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If IGs are going to work together, they need better collaboration tools

If IGs are going to work together, they need better collaboration tools

The passage of the Inspector General Empowerment Act of 2016 assigned the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency  a formal responsibility to resolve cross-jurisdictional issues between IG offices. In December 2017, CIGIE issued a report analyzing critical issues involving more than one jurisdiction in a report entitled, “Critical Issues Involving Multiple Offices of Inspector General.” In addition to highlighting the need for more stable funding for the CIGIE, the report noted the need for collaboration systems. “In keeping with the complexity of the government, OIGs conduct a wide variety of oversight work, but greater collaboration, including the use of virtual collaboration sites, may provide opportunities for OIGs to take a more unified approach to oversight in specific areas” the report said.

The report expands upon this recommendation, suggesting that frequent meetings and a virtual collaboration space can help foster cohesive project teams, build communities of interest and promote collaboration by forging connections throughout the IG community at the staff level. "Collaboration sites, meetings and informal meetups, and annual forums where experts across the community share their experiences can all contribute to creating a collaborative community,” CIGIE said.

The report sets up a great theoretical framework for driving higher levels of collaboration in cross-jurisdictional instances. But how can the CIGIE and agency OIGs transform this framework into a fleshed-out collaborative platform? And given that agencies have their own communications platforms, how can they collaborate in the context of their existing environment?

Collaboration through UCaaS

One way IGs could address this challenge is by bundling modern communication and collaboration tools into a single, cloud-based unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solution. This approach would allow IGs to continue working and collaborating using the technologies that they have already implemented in their own agencies, whether that be email, text, voice, video or instant message, while connecting with other agency systems. It would enable OIGs to more conveniently communicate with each other without having to replace existing infrastructure or come to a governmentwide consensus on a specific solution. Ultimately, this solution would result in increased productivity and allow IGs to complete their jobs faster and deliver results in as timely a manner as possible.

However, not all UCaaS platforms are created equal. When evaluating options for cloud-based collaboration, CIGIE and individual OIG offices should be looking for a few key components, including:

A FedRAMP-authorized solution. Cloud solutions authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program are rigorously tested and audited annually to ensure their quality and security. If a solution meets all the necessary requirements during the auditing and accreditation processes, it is certified as meeting the government’s standards for data security and threat resilience. Because these solutions are precertified, and agencies can use the documentation generated by the audits to assess and authorize solutions, using a FedRAMP-certified UCaaS capability can help ensure the information being shared among the IG community remains secure.

A best-of-breed approach. As every government agency knows, modernization achieved through forklift upgrades are massively complicated, extremely costly and exhaustingly time-consuming. However, with best-of-breed solutions, agencies can avoid the need for comprehensive transformation. Best-of-breed solutions are system agnostic and designed to provide scalability, flexibility and agility. This allows OIGs to begin their UCaaS implementation immediately, without having to worry if the new solution can integrate with existing IT infrastructure.

Support for cloud migration.  In instances where an OIG is not already in the cloud, offices should be looking for solutions that offer migration support. Cloud migrations, when not handled properly, are one of the biggest pain points in federal IT. A botched migration can cost agencies untold amounts in budget expenditures, lost productivity and redundant investments. Partnering with a provider that has the resources to manage and maintain services throughout the entire transition can alleviate much of this headache for agencies.

By following these guidelines and looking at UCaaS, OIGs and the centralized CIGIE can ensure that they adopt a solution that fosters collaboration without requiring a major overhaul of each communications environment. The CIGIE should begin assessing the collaboration needs and potential solutions now in order to stand up these capabilities as soon as possible. Doing so will not only improve the coordination among OIGs, but it will strengthen oversight across the entire government.

About the Author

Steve Boberski is vice president, business development, with Collab9.


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