Agencies Graded B- on Mobility

Syda Productions/

Many federal managers say their agencies aren't taking full advantage of mobile technologies, study finds.

The federal government has invested more than $1.6 billion in mobile technology initiatives for its employees, yet most have not realized the full potential of those programs, according to a new report.

The report, released Monday by Mobile Work Exchange, VMware and Carahsoft, found that 77 percent of the 154 federal IT mobility and human capital/telework executives surveyed give their agency a B or a C on progress toward the Digital Government Strategy. The strategy launched in 2012 to enable federal workers to access government information anywhere, anytime and on any device.

The B grade was because of a number of challenges, as just more than half (56 percent) of IT managers believe their agency is taking full advantage of mobility. The most common challenges were security concerns (47 percent), available funding (38 percent), culture (25 percent) and procurement (25 percent).

“The technology has moved at such a rapid pace that I think honestly it’s hard for IT managers to keep up with it,” Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange, told Wired Workplace. “The technology is there, but they may not be able to mesh it well with the legacy systems.”

Despite those challenges, however, most IT managers tout the benefits mobility has provided their agency thus far, including improved continuity of operations (40 percent), increased productivity (36 percent) and greater overall efficiency (31 percent). Sixty-nine percent of IT managers believe employees are more productive today because of mobility, the survey found.

Still, mobility could yield even greater savings and returns in the future, particularly in areas such as COOP and real estate. If the federal government were able to maintain 100 percent of its operations during an emergency through telework/mobility, it would gain an additional $60 million in productivity per day. For the 2013-2014 winter season, that would have equated to savings of more than $300 million, the report noted.

In addition, considering that more than 25 percent of office space is unoccupied at any given time, agencies could save more than $15 billion per year by pairing telework and mobility with a real-estate reduction plan, the report noted.

“If agencies are looking at the ability to shrink real estate, they have to come up with a model where employees can still bump into each other,” Auten said. “Adding a hoteling capability will be very useful. That’s where we’ll be able to realize billions in savings collectively for the federal government.”

The good news is that agencies are not planning to scale back on mobility. Over the next two years, the federal government will invest in encryption (35 percent), smartphones (33 percent), tablets (28 percent), mobile device management (25 percent) and laptops (22 percent). Many will look for more employee and security training as well as better application management to help reap even greater benefits from those technology investments, the study found.

“For us to really move forward on mobility, we have to step up our efforts on training – ensuring we are bringing the right people in who can do the job, training managers to manage employees effectively and ensuring employees know exactly what to do,” Auten said. “Losing sight of that will hurt the progress of mobility altogether.” 

(Image via Syda Productions/