Government Cloud A New Era In Collaboration

Collaboration proves key to mission success

By its very nature, much of government work depends on the ability of employees to collaborate in some form or fashion. Until recently, the technology options for collaboration were limited. But that is quickly changing with the emergence of a new generation of online tools, and agencies are making the most of it.

The rapid adoption of collaboration tools is being fueled, in part, by two related trends. First, government’s increased reliance on outsourced services and resources have created a pressing need to collaborate with extern partners that did not exist just 10 years ago. Second, the rise of mobility solutions, which have freed employees from their reliance on the desktops, has fostered a whole new market for “on the go” collaboration.

According to a new survey by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, 80 percent of agencies will be using online collaboration tools by 2016, compared to less than 30 percent in 2009, for an annual growth rate of 17.3 percent over that seven year period.

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Agencies across the board are clear about why they are buying these tools. More than 70 percent of respondents, for example, said the tools both make it easier to share knowledge within and outside organizations and to facilitate the quicker dissemination of information.

Additionally, just less than 50 percent said online collaboration tools will help them reduce operating or capital expenditures. Perhaps surprisingly, only slightly more than a third thought such tools would help agencies become more innovative, and less than a quarter that it would make work more satisfying.

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Other motivating factors vary from agency to agency. State and local agency respondents, for example, were significantly more interested in improving citizen or customer service through the use of collaboration tools. Meanwhile, self-described “progressive” agencies in government are looking for the extended reach, improved effectiveness, increased worker satisfaction and the real-time communication the tools can provide.

Although the market is dramatically different from what it was just a few years ago, the nature of collaboration itself has not changed, experts say.

At the end of the day, according to TJ Keitt, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., it’s still about individuals having purposeful interactions with each other. However, as the capabilities of such tools have expanded, organizations increasingly have become interested in having a way to find the right person to help solve problems.

That basic need has proven very powerful, even when “old” collaboration tools and technologies are used. Defense Connect Online (DCO), for example, is the military’s designated enterprise tool for worldwide collaboration across both the Unclassified but Sensitive Unclassified Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet) and the Secret Internet Protocol Routing Network (SIPRENet). Users can communicate and share information through it with instant messaging, low-bandwidth text chat and web-based audio/video conferencing.

It went live in 2008, and by early 2013 it had more than 800,000 users, at which point demand really began to surge. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which runs the DCO, had double the system’s capacity, as capacity requirements increased by 33 percent over the course of several months. The surge continued throughout 2013, eventually requiring DISA to use a second, separate DCO URL to balance traffic and ensure availability of the service.

Enterprise and beyond

The 1105 Public Sector Media Group survey found that the use of online workflow collaboration tools with organizations is high and continues to grow. But the real growth in the year ahead likely will come from other areas.

Use of those tools for collaborating with outside consultants and contractors, for example, is expected to increase from 52 percent on average to just less than 70 percent over the next two years. Collaboration with government employees in other agencies or organizations should produce a 21 percent increase in demand over the same period, and the need to communicate with communities of interest and the general public will see similar increases.

Overall, agencies seem to feel that the use of online collaboration tools is no longer a choice but a requirement. Full three-quarters of public sector agency respondents to the survey agreed with the statement that “agencies that are unable to implement and use collaboration tools and processes more effectively will find it difficult to meet their missions.”

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Methodology and survey demographics

Between June 25th and June 26th , 2014, 159 subscribers of FCW, GCN and other Public Sector Media Group publications responded to an e-mail survey about collaboration trends in government agencies. Survey respondents were comprised of those involved with managing, use or purchase of online collaboration tools for their department or agency. Beacon Technology Partners developed the methodology, fielded the survey and compiled the results.

Approximately 55% of respondents were technology decision-makers (CIOs or other IT managers or professionals), while 45 percent were senior managers, program managers or other business decision-makers. Approximately 63 percent came from the federal government (31 percent civilian, 32 percent defense) and 37 percent from state or local government agencies.

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Public Sector Media Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Public Sector Media Group Content Solutions, please email us at PSMGCustomMedia@1105media.com