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FCW : September 30, 2014
Government employees have a variety of tools to facilitate collaboration with their colleagues --- whether they are pursuing scienti c research or gathering requirements for a new piece of software. The options range from consumer-grade tools for sharing les and free audio conferencing services to products that offer higher levels of security or support more structured forms of collaboration. The task for agencies is to line up the right tool for the job. As a result, an agency might work with a diverse set of collaboration tools rather than a single offering. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory s Of ce of the CIO provides a portfolio of collaboration software and ser- vices for its researchers and partners at other institutions. "The primary thing we are trying to enable here is sci- enti c collaboration," said Adam Stone, chief technology of cer and division deputy for policy and technology at Berkeley Lab. "When thinking about collaboration tools, it is always about being able to include external collabo- rators as full participants in the research environment." Berkeley Lab s collaboration options run the gamut from Google Apps to project management software and wikis. The Veterans Health Administration, meanwhile, uses Microsoft Lync and Adobe Connect to work with Defense Department colleagues, and employees use ThinkTank s technology to facilitate brainstorming sessions, said Dr. Clayton Curtis, an informaticist at VHA and interagency liaison for health IT sharing between VHA and the Indian Health Service. While agencies weigh decisions on collaboration alter- natives, the offerings continue to evolve. A challenge for tool makers is reaching users who are jaded by other enterprise communication methods. "People are tired of death by PowerPoint and one- way communication," said Steve Ricketts, chief marketing of cer at collaboration software vendor ThinkTank. "One of the biggest challenges is buy-in and getting people to actively participate." Why it matters Workgroups are a way of life at many government organiza- tions. Science-centered institutions, for instance, conduct nearly all their inquiries on a collaborative basis and seek tools to keep investigators on the same page. Collaborative research, a long-established practice in high-energy physics, has become the norm at Berkeley Lab, Stone said. Collaboration takes place in groups of various sizes and involves outside institutions across the country and around the world. Against this backdrop, the CIO s of ce has been reform- ing its collaboration technology to accommodate external researchers and address other issues such as the need for mobile device support. Another requirement is facilitating self-service provisioning and sharing. Researchers in a highly decentralized organization must be able to make decisions about what collaboration tools to use and with whom to share documents, Stone said. Berkeley Lab has been a Google Apps shop since about 2010 and also extensively uses Google Drive and Google Sites. Those apps cover the productivity and collabora- tion bases, but they have some limitations in the research environment, particularly when dealing with bibliographic material, which is important for the nal stage of research, Stone said. Therefore, lab employees mainly use the Google tools for coordination and early-stage research. Before publishing, they typically turn to a specialized word processor such as LaTeX, which is better equipped to handle bibliographic formatting and equation editing, Stone said. The CIO s of ce, meanwhile, has added a number of Collaboration tools: Making location moot BY JOHN MOORE As agencies deal with travel restrictions and increasingly complex work teams, the technology options for bringing employees together are keeping pace 30 September 30, 2014 FCW.COM ExecTe c h
September 15, 2014