Collaboration: The key to solving common management problems

A white paper details strategies to solve two common challenges for federal managers.

It’s a familiar refrain: doing more with less. Budget austerity, not just in the U.S. but across the world, has forced government managers to rethink strategies on how to up productivity while slashing costs. A new white paper examining the top issues public-sector managers in the U.K. are struggling with found that decreasing procurement costs and cutting staffing costs while increasing productivity are particularly challenging areas.

It’s hardly surprising these are the same issues U.S. federal managers are grappling with. The report highlights how both internal and external relationships are the first step to surviving shrinking budgets. A strategic collaboration involving colleagues, partners, stakeholders and the public can help solve everything from procurement challenges to squeezing IT budgets even further, the report suggested.

“Traditionally, well-managed local authorities . . . might co-ordinate spending on vehicles to get the best prices for new additions to their fleet — whether the vehicles were to be used by Housing, Education, Environmental or other service departments,” according to the report.

But getting that collaboration started to increase the buying power might be tricky. Bureaucracy, costs and lack of personnel are factors that previously prevented two or more procurement teams from working together. However, with online collaboration tools gaining traction, “large-scale, co-operative procurement” could be within reach, the report noted.

Despite pay freezes, sinking morale and increasing fiscal pressures, federal managers find themselves having to somehow increase productivity. The report suggests that one way to do so would be to allow employees to telework because “this not only cuts office overheads, but also increases motivation among employees with young families or other commitments that require greater flexibility.”

However, telework comes with its own problems. The report noted that traditional teamwork tends to suffer, and tracking remote employees’ progress and performance could be problematic. Although surveys have shown that teleworking saves money in terms of commuting cost and time, telework could increase traveling costs for face-to-face meetings.

Telework is rarely discussed without mentioning security, whether it’s employees who bring home laptops with sensitive information or fail to use up-to-date security solutions. However, the report pointed out these issues don’t apply exclusively to teleworkers but also to employees who work in different offices or locations or travel regularly as part of job.

Good online collaboration tools keep employees connected and costs down, according to the report. For example, it touts cloud-based collaboration as a solution that can provide project management tools (calendars, task lists and reminders), while at the same reducing the need for face-to-face meetings. And secure online collaboration would help solve problems such as unsecure email attachments and firewall blocking, the report said.

It's worth nothing the white paper was produced by Kahootz, which is a provider of communication and collaboration tools, but the report nonetheless gives good pointers on how managers can overcome some of the common struggles.

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