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.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group