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In a world where business is no longer limited to the office and government decision-making transcends congressional walls, the need to communicate, collaborate, and accomplish tasks from “anywhere, anytime, on any device” is steadily rising. With the 2012 release of the Digital Government Strategy under Executive Order 13571 (Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service), the federal government has made it clear that keeping pace with mobile technological advancements is not only a priority, but also a critical element to the success of government initiatives. People are now accustomed to using mobile technology to simplify their daily lives. To give employees and citizens better access to the government activities most relevant to them, the federal government must adopt mobile technology. When deciding to go mobile, government decision makers should be equipped with answers to key questions:
Does a mobile solution make sense for my business case?
What costs and returns on investments (ROI) will I get from my mobile solution?
How do I approach Governance, Risks, and Compliance (GRC)?
This white paper will identify business cases within the federal sector best suited for mobility solutions, review ROI and budget considerations, and guide the development of a GRC framework for government IT decision makers.
Business Cases for Mobile Solutions in the Federal Sector
The federal government understands the growing influence of mobile technology on the lives of citizens and how it both fuels innovation and maximizes productivity. With mobile web adoption growing 8 times faster than web adoption grew in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and over 1.2 billion people accessing the web through mobile devices, government agencies must offer a mobile means to access information.
Advancements in mobility have opened up innovative channels through which government agencies can serve citizens in more efficient ways. As a result of the explosive demand for increasingly complex mobile technologies, agencies struggle to determine when going mobile makes sense. The best business cases for mobile application development in the federal sector fall into three distinct categories:
The workforce is distributed.
Accelerated and simplified decision-making is required.
Common information must be disseminated to a desired audience.
Business Case Category 1: The Distributed Workforce
A distributed workforce is geographically disbursed and is not constrained by a physical office location. Within the government, this distributed workforce could include personnel who travel, telework, or perform field work (e.g. census workers, field agents, federal law enforcement professionals, and food inspectors). An Office of Personnel Management (OPM) survey of over 250,000 federal workers highlights that 22% of the federal workforce are currently teleworking. The distributed workforce builds a strong business case for mobile application development in the federal sector because employees require anywhere access to relevant agency resources, data, software, and email. A study by Brocade shows that 81% of federal employees surveyed connect to work remotely at least once a week, 45% connect to work several times a day, and that federal workers gain an average of seven hours of additional productivity per week by having seamless connectivity and mobile access to their agency. Agencies that realize the benefits of a mobile federal workforce, and provide technologies that support it, will create more productive employees, reduced absenteeism, consolidated workspace, increased flexibility, greater retention, and higher worker morale.
Business Case Category 2: Faster and Simpler Decision-Making
Anywhere, anytime access through a mobile application means that those business cases that require some action or decision on the part of the user can happen faster, with no physical constraints, resulting in increased workflow efficiencies. Consider a scenario where a citizen takes a picture of a pothole on a busy roadway using a smartphone and sends it with location information to the responsible agency. The agency decision-maker can receive the information in real-time through a mobile device, access revelant regulations and budget information, and make an immediate decision to dispatch maintenance crews. The application would be built with appropriate business rules and role-based permissions to authenticate the decision-maker and ensure access to the information relevant to the decision. Providing mobile workflow management capabilities provides easy, on-the-go access to actionable items.
Business Case Category 3: Easy Information Dissemination
Government agencies that need to disburse information to employees and constituents have a strong business case for mobility.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are engaged in initiatives that take advantage of mobility to deliver essential services in response to crisis and disasters. Government information dissemination is not limited to urgent communications, but can include any necessary transfer of mass information to groups. Opportunities to create valuable mobile applications for information dissemination are present in almost every government agency. For example, open government websites like Data.gov and ITDashboard can provide citizens with greater access to government activities through mobile applications.
Returns on Investments (ROI)
Mobile applications improve accessibility to information and offer both productivity gains and cost savings.
Essentially, the ROI for a mobile application can be measured using an easy formula:
Gains and costs for government decision-makers vary across three domains: financial, social, and political.
The financial benefits the government reaps from a well-designed mobile application can pay for the cost of its development and operations and introduce new ways of saving money. By making relevant information more accessible to users, mobile applications can contribute to business process efficiency. For example, action requests could be viewed and fulfilled anywhere, resulting in reduced transaction costs through productivity gains and process efficiency. In addition, citizens and government workers can access information conveniently with less training and/or access to a help desk. As more users are able to perform actions on their own, less investment is necessary for helpdesk staff, training, and infrastructure.
