Apr 04 2024
Digital Workspace

Consolidation Can Help Deliver a More Modern Digital Experience for Agencies

Federal agencies are finding that they need to consolidate, technologically and physically.

In recent months, federal agencies and regulators have stepped back to assess the digital landscape in which they operate. And it seems that there are many opportunities to streamline.

Many IT leaders will perhaps be unsurprised by the emergence of this trend. Over the past few years, circumstances have combined to create an urgent need for rapid tech investments without a great deal of oversight or coordination.

Joe Lazzaro, principal architect for federal services at CDW Government, says that many agencies have built up technical debt in recent years. “One of the biggest trends around consolidation is that when people originally bought a lot of these things, they bought commercial solutions for federal work.”

These purchases required agency leaders to ask themselves some difficult questions. Should they use solutions that didn’t comply with current mandates but could still work for a while longer? Or should they try to meet federal standards but stop working completely? “Well, the government can’t stop working. They had to buy whatever they could,” Lazzaro says.

Now that they have had a chance to re-evaluate, many agencies are discovering that they need to streamline their digital environments. “As they’re consolidating, I think that they’re going to find that they bought a lot of different things that operate at different levels. Rather than picking one of the many, they may have to pick none, and start back over to do it right,” Lazzaro says.

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Disparate Collaboration Platforms Offer a Chance to Consolidate

There are multiple areas where federal agencies will discover benefits from consolidating technology investments. Network consolidation can improve application performance, and website consolidation can improve the citizen experience. But one area ripe for improved consolidation and integration is collaboration platforms.

“During pandemic conditions, units were buying whatever meeting platforms let them log in” and get back to work remotely, Lazzaro says. This variety of collaboration platforms has diminished the digital experience for hybrid workers. But choosing to consolidate these platforms can help agencies to turn the situation around.

“You’ve bought all this stuff. Different departments use different things. Now, let’s actually define the requirements and figure out what everyone’s going to use moving forward,” Lazzaro suggests. Agencies can move toward a consolidated platform, develop a plan to roll it out and set expectations on how it will be used. “I think it’s finally happening now that some of the dust is settling,” he says.

Consolidation Changes Physical Office Spaces

Another technology consideration around hybrid work is the adjustments that agencies must make to equip physical spaces. Scott Perry, solution architect for digital experience at CDW Government, notes some of the ways that offices have changed in recent years: “We used to have large conference rooms for a lot of people, and now we’re seeing the trend change to smaller huddle spaces for two or three people — collaborative work areas.”

Employees have grown accustomed to the comfort of working from home, and agencies are beginning to design their in-office settings to reflect changing expectations. “Now you’re seeing these environments resembling what you would have in a home environment, and that old boardroom mentality is evolving into a more collaborative workspace mentality and really driving the consolidation that’s happening,” Perry says.

Perry also notes that smaller office spaces have smaller technology requirements. “How many people are going down to the headquarters office? If that’s driving a downsize from a huge, large-square-footage building to smaller locations, you’ll also see the need for smaller technology investments.”

Lazzaro agrees, noting that the return to the office is influenced by technology decisions being made by the General Services Administration. “They’re one of the largest lessors of office space in the country or the world, and I think they want to reduce their spending on office spaces that they have to heat and cool and clean and manage for people who might never be there.”

READ MORE: Enhance your employees’ hybrid work experience.

Enhanced Conference Rooms Can Drive Critical Outcomes

So, what’s next? Some federal employees are back working in the office — and in conference rooms where they may discover that they don’t even have video capability. Many agencies will need to upgrade their existing conference rooms, but this need offers another opportunity for consolidation.

Perry notes that emerging technology solutions can modernize conference rooms to enhance the user experience: “We’re seeing systems using technologies like face detection to make a better in-room user experience,” he says. “There’s not this big wooden table with no one sitting around it. So, it's driving that user experience.”

These solutions may also show where better investments could be made. “They can also use those technologies to report on whether or not that conference room is being used to its best ability,” Perry says. “For example, if you just spent $200,000 renewing a conference room, and only one person sits in it three hours a week, now we can get metrics showing that probably wasn’t the best use of your money.”

Cost savings and more informed purchasing decisions are just two of the key outcomes that agencies can realize with greater consolidation. By leveraging more consistent, more integrated tech choices, agencies can improve security, productivity and efficiency. And, possibly more than any other desired outcome, the benefits will prove invaluable to the user experience, making hybrid work a more streamlined experience with significantly less friction.

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