The makings of a mobile, connected, secure public sector workforce

Imagine stepping back into the 1980s and being asked to buy all the tools your agency employees need to do their jobs. Would you be up to the task?

Chances are, it wouldn’t be that difficult after adjusting to the time warp. Get them a desk, a telephone, maybe even a Rolodex. Stock local supply cabinets with some paper, pens, staples and clips. Give them an electric typewriter or Radio Shack TRS-80 computer and away you go. Simple as that.

Today, it’s a different ball game. With the explosion of digital technology, members of the workforce are constantly pulling information from a variety of mobile and connected devices, and they define work as goals and output, not as tasks done at a desk in an office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Likely, none of this comes as a shock to anyone. Many reports looking at the preferences of millennials—now the largest generation in the U.S. workforce—came to these exact conclusions. The truth is apparent, technology makes it easy for anyone in the private or the public sector to work wherever they like, and often, however they like.

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More than 60% of employees use personal devices for work. Conversely, 45% use personal apps on work devices. This trend has far-reaching implications for government agencies. To fully and dutifully serve their communities, workers must have the tools to engage with citizens anytime, anywhere and from any connected device.

Indeed, government agencies must enable workers to be more mobile and collaborative online and to do both in a safe and secure manner.

Enable flexibility in your workforce

Employers around the globe increasingly see mobility as a strategic asset to recruit top talent, boost productivity and — in the case of government — be more responsive to the public.

Of course, enabling remote work scenarios entails arming employees with the right tools. According to Gartner, employees today use an average of three devices throughout their daily routine. The analyst firm says most employees even move fluidly between devices just to complete a single task.

In response, teams should be equipped with premium, enterprise-class mobile gadgets that are designed to provide a seamless transition from mobile device to a laptop to a desktop PC. When employees have this flexibility, they are less location-dependent and can more easily submit expense reports, manage meetings, track time and book travel from anywhere.

Rethink collaboration for the connected workforce

Collaboration is surprisingly desirable to modern workers. In fact, an astonishing 94 percent of millennials say collaboration is “critically important” to their work. This is key in addressing cross-collaboration efforts between government agencies, moving away from traditional conference rooms to online meetings, using digital tools to efficiently address new policy proposals, public sector initiatives or other inter-agency projects.

In other words, today’s workers are connecting just as much with colleagues and citizens outside agency offices than they might have been within their walls. At HP, for instance, we use tools like Skype and Zoom to interact and stay in touch with colleagues who aren’t in the same room, or even the same state. These and other platforms like Google Hangouts, WebEx, Slack and Microsoft Teams can bring that same fluidity to government teams, whether at a local or federal level.

Some federal agencies already reportedly use collaboration platforms, including the General Services Administration (GSA), NASA and the State Department. Last April, the GSA issued a request for information to find assistance for an enterprise-wide extension of its Slack implementation. The Pentagon and GSA, meantime, are looking to build out a new unified collaborative cloud solution. Agencies should continue to look for ways to securely incorporate these collaborative tools into their teams.

Don’t overlook security

Naturally, as agencies embrace more digital technology, cybersecurity becomes a pressing concern. Public and private sector organizations must have a strong and sensible security policy in place that considers not only how employees connect (identity and access) but also the layers of defense built into the devices they use.

At HP, this mandate impacts everything from our printers, requiring badges to release jobs, to our screens, integrating privacy filters to make it harder for bad actors to “shoulder surf” and steal passwords while remote employees are online in public.

With hackers now able to seamlessly bypass traditional network perimeter protection and antivirus programs to attack the PCs themselves, agencies also need to consider the security of the hardware they purchase. Some vendors now offer additional support for encryption, hardware-enforced monitoring and self-healing of critical security software and recovery. The invisible defences are just as important. AI-enabled real-time detection and prevention measures have to be included in any comprehensive protection protocol, be it mobile or otherwise.

Most of us enjoy hyper-mobile lives and are carrying that into the workplace. Government agencies are not immune to this trend and must adjust for this approaching reality. The best way is to pave the way for mobile work, online collaboration, and strong endpoint device security. Your employees — and those who they serve — will thank you.

Todd Gustafson is the president of HP Federal.

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