Mobility first: 4 simple steps to connect your city and its workers

18 February 2014 | Joel Cherkis, General Manager, Worldwide Government

Of the approximately 210 million government workers worldwide, only about 1 in 6 have desk jobs that keep them connected to their city’s IT network. Think about that. About 175 million government workers—most, if not all, of whom have phones in their pockets—are off the IT grid all day and not receiving employee services. Mayors, you have a huge opportunity here. By connecting these employees, you can increase their day-to-day efficiency, deliver the services they need to thrive in their jobs—and help your city thrive as a result. To get there, here are the four steps you need to take:

Ask workers what they need

Workstyles are changing. People everywhere are demanding more flexibility in when, where, and how they work. This shift is spilling over into every area—even to workers you haven’t traditionally supported with technology. These people—your police officers, bus drivers, park rangers, and garbage collectors—may not have city computers, but I guarantee they have cell phones. Hold forums with them. Ask what you can do for them. For the cost of a couple pizzas, you’ll learn how to serve them using their phones. When you open up new services to them, it’s like opening up a whole new world. England’s West Sussex County gives its employees remote, self-service access to payroll, pensions, and human resources, increasing their productivity and their satisfaction.

Adopt new technologies and services 

The goal is to enable your employees to work seamlessly on any device—phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, convertible, phablet, you name it. When you do, you also must govern those devices to protect private data. Enable city workers to access the data they need from multiple devices, yes. But also make sure they access only the data they need and no more. And, make sure only they (and not someone else using the devices) can access that data by entering the right credentials. You also must be able to wipe lost or stolen devices clean. Other important technology considerations include providing the help desk, middleware, content management, and security-monitoring services that your new mobile workforce will need. Here’s how Microsoft IT is doing it.

Outfit your office properly

It may sound counterintuitive, but your office spaces must change to support people who rarely spend time in the office. Remote collaboration is big. Enable employees all over your city to work together by equipping your meeting rooms with big screens and sound systems so they can host Lync or Skype meetings. Provide instant messaging and videoconferencing software. Down the road, maybe every room becomes a telepresence room. And make sure remote workers have touchdown points—places they can work when they come to the office.

Talk to your peers

Finally, as you make the critical shift to mobility, I urge you to constantly look at what other cities, like the Ashburton District in New Zealand, are doing. Pay attention. Learn. Share. I heard a lot about this one-to-one collaboration when I visited the Smart City Expo in Barcelona in October and in China last month. Cities everywhere are looking to each other for guidance and forming mutually beneficial partnerships. What has the city next door done to usher in a mobile culture? What can you learn from another city your size about the best mobile technologies and services? Would a visit to another city’s administrative offices be worthwhile if you could experience their new video-conferencing setup firsthand? 

When every device is an opportunity to provide service—and there are millions of unconnected devices in governments today—your opportunities are enormous.   

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Joel Cherkis
General Manager, Worldwide Government

About the Author

Joel Cherkis | General Manager, Worldwide Government

Joel leads a team of business development and technology professionals supporting policy decisions and the delivery of relevant and scalable technology solutions into public sector markets around the world. Read more