Federal Panel Explores the Truth about Data Networking

We’ve had a real seismic shift in computing in recent years. Data centers have consolidated and servers have gone virtual. Mobile devices now rule, as do Web- and mobile apps.

Yet, in the federal marketplace, much of the underlying network infrastructure has remained the same. As a result, maintenance and operational expenses are soaring at a time when agencies are under pressure to cut operational expenses.

A panel discussion on the issue (and how to pave a path forward) aired today on two radio stations in our nation’s capital – WTOP Radio and its sister station, Federal News Radio. A number of heavy hitters participated, including:

  • Tom Bayer, CIO for the Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Wolf Tombe, CTO of Customs and Border Protection
  • Eric Olson, CIO of the Justice Department
  • Frank Konieczny, CTO for the Air Force
  • Lorraine Cleary, director of product management at Avaya

The net takeaway: New software-defined networks and shortest-path bridging technology offer a way out of the aging infrastructure dilemma. They promise better performance and lower operating costs, while allowing agencies to combine voice, data, video and messaging on a single, unified network.

The program is now posted online as a free webinar. It’s a great resource for any organization looking for a way to evolve a network and not fund a forklift upgrade.

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Feds Want 21st Century Collaboration Tools Despite Legacy System Limits

Newly released survey results may mean big changes are on the horizon for government agencies. The survey, conducted by the Government Business Council and underwritten by Black Box and Avaya, shows that the federal government’s outdated IT infrastructure is struggling to keep up with modern mobility and collaboration demands, and is even impeding the adoption of 21st century unified communication and collaboration tools. And, despite efforts by the White House to push agencies to modernize IT, the momentum does not seem to be translating into improved collaboration yet.

In the survey, 38% of federal employees said they had little or no confidence that their agency’s existing infrastructure can support the latest advancements in collaborative technology. This low level of confidence is strongly at odds with the clear need for collaboration technology.

Nearly half (47%) said that they need to collaborate with colleagues working from different locations on a daily basis, while 72% said they need to do so on a weekly basis. Over half (52%) said that they personally have a need to work outside their office at least once a week, and 27% said they need to do so on a daily basis. Overall survey results suggest that telework in the federal workplace is evolving into a vision for a unified office that bridges traditional and remote work environments.

These results are hardly surprising: telework has been a rising trend for years—and undoubtedly is here to stay. However, despite the high demand for mobile collaboration, the flow of new collaborative technology into federal agencies seems to be lagging. Only 37% feel that their agency is prioritizing collaboration technology. And 40% are disappointed with their agency’s current level of mobility: 27% are dissatisfied, and 13% are very dissatisfied, with the ability to conduct work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations.

As the concept of the modern office continues to evolve, agencies must make sure that they are scaling with the expectations of their employees. With federal telework trends on the rise according to the latest OPM reporting, agencies need to be considering their plans for establishing a unified office sooner, rather than later. The need for unified communications is clearly already present, as seen in the survey results, so agencies that don’t have a plan to implement UC will only be postponing the benefits of bridging traditional and remote work environments.

The concept of a unified office where employees can work seamlessly across multiple devices and locations—not just through e-mail, but with teleconferencing, chatting, and screen sharing—helps to increase the rate, quality, and ease of work for federal employees. This is strongly backed by the study, with respondents reporting that the concept of a unified office increases productivity (46%), accelerates mission results (34.5%), and improves overall employee morale (35%).

As agencies assess how to best translate their modernization funds into effective, visible efficiency gains, investing in UC should be top of mind. Not only is the technology clearly in demand by federal employees, but the efficiency gains realized from investing in UC means that the technology pays for itself quickly, which helps to ease budget concerns. By implementing UC, agencies will be better positioned to meet not only future employee needs, but to achieve their missions in the 21st century.