Mobile technology will clearly take a higher profile role as federal leaders develop IT plans in the coming year, but it was clear from several who spoke on the topic Thursday that strategies vary widely between agencies.
Speakers at a mobile government summit at the Hotel Monaco in Washington, D.C., said mobility plans must be integrated into ongoing efforts rather than evolving as a separate entity. (See related story, “Federal Mobility Plan Takes Shape.”)
But agency leaders in various stages of planning to use mobile technology amid its workforce and to provide citizen services are still unsure of the best strategy for and value of mobility.
The General Services Administration, U.S. Marines and Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, have made significant headway implementing mobile strategies whereas the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is just getting started with a very conservative approach due to the sensitive nature of that agency’s business. Still, he’s no less committed.
“For Kundra, it was Cloud First. For me, it’s mobility first,” said Darren Ash, CIO of NRC. “I’m not doing this to save money. If we save in the long run fine. I’m focused on employee satisfaction. I don’t want our employees to be tethered to their desktop.”
Tim Hoechst, CTO of Agilex, noted mobile technology has progressied more rapidly than prior technologies, in part because it hasn’t required FIPS compliance. As a result, projects have been developed much faster.
At the same time, Ash cautioned peers to get it right rather than rush.
“I know it’s exciting and the bold new frontier,” he said. “But recognize that there are things to consider before you dive into the deep end of the pool.”
Several speakers at the 2nd annual event presented by FedScoop mentioned concerns around mobility plans regarding security, data and the devices themselves ranging from the need for policy around how devices are used to security difficulties due to varied devices, operating systems and apps.
Microsoft’s Federal CTO Susie Adams said agencies shouldn’t try to solve all security problems but tier the risk and solve them according to use cases. William Marion, Air Combat Command CTO for the U.S. Air Force, suggested a hybrid model for security would be most effective and efficient.
“Device management is absolutely killing us,” he said. “W need layered security protecting certain data rather than a wall around every device. … It’s about mission assurance not device management. Layered security rids the need for day to day management. It’s a Bank of America approach … that’s flexible for users but secure.”
Gwynne Kostin, Mobile Director at GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies said leaders must consider information delivery now as well as in the future.
“It’s about the information behind the device. It’s about the mobility of the information,” she said. “Those who are going to be winning will not be thinking about the desktop or the laptop or devices. It will be those who think beyond that, whether it be the Google glasses or something else. Who knows what the next device is going to be?”
Finally, CIO Roger Baker, who has led the VA in several advances in mobility, added a little levity to the topic.
“How many of you remember the introduction of the BlackBerry?” he asked the crowd. “How about the PC in 1982? Mini computers? Mainframe?
“There’s nothing new going on here, folks,” he said. “You’re seeing computing going down the mobility path it’s always been on. We’ve done this before. How many of you think gas prices are going up? Just the same, IT is becoming more mobile.”