As the COVID-19 pandemic marches into August, many Federal agencies are reflecting on the challenges of their initial transition to the telework environment, what positives have resulted, and lessons learned from the transition.

Speaking during the Simplifying Telework Technology in Government webinar today, Department of Education Deputy CIO Ann Kim, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) CIO Vaughn Noga, and Small Business Administration (SBA) Chief Technology Officer Sanjay Gupta shared their agencies’ experience with the shift to a remote workforce.

“We didn’t always have the technology that we needed to effectively support our users and just last year, as part of our IT modernization plan, we completely modernized our IT infrastructure,” Kim said. “We upgraded all of our laptops to significantly improve security, boot-up time, and performance of our office productivity tools, and we migrated our back-end infrastructure to a secure cloud environment.”

At Education, Kim also said that continuous monitoring of virtual private networks (VPN) and rethinking how IT services are delivered is important to the agency continuing its mission during the work-from- era. Onsite and desk-site support services also had to be rethought during the telework transition, she said.

EPA was helped by already having a “fairly robust” IT infrastructure that it had built been over the past couple of years, including migrating to Office 365 in 2013 and actively using cloud infrastructure, CIO Noga said. He added that partner support was also a big factor in the managing the telework transition.

“I would say during COVID, the first two weeks we probably experienced the same things other folks did. It’s the sheer magnitude,” Noga said. “And so with our partners … we were able to scale up fairly quickly.”

When talking about advice for agencies in the future, SBA’s Gupta emphasized paying attention to customer experience, adopting cloud as a foundational element to IT infrastructure, utilizing cybersecurity tools, and looking for non-traditional solutions – like VPN – for connecting.

“I want to emphasize that cloud by itself is not the destination,” Gupta said. “Cloud is the enabler to innovate, apply solutions quickly, and deploy them at scale,” he said.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.