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Empowering Your Teams with Cloud Collaboration

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Here are seven strategies to support the future of hybrid work.

Collaboration tools “proved to be critical success points” that allowed state and local governments to maintain continuity of services during the COVID-19 pandemic, said William (Bill) Rials, Ph.D., senior fellow for the Center for Digital Government (CDG) during a recent Government Technology webinar. Now, with more than two-thirds (67 percent) of government leaders focused on modernization over the next two years according to a CDG survey,1 it's essential to ensure these efforts support remote or hybrid working environments. Doing so, however, will require thinking about collaboration tools in a new way.

“Everyone did amazing things to keep things running,” said Jeremy Laurenson, Cisco distinguished systems engineer for global collaboration sales. “The opportunity is to look at what’s going to happen by 2025. We can sit down and plan. We’re going to have budgets we didn’t have before. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it right.”

Among the key strategies to leverage collaboration tools to support hybrid work:

1. Move Beyond the Response

Much of the collaboration technologies governments stood up during the pandemic were what Rials terms “necessity-based solutions.” Governments rapidly scaled solutions such as virtual private networks (VPNs) they already had in house or deployed free or low-cost cloud-based collaboration solutions to ensure employees sent home on short notice could continue to communicate and serve the public.

“Things got deployed en masse, but it wasn’t really planned,” Laurenson said. “People are still grappling with the results.”

2. Reduce Friction

Different departments and agencies deployed different collaboration tools during the pandemic only to discover they don’t connect with each other, making it more difficult to communicate across silos. Too often, “it all winds up in email because it’s the lowest common denominator right now,” Laurenson said. “That’s not where we see collaboration going. The interoperability of these things will wind up being key. Always keep an eye open for who we need to interact with and how easy it’s going to be to reach out over the borderline to whatever the tools are going to be.”

It’s critical to focus on how systems interconnect. “There isn’t going to be one solution,” said Travis Pouliot, senior manager of business development for Cisco’s global collaboration sales. Cisco and other developers are working on new protocols such as WebRTC ( to ensure their meeting tools can connect to each other.

“We want to make sure everybody can connect to every platform — whether it’s with devices, laptops, in the office or from home,” Pouliot said.

3. Refine Business Processes

Interoperability doesn’t just involve chat and messaging tools. By examining opportunities where technology can connect or automate workflows, governments can find ways to improve the constituent experience, Pouliot said. New technologies and APIs can connect collaboration tools to in-house platforms like Salesforce and Workday to automate approvals and virtually sign documents that once required wet signatures — but only when governments take steps to modify their internal business flows.

“It’s not collaboration as we think about it, but how we make processes easier to enable our constituents,” Pouliot said. “That’s a big thing that’s going to happen over the next three to five years.”

4. Ensure Compliance

Another challenge is ensuring collaboration tools — and all the attendant text, files and data shared while using them — comply with discoverability and transparency laws and regulations. “The problem is that each technology vendor has built their own experience and their own data stores, and in some cases each person has their own set of data,” Laurenson said. “People are starting to realize they can’t comply with the laws because they rolled it out this way.”

It’s vital for government technology leaders to think through data use, storage and transparency as they deploy the next generation of collaboration tools. “Don’t mete it all out to the vendor,” Laurenson cautioned.

5. Perform Due Diligence on Security

Remember that cloud-based collaboration tools aren’t secure just by virtue of being in the cloud. Government technology leaders must avoid what Pouliot called “a false sense of security.”

“While cloud is important for us to innovate, and cloud is the solution, the due diligence is required,” he said.

It’s important for governments to consider security as they evaluate different levels of service from providers. “What’s the cost to add more security features vs. the risk analysis we’re going to bring to the table?” Laurenson asked.

6. Consider Cost in Context

Many cloud-based collaboration vendors offer free or low-cost services with tiered pricing models for more advanced features, such as basic discovery compared to advanced data analytics.

“The biggest thing to know ahead of time is to do your homework and know everything that is and isn’t included,” Laurenson said. That’s particularly true when it comes to ensuring the safety of sensitive constituent data, given the complexity and importance of systems that support voting, utilities and the Internet of Things. “This stuff can’t be secured with a lack of funding,” Laurenson cautioned.

7. Plan for the Long Term

While governments now have more time than they did in March 2020 to evaluate their next steps toward modernization, it’s important to use it to build solid collaboration platforms for the years to come. “This is going to define how government looks for the foreseeable future — I think a decade,” Laurenson said. “Let’s make sure we’re planning for that, and not the sort of reactivity of the last year and a half.”

To learn more about how Cisco is enabling organizations to provide simple, smart and secure Hybrid Work, visit

1 Center for Digital Government/Cisco survey of 132 state and local government leaders, conducted in September and October 2021.