How is mobile changing your workforce?

Part 1: Overall Mobile Strategy and Anticipating Small Devices

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Rapid advances in mobile devices and applications are redefining what it means to be a federal manager on the go. Telework centers are fading away in favor of full mobility and the ability to work from anywhere with full access to agency data resources.

Joining us for the discussion were:

  • Simon Szykman, CIO, Commerce and
  • Robert Corcoran, the group manager for architecture and applied technology, FAA

A list of topics, along with excerpts from the first part of the panel discussion, are below:

Part 1: Overall Mobile Strategy

Simon Szykman – There’s no single strategy at this point at Commerce. “Several of our bureaus are currently engaged in pilot testing at various stages and we’re currently evaluating, I’d would say, a spectrum of different strategies in different organizations to see how we can support mobility for our workforce.” The focus of the pilots at Commerce giving mobility access to the department’s networks remotely and better support for telework. Commerce is also “looking at various devices” from tablets to expanding handhelds from BlackBerrys “to iPhones and Androids as well.”

Robert Corcoran – The FAA currently has 38 pilot projects underway and “approximately 300 devices that are involved in those pilots.” FAA is in a “let’s see what works sort of mode with an objective of making decisions and having a process in place by the beginning of the new fiscal year that would allow us to go forward with a device and know how that implementation will take place.”

Anticipating Small Devices

RC – Now that current devices have the ability to be ‘on’ instantaneously, connectivity has improved, and there are millions of apps available to meet specific objectives and be purchased at low cost, there is a “perfect storm to allow this to be the right time” to make the move to small handheld devices and tablets.

SS – There is a demand on the part of the users, and “people, in some ways, will be using these devices to some extent whether we want it or not. So it’s in our interest, I think, as a community, to find out how to make sure it’s done well from a security perspective, from a managed services level, but really it’s just an issue of beyond the desire to prevent people from doing things we don’t want to do, it’s how we can enable them to do things they want do”. It’s all about “providing better service to the end users.”

RC – “I think that federal employees are very dedicated employees and I think that they are constantly asking themselves how can I do things better and how could I be more productive, how would this fit in my agency.” A-ha moments happen at home while employees are using the devices on their own time. The employees then approach the agency with inspiration and ideas. “That’s how, in a very short time, we got 38 pilot programs that were all credible, had apparent cost savings for the government associated with it, and really increased the efficiency and people came to us with the ideas.”

Part 2: Security Approaches

In this section of the Federal News Radio panel discussion, “The mobile fed”, Simon Szykman and Robert Corcoran talk about priorities for mobility, including the important technology needed and that employees need to be reminded about security.

Part 3: Devices

In this section, the panelists discuss the relative “infancy” of mobility programs and what they’re looking for during testing and pilot programs.

Part 4: Lead Time and Productivity

Topics discussed in this part of the show included the perception that there’s a long lead time between when consumers are using new technology and when it’s cleared for use by federal employees. Both Szykman and Corcoran were also enthusiastic about the link between productivity and mobility, while being clear that, as Szykman put it, “the issue is not one of working more hours, but making more productive use of the existing hours.”

Part 5: Telework

In this final segment of Federal News Radio’s panel discussion on “the mobile fed,” the panel discusses the differences between mobility and telework, how mobility is breaking down institutional barriers to telework and improving the quality of life for employees. Both Szykman and Corcoran concluded in their final thoughts that mobility and the technology that makes it possible are at the very beginning of realizing its potential. Szykman predicted that in few years we’ll see it being used in ways that have probably not even been imagined, while Corcoran likened the current process as sailing and tacking while not knowing what the specific destination is.

For more from Simon Szykman and Robert Corcoran on mobility and the federal employee, listen to the entire discussion posted in the audio players at the top of the page, and for other panel discussions from Federal News Radio, click here.