Anchoring Telework, COOP: New Technologies Demand Improved Unified Communications
Telework is here to stay; let UC pave the way to a successful implementation
With the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act now law, it’s not a matter of if government workers will telework, but how much.
Given the advantages to government in cutting costs and potentially improving productivity by having people able to work outside of the office at least some of the time, and the increased surety that the government will stay up and running during bad weather or natural disasters, teleworking is guaranteed to be a staple of government employment.
Of all of the reasons to deploy unified communications, teleworking is probably the lowest hanging fruit. Voice over IP has been the traditional mainstay of the teleworker but, as the variety of technologies a worker uses in the office to communicate and collaborate with colleagues increases, so the need to replicate that environment to the remote workplace becomes necessary.
The one obvious new avenue that¹s developing around teleworking is video, and across the board you are starting to see a greater adoption of video as a communications channel. It¹s the one way to recreate a similar level of collaboration that people are used to in the office environment.
With over 60 percent of the communication between people happening at the non-verbal level, video has to be a close partner with voice in teleworking applications, which is why there¹s now a much larger adoption of video in the UC space.
That’s already apparent in the few UC-based systems now operating in the federal government. Defense Connect Online, which is available DOD-wide, carries video conferences as a part of its core capabilities. DCO has been incorporated as an integral part of the DOD’s telework strategy.
Ease of use dictates the kind of infrastructure any agency will use to deliver teleworking for their employees, said Iron Bow Technologies’ David Hawkins. They go home and then can’t get back into the workplace for whatever reason, they dial in, authenticate over a secure connection, and then they have access to all of the applications they would have as if they were sitting in their office.
The desktop client they are working with should have no idea that the worker is sitting at home or in the office. These technologies are embedded within the UC framework today. The expectation of any organization should be that’s it is an embedded part of the communications infrastructure and is not an add on, Hawkins said.
“It should be a seamless experience for the user, and it should be seamless to the IT department on how to support the telework model (of working), as well as a fixed and distributed model,” he said. “The system should have the flexibility and the agility to support that, because the last thing I want to do if I’m trying to reduce cost is build separate architectures for different business models.”
Teleworking is also an integral part of continuity of operations (COOP), and in fact agencies are under a mandate to come up with policies and plans to ensure it is. You need an IP network to provide the kind of survivability of communications necessary during emergencies, so that end points of the network can re-register to alternate backup locations in seconds.
“That’s extremely difficult to do in a TDM environment,” said Steve Derr, vice president of sales and engineering for Avaya Government Solutions. “So I think from that perspective that the IP capability inherent with UC is vital for that kind of survivability.”