What Year Three of the Pandemic, Hybrid Work and IoT Means for the Government

When industries and governments first started to feel the impact of the pandemic, there was a rush to transition to a virtual work model as quickly as possible.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this new year of COVID-19 and how government agencies have adapted to a new way of doing things. To me, it’s been a time where facilities with technology have emerged as key to organizational viability, and the most successful agencies were able to use technology to stay current with the times and the needs of their clients. The more I look at the trends in technology and what to expect going forward, the more convinced I am that the way government organizations leverage, and manage, technology will be central to the future success of their missions.

Remote Work Is Here to Stay

When industries and governments first started to feel the impact of the pandemic, there was a rush to transition to a virtual work model as quickly as possible. Almost three years later though, that conversation started to change. We’re seeing stories touting the benefits of returning to in-person work, and companies began wondering aloud how soon they can bring employees back into the office.

To me, that obscures the larger picture. While Covid-19 certainly accelerated the trend toward remote work, that trend had started long before the pandemic. A virtual workforce offers increased flexibility, allowing contributions from workers around the globe, and creates a better, healthier work/life balance. It’s also far cheaper to invest in the technology workers need to do their jobs remotely than it is to invest in the real estate needed for in-person work. In a world requiring increasingly digital solutions, how people work needs to keep up.

That said, the technological obstacles to creating a significant remote workforce aren’t insignificant. It requires a full understanding of your current resources and assets, and what’s required to retrofit a workforce accustomed to working onsite. It also requires the expertise to bring organizations fully into the cloud and adapt existing processes to cloud-based workflows. From a macro level, it requires a complete understanding of the agency’s purpose and business case; from its mission to its customers to its end users, from the competitive environment to organizational threats. A trusted technology partner that has that big-picture perspective, one that understands the necessity of five-nines availability, can help make the transition to remote work much more seamless.

The Internet of Things Gets Larger

The rate at which inanimate objects are becoming “smart” is truly remarkable. So much so that watching a more connected generation try to use old tech is downright comical. And why wouldn’t it be? Connected devices can give us more useful information that allows us to make better decisions. Why use an ordinary umbrella when a smart one will never get lost or can tell us when it’s going to rain?

With that increased connectivity, though, comes increased risk, as each connected device becomes a potential opportunity for cyberattack. And the more connected your devices are, the greater the risk of exposing confidential or proprietary data.

The smarter the world gets, the more essential it becomes to maintain a broad view of where your agency is going from a technology standpoint, particularly when you introduce new tech. You need to understand not only how it is meant to be used — to accomplish what goals, on what platforms, interacting with what other programs — but how it could be potentially misapplied, either innocently or nefariously. At a time when the slightest discrepancy between how something is intended to be used on the whiteboard and how it’s used in the real world can be exploited, new tech is something agencies need to stay on top of.

The Importance of a Trusted Partner

For all these reasons and more, it’s important to fully understand your agency’s technology needs and the benefits of collaborating with a technology partner who understands how government organizations work. But there’s another facet of government life that agencies need to be alert for — inertia. As humans, people like routines because it takes far less mental energy to run on autopilot than to continually evaluate choices. So already, there’s a bias toward the familiar, to recycling the same old RFPs, to doing things “the way we’ve always done them.” Beyond that, creating something new takes time and resources, often for a process or technology that has no guarantees for success.

A true partnership happens when both parties are invested in the success of each other. It helps to establish a strong communication cadence. The level of communication will vary, but should be as much as needed to make the customer feel supported — weekly, if not daily. In terms of who to partner with, at a macro-level, size might matter depending on your goals. Small firms are nimble and flexible but may lack certain capabilities like past experience, processes and reach-back capability. Large businesses may have all those capabilities but can be rigid and hard to change. Best of both worlds? Look for a mid-sized company that aligns with your mission, vision and culture.

A technology partner that works with but outside the government offers significant benefits than managing your technology alone. It can be easier for a private sector partner to evaluate products and processes from the outside, with an understanding that what works now isn’t going to work forever. That perspective can be the impetus for keeping you current, ready and able to embrace whatever the future has in store.

Previously published on Newsweek.