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Mobile technology can be a powerful tool for both productivity and citizen engagement, but there are implementation pitfalls to avoid.
March 18, 2013 By William D. Eggers
In a previous column, Jason Salzetti and I discussed the enormous potential of mobile technology to engage citizens as partners in transforming public services. Mobile government also can be a powerful productivity booster for the public sector. But the path from good idea to demonstrable results–especially when it comes to implementing a new technology across government–is littered with implementation failures.
I want to outline a half-dozen steps that government agencies can take to realize the potentially enormous benefits of mobile while avoiding the missteps of previous technology implementations.
Rethink business processes: To realize a big productivity impact from mobile tech, governments will have to change the work. Mobile can reach its potential when public agencies use it to redesign their business processes and eliminate steps altogether. Take Boston’s Street Bump app, which uses the accelerometers of drivers’ smartphones to identify potholes and automatically report their locations via GPS. The app, in theory, could eliminate the need for engineers to Let’s painstakingly survey the city’s 806 miles of roadway and gather the data, accomplishing the same thing at less than half the cost. Technology deployed for a particular purpose can be modified for other situations: for instance, tweaking Street Bump’s algorithm to report where cars often speed through intersections or to predict where crosswalk paint has faded or lights are burnt out.
Define the problem you wish to solve: Productive organizations don’t “go mobile” for its own sake. They have a compelling business objective that mobile solutions can further. Government agencies should analyze how mobile can address their specific challenges. When Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources launched its mobile app for last-minute fishing licenses, it was solving a problem–the delay in recouping its money when licenses are purchased from third-party vendors. The agency is partially funded by user fees and cannot afford to let these fees linger in other people’s hands. The app made the licensing process quicker and more convenient for both government and citizens.
Adopt a “mobile-first” approach: A mobile-first strategy means making mobile tech a priority, instead of an afterthought, to fully capitalize on the medium’s growth and capabilities. It means leading with mobile apps and products, rather than treating them as enhancements or add-ons. When U.S. Environmental Protection of Agency CIO Malcolm Jackson announced an agency-wide mobile-first policy, he emphasized that mobile access is rapidly becoming the primary way in which people seek government information. “A lot of people cannot afford personal computers or Internet service,” he said, “but they can afford smartphones, and they do not leave home without them.” A mobile-first policy should not apply only to new applications but should also require infrastructure designed to replace rather than duplicate existing processes.
Focus on user experience: Mobile apps are used differently than traditional computer applications–while moving or standing (rather than Website sitting), often in areas with limited bandwidth or intermittent connectivity, and sometimes in harsh environments. This requires careful attention to user experience and design. Involving citizens and frontline workers in the design process can provide valuable end-user insights for more effective applications. Factors such as ease of use, interface, appeal and functionality will play key roles in determining an application’s success. The approach should be to design apps that help large populations of regular users and are built around specific experiences.
Prototype, test, prototype again: In the “waterfall” development model that once dominated the world of software development, processes flowed steadily downward, from requirements to design to implementation to testing, and finally ending at maintenance. However, this meant that changes after initial deployment often proved cost-prohibitive. To overcome this, developers shifted to a model that allows for constant evolution through recurrent testing Trollface and evaluation–agile development. Agile assumes that we rarely get the design right the first time. Gastritis Mobile-government implementation should look more like what we’ve termed “beta government”: rapid iteration and scaling to meet shifting needs and demands, through small prototypes and pilots, staged rollouts and allowance for small failures in an attempt to avert larger failures later.
Make mobile a source of security, not a threat to it: When it comes shifting to mobile in government, the discussion quickly turns to the security risks associated with the rapid growth of mobile Banks computing, including possible data leakage over unsecured Wi-Fi networks and privacy breaches due to mobile malware. Instead of being a threat, however, a mobile device can act as a powerful security key with the ability to verify identity, transmit encrypted data or enable access to a particular site or service. The private sector has already capitalized on this trend. For instance, Bank of America’s SafePass program provides an extra layer of protection to online banking by texting a six-digit, one-time access code to the user’s registered mobile device. It’s easy to imagine governments using similar mobile authentication techniques to securely deliver personally identifiable or sensitive information.
Government agencies aren’t the only organizations trying to adapt to mobile technology. Many private companies struggle with this as well. But if mobile is a challenge, it is also an opportunity: a chance for the public sector to start closing the productivity gap, reassess its business practices, boost its efficiency and renegotiate its relationship with the public it serves. Used right, mobile can transform government’s capabilities.
This column, which is adapted from William D. Eggers’ and Joshua Jaffe’s new Deloitte University Press study, Gov on the Go: Boosting Public Sector Productivity by Going Mobile, was originally published at GOVERNING.com. Image courtesy of Shutterstock : http://www.govtech.com/e-government/Column-Six-Steps-to-Mobile-Success-in-Government.html
Microsoft CTO of State and Local Government Stuart McKee
March 13, 2013 By Elaine Pittman
Mobility is changing every aspect of computing in the public sector from how workers perform their jobs to citizens expectations of government services. While the increasing number of mobile devices can create challenges, its also bringing new benefits to the public sector and changing the traditional thought process behind when and where work can be conducted.
Microsoft CTO of State and Local Government Stuart McKee, pictured above, anticipates the arrival of a new generation of devices within the next 12 to 24 months and said CIOs will have to set expectations about what the plethora of devices means to their agencies.
In this interview, McKee who is the former CIO of Washington state discussed the impact these devices will have on government and how Microsofts products are evolving to meet current and future needs.
What is the future of productivity in the public sector and how will it shape the next wave of devices?
