Originally published on Future of Work.
Constituent demands and workforce challenges have been driving State and Local Governments and Education (SLED) IT decision makers to accelerate the digital transformation that began in the last decade and was bumped up to critical status during the pandemic.
Agencies are working together in new ways, made possible by faster networks, more cyber security solutions, increasingly sophisticated and intuitive productivity applications like Microsoft Teams, and investment in leveraging data to improve everything from operations and cost savings to delivering more modern services to teachers, students and the community.
Technology has become a catalyst for change.
Many governments have now seen how more streamlined inter-agency and inter-departmental collaboration speeds up initiatives to drive economic growth. Emerging work technologies are making government jobs more interesting and attractive, including support for work-from-home and hybrid models, offering new opportunities for workforce development to enhance the customer experience, and fostering a sustainable future.
We caught up with Jeff Li, Senior Director, Risk, Governance, Partners, and Projects at ConnX, a systems integrator and managed service provider to learn what the most promising use cases are in the SLED realm. ConnX has been supporting multiple state, local, and education customers for many years.
“There are so many ways more secure and resilient networks support progress, including remote learning for K-12 and higher ed institutions, as well as more powerful, digitally connected in-person classrooms,” Li said.
There is major activity in the Health and Human Services (HHS) domain, in which agencies are finding success in data collaboration efforts that enhance public access to health and social service programs, especially in underserved communities.
“The leaders we work with are taking constituent- and student-centered approaches that reduce barriers, automate processes, and lead to better customer experiences like mobile citizen apps and e-learning options,” Li said. “It is key to recognize the need to include policy and compliance in any collaboration and communications initiative, which is why solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and especially Microsoft Teams have grown so dramatically. When law enforcement, social workers, EMR teams, emergency rooms, and healthcare providers are integrated, they can be more productive from the planning process to performing with great speed and coordination – delivering seamless customer experiences.”
There is an awakening underway, a true movement, where modern SLED leaders are looking at digital infrastructure, which, according to Li, is viewed as being at least as important as physical infrastructure.
“Since day one, public servants have paid a great deal of attention to roads, bridges, sewers, traffic systems, and other built-world requirements,” he explained. “Now, they understand the value of building out digital infrastructure and connecting the two, using sensors for early warnings when maintenance is required or when an inbound weather event starts to drive concerns. Systems integration is crucial so SLED organizations don’t overbuild their networks and find ways to optimize every penny spent through greater data management and human collaboration in real time.”
Investments in digital infrastructure, such as AI software, open many opportunities. For example, data can help shorten emergency response times. It can also analyze traffic patterns, while congestion-prediction tools help authorities reroute traffic in real time. This can help prevent accidents and reduce carbon emissions.
While SLED organizations have been notorious for being behind the curve when it comes to adopting new technologies, this is radically changing as more and more agencies and organizations are adopting Microsoft Teams as their secure collaboration solution.
“With an uncertain economy, SLED IT budgets are tight, so it is essential that those responsible for keeping increasingly digital government and education networks and platforms running be as efficient as possible,” Li said. “State and local governments and school districts are truly the pillars of American communities and are tasked with ensuring public safety, service, and educational programs are fully supported. Despite the urgency the pandemic created in terms of hybrid models, it is still a struggle for many to adopt the most up-to-date platforms to better serve the public.”
One of the most significant opportunities for improvement is moving to a collaboration platform that consolidates legacy telephony functions integrated with productivity applications.
“At ConnX, we are big fans of Teams as it so masterfully integrates the people, content, and tools teams need to be more engaged and productive, and our SLED clients agree. They’ve experienced the benefits! Because Teams is built on Office 365, it integrates with already familiar Office apps and services. Many state and local agencies and educational institutions have been using Office 365 for decades and already have access to Microsoft Teams as part of their Office 365 subscription – without using it.
Some of the benefits they enjoy include:
- Increases the ability to collaborate across project stakeholders, different departments, and file store systems;
- Consolidates multiple collaboration systems under the Teams umbrella;
- Enables online and offline messaging;
- Interoperates with government and education apps, including GovPilot and Blackboard, with a rich Microsoft feature set tailored to the needs of public servants; and
- Keeps conversations and projects organized securely and drives more productive meetings while supporting digital transformation and innovation projects.
“With the help of ConnX experts, we are helping SLED organizations transform their operations and build a new culture of teamwork with Microsoft Office 365 and Teams,” Li concluded. “We offer full solutions, from AI SD-WAN private networking, edge computing support, end-to-end licensing, and procurement> We also provide planning, strategy, customized services, solutions, and platforms along with ongoing managed services. As a Microsoft Gold partner that also works with all major communications service providers, we bring the experience and wisdom SLED teams need to augment their IT teams and bring them into a more cost-efficient and modern realm – enabling them to do more for less.”