Make the case for mobility

Winning approaches by federal leaders suggest that mobile success begins not with a device, but with a proper business plan.

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The cavalcade of new mobile devices hitting the market forces agencies to continually reassess their mobility choices: Is this smartphone something we should support? How can we secure this tablet? Is building our infrastructure to support this device worth our budget dollars?

Yet tried-and-true approaches to mobility by federal leaders suggest that success begins not with a device, but with a proper business case that outlines the need for a mobile application or service.

"These are not one-size-fits-all solutions," said Danette Campbell, senior telework adviser at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Campbell was one of several federal IT experts who participated in a recent webinar about government mobility.

"If we determine in partnership with a specific business unit that a type of technology will help enhance productivity or facilitate better communication, and a mobile solution would enhance it, we approach it," Campbell said. USPTO is widely considered among the elite users of mobile technology in government, in part because of its massive workforce of teleworkers.

In some respects, USPTO is unique in that its production-driven environment makes determining and measuring metrics such as employee productivity fairly straightforward. USPTO's concern is less about how many of its 8,000 teleworkers should have BlackBerrys than it is about ensuring its remote workers have access to the same tools and resources they would have if they were in the office.

"The business unit, business needs and business drivers determine what tools we use to deploy," Campbell said.

Joseph Klimavicz, CIO at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said agencies should examine several IT considerations to help give it a big-picture look at what options a mobility solution offers before any decisions are made.

"We look at business and user needs, data storage, enterprise application architecture, identity and security management, and governance," Klimavicz said. "What services are you trying to provide, and how are you providing those? All support services must be factored in."

That is not to say that devices don't matter. But they should be more of a portal to information rather than an enabler.

"Devices do matter because ultimately we have to support them, but devices are not the end goal," said Capt. Michael Dickey, command officer of the Coast Guard Telecommunication and Information Systems Command.

Dickey said the Coast Guard's foray into mobility began 10 years ago with email as the first centrally provided capability, but that was more of a case of a system coming together without being developed through requirements, and the Coast Guard still faces challenges with a lack of "rigor with our requirements development."

The Coast Guard looks at what end users need and want and compares those potential solutions with "what we as an organization can actually fund," Dickey said, alluding to the importance IT budgets play in mobility.

"The end goal is to put data into the hands of users who require access," Dickey said. "It's figuring out which enterprise application users need access to...and providing access in a secure manner to devices or peripherals to that."

NEXT STORY: IT systems as a team sport

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