I dont think the future is that unpredictable. I think what were seeing is our companys vision of a PC in every home come to fruition. But I think Bill Gates and Microsoft may have missed it it wasnt just a PC in every home, but computing in every pocket, every home and every car and connected to everything else. And that trend, I believe, is going to continue.
I think one of the challenges for government will be trying to maximize the capabilities that are available in this network-enabled world in a way where government employees, assets and resources can be productive for citizens. And I think thats a real challenge thats becoming less of a Let’s technical problem and perhaps more of a policy issue. The CIOs of the future are going to have to stand up and try to articulate to policymakers why their workforce could be productive in a bunch of different geographies and locations.
How will the proliferation of mobile devices impact government productivity?
On one side its going to cause some policy challenges; it already has. Unfortunately all you read about government is that bad stuff in the newspaper. And the idea that a government worker might work from home as much as people would like to make that happen or know that would be a good thing for a bunch of reasons among them increasing the workday, let alone decreasing travel and pollution or whatever political agenda you might put on it but it is such a hard thing for traditional environments to deal with the idea of workers not coming to a central location. So the policy side of it is a big thing.
The other part impacting the productivity is the IT people trying to deal with it because as we have this explosion of capabilities, connectivity and devices, managing it becomes very hard. Thats not a new concept by any means; this is a challenge we have faced for a long time. When you standardize an operating environment, you can create a lot of efficiencies in operating it. Southwest Airlines is a very profitable airline, because they standardized their fleet and operational environment. And when youre an IT guy and running an IT environment and everybody is bringing a zillion different devices with a zillion different operating systems and capabilities, that becomes unruly and something has to give. A lot of these IT folks are kind of turning their head to a security conversation because they want to enable this plethora of new devices.
How are Windows as well as Office and Outlook evolving to meet current and future needs for the government workforce?
There are three pillars I like to talk about. The first is choice. This is true for government, the private sector and individuals if you think about how they operate in their personal life. Choice is the idea that Windows 8 is available on a whole bunch of different devices, and its very much an open ecosystem.
The second thing is mobility. Its not just about mobility of individuals, but also mobility of their data. What weve done with things like SkyDrive and the capabilities were building into the operating system is making it location aware but location independent. The idea is I can have my data and my digital assets anywhere anytime and seamlessly synchronized across devices. Increasingly I think itll be less important to information workers and other workers in general where their physical asset lives. It will become seamless. And I like the word asset because were talking about documents or spreadsheets or whatever it is. That asset in many cases will live in multiple locations and be synchronized between them.
Mobile assets are important and we want to make sure we enable those. If you have Windows 8, you have your machine and put your USB stick in, and you can create an encrypted copy of a snapshot of that operating system. You can go to other PCs and devices, plug in this USB Faces stick and boot to it, and itll create a secure, encrypted operating environment independent of the other things on that machine. Its really an interesting mobile scenario, the idea of various governments and just being able to have your operating system in your pocket and not even have to carry a device.
And the last thing we havent forgotten about this security is still incredibly important to us. Theres a scenario called trusted boot. When you boot a Windows 8 device, theres no BIOS anymore one of the attack vectors, if you will, was around BIOS. Historically you would Embroidered turn on a machine and itd load a set of directions to tell the computer how to use the disc, memory, motherboard and monitor bus, and then the operating system would load on top of that. Whats kind of scary herramienta right now is viruses that insert themselves below the operating system into the BIOS.
As governments are collecting more information, how can they crunch or crosswalk it across different spheres to be more predictive about where services will be required?
Theres a belief that the more data I produce, the better, and Id argue the that the more data you produce, the likelier its a needle in a haystack. More data is not the answer; better organized data is. So when I talk about big data, I want to talk about organized data, dealing with the large volumes and doing something meaningful to it. A lot of data should just go away why put it on a disc? There should be an understanding that Im not going to hoard it because I can, but maybe I should get rid of it because thats going to help me get to better information.
A great example of big data in the way the processes are working and integrating various types of data is the NYPD. We recently announced a partnership with the police department in which they have a couple of very specific scenarios and one of them has to do with the sensors and real things they have on the streets and their real-time operations capabilities. The idea is that the data from the sensors they have around the city from cameras to traffic lights to traffic sensors to temperature gauges to environmental sensors gets collected in a central area and is digested and processed in a way that allows analysts and city operations people to use that information in real time.
Then the secondary concept is to take some of that data over time and stack it into a different area or set of databases that allow more analytical processing and trend analysis.
What do you predict will be the big tech trends this year?
If I didnt say Windows 8 Id probably get in trouble, but I truly believe Windows 8 is going to change a lot of things with the unification of — capabilities across multiple devices. I think were going to continue to see the evolution and maturing of the tablet space, but our belief is that youre going to have the convenience of a tablet with the capabilities of a PC. I think thats something were going to see as an expectation for these devices coming to fruition.
The other thing I think we havent solved quite yet is the last mile issue, and I have great expectations that this administration at the national level ? will continue to push some of the broadband agenda. I hope that well see some breakthroughs in networks. Whether thats some sort of wireless capability, maybe its our cellular network, maybe its WiMAX, but I expect in the next year were going to continue to see not only an incremental evolution in our connectivity but maybe see some kind of really interesting breakthrough.
The last thing on my wish list is batteries. We are long overdue for a leap in battery technology. If you think about not only carrying your phone and your mobile device around and how untethered you can be and for how long, but also for backup and recovery type scenarios. New Yorks a great example: Lower Manhattan went dark for quite a while [after Hurricane Sandy], and currently we have to fire up generators and that scenario is very difficult: The generator is only as good as how much gas you have stored. I hope some of that battery technology will get to a time where well have more capabilities.
(Photo of Stuart McKee by Jessica Mulholland: http://www.govtech.com/pcio/articles/Era-of-True-Mobility.html)