Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Special Report

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Solutions for Collaborative Government

Collaboration has always been a part of the way government does business, but until relatively recently it was something that happened only at certain times and between select groups of people. That is because with the older generation of tools, there was often a fear that collaboration would distract workers and drag down productivity. But new technology has allayed those fears, and now government managers are the numerous benefits of supporting collaboration, from easier sharing of information and faster response to events, to a better use of scarce budget dollars. The focus now is on developing the goals and strategies for successful collaboration initiatives, and providing the best-in-class solutions for employees.

Government employees increasingly are looking to collaborate with people outside their group, whether in another division of their agency, in another agency, or at an outside organization. The new tools can make that happen, but it requires a rethink by agencies of what collaboration means to them.
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Mobile technologies soon will be central to the way people collaborate. People will expect to be able to reach and interact with others from any location, and using any device. However, not all mobile technologies are equal when it comes to collaboration. Agencies also need to ensure their infrastructure is up to the task, if they are to provide their workers with the most effective collaboration experience.
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A number of agencies have already discovered the value of putting their collaboration environments into the cloud. Often an agency makes the leap because of the promise of lower costs but quickly discover there are other advantages as well, including better flexibility and new opportunities for innovation.
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Agencies often assume that new collaboration tools will work the same way as their legacy solutions, such e-mail and videoconferencing and so a rollout will be a breeze. That is a mistake. To take full advantage of the new tools, agencies need to make change management a priority. It’s not difficult, but it is vital.
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Given the great variation in missions, organizational structures and agency cultures across government, there is no cut-and-dry formula for putting together a collaboration initiative. But there are some best practices and lessons learned that agencies should keep in mind as they build their collaboration ecosystems.
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