Step 3: Leveraging Technology
To ensure that an agile workforce program will work at any federal agency long term, it needs a technological catalyst to give employees the ability to post new projects as well as apply for them, independent of time or place. The platform that hosts the program needs to be easy to use so that project posting and sign up aren’t a purely manual process for which the agile team is responsible. Technology won’t create the program; instead, it streamlines the process, allowing for a healthy number of projects and people, with automated tracking of key metrics. Quantitative metrics reported by the platform help inform business value along with qualitative metrics and success stories from participants.
There is no need to build a new platform from scratch. Instead, you can use what has worked for other agencies. Each platform has its own list of pros and cons, but these are relatively short lists and you can talk to the teams who have tried different options. GovConnect Phase 1 pilots and mentor programs have laid much of this groundwork, and a summary of that experience is included in this section. Make sure to inventory various examples of data analytics needed and think through your own agency needs.
Role of technology
Teams need a platform that has the capability to host a healthy number of projects and allows employees to easily search for projects to apply for. A stable and well-designed platform lowers the barrier of entry for employees to participate and for people to create new project opportunities, giving supervisors and colleagues visibility into the process. When people see the process working, more people want to get involved and try it out themselves.
A successful pilot will have at least 50 projects with participants across different teams. In practice, pilots typically have had 100-200 projects, as excitement has grown around the various initiatives.
It’s important to view any of these platforms as just a vehicle or a tool that allows agile workforce programs to exist. The real work is the organization and culture change that needs to occur to allow the program to flourish.
What platforms are available to a team depends on internal IT policies and the type of agile workforce program that is desired. Does the team want the program to be internal only to a specific department or bureau, or does the team want something that is open for other agencies to access?
Open Opportunities is part of the Digital Gov initiative that allows any federal employee to create an account to post new project or to apply for any project listed. Used by GSA and the State Department, this platform is an example of a platform that operates across all federal agencies.
- Already established with active user population
- Available to only federal employees
- Existing documentation on project creation and applying for project
- Existing case studies and marketing materials, including supervisor support
- Available to be deployed for internal users only
- The employee must declare if supervisors are aware of their their activity
- Agency fees needed for supervisor notification and deploying for internal users only
SharePoint is a common platform for many agencies such as EPA, the Social Security Administration, and the Commerce Department where employees have access to create their own pages or sites. This allows for a program to take advantage of many of the integrations that came along with SharePoint, such as accessing Exchange Profiles to map employee and supervisor relationships. The process for getting a page or site launched to host the program requires assistance from your IT department.
A custom solution built with SharePoint can include notification system to keep supervisors informed if employees apply for new project. This system can also track if a supervisor has approved an employee’s desire to participant or not, which requires additional customization.
- A fully supported platform available to most agencies
- Easy integration with Exchange profile to allow for supervisor approval workflow
- Can be integrated into an agency’s intranet for greater exposure
- Requires IT support to deploy and maintain the program
- Requires knowledge of SharePoint to manage program page/site
- Dependent on IT release schedule for updates to program
Additional platforms have been used to pilot programs successfully; however, these require significant manual labor and are only recommended if an agency has staff time but a limited budget, and also has significant internal cultural barriers against using an open platform. These platforms will require the team to be more hands-on with the incoming project, applications, and project updates.
- Simple platforms that require little support from agency IT department
- Low investment to communicate the value of an agile workforce platform
- Not scalable to support an agency wide program
- Dependent on the amount of time administration team has to spend manually running the program