Harvey Morrison is VP Global Public Sector and Corporate Accounts at Apperian, Inc.
Mobile technologies are creating tremendous opportunities for government agencies to improve access and deliverability of services to citizens, businesses, non-profits, and other stakeholders. The ability to deliver information and services anytime and anywhere to mobile-equipped end users is enabling local, state, and federal agencies to make information and services more transparent to constituents.
Still, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the different ways that the public sector can benefit from the widespread deployment of enterprise mobile apps. Mobile applications and other technologies are poised to revolutionize how government workers will be trained and become vastly more productive.
The demand for better training capabilities for federal, state, and local government workers is higher than ever. When asked how satisfied they are with the level of training they receive for their jobs, just 50 percent of the more than 376,000 federal employees who were surveyed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2013 responded positively, a 6 percent drop from 2010.
State-of-the-art training courses and modules offered through mobile apps represent exciting opportunities to bring training for government workers into the 21st century. Plus, mobile training apps offer cost and productivity benefits by enabling agencies to slash travel and expense costs associated with traditional classroom training while enabling workers to use courseware wherever and whenever it best suits them.
Mobile training capabilities could represent a boon for agencies that have taken massive hits to their training budgets in recent years. For instance, the training budget for the Internal Revenue Service alone has been cut by more than 85 percent from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2013.
More widespread use of mobile apps beyond training across federal, state, and local agencies can deliver significant productivity gains for government workers. In addition to the continuing rise of telework among many classes of government workers, there are numerous opportunities to improve information access and streamline workflows for employees who spend much of their time in the field. This includes human services caseworkers, emergency responders, and law enforcement officials.
Case in point: Florida has distributed camera-enabled smartphones and laptops to more than 2,300 foster care caseworkers. Caseworkers are able to use the devices to remotely capture time- and location-stamped images during home visits and upload them to the state's online database immediately, reducing time spent on paperwork. The adoption of mobile case management tools in Florida's Miami-Dade County has led to a 30 percent increase in home visits, more efficient reporting, and improved compliance with state guidelines.
Non-field workers can also benefit from the use of mobile technologies. For instance, the U.S. Air Force has transferred its maps, charts, and manuals from paper to iPads. The transition has reduced the amount of staff time once spent looking for and using these documents by 90 percent while saving the branch $770,000 annually.
Securing the mobile enterprise
Of course, as government agencies expand their use of mobile technologies, there are critical security risks that must be addressed to protect sensitive data and apps used on employees' devices. A report conducted by Mobile Work Exchange – a public-private partnership – finds that security ranks as a top concern (56 percent) among government IT managers. Meanwhile, nearly 60 percent of respondents to the Mobile Work Exchange study say their agency isn't mobile ready and does not adequately provide the plans, tools, and support needed to support a mobile workforce.
For the past several years, mobile device management (MDM) – which maintains control over an employee's device to ensure security – has been the customary approach to mobile management. However, the command-and-control approach associated with MDM has led to resistance among employees in the private sector, hampering mobile app adoption rates. In addition to being too restrictive, MDM fails to protect the data and apps that are used by workers.
Fortunately, there's a more effective approach that can be applied to protect sensitive information and apps while leaving personal data on employees' devices untouched. Instead of controlling mobile devices, agencies can secure information at the application level with mobile application management (MAM™).
An app-level approach to mobile management can enable government agencies to avoid the legal concerns and adoption challenges associated with controlling employees' personal devices. MAM allows government agencies to secure apps and data without interfering with employees' personal data. It's an approach that places employees at ease while fostering mobile app adoption.