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How Will Mobility Affect Federal Workers

Posted by Rob Riggins

At this morning’s AFFIRM presentation on Accelerating Government at the Speed of Mobility there were a number of pithy quotes to keep things moving along.

“Didn’t know you were coming to be part of a revolution, did you.”

Lisa Schlosser, Deputy U.S. CIO, OMB

The federal government’s mobility strategy will be part of a broader digital strategy to be released later this spring. How should government tackle or embrace mobility? Lisa shared innovate with less via:

1.       Freeing up capital for more productive endeavors by eliminating duplicative HR systems, content management systems, etc.

2.       Share first and don’t reinvent the wheel. Why does one agency need 15 email platforms?

3.       Build once and scale from there.

Some of the likely pieces of the coming strategy include

    • – Build data from the beginning so it can be delivered on any device
    • – Publish .govs as APIs (application programming interfaces) to spur innovation
    • – Standardize language as HTML5
    • – Develop reasonable security guidelines
    • – Develop mobility based on user needs
    • – Allow a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) option

    BYOD is an opportunity for the feds to reduce costs if workers prefer using their own devices. For example having one cell phone, vs. the 3 cell phones (2 work, 1 personal) that panelist Dr. Emma Garrison-Alexander, CIO, TSA, admitted to carrying.

RIP Encyclopedia Britannica

The formal strategy coming in the spring will focus on access to government data any time, any where, on any device, in a secure manner.

Lisa also gave a shout out to Encyclopedia Britannica, which pulled the plug on its print edition yesterday. That’s revolutionary.

“The government’s policy on mobile is guaranteed to disappoint.”

Richard Holgate, CIO, ATF

Richard explained that CIO’s have the strategy and the bully pulpit, but they don’t have the budget or clout over agencies. Any ultimate mobile policy will leave us all wishing for more than the strategy can really accomplish in the government landscape.

The biggest fear is that government is going to implement mobile strategy the way everything else has been implemented – in silos. Imagine a federal government with one HR system. A common IT infrastructure. One email system. Hopefully that will happen with mobile.

“The Congress as a whole does not function at all.”

“One agency reported 87% of its employees were not eligible to telework. That’s absurd.”

Zack “Quote Machine” Fields, Legislative Aide, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly

“The dirty little secret of office space is that 2/3 of the people aren’t at their desks.”

Robert Peck, Commissioner, Public Building Service, GSA

Walk through your office and do a desk census. People are working from home, working from Starbucks, at an off-site meeting, on vacation, sick, etc. With the rising cost of office space that’s a lot of real estate for a lot of empty desks.

GSA is trying to practice what they preach by testing a number of strategies to reduce their own office space needs. GSA recently implemented an open office hotelling concept on one floor of a building in downtown DC. Hotelling is reservation-based unassigned seating in an office environment. Big 8 6 4 accounting firms, among others, were doing this in the 1980s, by the way.

What GSA learned:

  • – Some people will reserve the same cubicle every day. And that’s OK.
  • – In an open office there is a need for lots of small rooms for private phone calls, one-on-one meetings and the like.
  • – Large conference rooms do not make sense.
  • – Don’t hide the break room. Just as people congregate in the kitchen at home, workers congregate in the break room at work.

The challenge with open office hotelling may be that there are upfront costs in rearranging the workplace. That may slow its implementation.

GSA is also experimenting with keeping departments out of the office for 30 days. That’s a long enough period of time to change behavior and cut the cord tying so many of us to our offices and desks.

Ultimately this will change the way agencies buy as well as what they buy – different types of furniture, devices, etc. will be required.

“An older worker saying ‘I’m a Luddite, that’s not for me’ is today about the same as saying I’m illiterate.”

Sean Carroll, COO, USAID

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 15, 2012 2:28 pm

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