Case Study – Department of Communications

Case study for the 'Workforce mobility project'

Summary

A digital transition workplace solution enabled staff to choose their device and what apps they needed to perform their work from any location. Benefits include improved business productivity and greater capacity to engage and collaborate, increased workforce flexibility, better information management and business efficiencies.

Agency overview

The Department of Communications, while small with just over 400 staff, plays a key role in the communications sector nation-wide. We are the Australian Government's pre-eminent advisor on communications, in particular digital technologies and communications services. We promote an innovative and competitive communications sector so Australians can realise the full potential of digital technologies and communications services.

Introduction

 In 2014 the Department developed the Corporate Plan 2014-17 and undertook a range of cultural change and capability building initiatives as part of the broader change programme. For our internal environment, one of the cornerstone objectives in the; 

  • ICT Strategy was Collaboration;
  • People Strategy; creating a flexible, agile and diverse workforce;
  • Communications Strategy; using leading-edge technology to achieve best practice communication and engagement outcomes; and in the
  • Digital Strategy; creating a digitally-fit culture.

The Workforce Mobility project, championed by the Secretary, has facilitated collaboration across the Department and created an environment where staff now have access to leading-edge technology; and the flexibility and agility to seamlessly interact with anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Department had a mix of existing mobility solutions which included Citrix, Good for Enterprise and Good Share. By logging into the Citrix desktop, staff could access corporate applications and information, however no data remained after the Citrix session was closed. Good for Enterprise was deployed in early 2012 to enable staff to access corporate email and calendar information from their tablet or smartphone. Good Share was subsequently deployed to give staff the ability to access content from their G: and H: drives. However this solution did not provide staff with a digital or seamless mobility experience nor was access to the entire network possible.

This Workforce Mobility project has been the foundation for the cultural change in the Department, in the process creating a new digitally-fit culture.

Project objectives

The intent of the project was to deliver a seamless digital transition through a workplace mobility solution that included a desktop and mobile hardware rollout and a Standard Operating Environment upgrade to Windows 8.1.
The aim of the new solution was to enable staff, through the use of smartphones, tablets and laptops:

  • the ability to access corporate information from anywhere with an internet connection;
  • to make personal choices about how they work, when and from where;
  • to increase workforce flexibility for all staff, especially focusing on those staff with a disability or with carer responsibilities; promoting greater work life balance; and
  • to improve our capacity to adapt and collaborate at all levels; and across all work areas and divisions.

Project execution

A project was initiated following a hands-on demonstration to showcase "the future desktop", a week-long presentation of new technology and innovative ways of doing work. The project was committed to engaging with staff to seek input into the design and usability of the new devices. A pilot was conducted with a wide cross-section of staff to help identify what worked and what could be improved upon. Interestingly, staff members were so impressed with the new solution, not one of the pilot members opted to return to their old way of working at the end of this phase.

We followed a personalised approach for the rollout focusing on assumed knowledge and personal engagement. This included an open forum and the setup of a 'playground' as a test lab style of training, allowing our staff get to know the environment at their own pace. Staff have appreciated using technology at work which is now as up-to-date as what they use at home. In fact they find it easier to troubleshoot issues themselves as the technology is more familiar to them. Branch champions were selected to help out others when we started deploying to the Department. This established a culture of staff learning from each other and talking about technology, encouraging staff to increase their digital awareness.

The rollout was completed at a rate of 15 people per day. Not only was this a positive user experience, on comparing the costs, it was cheaper than a 'big bang' rollout over one weekend. Each staff member was booked in for a time which suited them, to install the equipment and to get a personalised walk through of the new setup. To empower staff with the resources they needed to resolve common issues and problems, we set out a playlist using Linda.com for staff to watch e-learning videos when they needed a little additional help. This included videos of the new features of Office 2013 as well as leaving on each desk an information and introduction package with tips and tricks.

Staff were also able to access an apps store/library which enabled them to download and install applications onto their devices from a list of SOE applications. This meant the systems rolled out were fairly lean, and was just what was needed to do the job and nothing else. If staff needed another application they could install it.

