Insight by ServiceNow

How agencies can transition workforce management from the industrial age to the information age

Now federal agencies have been forced into transitioning from an industrial age model of how to manage people to an information age construct.

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Most agencies already have a digital transformation strategic plan. What many of them have lacked are the resources to run with it. They’ve been limited each year by what their budget allows. But the coronavirus pandemic has acted as an accelerant for those agencies and their plans. Now federal agencies have been forced into transitioning from an industrial age model of how to manage people to an information age construct.

“The industrial model was everybody comes into buildings to do their job, and the computing environment mimicked the moat around the castle of old. So you’d come in, protect the boundaries, everybody would be on the computer system in the office, and everyone would work there,” said Bob Osborn, for ServiceNow. “COVID-19 has forced all of the government agencies at each level – federal, state and local – to understand how to manage identities or people, what their roles are, what access to information they need, how you safely and securely expand the computing environment to allow them to access what they need to do their jobs at home just like they do in the office.”

That means agencies now need a platform that can understand who is asking to access the network, what permissions they have, provide them the access they need securely, and understand what’s going on across the network. They also need the capability for smart devices to be able to access the network to expand the range of locations from which people can do their work.

“This has always been a challenge from a security perspective because many of the legacy technologies that agencies have deployed within their computing environments aren’t that mobile-ready. They’re not easily adaptable to a secure mobile environment,” Osborn said. “That’s where the born-in-the-cloud-type Software-as-a-Service platforms like ServiceNow allow for this platform of platforms application of an architecture that abstracts the legacy technology’s limitations and provides access to those core functionalities of legacy systems of record through modern mobile secure access.”

That also opens the door for artificial intelligence applications like virtual assistants and supervised machine learning. These days, most people click, swipe, and drag to conduct all of their business, from paying bills to shopping to buying an airplane ticket. Now Alexa and Siri are even doing some of that for us. These applications that allow us to make better decisions and accomplish tasks much easier can also be applied to businesses.

With legacy computer systems, the human is expected to be the data miner and aggregator. Employees must understand what systems hold the data they want and how to access and manipulate it. If it’s on multiple systems, employees have to aggregate that data, usually in a spreadsheet. And the longer it takes to do that work, the more stale the data becomes, and the less timely the decision.

“That’s the way that we’ve been conditioned to do work within government forever. Now it’s changed, now we’re utilizing the power of the platform like ServiceNow, which aggregates data information from multiple systems of record,” Osborn said. We normalize the data that’s required from those systems into a common data model and application logic within the ServiceNow application’s configuration management database.This allows AI and machine learning to run on all that data. So because of all the apps on ServiceNow, utilize the same data model. All the applications can take advantage of the artificial intelligence running through that data to assist in the workflow processes within those applications.”

That allows the artificial intelligence to assist in workflow processes. And in the case of virtual assistants, it provides an easy interface with which to interact.

The COVID-19 crisis has illustrated exactly how quickly it’s possible to roll out capabilities and applications like these. For example, it took ServiceNow only six hours to create an app that would help a major government agency re-integrate its employees into the workplace while keeping track of parameters like temperature checks and social distancing.

“And then because they already had ServiceNow, that instance of ServiceNow was already certified and accredited within their computing environment. And the application was developed on the ServiceNow platform within their computing environment; they were able to roll it into production in less than two weeks,” Osborn said.

That kind of turnaround in traditional application development is unheard of and can help federal agencies fundamentally change the way they manage human capital. That can mean increased workplace safety and employee health during the current pandemic. It can also mean supporting the readiness of warfighters while improving service delivery.

“Agencies want to move from the industrial age construct in how we manage people to the information age, and ServiceNow is perfectly positioned to do that,” Osborn said.

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