Government ROI must be measured in terms of more than financial gains. Investments that prove to better serve citizens must also be factored in ROI calculations. For example, the ability to access emergency information, report service outages, or request benefits using a handheld device bears a signficant impact on citizens’ quality of life and thus becomes a significant ROI factor for government.
Public investments must align to political policies and support the ability for government programs to reach intended audiences. For example, the Open Government Initiative requires government activities to be open and available to citizens. Mobile applications support Open Government by making information available in formats and devices that increase ease of use. As a result, less Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) inquiry is necessary, releasing scarce government resources for mission-critical activities.
Every day government decision-makers must determine how to maximize their budgets and make investments that bring cascading benefits to employees and constituents. Determining how much a mobile app will cost depends on the complexity of its interface, integration requirements, and development labor. Pricing a mobile app is impossible unless actual requirements are known. The following table helps agency leaders get on the right track. Key Budget Considerations can make mobile application development a financial success.
Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) Framework
Mobile technology is a major opportunity for the government to efficiently deliver important information to constituents, but presents unique challenges. GRC is defined as: Governance, an oversight role, is the process by which organizations define and manage the mobility paradigm. Risk Management is the process by which an organization evaluates business and regulatory risks and controls and monitors mitigation actions from the mobility paradigm. Compliance ensures that an organization has the processes and internal controls to meet the requirements imposed by governmental bodies, regulators, industry mandates, or internal policies. Mobile applications must adhere to applicable government regulations, policies, and controls, while still providing business value. The government requires a broad, integrated mobile GRC framework that is integrated with the organizational GRC. The following table facilitates the development and implementation of a robust and scalable mobile GRC framework.
To successfully manage the mobile application within an enterprise, organizations must create policies and processes on the type of mobile applications required, the business process or collaboration aspect reqAuiring mobilization, and access, permissions, and security. An effective GRC structure requires the collaboration between IT departments and the multiple affected business units including operations, legal, human resources, finance, accounting, and regulatory bodies. While governing rules and regulations and controls may introduce unexpected hurdles for decision makers, finding the right balance is key to the success of a government mobile app strategy. The following tips aid the development of a robust GRC framework:
Develop a simple mobile apps framework at the organization level. Your framework should include the following minimum steps: discover, review, build/procure, secure, deploy, and manage.
Consider adopting commercial mobile applications first. After validating security and compliance, the government can leverage the advanced technology offered by the commercial marketplace.
Develop suitable procurement/contract vehicles. Developing mobile applications for the government requires specialized skills and capabilities. Creating contract vehicles that allow vendors to compete for federal business in this specific domian will help achieve cost and process efficiency and enourage innovation. This vehicle can map to an agency wide centralized app store.
Containerize and categorize applications. Containerization and categorization helps protect sensitive enterprise data on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs that integrate work/personal devices. Such cateogries could include:
Foundational (email, chat, calendar)
Productivity (file sharing, reports)
Enterprise Connected (Travel, Expense)
Mission Specific (Case management)
Commercial (from multiple app-stores)
Custom Built (from Scratch)
Hybrid apps (mash-up)
Build core competencies in mobile app security and integration. Mobile apps should have enterprise-grade security capabilities and organizations should employ best practices in mobile application integration to avoid developing siloed applications and duplicate data.
Make security a priority. Third party tools can be used for integration and security on a periodic basis. Consultation with security experts is recommended. “What if” scenarios and clear risk mitigation and operating procedures can be developed for all identified risks, from lost equipment to data-spills.
Initiate government or agency-wide cloud storage services (storage as a service). Mobile apps can consume and produce a huge amount of data, and its security, ownership, and archival is critical. Aligning mobile app strategy to cloud strategy and hosting and managing apps on the cloud can alleviate storage concerns. Develop relationships with storage service vendors that are FedRamp/NIST certified to ensure security policy compliance.
Expand mobile awareness. Invest in educating and training employees to use apps in the government mobile space.
The task of developing mobile applications for the federal sector presents challenges that require decision-makers the trajectory of mobile technological advances, they also bear the burden of integrating rigorous security and managing stringent compliance standards. As a result, federal decision makers must determine which business cases are “mobile-critical,” how their development impacts their budgets and delivers value, and what steps to take when developing a GRC framework to keep mobile application development in check. This white paper scratches the surface of those concerns and arms federal IT decision-makers with the knowledge required when beginning the mobile IT journey. For more information on federal mobile strategy and mobile application development, please email the REI Solution Architecture Team (RSAT) at firstname.lastname@example.org. to make tough choices. While they must keep pace with
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