For years, state and local government agencies have trailed behind commercial industries in terms of mobile innovation. Stringent regulations, evolving threats and fiscal limitations have slowed technological advancement for many government organizations, leaving them behind the curve. According to a 2013 NASCIO survey of state CIOs, just 37 percent say their government-wide mobility management projects are mostly coordinated, and 10 percent say their mobility management approach is totally fragmented and uncoordinated.
Some government organizations are still using technology that is obsolete to consumers, such as The Federal Register, which continues to accept information from across the government on floppy disks and requires some agencies to submit information on paper with original signatures. Newer technologies such as encrypted private cloud servers, digital signatures on documents or even your basic jump drive are more efficient and arguably more secure, yet policy makers have been slow to update and allow their use. But the consumerization of IT is beginning to spur on an overhaul in state and local government. More employees are demanding to update to the latest technology, or bringing their own from home and using it at work without approval. Employee demand and an influx of personal smartphones and tablets are creating a new sense of urgency for government IT.
Finding a way to provide government workers with secure mobile workflows is the first step along the path to mobility maturity. Organizations are familiar with the built-in functionality to manage email on devices, but government organizations are finding that they need more advanced features, which requires mobile device management (MDM). IT departments are often new to the concept MDM, but are attracted to the foundational elements: the ability to require a complex passcode, secure access to email, secure Wi-Fi and VPN configuration, the ability to track mobile assets, and the ability to detect a compromised device and remotely wipe it of all sensitive information.
Organizations entering the security stage often approach their mobile deployment without a clearly defined strategy. Many have simply reached a breaking point, where avoidance and resistance to change is no longer a sustainable solution, and mobile device management has become a necessity. Even without a fully defined strategy, the primary goal is evident: keep sensitive data secure and maintain compliance with industry regulations. Once security requirements are met, IT can move to the next phase and begin to think strategically about their mobility initiatives.
End users in large enterprises are constantly pushing to do more with their mobile devices. And the same holds true for government entities. Just as they do outside the office, employees want to use apps on their personal devices that help them complete tasks more efficiently. They want to erase mundane pen and paper tasks, like writing down maintenance data and later entering it into a database, and streamline the process by entering the information into an app or web browser that is directly connected to the database. Before, most tasks for field workers were a two-step process: write the information down on site, and then enter the data into a computer once they returned to the office. Now, with mobile technology, the time it takes to complete those tasks has been cut in half.
But it takes time to truly transform business processes. Most commonly, government organizations mobilize slowly, beginning by using a secure browser to access back-end databases. Then, they can take that technology and find other applications for it outside their day-to-day operations. For example, a tablet locked into a web page through a secure browser can allow civilians to register to vote at a state fair without compromising their security.
As IT professionals become more comfortable with their mobile security, more advanced use cases emerge. IT departments transition from basic MDM to more expansive enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategies tailored towards enablement. Government agencies are developing their own native applications that are becoming central to day-to-day operations. For example, driving instructors now use tablets and a custom-made application to quickly grade student drivers at the DMV’s throughout Pennsylvania. Road inspections are now being completed on tablets, significantly reducing construction times and traffic delays. In 2012, the New York City Department of Transportation worked to go paperless. In doing so, the city saved money, significantly reduced the time it takes to perform an inspection, resulting in more completed inspections per day and safer streets for everyone.
Other organizations are moving toward enabling their employees with access to content on their mobile devices. Mobile-enabled enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) solutions let employees securely collaborate on documents. For example, Public Works Administration (PWA) workers no longer need to call for assistance when they encounter an unfamiliar issue. Now, employees can resolve the issue themselves by watching a short training video in Secure Content Locker, AirWatch’s EFSS solution. Police are using EFSS solutions to photograph traffic accidents and crime scenes, which can immediately be sent to the proper authorities for analysis, without breaching CJIS compliance.
An EFSS solution helps organizations remain compliant and helps to discourage, or even eliminate the use of unsecure consumer file sync and share solutions.
Most government entities are either in phase one or two of the government mobility maturity curve, though some organizations are approaching innovation.
Government entities are not renowned for their innovation. But with EMM, government organizations are beginning to redefine business processes. With security woven into the fabric of a mobile deployment, business intelligence gathered through big data analytics is driving some government organizations to eliminate unnecessary business functions, saving time and cutting costs.
And as technology progresses, more connected devices will begin to emerge. Machine to machine (M2M) connected devices and wearables will begin shape the future of government technology. The importance of managing new devices all under one roof has organizations thinking about adopting comprehensive management platforms – solutions that can manage all types of connected devices from a single management console so that organizations can innovate with new technologies without compromising security, regardless of operating system or device type. When the internet of things matures, AirWatch will be there to manage it.
About the Author
Tony Gomez manages the state and local government market team at AirWatch by VMware, the leading enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider. In this role, he is responsible for building strategy and sales growth, managing partner relationships, and forming executive relationships with county administrators and CIOs.