4 keys to government workplace modernization

20 January 2014 | John Weigelt, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

Most government leaders can agree that having a modern workplace is a good idea. But what does workplace modernization really mean?

To me, workplace modernization is about governments freeing themselves from the boat anchors that slow them down—specifically, the legacy systems, redundant software, and outdated hardware that crowd their inventories. It means on-boarding up-to-the-minute technologies and processes. And it means giving citizens the same service quality they receive from private-sector organizations. Service, after all, is the purpose of government.  

As I discussed in my last post, workplace modernization needs to be a priority for most government agencies. Here are four key areas where updates need to happen.

State-of-the-art devices

Our present-day device market is replete with choices. From smartphones and tablets to touch laptops and convertibles, devices today are easier and more useful than ever before. While in the past, you may have rolled out a single device organization-wide, modern workplaces use a range of devices tailored to the unique roles of users or groups.

Choosing the right device starts with a detailed needs assessment. Ask about:

  • Input methods: Touch screen, keyboard, or both?
  • Sizes of screens: Two-inch, 17-inch, or something in between?
  • Ruggedness: Will the device be used in the office, the field, or both?
  • Training budgets: Is the operating system familiar or will users need to be trained?

Advanced automation tools

Everywhere you look, you find electronic devices and apps that make life easier. Take the Inspector App by Accela. It turns a phone into a mobile clipboard that field inspectors use to manage jobs from start to finish, viewing their schedules, finding addresses, contacting customers, checking off tasks, taking photos, writing comments, and emailing final reports. Incorporating modern automation tools like this into your workplace benefits everyone. Your employees work efficiently. Your costs go down. And your citizens get better service.

Sophisticated software applications

You should invest in two types of modern, productivity-enhancing software:

  • Office toolsThe latest office tools can be accessed on the go, on any device, bringing your workforce into the modern age. Beyond that, innovations to familiar software have transformed them into business intelligence tools. For example, Microsoft Excel now works with Bing Maps to graphically display information in new ways.
  • Communication toolsMake sure you build a single, unified platform for your email, meeting, instant messaging, and phone services. Modern workers need and expect to be able to check their email on their phones from home, handle conference calls on the way to the office, contact coworkers from the field, and be reached on one phone number instead of three.

Cloud infrastructure

Modern infrastructures are hosted in the cloud, so whether you choose a public, private, or hybrid cloud approach, it’s time to make the move. To see the justification for it, you may have to shift your focus from short-term cost cutting to lowering long-term total cost of ownership. After all, the initial upfront investment in devices and software is just the tip of the iceberg. The real expense hits post-purchase in infrastructure, support, and maintenance. But not if you’re in the cloud. In this new model, you outsource the operations to third parties, who reduce costs because of their scale.

By investing in these four areas, you’ll create a sustainable business model that increases productivity and reduces operating costs. More than that, you’ll stay out of the IT management business and focus instead on your core mission: providing outstanding service to citizens.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

John Weigelt
National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

About the Author

John Weigelt | National Technology Officer, Microsoft Canada

John drives Microsoft Canada’s strategic policy and technology efforts. He is the lead advocate for the use of technology by private and public sectors, economic development, innovation, environmental sustainability, accessibility, privacy, and security.