Aug 06 2020

The Technology Needed to Help Agencies Rebound from a Crisis

Consistent communication and access to clear and accurate information are crucial to helping workers amid unpredictable situations.

As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded across the United States this spring, state government leaders used their continuity of operations plans and technology, such as rapidly scaling up VPN resources , to keep agencies and government services running. Georgia CIO Calvin Rhodes and other IT leaders anticipate that state governments may need to return to some form of lockdown, similar to what they experienced in March and April.

Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and its attendant effects on IT service delivery and the need to rapidly shift to remote work setups, it’s crucial that IT leaders plan a response should another acute moment of crisis hit.

When that moment arrives, IT leaders and their staff will need to focus on putting out more fires and ensuring continuity of operations and service delivery for other elements of government.

Government IT leaders must have the tools in place to guarantee clear and consistent communication, including dissemination of accurate information to all staff; a unified response that does not lead to more confusion; the ability to collect and respond to users’ concerns and questions in a timely manner; and consistent use of technology tools so that workflows are not siloed or fragmented.

During the pandemic, CDW established the Crisis Response Portal, a solution built on the ServiceNow platform, to enable quick and easy access to accurate information for your team and other key stakeholders.

How to Keep Your Team Informed and Safe

Such a solution was critical in the early days of the pandemic, as teams scrambled to set up remote work solutions for tens of thousands of users and it was unclear how traditional work would continue. A crisis portal will remain crucial if agencies need to return to a lockdown and shut down physical offices this fall as the pandemic evolves.

The portal approach has many benefits and acts as an intranet for agencies. First, it provides agencies and other government organizations with a single, public-facing place to manage communications. Clear and consistent communication is vital to reducing confusion and confirming everyone operates from the same information, and to ensuring everyone’s safety during a time of crisis. The portal lets administrators configure the communications aspect using widgets that can broadcast urgent messages to users.

The portal also includes easy reference to articles; for COVID-19, it includes articles from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Agencies can pull in social media feeds and external sources of information, such as data and dashboards from Johns Hopkins University on the status of the pandemic in a state or municipality.

Additionally, the crisis portal gives agencies the ability to let users, staffers, government employees of all stripes and constituents ask questions and interact with both leadership and each other. This community forum function can help individuals overcome a sense of isolation that lockdowns may induce. Forum moderation ensures that information is accurate and interactions are respectful. These forums can support photos and video, and can be used for a variety of topics, such as how to be effective while working from home, how to handle virtual education for children and offers information on the pandemic.

People visiting the portal can submit cases or requests, which can be easily tracked. This approach centralizes related work while also creating visibility into specific tasks. The portal includes omnichannel support to track cases that are brought in via the portal, from phone calls, chats, emails and even integrated social media streams.

The portal allows agencies to connect applications and centralized dashboards with important data, which creates efficiencies because they can be integrated with other apps ServiceNow has built in response to the pandemic. For example, the Emergency Outreach app distributes information and confirms safety and location through email or a mobile app, and the Emergency Self-Report app enables people to report their health while using workflows to help managers respond.

The portal also has a function to have a prebuilt virtual agent that uses natural language recognition software to respond to frequently asked questions.

As the pandemic evolves, it will be critical for governments at all levels to be able to maintain services for citizens and quickly respond to changing conditions. The crisis is far from over, as case levels continue to rise across the country. Government IT leaders, and the officials and public they serve, need tools at the ready to quickly and effectively handle dynamic and fluid situations. The crisis portal can be that critical tool.

This article is part of StateTech's CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.


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