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FCW : July 30, 2014
RUSS COLBERT is the U.S. federal government market director at Polycom. Commentary | RUSS COLBERT I’ve had the great privilege to serve our nation in the armed forces and then work directly with the fed- eral government. I’ve learned that “change” can be a dirty word in the public sector, yet change is exactly what we need to ensure our agency programs’ survival and our contin- ued progress. In the early 1990s, when I was with the Navy, the video collabora- tion industry was just starting to develop. But the Navy had fore- sight. In a time when videoconfer- encing and data transmission were largely untested, the Navy saw the promise of video from both a tech- nological and a financial standpoint. We had sailors deployed on ships all over the globe; instant communica- tion was a must. For several months, my admiral came to me daily asking about the return on investment in adopting video. The numbers were stagger- ing: Millions of dollars and thou- sands of man-hours were saved. Twenty-five years later, our gov- ernment is at a tipping point with video. With new legislation requir- ing agencies to slice travel budgets in half by 2017, video technology will play an even more important role in feds’ future. It will, that is, if we adopt it governmentwide. So why can’t we do that today? For one thing, we live in fear. The fear of the unknown coupled with the desire to avoid radical change has stunted our realization of the savings and benefits video brings. Take telework, for example. Agencies could save $14 billion if supervisors let interested and eligible employees telework two days a week, according to research by Global Workplace Analytics and the Telework Research Network. Yet too many managers are not let- ting eligible workers telecommute because they aren’t comfortable with the concept. Network security concerns factor in as well. Each agency is different in how it secures its network, but all can use encryption options that can run behind the firewall, making video connections private and safe. Fear is the biggest obstacle to making any decision to change, but budgets are stagnant while programs multiply. And sacrificing integral missions because of fear does not sit well with taxpayers, especially when solutions are read- ily available. We can remove the fear barrier by keeping three simple ideas in mind: • Don’t plunge in blindly. Some agencies recognize the opportunity of video but also recognize that a complete system shift would be disruptive. My advice is to experi- ment. The Navy started with pilot projects 25 years ago and took off from there. • Share your findings. If you’ve already started a pilot project and are collecting results, share them. The Navy was the only branch of the armed forces using video in 1992, but leaders from the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force quickly heard our ROI numbers and wanted to start their own pilots. • Create new policies. Imple- menting new security policies is essential to thwarting the fear of cyber espionage. The government needs universal policies to enforce cybersecurity clearance levels. In addition, each section of the gov- ernment, from the Smithsonian to the Pentagon, should develop its own set of cybersecurity rules spe- cific to its needs. Fear is a powerful beast, and every important decision comes with some apprehension. But I urge you to think critically about what $14 billion in savings would mean for this country. By teleworking and using more video, we could preserve current missions, build on new ones and develop new job opportunities — all while easing the burden on taxpayers. ■ Overcoming fear of change can save billions Video collaboration can bring big savings and efficiency gains — if managers can get past their concerns Sacrificing integral missions because of fear does not sit well with taxpayers, especially when solutions are readily available. 14 July 30, 2014 FCW.COM
July 15, 2014
August 15, 2014