Academic journal article The Public Manager

The Grass Is Greener ...: Three FOSE Concepts Will Help Government Managers Communicate, Acquire Equipment, and Access Data, All the While Helping the Environment

Academic journal article The Public Manager

The Grass Is Greener ...: Three FOSE Concepts Will Help Government Managers Communicate, Acquire Equipment, and Access Data, All the While Helping the Environment

Article excerpt

On April 1-3, 2008, more than four hundred companies and other entities gathered in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, to huckster high-tech concepts, gizmos, and gadgets to government. In its thirty-second year, FOSE, formerly the Federal Office Systems Exposition, featured keynote speakers, conferences, tutorials, discussions, and a hall full of booths bringing together buyers and sellers looking for ways to use advanced technology to improve public management. FOSE is produced by an entity now known as the 1105 Government Information Group, which disseminates information technology news and information through various media, including Federal Computer Week and Washington Technology.

This exposition featured many categories of technology unheard of even a few years ago--secure remote working from public PCs, e-learning pool subscriptions, turnkey book digitization, and USB biometric drives--all now ready to roll out the door. This article focuses on three concepts of interest to certain government managers: unified communications, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), and cloud computing.

Unified Communications

Often working together, the biggest of the big--Microsoft, Cisco, AT&T, and Google, among others--are now furnishing various forms of unified communications to business and government. As the name implies, this is the integration of a broad range of fixed and mobile communications systems and media, including video (individual and conferences), voice (live, voice mail, VoIP, IP-PBX), keyboard or keypad (e-mail and instant messaging), high-tech white boarding, and other forms of data transmission in a single, easy-to-use environment.

These corporations can and do collaborate because the projects are large, allowing them to contribute a variety of complementary expertise, perspectives, and approaches. For example, Cisco is a leader in networking, and Microsoft has superior expertise in operating systems and desktop applications. The final goal is a solution that gives the user the ability to use the most appropriate form of communication for the task at hand.

Many offices now feature elements of unified communications, for example, voice mail that automatically sends an e-mail with a voice message to a computer so the user doesn't have to be near a phone to receive it, but simply plays it back on a desktop or laptop unit.

Federal projects that involve a transformation to unified communications generally involve a transition in phases. This type of transition allows the incorporation of legacy systems when possible, with the goal of their eventual phase-out.

IRS Contact Center

Russell Plain of Cisco described one project that involved unified communications in his FOSE presentation, "The Customer Interaction Network: What's Next," which examines Cisco's work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to enhance the citizen experience in interacting with the agency. In devising a solution for the IRS, Cisco had to first look at the characteristics and "expectations of a connected citizen," including a "rich-media-driven lifestyle, multiple communication options, virtual personalized assistance, and customization."

One important improvement stemming from unified communications, as demonstrated by the IRS project, is the shorter time it takes to serve a customer, meaning that more customers can be served using fewer resources, improving efficiency and better satisfying the public (see box next page). Other features of the IRS contact center are round-theclock customer access through an on-screen click that reaches chat, audio, or video help; customer choice of contact mode (chat, e-mail, or telephone); and tutorials and other information delivered by video.

The Future

Unified communications will become the standard for workers who provide customers with knowledge, goods, or services; those who maintain facilities and equipment, especially at multiple locations; and those in organizations having offices at disparate locations. …

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