For Agencies, It’s Time to Rethink Mobility
In 2020, it’s hard to believe that some federal agencies still rely solely on desktop computers. One agency, for example, had its work cut out for them when the pandemic hit, forcing hundreds of employees to quickly find ways to work while away from the office. The agency put some stopgap measures in place, such as allowing employees to temporarily use their own PCs at home for work purposes or scheduling a time to come to the office once every few weeks. The agency is now considering implementing a mobile platform for its employees.
For this agency, it’s probably too little, too late — at least for this emergency. While this is an extreme example, it highlights the growing importance of providing federal employees with the tools and surrounding policies to work from places other than the office.
Most agencies are a bit further along in embracing mobility. They have plenty of support from oversight bodies like GAO and from the General Services Administration. Support in specific agencies ranges from fully supportive to non-supportive.
In general, agencies with existing BYOD policies are in better shape than others. These agencies were able to adapt to the increased requirements for mobility brought on by the pandemic. That’s because those agencies already had policies in place, along with effective security for end-user devices.
Agencies that furnish their employees with mobile devices also are in decent shape, with some caveats. These agencies tend to have mature policies and processes in place, but the devices some employees are using are a few generations old. When that happens, it’s often difficult to secure the devices. In some cases, older devices also don’t have the bandwidth capacity or the ability to enable agencywide Virtual Desktop
Infrastructure (VDI) to get work done, says Marty Spain, a senior professional services manager with CDW•G.
Getting up to speed with mobile
The first and most important step in helping employees work while away from the office has nothing to do with technology. It’s about policies, mindset, and the willingness to change the way things are done. While these are typically difficult hurdles to overcome, the past few months have helped many agencies see the benefits in changing policies related to mobile technology.
The next step is ensuring that employees have access to modern mobile devices, either furnished by the agency or provided by the employee. Those devices must have effective endpoint security and controls, managed by the agency. “We were surprised at how many agencies requested our assistance because they are still configuring and managing devices manually,” Spain says. Working with CDW•G, a Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) certified company, will ensure agencies implement the proper security capabilities to protect their telework workforce.
Another common challenge revolves around bandwidth and connectivity. Not every employee lives in an urban area with ubiquitous connectivity, but connectivity is crucial to productivity.
The 2020 Census is a good example. Because everybody residing in the United States must respond, the bureau sends workers out on foot to follow up with people who have not responded. Census-takers are working throughout the country, often in places without good carrier services or internet access. To solve the problem, the Census Bureau worked with CDW•G to procure 500,000 mobile devices under the CIOCS contract and CDW•G was able to solve for the complex carrier and access issues Nationwide.
The CIO-CS contract is an ideal vehicle to help agencies shore up their mobility plans, including devices and infrastructure. It’s also a good way to enable federal employees to remotely access tools and data on classified networks — one of the most difficult challenges agencies are facing in the current environment. CIOCS is an ideal vehicle for agencies to get solutions approved for CSfC (Commercial Solutions for Classified), Spain says.
“Through CIO-CS, agencies have access to our engineers to help them fix current issues or implement new solutions,” Spain says. “We work with so many agencies on so many projects that we have a lot of lessons learned we can apply to our customers.”