.”

“Too few” federal personnel use modern, cloud-based collaboration tools, according to GSA. By failing to adopt these tools, GSA argued, agencies hinder collaboration, creativity and recruiting.

“Ideally, it should be as easy to collaborate in one room face-to-face as sitting in different rooms, different agencies, and organizations,” according to the RFI.

GSA divided collaboration tools into two categories: asynchronous, such as email, calendaring and file sharing, and synchronous, such as instant messaging and audio, web or videoconferencing.

The agency also invited industry representatives to respond about perceived procurement gaps that make it difficult to sell these tools to agencies.

Connecting With Citizens to Fight HIV

When it comes to healthcare, government has two roles. In some cases, it’s directly responsible for providing medical care. In others, its job is to inform citizens so they can effectively engage in their own health.

This latter task is where HIV.gov has especially excelled with its new suite of digital tools. Not only does the program use multiple online and social media platforms to spread its messages, it also highlights other effective social campaigns.

Those examples, coupled with a repository of best practices and weekly virtual office hours, empower other organizations and individuals to effectively engage citizens in the ght against HIV.

Finally, the program focuses on constant improvement. HIV.gov gets feedback directly from constituents through an annual survey that it uses to discover how it can “better elevate and enhance messaging about HIV in America.”

Adopting a Modern Communications System

This Washington state county adopted Skype as a unified communications system for internal and external communications.

King County uses Microsoft’s Skype for Business — a more robust version than the personal/consumer edition — which allows for instant messaging, screen sharing, conference calls and voicemail, and shows whether someone is free to take calls or messages.

The county also rolled out other Microsoft tools, including SharePoint and Office 365 U.S. Government, several years ago.

“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in staff productivity and savings from not having to travel to and from meetings — and there are thousands of meetings that occur over a month’s time,” county Chief Information Officer Bill Kehoe told StateTech Magazine.

Beyond the productivity pros, these kinds of applications can also save government money. Using Skype for Business for instant messaging keeps those quick, check-in emails out of employees’ inboxes and provides a free alternative to other vendor solutions, Communications Specialist Lilia Cabello Drain wrote on the King County Employee News blog.

Social & Collaborative Tools by the numbers
  • 75 percent of employees rated work and collaboration as very important.
  • But only 18 percent of employees get communication evaluations at their performance reviews.
  • About 50 percent of millennials believe social networks boost productivity.
  • Among more than 1,100 private-sector companies, those that promoted collaborative working were five times as likely to be high performing.

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