Federal managers see significant potential from mobile technology in improving productivity and saving taxpayer dollars, but express concerns that current investments are inadequate to achieve much of that potential.

That’s according to findings from an extensive survey commissioned by AOL Government of 300 federal managers involved with agency mobile technology strategy, policy, purchasing, design, deployment initiatives, or support.

The study examined the impact mobile technology is having on the productivity and operations of federal government agencies. It also explored areas federal managers believe offer the greatest potential for cost savings. And it looked into the primary barriers in moving forward with mobile strategies and what could be done to enable faster adoption.

Among the findings (see infographic on next page), the research found:

  • About half (49%) of federal managers surveyed said “government employees like themselves” could redeploy at least 7 hours per week toward more productive work if fully enabled to work mobily; 19% said they could redeploy more than 12 hours per week.
  • Three out of four respondents (75%) said “productivity” and “cost savings” will result from mobile technology by making it easier to complete work from the field (rather than waiting to submit work back at the office.)
  • More than eight out of ten (82%) said mobile technology would make it easier to telework, while 67% said providing immediate access to agency data through mobile devices would facilitate decision making.
  • Among areas offering the greatest potential for savings by transitioning to mobile technology: 57% anticipated lower real estate/facilities costs; 49% anticipated reduced net computer hardware costs and 42% anticipated lower software licensing costs; 35% anticipated lower help desk/support costs.
  • In terms of overall department IT savings, while about one-third of respondents were unsure about what savings could be expected, 43% or respondents believe a shift to mobile technology could result in savings of at least 10% — and as much as 29% — annually over time. While that may be overly optimistic, even more modest savings would still be substantial. The White House Office of Management and Budget, in its most budget request, expected to spend $78.9 billion on IT products and services in fiscal 2013.

The study, however, also pointed to several barriers and concerns in transitioning to mobile technology that need to be addressed if government agencies are to begin achieving expected productivity gains.

The findings in many regards reaffirm assertions by Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel in a blog making the case for the opportunity for government mobility. But it also raises a cautionary flag about what federal managers foresee are among the challenges in realizing those opportunities.

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A primary concern is the need for near term investment at a time when federal agencies are facing some of the most draconian budget cuts in a generation.

Sixty percent of respondents said the budgets allocated to adopting mobile technology at their agencies are not sufficient to meet their agencies needs and 54% believe that budgets would need to be increased “significantly” to meet those needs.

Federal managers also anticipate that certain costs are likely to increase as a result of transitioning to mobile technology: 72% expect that transitioning to mobile technology will result in increase spending for wireless and carrier subscriptions; 68% expect a jump in costs for adding mobile devices and 62% expect added costs for securing mobile devices and the platforms needed to support them at agencies.

Another stumbling block is the potential disconnect between who bears the costs and who benefits from the savings within an agency from transitioning to mobile technology in the workplace.

Unless there’s broad upper management support, IT departments may find themselves having to pay for mobile implementations from savings that don’t come directly back to their departments, which is tricky to execute, especially as budgets are getting cut across the board.

Among other concern: Securing mobile devices and the data that moves back and forth from agencies to employees who use them is also seen as a significant barrier to progress by 70% of respondents, the study found.

A number of respondents (44%) said that what they need most now from senior government IT officials is more guidance or roadmaps on how best to move forward with mobile technology, rather than just policy statements, and 41% would like to see better acquisition processes to buy mobile technology.

The study’s findings come at an important time in the federal government as the consumerization of technology products is forcing federal officials to rethink how the mobile revolution is changing the way government delivers digital information and services securely with fewer resources.

Additional details concerning the current adoption of mobile platforms, such as tablets and smartphones, and expectations for adoption over the next 12 to 18 months, and the full findings of the study will be released on June 26 during an Breaking Gov Online Panel.

The survey, conducted for Breaking Gov by Market Connections, Inc., in late March was based on responses from government mobile decision makers from 48 different federal agencies–with 178 respondents from civilian agencies and 122 from defense agencies. The results are reliable at a 95% confidence level where the responses are accurate to within 5.7% either way.

“We’re pleased to provide these new insights to the government marketplace and advance the dialogue on how the government can do a better job of harnessing mobile technology,” said Bill Klanke, General Manger, Breaking Industry, which publishes Breaking Gov, Breaking Energy and Breaking Defense.