IT executives see telework storm on the horizon

Tuesday - 4/10/2012, 8:07am EDT

Bill Hartwell, general manager and senior director, Riverbed Federal Markets Division

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A storm is forming on the horizon and its name is "telework," at least that's what a new report released today by the Telework Exchange, Riverbed and Swish Data forecasts.

Based on data collected from 152 federal IT executives, the 2012-2013 Telework/Mobile IT Almanac reported that 65 percent of federal agencies said they have "above-average IT programs" helping to facilitate telework and mobility.

"The challenge for the government and the agencies is a bit of a mobility storm that is approaching us," said Bill Hartwell general manager and senior director of the Riverbed Federal Markets Division.

Today agencies are seeing that at least 20 percent of their current workforce has telework or mobility access, he said.

Hartwell told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp Tuesday that increased mobility would drive greater adoption of telework.

Bill Hartwell, general manager and senior director, Riverbed Federal Markets Division

"I think we looked at 2011 as a big year for policy setting and starting to get the movement moving towards an implementation phase," he said.

The almanac saw several agencies such as the Patent and Trademark Office and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation begin significant telework and mobility implementations in support of services provided to the public.

Forty-five percent of the IT executives polled expected to see an increase in part-time mobile workers over the next two years and 59 percent anticipated more regular teleworkers. According to a 2010 report from the Office of Personnel Management, 58 percent of all federal employees are eligible for telework.

"We really focused on whether they felt the agency and the department were prepared for the telework storm," Hartwell said. The IT executives pointed to improving security, networks and wireless access as major factors in increasing telework adoption.

"For a lot of folks, it would just become a simple issue of becoming more comfortable accessing their applications and their data than they have in the past, which would be wirelessly," he said.

President Barack Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act into law in December 2010, opening up telework opportunities for federal employees and requiring each agency to integrate telework into its Continuity of Operations Planning.

One way employees are speeding up the move to telework is by paying for their own Internet, phone and office supplies under a "Bring Your Own" strategy, the almanac said. Those agencies considered above average were more likely to reimburse their employees partially or fully for Internet costs.

At the same time, those respondents who said their agencies were performing above average listed the top five telework/mobility tools provided by their agencies as:

  1. Laptops (82%)
  2. Smartphones (54%)
  3. Remote desktop access (43%)
  4. Instant messaging tools (42%)
  5. Video/web conferencing (33%)

When agencies don't provide those technologies to their employees, Hartwell said, it delays the implementation of telework across the agencies. He pointed to the success of the PTO's telework strategy, in which the agency supports 12,000 mobile users simultaneously.

"I don't think they would have a chance to be successful if they didn't take a more disciplined and consistent approach to this type of implementation," Hartwell said. "The numbers are so large that they would really miss out on both IT efficiences over the long-haul as well IT innovation as they're implementing this new technology."

President Obama signed Executive Order 13589 in November 2011 requiring agencies to develop plans to reduce expenses associated with employee IT devices. Agencies had until FY2013 to figure out a way to cut those costs 20 percent below FY2010 levels. However, the almanac reported only 54 percent of agencies are working on a plan to do that.

Forty-one percent of the IT executives predicted that cloud computing would have the greatest impact on telework/mobility over the next five years, followed by tablets and improved security.

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