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FCW : January 2013
Rick Holgate 18 January 2013 FCW.COM "We had a mantra at NCIS that we were looking for infrastructure that was global, mobile, and highly reliable and secure," said Holgate, who is also co-chairman of the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Coun- cil s Advanced Mobility Working Group. "But a lot of the time, those four characteristics work against each other." A spirit of experimentation Despite the challenges, getting employees to embrace mobile initiatives has not been an issue at ATF, Holgate said. But managing expectations is a different matter, one that the popular "NCIS" TV series on CBS didn t help. "Enthusiasm has never been a problem," he said. "At NCIS, people s reference point was always the TV show, so our employees would see the TV show and ask, 'Why don t we have cool stuff like that? " ATF s special agents are by nature aggressive adopters of new technologies, Holgate said. The Justice Depart- ment "has been much easier to work with, I think, than if I was trying to do similar things in a [Defense Depart- ment] environment where the risk tolerance level is dif- ferent," he added. ATF s current mobile projects seek to go beyond the agency s reliance on laptop PCs and cell phones. For exam- ple, earlier this year, 2,400 special agents transitioned from BlackBerrys to iPhones in an effort to make Apple s mobile platform the agency s standard and thereby simplify the infrastructure for managing those devices. The decision to switch to iPhones was initially more of a practical matter. In 2009, ATF began looking for ways to provide special agents with a video surveillance capability, which the BlackBerry lacked at the time. Of cials experi- mented with Microsoft s Windows mobile device, but it was "not the most user-friendly experience," Holgate said. With the introduction of the iPad in 2010, the iOS plat- form jumped to the forefront of mobile devices. The tablet PC "altered the thinking around mobile platforms and capabilities, so that was really when we started to shift our focus to that particular platform," Holgate said. "We learned enough about managing the devices that we felt con dent that we could get users a good, basic user experience for the kinds of things they expected from the BlackBerry standpoint but then also give them exposure to the other functionalities on the device." The iPad is still a bit of an experiment "in the sense that we re trying to better learn how to provide the right tools for our users on that platform," he added. In that spirit of experimentation, ATF is working with different user groups to better understand what they do on a daily basis and how mobile devices can support that work. The groups include special agents, industry opera- tions investigators and regulators. "When you look at some of the current mobile devices out there, those are getting pretty close to allowing you to do whatever you need to do without it being a traditional desktop."