Insight by Avaya

The 3 musts of a robust federal telework future

Permanent hybrid environments will require agencies to give teleworkers capabilities identical to what they have in the office. Here are the three critical requ...


Addressing the Long-Term Needs of Teleworkers

You need to have all the capabilities that you have in the office, now in your home office. When I think of the user experience, it's really all around optimizing for remote work.


Elements of Security Needed for Telework

We have contact center services that are available from the cloud as well, which are great for teleworking, for remote agents when needed. And those can both be deployed in a FedRAMP authorized cloud.

As the pandemic recedes, it won’t result in a grand re-opening of offices across the federal government. For a variety of reasons, IT and operations managers believe they should prepare for a hybrid future. More people will telework more of the time.

No one can predict the percentages, but most people will likely take the hybrid route, working some portion of every week from home or other remote locations.

Permanent hybrid means a shift in the capabilities employees will need now relative to early on in the pandemic, when remote capabilities were simply a matter of continuity of operations.

Agencies should focus on three components of telework: user experience, reliability of service and security, advised Tim Shalvey, director of business development at Avaya.

No. 1: Deliver good UX to remote users

User experience is “really all around optimizing for the remote work,” he said. Good UX applies in two ways. First, it requires high-quality video and audio connectivity. “For example, artificial intelligence to be able to block out the barking dog in the background or the doorbell ringing, that technology is here today.”

For users with disabilities, Shalvey added, it’s important to ensure Section 508 accessibility requirements are in place. That goes for agency employees as well as constituents who might be contacting them.

“You need to have all the capabilities that you have in the office, now in your home office,” Shalvey said.

No. 2: Strive for five nines of reliability

Most agencies have moved employees to cloud-provided collaboration and personal productivity applications. Many also use cloud-hosted enterprise applications, and still others have moved agency-specific applications to commercial clouds.

Top-tier commercial cloud services providers typically deliver reliability at the so-called five-nines level, which equates to 99.999% uptime year round, Shalvey noted.

The questions becomes how to ensure that level of reliability through the additional networks at telework locations, especially homes with varied local internet service. Agencies will need to prioritize traffic depending on what a user is doing at the moment, he said.

“You need to be able to prioritize, for example, a voice call over a video call over a data transfer — and be able to have those capabilities inherent in the system,” Shalvey said.

The classic requirement of instant failover from one data center to backup applies to the cloud, he said. As one example, he cited Avaya’s own federal data centers in Virginia and Texas. Should one halt service for whatever reason, “you’ve got the other one that’s going to maintain those communications. They’re in sync between the two of them.”

He said that the more the government shifts applications and data to the cloud, the greater the reliability it will be able to deliver to users because cloud-hosted services directly aim to maintain uptime.

No. 3: Build a secure foundation

Shalvey advises thinking about telework security in terms of what he called control points: physical locations, applications and data, and services such as contact centers.

The ongoing need for security ties in with the need for comprehensive capabilities available at a given employee’s telework location. For instance, agencies will need to think through things like the potential for local data storage on employee devices and, in the case of contact centers, the management of sensitive information. Avaya technology can ensure Federal Risk and Authorization Management, or FedRAMP, controls are in place locally at the moderate level for civilian agencies and at impact Level 5 for Defense Department applications.

All users will need to have those capabilities and controls in place so that they can work as they would in an office environment at home — “all of that data is cared for and is secure,” Shalvey said.

Services coming from the cloud with FedRAMP certification enable what he called a “composable architecture.” Composable “means being able to leverage best of breed partners to be able to provide additional capabilities,” Shalvey said. Agencies then will be able to assemble services from multiple sources to create mission-specific or situation-specific application sets, he explained.

In the contact center context, examples of additional capabilities might include automated agents for routine calls, speech recognition and automated chatbots. To support such needs, Avaya incorporates third-party services into its environment using application programming interfaces.

He noted that Avaya also partners with the nine principal prime contractors on the General Services Administration’s Enterprise Infrastructure Services contract. The mandatory EIS contract is aimed at getting all agencies onto the most capable and secure unified communication services over the next several years.

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