Digital Government

Agencies want more guidance on digital strategy

man working from home

Federal IT and human resource managers are looking to agency leaders for better guidance in implementing the goals of the Office of Management and Budget's Digital Government Strategy and the Telework Enhancement Act, says a new study from the Mobile Work Exchange.

More than 150 federal mobility and HR/telework executives were interviewed for the exchange's "Mobility Progress Report: Are Federal Agencies Passing the Test?"

According to IT professionals, senior leadership's buy-in would be the single most helpful step in overcoming the remaining mobility hurdles in government.

"In many agencies, there's still a reluctance about unleashing a mobile workforce," said Doug Bourgeois, vice president for end-user computing at VMware's U.S. Public Sector.

Just over half -- 56 percent -- of federal IT managers believe their agencies are taking full advantage of mobility. Security concerns, funding, culture and procurement are the top obstacles, according to the report.

Culture is the biggest barrier because it keeps agencies from taking full advantage of mobility strategies to enhance their telework programs, respondents said.

"At the [U.S.] Patent and Trademark Office, the main reason that our program was so successful was because the mission people at [USPTO] had buy-in and wanted it to be successful," said Bourgeois, who was the agency's CIO for more than three years. "Those people were very involved from a leadership standpoint, which is so important."

The report also touches on where agencies have used their money. Since the 2012 launch of the Digital Government Strategy, agencies have spent $1.6 billion, or about $373 per employee, to comply with the strategy. Laptops, automatic software updates and backup/restore capabilities were the top three technology items cited by agencies.

Looking ahead to the next two years, agencies are focusing on security and managing devices. Encryption has moved to the top of the list in terms of focus, if not necessarily cost, followed by smartphones, tablets and mobile device management.

"Spending on the device itself is one thing, but there needs to be a focus on the employee and proper training [to make] the mobile employee as productive as possible," Bourgeois said.

Only 6 percent of HR managers said they have had a negative return on investment with their telework spending, and 69 percent said they have experienced a positive or very positive ROI.

In addition to the money going into the Digital Government Strategy, the report takes a look at the billions of dollars in potential savings. For instance, If federal employees could telework in the event of a disaster, agencies could gain an additional $60 million in productivity per disrupted day. The report estimates that a better-developed digital workforce would have produced $300 million more in productivity during the frigid and snowy winter of 2013-2014.

By getting rid of unused office space and instituting a successful telework and mobility program, the government could save $15.1 billion on real estate per year. HR managers estimate that more than 25 percent of their office space is unoccupied today.

One challenge to capturing real estate savings is escaping from long-term leases, which Bourgeois characterized as incredibly difficult.

In terms of reaching the goals of the Digital Government Strategy, the study sounds much like the prototypical Government Accountability Office report: Progress has been made, but IT managers still see a lot of work to be done.

Seventy-seven percent of IT managers who participated in the study gave their agencies a B or C on their progress toward achieving the goals set out in the Digital Government Strategy, and 81 percent of HR managers gave their agencies a B or C on progress toward the goals of the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act.

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