Sometimes collaboration is a matter of invention, but at other times a matter of necessity.
A recent survey of IT professionals in federal, state and local government reveals high interest in a wide range of collaboration applications. In fact, more than 40 percent of respondents identified eight different collaboration tools as “very valuable” to their agency (see figure 1).
It should come as no surprise that webinars topped the list. In recent years, with all the uncertainty surrounding the budget, numerous agencies have been experimenting with webinars as either an extension of or alternative to in-person events.
Webinars do not provide the same networking opportunities as traditional events, but they do offer a much more cost-effective way to provide government officials with a forum to make presentations and interact with the audience through voice, messaging or chat functions. Now with sequestration, such economies have become more important than ever.
For example, when the Department of Navy decided to cancel the DON IT Conference originally scheduled to be held in Virginia Beach, DON CIO Terry Halvorsen said that his office would host several of the conference sessions through Defense Connect Online (DCO), a secure virtual meeting tool accessible, via a Common Access Card, to DOD service-members, employees and partners.
In fact, in February the Defense Information Systems Agency, which manages DCO, announced it would double the capacity of the service.
“DCO has recently experienced unprecedented growth and now boasts more than 800,000 registers users,” according to the DISA statement. “This growth was accelerated by the DOD-wide effort to cut travel and conference expenses, and now more DOD users are using DCO to conduct online meetings and training.”
Webinars have become especially popular as a way for agencies to share information with industry about upcoming procurements. The online format makes it possible to engage with a much larger audience than might attend a live “industry day” event.
Typically, agencies have added a webcast component to expand the reach of a live event, rather than replacing the live event altogether. That’s the approach the Customs and Border Protection is taking with a series of industry day events this year.
According to a December 2012 request for information on webcast services, CBP anticipates having between 200 and 500 registered users view the live webcast, with an archived version available to approved registrants for seven days after the event.
But now that uncertainty about the budget has been replaced with the spending constraints of sequestration, perhaps more agencies will choose to go the online-only route, as NASA did with its 2012 Executive Summit.
The “event” featured a series of live sessions, held via Adobe Connect, as well as virtual community discussions, messaging, and pre-recorded videos that participants could view and comment on. According to an article published in NASA’s IT Talk newsletter, agency officials estimate that they saved approximately $750,000 in travel expenses. The summit also provided an opportunity to expose NASA officials to new technologies.
“One of the goals of the Virtual Summit was to take advantage of the technology that allowed for distance learning, messaging and virtual interaction without it actually being the focus,” according to the newsletter.