State & Local Agencies Push Mobility Initiatives

Here's how S&L government can emulate successful federal mobile efforts.

In recent years we have seen mobility initiatives gain momentum within government agencies. While policy directives such as the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 and the Department of Defense Mobile Strategy are fueling the federal focus on mobility, it is just as important to assess where state and local (S&L) agencies stand. Are agencies shifting into high gear or hitting speed bumps along the way?

To take a deeper look into mobility at the S&L government level, Citrix, along with Mobile Work Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the value of mobility and telework, recently sought to answer a few key questions about S&L mobile readiness. The study, State & Local Mobility Map: Road to Mobile Readiness, surveyed 150 S&L IT managers familiar with their organization's mobile work strategy and policies to understand the current state of mobility, challenges agencies face, and opportunities they see down the road. Further, the study explores how successfully S&L agencies are enabling their mobile workforce, where agencies stand leveraging mobility to prepare for disaster recovery, and the challenges as well as the benefits agencies are experiencing.

While many S&L agencies are not at quite the same speed as federal agencies are when it comes to mobility, the study found steady forward momentum, with 40% of S&L employees using mobile devices for some work-related tasks and 65% of S&L IT managers expecting the number of mobile workers to increase in the next five years. Underscoring the dollars and cents value of mobility, mobile-ready agencies reported gaining three additional hours of productivity per employee per week. Other benefits agencies have seen from increased adoption of mobility technologies include improved remote communications, collaboration, and business continuity.

[Mobile malware is a serious threat. Here's how to counter it: 4 Tips: Protect Government Data From Mobile Malware.]

Despite the headway agencies have made, however, the study found that many are still not mobile-ready and do not adequately provide the plans, tools, and support necessary to manage a mobile workforce. Additionally, only 40% of S&L operations can be maintained in a disaster, with telework a limited part of continuity of operations (COOP) plans. In addition, fewer than one in five respondents reported their agency being both mobile- and COOP-ready.

What is slowing S&L agencies down on the path to mobility? Security (56%), lack of budget (52%), and lack of technology infrastructure (48%) were cited as top concerns.

These findings underscore the mobility message: S&L agencies face vast opportunities but also some formidable challenges in their journey to achieving a next-generation mobile workforce. Here are several key points that S&L agencies must address on the course to mobility:

  • View the mobility opportunity from a broad perspective. Take an enterprise approach to preparing for and implementing mobile programs, and avoid piecemeal investments.
  • Establish an infrastructure that can support mobile work styles -- leverage flexible, scalable, and comprehensive technology solutions.
  • Address security concerns through education and training of end users, and implement virtual desktop infrastructures, enterprise management, and device management technologies.
  • Establish legislation or incentives to prioritize telework and spur mobile adoption.
  • Incorporate telework into your agency's COOP strategy by expanding employee telework eligibility to increase operations during a disaster.
  • Require frequent mobile training for end users and IT, define what employees require to successfully work while mobile, and ensure that all users understand and comply with protocols.

The State & Local Mobility Map: Road to Mobile Readiness shows that agencies are making significant strides toward mobility, and though challenges remain, mobility will continue to be a priority as well as an opportunity for new levels of efficiency and increased productivity. Supporting this, the report found that one third of agencies have matured their mobile strategy in the past year -- and those that did not will invest going forward.

We recently saw a great example of mobility success at the California Department of Justice (DOJ). By enabling personnel and law enforcement agency partners to have secure access to Web-based DOJ applications on government-issued smartphones and tablets, the agency saw near-immediate benefits -- such as increased productivity of running criminals through the database, yielding a 300% increase the first weekend of implementation.

Clearly many S&L agencies are working to follow in the footsteps of their successful federal counterparts. Mobility will continue to serve as a key component of any comprehensive S&L IT agenda to not only enhance work/life balance, reduce costs, and increase productivity, but also truly achieve the next generation of computing our government agencies require.

If the world wasn't changing, we might continue to view IT purely as a service organization, and ITSM might be the most important focus for IT leaders. But it's not, it isn't and it won't be -- at least not in its present form. Get the Research: Beyond IT Service Management report today. (Free registration required.)