How to Effectively Run Large-Scale Telework Operations
The tactical use of telework for critical personnel may help state governments “resolve many on-site accessibility problems and is the major topic of discussion today regarding the impact of COVID-19,” the NASCIO guide notes.
State-issued laptops, tablets, smartphones and applications can enable workers to remain connected if they are working from home or in other remote locations. CIOs need to ensure that these devices are working properly and are secured, likely via mobile device management platforms.
“Exploit modern technology infrastructure and alternative communications methods,” NASCIO advises. “Anticipate the need to expand the use of remote access tools, collaboration and enterprise instant messaging platforms, including web video conferencing. This will require adjustment to end user concurrent licenses, including virtual private network (VPN) access.”
To meet the demand, the use of BYOD by state employees may be required, according to NASCIO. “If this is not already permitted via state policy, ensure all security controls are configured before allowing this practice,” the guide adds.
Cloud-based Voice over IP will also enable state workers to remain in communication to each other while working from home. However, IT leaders will need to make sure all users can effectively take advantage of such services.
“CIOs will need to determine the features and differences between the current tiers of services and an expanded end user base,” NASCIO advises. “These systems have a host of advanced features and capabilities that are probably unknown to most of the state government workforce. State workers have little experience working remotely with advanced configurations and call forwarding to smart phones. Pre-configuration, guidance and end user training will be required.”
State and local governments have been busy ramping up hardware and software purchases, as well as network and VPN capacity in anticipation of continued telework.
Another element of telework that state CIOs need to keep in mind is that, with more users working remotely, perhaps with systems and equipment they are unfamiliar with, there are likely going to be more tickets sent to IT help desks.
“With more IT and other state employees using remote technologies for the first time, there will be a higher need for helpdesk support,” NASCIO notes. “Staff augmentation through contractor services may be required. Consider implementing cloud-based helpdesk services, chat services and bots as appropriate. CIOs may need to expand current off-premise provider services and scale up quickly to meet demand.”
Plan for Enhanced Cybersecurity Risks
In all of this, cybersecurity should not be forgotten. Indeed, the flood of information in the news media and from government officials about the response to the pandemic is opening up opportunities for malicious actors to target public sector agencies with phishing and ransomware attacks.
NASCIO advises IT leaders to ensure VPNs and remote access systems are fully patched, enable or expand multifactor authentication and enhance system monitoring to receive early detection and alerts.
“Before sending workers home with laptops, make sure they have properly configured firewalls as well as intrusion prevention and anti-malware software installed,” NASCIO notes.
IT leaders also need to “prepare for problems arising from absent cybersecurity staff due to illness,” according to the NASCIO guide. “CIOs should also consider the risk of a cybersecurity incident due to absenteeism on the part of a cybersecurity contractor or managed services provider. Discuss these challenges with your suppliers and contractors and stay up to date on their status.”
The coronavirus pandemic is going to challenge state and local governments. However, through proactive effort, collaboration and technology, the public sector can continue to effectively serve the common good during the crisis.