Collaborate Across Silos

Effective collaboration requires modern infrastructure and tools. And the need for collaboration within departments and across agencies has never been greater than it is today. Study after study confirms more collaboration equals more innovation, greater efficiency, and more satisfied constituents. Despite this clarity, however, a recent survey from Techanalysis Research revealed 75 percent of all communication between co-workers still takes place via e-mail, phone calls and text messages.

In an effort to improve collaborative capabilities between federal agencies and departments, the General Services Administration (GSA) last year published a Request for Information (RFI) seeking industry input on the best way to modernize e-mail infrastructure and improve collaboration capabilities both internally and between different agencies. According to the RFI, not enough agencies have or use modern, cloud-based collaboration tools, especially tools that are interoperable with each other.

Without the right infrastructure and tools, the same problems that have kept agencies from collaborating effectively continue to do so. Different teams may be using different applications that don’t work well together or two groups may be inadvertently working on the same issue. In other cases, management or security rules in one organization may prevent another organization from collaborating productively. All these problems create silos of information and people that can be difficult to overcome.

With mobile device use at an all-time high throughout government, using a mobile platform for fostering collaboration makes sense. Many government employees, for example, use their mobile devices for much more than e-mail, contacts and calendar. They are increasingly using them for document access and editing, as well as accessing a variety of applications.

Mobile-Centric Approach

A modern, mobile-first file-sharing platform not only improves internal productivity. It also facilitates better inter - and intra-agency collaboration, and between agencies and consultants, vendors, contractors, auditors and citizens. The key is finding the right platform. And that platform must be mobile-centric, easy to use and fully secure.

First and foremost, the platform should be fully mobile-enabled. It must put BYOD needs front and center. That means the platform should include a robust app management system to help users securely share documents across platforms and chat in real-time.

“You have to carefully consider the type of management system you use,” says Tom Lacey, director of federal programs at BlackBerry. “For example, many mobile data management (MDM) systems don’t allow for dual data ownership, which is critical for collaboration. Agencies should get a tool that can separate work and personal data and applications on a device, applying separate security for each.”

The platform should also have built-in government-grade security and be able to confine work data and applications to a secure container on the device. This helps agencies wipe data from the device if necessary without affecting the user’s personal information. The platform should also be able to apply two-factor authentication for the entire device, or just the container that holds work data and applications.

Security also should extend to shared documents. By choosing a platform that enforces Digital Rights Management (DRM), government employees can be confident collaborators can only perform actions on a document for which they’re authorized, and only for the specified time. For example, if a manager is collaborating with an external consultant on a document, she can specify the consultant can only view the document, but not make changes, forward, copy or print. She can also specify all rights end in 12 hours.

Finally, the system should be easy to use. Until recently, many collaboration platforms have been difficult to use, especially with mobile devices. And if a system is too complex, that often means employees simply won’t use them.