On May 4, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a trademark dispute involving the travel reservation company Booking.com. It was a momentous occasion, but not so much because of the legal principles involved. It marked the first time in history that the high court heard arguments by teleconference, with audio live streamed to the public.
It is just one of the countless examples of how government institutions and other public-sector organizations have made pandemic-compelled accommodations to support remote operations. Although all industries have had to make similar adjustments, the shift has been particularly challenging for government entities that have struggled for years with outdated legacy technologies.
According to a new survey by Granicus, 82 percent of government officials believe their organizations need to become more technologically advanced to cope with new challenges. However, the pandemic does appear to have sparked a new focus on modernization, with more than 60 percent reporting that they have accelerated digital transformation efforts in recent months.
Enhanced communications, collaboration and call center technologies are particular areas of emphasis because they are essential to supporting efficient remote operations. Recently retired Federal CIO Suzette Kent has said increased investments in these areas have produced an 800 percent increase in government telework capacity, which has allowed agencies to send up to 95 percent of their workforces to safer locations during the pandemic.
Improving Service Delivery
Perhaps more important, these enhanced capabilities allow agencies to better respond to the needs of their constituents. With in-person services limited, people increasingly require the ability to access services and critical information through digital channels. Plus, digital engagement is safer, faster and more convenient. In addition to maintaining social distancing, digital interactions require no drive time and are not restricted to typical working hours.
Deficiencies remain, however. Chronic underfunding means many public-sector organizations remain heavily reliant on decades-old technologies such as analog telephones that connect to plain old telephone service (POTS) lines across copper wires. These systems lack modern productivity features, have rising maintenance costs and are at increased risk of failure.
Modern unified communications (UC) platforms make it easier to implement work-from-home initiatives by linking voice, video, email, instant messaging and other digital communication channels through a single interface. Whether they are working from home, in the field or at the office, government employees have access to all the tools they need to maintain real-time communications with both colleagues and constituents.
The video collaboration component of UC solutions such as Mitel’s MiCollab is increasingly important to remote government operations. Many state and local governments are conducting virtual meetings that are required by law to be open to the public. Video also provides a way to extend services and programs to sparsely populated rural communities that have traditionally been underserved.
With remote operations likely to remain a permanent option for public-sector workforces, cloud-based contact center solutions will also be important for maintaining connections with constituents and other agencies. Some government contact centers run 24×7, employing hundreds of agents and handling hundreds of thousands of interactions with citizens each year. Even a temporary shutdown could be catastrophic. Cloud-based solutions such as Mitel Connect make it possible to set up remote agents and managers in any location, enabling continuity of operations under any circumstances.
Although public-sector organizations have accelerated their IT modernization efforts to great effect during the pandemic, more work remains. As an approved vendor under a number of federal and state technology procurement contracts, IPC is qualified to help you explore, acquire and deploy a variety of enhanced communication and collaboration solutions. Contact us to learn more.