Serving Residents with a Remote Government Workforce

BrandPost By Chris Nerney
Oct 08, 2020
IT Leadership

Discover the key elements of a comprehensive strategy for the post-pandemic world

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Credit: Peopleimages

Local governments were forced to scale up their remote capabilities almost overnight in response to pandemic-related shutdowns and travel restrictions that required employees to work from home. Some municipalities rose to the occasion, enabling remote workers to continue providing valuable services to constituents.

But many local governments responded to the need for dramatically increased remote access in a rushed and ad hoc manner, thus neglecting strategic planning. Given that roughly 60% of government agencies intend to continue having employees work from home, lack of a remote strategy inevitably will make it difficult for local governments to operate efficiently.

“You can’t just magically flip a switch and now all your employees are able to work from home,” says Tony Encinias, Chief Strategist and Innovation Officer, State and Local Government, Dell Technologies.

“You have to have the necessary infrastructure. You have to have the necessary network capability and bandwidth, and you have to have applications that are capable.”

Indeed, plenty of local governments undoubtedly found out the hard way in 2020 that being able to support large numbers of remote employees has little to do with magic. A more reliable route to that goal is for local government ITDMs to develop and implement a comprehensive remote strategy for the post-pandemic world.

Such a strategy must be rooted in the needs of users (remote government employees and constituents) as well as the realities of the local government’s technology infrastructure, IT budget, and work culture. It is not uncommon for local governments to be operating on strict budget constraints and relying on aging IT infrastructures. However, the biggest barrier to state and local governments effectively supporting a remote workforce may be cultural.

“A lot of managers in state and local government have been around for 20 or more years,” Encinias says. “The thought of employees working from home unsettles them. They wonder, ‘How do I know if they’re being productive?’ A lot of governments have to get over that kind of mentality.”

Fortunately, he says, many governments are beginning to embrace remote and mobile technologies as Millennial and Gen Z workers assume leadership positions.

On the technology side, local governments must ensure secure access for remote employees and constituents. A combination of public and private clouds can make data and applications readily accessible to authorized remote users. And cloud deployments allow local governments to scale operations easily without spending on in-house IT infrastructure (if budgets and space even make that option possible).

Saving IT money by relying on public and private clouds and by reducing real estate costs as governments downsize their office space can help municipalities redirect funds to provide remote workers with devices that can easily be secured. Equally important is developing security processes and policies for remote employees to follow. 

Local government IT decision-makers also must assess which data is sensitive and therefore should be secured where it resides, and as it travels from Point A to Point B. Examples of sensitive data include health and financial data, Social Security numbers, and criminal justice information. Rules must be established regarding which users and devices can access specific sensitive data. Virtual private networks and encryption are among the network security technologies available to local governments.

Government organizations generally have a well-deserved reputation for lagging behind in technology and work culture. But the coronavirus crisis has made clear that effective government on the local and state level demands a flexible, scalable, and secure IT infrastructure that can support a large remote workforce.