Sustaining your public sector mission during globally disruptive times

Remote for Real

Welcome to our "Remote for Real" series, a collection of posts from Box executives across our organization on what it's like when remote work becomes a reality for your organization, whether you're ready or not.

The spread of COVID-19 across the world over the past weeks has disrupted mostly every part of our individual and professional lives. From global supply chain shortages, to impact to businesses, educational institutions and government agencies. Over the course of a few weeks, every organization across the globe has been challenged to fundamentally shift how they deliver products and services to their customers and constituents in a virtual-first model. As employees are asked to work from home and engage with their customers digitally, the IT infrastructure, business processes and human capital within organizations is being tested like never before.

To help you manage through this transition, we've published a list of resources with best practices, articles and trainings at box.com/remote. Additionally, in recognition of the unique challenges the public sector organizations face in this virtual-first world, below are some thoughts and recommendations for immediate steps you can consider as you work to enable your agency and stay focused on your mission with a remote workforce.  

Enabling the digital employee

Almost overnight, many agencies have had to immediately address employee remote access to basic, required computing capabilities and connectivity to perform their basic functions. This has meant quickly deploying additional devices to employees, but it may also mean that you need to adjust your BYOD (bring your own device) policy and consider solutions such as virtual desktops that can enable employees to work on personal devices.  With these changes, it's of course critically important that government data is protected, and important records are not left unsecured on personal devices and networks. You can ensure security and compliance is fencing data so that it's only accessible and actionable within agency approved online systems, and prevented from being copied, downloaded and stored outside the fence. Consider strengthening VDI capabilities, and scaling cloud based collaboration solutions such as Box Shield, that offer download prevention and audit logging. And only allow authentication to agency networks and systems from GFE devices if necessary.

With more traffic from the outside, leverage the cloud to ensure adequate bandwidth and VPN capacity, and offload data traffic from agency networks.  And consider scaling existing collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Slack, Teams, and Box to connect all employees and enable efficient collaboration during this time. 

Finally, if you're working with legacy identity and access management frameworks, these can require complex, specialized end-point configuration (such as configuring Active Directory domains, special VPN configurations, mapped network drives, etc.), which in turn may limit authentication and access management from devices.  In the short-term, educate and train employees on how they can leverage existing IAM capabilities from the new computing modes (such as mobile), and make it clear as to which modes are not currently supported.

Enabling the digital organization

Government agencies are more than the sum total of their employees. Organizations depend on business processes, often automated and digitized using complex systems, that allow them to operate and fulfill their mission. Many times, such processes require significant manual intervention, exchange of data and documents, and require in-person decision making and records handling. As employees move to a remote model, these gaps and friction points can become glaringly apparent, even causing processes to come to a halt. 

To migrate to managing records and documents digitally, invest or scale existing cloud based content management capabilities including digital signature. Modern CCM capabilities can be deployed at scale in a matter of days, rather than months or years. For further expediency, narrow the focus of the records management team, focusing their efforts to digitize records that are needed the most urgently, and think through which records can be recreated from original sources (such as asking applicants to resubmit documentation in digital formats). And leverage CCM platforms to quickly deploy and enable "constituent portals".  

If you currently rely on traditional ERP systems requiring specialized end-points or access from within agency firewalls, leverage existing virtualization solutions such as virtual desktops to enable access to specialized end point software from personally owned, or remote GFE devices. And for the in-person business processes, immediately review internal policies and procedures to identify those actions that truly require in person reviews and decision making. Then utilize collaboration platforms such as Zoom, Slack and Box can to re-orient all stakeholders on a digital analogue for the legacy processes. Over time, you'll be able to enable a culture of remote work by changing internal policies and procedures so business processes are not reliant on in-person meetings and briefings.

Addressing front line service delivery

Many government agencies have front line service delivery responsibilities with a citizen facing mission, which often require staffing service centers for case intake or citizen assistance or require personnel to be present in the field to ensure mission is delivered and readiness is maintained for defense, law enforcement, fire and safety, and land management. Such functions don't always have an easy digital analogue, and many such personnel don't have the option to work from home. To minimize impact to operations, and to protect the health and welfare of employees, agencies should consider the overall impact of their mission, decide which functions can be suspended, or significantly rolled back, and only focus on those functions core to the safety and well-being of citizens, or as mandated by law. 

As you scale back citizen service centers, and defer all non-time critical support operations, actively direct citizens to existing virtual channels (telephone help line or online support portal). If those virtual channels don't exist, consider leveraging easy to deploy cloud based service management platforms to quickly enable rudimentary digital intake and triage mechanisms. (Platforms such as ServiceNow, Box and Salesforce allow for quick deployment of simple online solutions to enable minimal customer service without in-person engagement.)

For those operations that will continue to have a field presence (e.g. law enforcement, public safety, inspections), rapidly inventory these work streams and identify those that are not mandated by law, or core to the agency mission. Consider the implication of reducing delivery capacity and expectation throughout. For those roles that will remain citizen-facing, equip health and safety related field personnel with the appropriate equipment and training, and ensure backup planning in case some part of the workforce is unable to perform their duties due to illness or personal challenges. 

In closing...

As a leader, you are best suited to use this time of change, and evaluate where gaps might exist in your agency and personnel's ability to deliver on mission. By staying open to new approaches, technologies, and thinking about leveraging short-term adjustments, agency CIOs and leaders can manage their organizations to be resilient, and remain efficient and effective during unprecedented times like these.

At Box, we are actively working with hundreds of organizations as they change their operating models, and continue to lend our expertise, thought leadership, best practices and products. Our team stands ready to assist your organization in any way we can. To learn more, or to engage with our team, please reach out to me personally at any time at sonny@box.com.