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How To Use New Federal Funding To Update Your Government Agency’s Technology

by Ann DiPietro on May 18, 2021
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In the wake of COVID-19, many government agencies have set aside technology upgrades to focus their resources on maintaining operations in a crisis. For facilities leaders within those agencies, this meant rapidly shifting gears while relying on dangerously outdated tech. Now, with new federal funding from the American Rescue Plan, public sector organizations can finally move forward with technology investments.

New technology can help you protect your employees and data, improve efficiency, and transform how people interact with your agency.

What federal funding will you receive, and how should you spend it to achieve these goals?

What federal funding does the American Rescue Plan offer government agencies for technology?

Throughout the pandemic, many public entities incurred significant unplanned expenses. To cover these ballooning costs, some agencies put digital transformation projects on the back burner. One of the goals of the American Rescue Plan is to restore some of the federal funding government agencies used to address COVID-19 safety concerns.

Last summer, Congress reached out to federal agencies to learn more about their specific strategies for IT modernization and what type of federal funding they needed to facilitate those projects. Agencies like the Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, and the Department of Education outlined their strategies and delivered anticipated costs.

After recognizing many agencies have been relying on outdated technology, the federal government added $240 billion for IT-related expenses to the American Rescue Plan. They divided those funds into two pools: grants and direct dollars. According to the bill, government agencies must spend these allocated funds by December 31, 2024.

How your government agency should use this federal funding

Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, government facilities leaders have an opportunity to move forward with digital transformation plans that can improve safety, security, and service.

Of course, even with new, federal funding, updating old technology is a complex undertaking. It can be challenging to prioritize various investments and determine which projects will have the most significant impact on your organization.

How can you best use these funds to move forward on key objectives?

Here are a few areas worthy of your time and money.

Cybersecurity

Government agencies are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks, especially those that house critical infrastructure. Attempts to access sensitive information, steal money, and obtain ransom payments are becoming increasingly common at all levels, according to the US Department of Homeland Security’s 2020 Homeland Threat Assessment.

Federal Computer Weekly recommends agencies take proactive steps to prevent these attacks, including:

  • Having dedicated IT professionals who monitor for potential threats
  • Training all employees to identify suspicious emails and sharing information about known threats
  • Using best practices for internet isolation
  • Implementing zero-trust browsing that executes all browsing activity remotely in a virtual cloud container to protect the organization’s infrastructure and data

Because nearly 60% of all organizations have experienced a data breach from a third-party provider, ensuring all government agency technology vendors and contractors follow best-in-class security practices can also help you avoid cybersecurity threats. Your agency should have a standard process for vetting them that includes asking questions about data storage, penetration testing, access controls, and physical security for data centers.

Cloud-based software

Moving away from on-premise platforms and adopting cloud-based software when possible can also help you mitigate security risks. Reputable cloud-based software providers follow strict protocol for protecting your data and use their own resources to safeguard information. They update their solutions frequently and automatically to stay current with best practices. Because they host redundant data across multiple data centers, your agency won’t lose critical information in the event of a cyberattack, a virus, or a natural disaster. If one server fails, you can instantly access your data on another one without disruption.

Cloud-based software is also easier for employees to access anywhere and much more cost-effective to maintain, since all maintenance costs and upgrades are typically included in the monthly or annual subscription fees.

Space optimization

Using your space effectively is important for maintaining physical distance to protect employees while the pandemic persists, but it’s also essential for fostering comfort and productivity in a post-pandemic era. Without the right technology, it’s difficult to determine whether employees and the public are using your spaces as intended and where you may need to make changes. It’s also nearly impossible to forecast future office real estate needs. space management software, you can simplify and improve your processes in several ways. You can get a real-time snapshot of your space, analyze utilization on interactive floor plans, and easily reconfigure spaces as needed.

If you’re using IoT sensors that integrate with your software, you can get even more granular data on peak occupancy, average occupancy, and room and desk utilization.

These insights make it easy to implement flexible seating strategies like hot desking or desk hoteling, which can reduce your overall real estate costs. This is especially useful if you have employees who frequently work in the field or remotely and don’t need dedicated desk space every day.

COVID-19 safety expenses

Visitor management

While it has always been important to prevent unauthorized personnel from entering your building for security purposes, the pandemic added another layer. Now, your government agency needs to comply with more stringent capacity limits and protect your workforce from COVID-19 exposure. Ensure every employee, contractor, and guest complies with your policies by requiring them to register with visitor management software.

You can also send text, email or Slack alerts to hosts so they can promptly greet their guests when they arrive. This keeps your lobby from becoming overcrowded and makes everyone feel more welcome.

Facilities maintenance software

One of the biggest headaches for any facilities leader is keeping up with maintenance. With so much budget being reallocated to keep up with the demands of the pandemic, you may even be facing a longer backlog than before. Fortunately, you can automate maintenance scheduling and keep track of your team’s progress with facilities maintenance software. Employees can submit requests for cleaning or repairs as needed, and your team will instantly receive them. You can even reduce cleaning costs by reviewing daily utilization reports if you use software that integrates with sensors.  This makes your team more efficient and translates into substantial savings.

Mobile applications

With more people working remotely and teams spread across multiple locations, employees can start to feel disconnected. They might also feel disoriented when they come into your reconfigured building and realize they no longer have an assigned seat, and can’t find colleagues when they need to meet with them. workplace apps allow employees to easily find people and places in your building, reserve rooms or desks as needed, request services, and receive mail or visitors right from their smartphone.

Why updating your workplace technology is the best investment you can make

There are many ways you could choose to use this federal funding to foster positive change within your agency. Investing in new technology not only makes your agency more secure, safe, and efficient; it also improves your employee experience.

In one survey of 12,000 employees, researchers rated organizations based on their willingness to adopt new technology. Among organizations that lagged behind in this area, 58% of employees reported having negative feelings toward their employers. At more innovative organizations that prioritized tech investments, just 10% of employees felt that way.

“The research underscores how the digital workplace encompasses a wide ecosystem of people, culture, technology and processes,” said Leon Sayers, lead advisory consultant for Unisys Asia Pacific, which conducted the survey. “It’s not just about how up to date your IT is or whether you can log in from home. How you work defines your workplace—and vice versa. To achieve successful digital transformation, employers must take a holistic approach to organizational change.”

Embracing user-friendly, cloud-based software reduces friction from your employees’ day so they can be more productive.

This translates into better morale and better service for the communities your agency supports.

If your government agency is considering investing in new workplace technology, we can help you find the right solutions to support your needs and your budget.

Learn more about how to use federal funds for COVID-19 safety with iOFFICE.

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