Why Government Agencies Aren't Ready to Return to the Office
September 21, 2022

Mike Marks

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US government agencies are bringing more of their employees back into the office and implementing hybrid work schedules, but federal workers are worried that their agencies' IT architectures aren't built to handle the "new normal." They fear that the reactive, manual methods used by the current systems in dealing with user, IT architecture and application problems will degrade the user experience and negatively affect productivity.

In fact, according to a recent survey, many federal employees are concerned that they won't work as effectively back in the office as they did at home.

Employees Worry the User Experience Will Suffer

A Swish Data/Riverbed survey of federal IT workers, conducted in April and May by Market Connections, found that about half (47%) expect hybrid schedules that include teleworking two to four days a week to continue long-term, but that 52% think that the legacy IT and on-premises network architectures will struggle with the increased use of on-site collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Those shortcomings manifest themselves in the user experience, the survey found. Forty-four percent of respondents are concerned that their user experience working in the office would fall short of their experience working from home. And a significant reason for the disconnect is the outdated methods agencies use to identify and quantify problems that arise with IT operations, and how those problems affect users.

A full 100% of survey respondents said it is at least somewhat important to measure the employees' user experience of productivity capabilities. But 87% said their agencies still rely — reactively — on waiting for help desk tickets to be generated before addressing problems. In fact, 51% rely on user phone calls as the primary means of quantifying problems.

The result, according to 59% of the feds surveyed, is that agencies aren't aware of the impact that changes in their IT environments are having. They're not measuring business-function productivity in terms of labor costs, latency or rates of success, all of which are tied to user experience. A majority of respondents said that although their organizations compare the business transaction productivity of teleworkers to that of in-office workers, they do so only partially. And measuring and comparing employee productivity is less likely to happen at civilian agencies than within the Department of Defense.

Unified Observability Takes a Proactive Approach

In light of the realities of hybrid work—with flexible home/office schedules, a greater reliance on collaboration tools and the shift toward greater use of digital workflows — federal employees are looking for a balance between collaborative tools and in-person needs.

A proactive approach that combines comprehensive network visibility and effective monitoring tools can provide a clear view of the user experience, which can enable both increased productivity and enhanced user satisfaction.

A Unified Observability platform can provide full-fidelity data from across the enterprise, capturing all transactions, packets and workflows. Using automated artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, it can prioritize actions to help enable cross-domain collaboration and coordination. While greatly improving the ability of IT teams to identify and remediate any problems (ranging from cyberattacks to workflow bottlenecks), Unified Observability enables IT teams to improve service delivery.

The higher quality of IT service will improve employee performance and the delivery of services to constituents and other stakeholders by allowing employees to more seamlessly perform their jobs, whether working from home or in the office. The visibility provided by a Unified Observability platform allows multiple teams across the enterprise to identify and analyze user issues while making use of automation to quickly resolve any problems.

"Government from Anywhere" as a Reality

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on top of digital transformations that were already underway has forever changed how agencies operate. The concept of "government from anywhere" is a widespread goal, but it requires a cultural change at most agencies. The survey recipients agreed, with 87% saying that their agency culture played a growing or significant role in driving change.

Abandoning inefficient, reactive methods of measuring the user experience in favor of enterprise-wide visibility with proactive monitoring and analysis will improve user experiences regardless of their location, while also boosting agency performance overall.

Mike Marks is VP of Product Marketing at Riverbed
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