Civic News

Gov IT employees want an architecture overhaul for hybrid work to succeed

A recent survey from Swish and Riverbed took the temperature of how IT teams feel about hybrid work in the federal government. But its results can be applied to any company looking to update work location policies.

Back to the office.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Employees across the country returned to offices this year with more flexible and hybrid work options than ever before. Often, this involved little more than revisiting the old biz-cas section of their closets before dropping in a few days a week.

But just because we can go back to the office doesn’t mean that office tech  — and especially its IT infrastructure — needs to stay behind in 2019, according to Riverbed’s senior VP of public sector Craig McCullough.

“We’ve really changed the way we get our jobs done and we want to capitalize on those enhancements that have come because of that,” McCullough, who is based locally, told Technical.ly.

To help suss out IT teams’ feelings about hybrid workplaces, California-based Riverbed teamed up with McLean, Virginia govtech company Swish teamed up to survey IT workers in the federal government. The data comes from reporting by Fairfax, Virginia research firm Market Connections and incorporates 100 federal government IT employees — 6o of whom worked in civilian agencies while the remaining 40 were with the Department of Defense.

Here are some of the main findings:

  • 52% of survey respondents are worried that the legacy IT architectures and on-site network infrastructure will struggle to keep up with the increased use of tools like Teams and Zoom.
  • 44% think that end-user experience on-site won’t be as good as it is at home.
  • 47% anticipate hybrid work to continue, and 30% think that most employees will return full-time to the office over the next six months.

What that means to McCullough is that over half of IT admins don’t think their workplace has the foundational architecture to support a hybrid workplace. These concerns bring new considerations for companies inclined to change their remote or in-person work policies.

“From a mission perspective, it doesn’t matter whether someone’s working from their house or from a data center — or from the middle of a battlefield,” McCullough said. “It’s all got to work and if one piece doesn’t, that’s a problem.”

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But those who were surveyed aren’t truly confident that the agencies are taking a close enough look.  Government agencies currently have both employees who spent the last two years working from home and new employees who entered during that time. They also have new policies and abilities that streamline work so that everyone doesn’t have to be in the office at all times. It’s a far cry from a few years ago, McCullough said, when using your own device would have been unheard of.

Around 59% of agencies surveyed, according to the data, are not measuring the changes in the IT environment effectively. The respondents don’t think the agencies are looking at business transaction productivity in labor cost, latency impact or rate of success. In addition, 87% of respondents said that their government agency is still responding to help desk tickets (and 51% said it relies on user phone calls) as the primary source for quantifying IT issues.

McCullough sees this method as an issue because it indicates a reactive, instead of proactive, monitoring and resolving of issues. Many of these issues are relatively easy to identify and can be solved in a short amount of time, so it’s possible to add AI and offer a broader view of the IT architecture.

IT teams seem to want this bigger look into the architecture since 100% of respondents find it for measuring both end-user experience and productivity. And it’s crucial, as McCullough pointed out: While you can control an employer’s device’s security, you can’t control the entire security posture of an employee’s iPhone. So agencies (and companies, really) need to have as close of a look as possible.

With that, he suggests more of a full assessment across the entire IT architecture for those working in-office and at home. This evaluation could help provide data for actionable insights. Teams can also theoretically apply AI to common issues and create a seamless digital experience to more easily identify problems. This not only enables workers’ productivity but also opens up time for IT teams to focus on bigger issues.

“If I had to sum it all up in a really easy sentence, it would be: creating a proactive, architecture-wide end-user experience that always makes the overall experience the best it can be and the most secure it can be — because, then, you’re going to get the productivity you want,” McCullough said.

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