The Federal government is heading towards mobile first, and though it seems that the private enterprise has long been forced to adapt to most of what a new Presidential Memorandum lays out, 97% of government respondents who telework say they have a formal telework agreement in place, versus just 56% of private-sector respondents, according to Mobile Work Exchange, an organization that promotes the benefits of mobility and teleworking.
The "Presidential Memorandum—Enhancing Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Program," issued by President Barack Obama last week, is meant to facilitate a more mobile workforce and remove barriers that could limit the attraction of potential employees.
The government has already spent over $1 billion since the launch of the Digital Government Strategy initiative in 2012, and has made some progress. The most recent memo states: "To attract, empower, and retain a talented and productive workforce in the 21st century, the Federal Government must continue to make progress in enabling employees to balance their responsibilities at work and at home…In doing so, we can help ensure that the Federal workforce is engaged and empowered to deliver exceptional and efficient service to the American public while meeting family and other needs at home."
Agencies have a few months to answer to the edict, which will include revision of established procedures in order to, among other things, enable a flexible work schedule—including "telework."
Cindy Auten, General Manager of Mobile Work Exchange, said in an interview, "Agencies are investing in mobilizing their workforce and are looking at 'mobility first.' Since the launch of the Digital Government Strategy, agencies have invested an average of $373 per Fed employee. That said, there is a return to their investment—real estate, recruitment and retention, and business continuity to name a few. The most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey pointed out that one of the few places that showed an increase in employee satisfaction was telework."
Mobilizing such a large workforce will surely cost even more, but Auten noted, that as agencies look to the future, they must continue to invest in mobile technologies if they want to save in the long run.
The Issue of Security
The government has not been an exception to the increased security breaches that come from mobile, whether through internal or external perpetrators, and this continues to be an issue. In fact, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 2012 was a record year for Federal data breaches. Auten explained, "A report we released earlier this year, found that despite 90% of government employees saying they use mobile devices for work, only 50% say their agency has a formal employee-focused mobile device program."
As in the private sector, there is no one size fits all security solution for agencies. "The mobile device security requirements of one agency may not meet the requirements for another agency due to the mission-critical nature of their work," said Auten.
For example, BlackBerry 10 has become the first mobility solution to receive Full Operational Capability (FOC) to run on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) networks from the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), according to BlackBerry Limited. In addition, Samsung devices were approved for DoD use as well.
She noted, "However, we have seen an increase of agencies coming together to collaborate on best practices, technology, and policy, such as Department of Homeland Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) tool, which assists in the detection and enforcement of mobile and wireless security controls and General Services Administration’s Digital Services Innovation Center, a mobile app development program."
For instance, in an article for Mobile Enterprise, Dr. Rick Holgate, CIO, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), wrote, "Even in the application development area, we are seeing a shift to common services and platforms where possible. For example, the Department of Homeland Security has created a shared capability for testing and evaluating mobile applications—their "mobile car wash"—which we also hope to leverage."
The consumerization of the government is finally being realized, Holgate added, "In a few short years we have moved at a previously unthinkable pace to adapt to a rapidly changing mobile technology landscape and adopt commercial, consumer technology into the Federal enterprise."
Auten sees the memo as a chance for the all businesses to advance mobility. "This memorandum will further set up the Federal government to be the example for the private sector to follow when setting up workplace flexibility strategies for their own employees," she said.