This helped to implement a better security model, as only what's needed is installed. We worked closely with ASD in the development of our risk assessments and updated a number of our policies (in collaboration with Human Resources area on some policies) including our:

  • Acceptable Use Policy
  • Working from Anywhere Policy
  • Working on Departmental issued and personal devices
  • Advice for international travellers

Hardware and device rollout for all staff involved

  • Fully adjustable ergonomic arms for single or dual touch-capable monitors
  • Wireless mouse and keyboard
  • USB3 dock to connect network and peripherals
  • Choice of either: 1 litre (small footprint) desktop; or one of two issued mobile devices (14 inch ultrabook or 13 inch convertible laptop/table )

Rather than having a desktop PC as the only IT solution, staff now have the choice of a device able to access the Department's network. Whether it is connected to the corporate network in the office, a Wi-Fi network in the office or at home or internet hotspot in Sydney, Melbourne or London, the device has full access to applications and systems. Staff can seamlessly interact with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The new solution is as simple as closing your laptop at work and then reopening it at home, to have all the documents you were working on at work automatically at your disposal. All Departmental staff are able to request laptops which they can use anywhere at anytime.

The hardware chosen utilises the latest components for better performance. The desktop selected whilst having a very small physical footprint, also consumes significantly less power than traditional desktops through the use of laptop internals. All devices can be swapped out easily as they all use the same power supply and USB3 connection, greatly reducing the support effort.

To allow staff full mobility within the Department's premises, a managed wireless network was installed. Staff can undock from their desks and collaborate with colleagues in open spaces or participate in meetings, all while staying connected to their applications and information. The connection back to the corporate environment is secure and seamless, using Microsoft's Direct Access technology to encrypt traffic over the internet.

Software upgrade involved

  • Windows 8.1 operating system
  • Office 2013 and Internet Explorer 11

Moving to Windows 8.1 supports the Department's philosophy of using current versions of software, which is an advanced practice in the public sector. To help the Department achieve this aim, the back-end infrastructure was also upgraded, which will streamline future software upgrades. This also provides users with a corporate application catalogue, from which to select applications to install at their convenience. The Department is now well positioned to move to Windows 10 with ease.

Online training

A suite of online training and support material was developed together with the Human Resources Branch, rather than providing classroom style training, so staff could explore and learn at their own pace. This proved to be very successful and was a cost effective way of delivering training to staff. Playlists have been developed for staff to target specific learning topics. This approach is in line with the Department’s goal for staff to become more digitally literate and manage their learning and development on-line.

Project outcomes

The ICT Infrastructure team delivered a workplace mobility solution which includes a desktop and mobile hardware rollout and a Standard Operating Environment upgrade to Windows 8.1. The delivery of the mobility project realised the Department's goal of enabling staff to work smarter, be more productive and operate in ways that support greater flexibility, collaboration and engagement.

Other benefits that have been realised through the project include:

  • Improved digital continuity – the new operating environment allows staff to quickly access information from anywhere at anytime, as they need it and to work with it the way they need to and in turn improving decision making (as staff can quickly find what they want when they want). For example there is nothing preventing staff accessing any key documents they may need during meetings (as issues arise). Information is available to staff digitally whenever they require it. The reduction in manual work means information is updated on the fly and saved into the correct repository, regardless of where the user is. There are no barriers to them accessing this information and they don't need to be at work to retrieve this information.
  • Improved agency accountability through information management. Regardless of where staff are working from, they are able to immediately save documents onto the Department's information management system (EDRMS). The Department has reduced the risk of staff forgetting to save their documents onto the information management system once they are back in the office.
  • Substantial improvement in digital information management, as all documents can immediately be saved to the information management system regardless of when and where they are created.
  • This project has significantly contributed to building an organisational culture that values digital information to the point, digital information is fast becoming an important organisational asset. The key to increasing productivity is strongly linked to how well an organisation stores its information and how quickly and easily the right information can be found and accessed. This project has placed this Department in the position that its staff are now all able to quickly and easily access digital information.

Laptops in meetings are now shifting the Department away from paper. The Minister is already paperless in Question Time, preferring to use GOOD Share on his iPad. The Secretary uses a touch device to sign documents by hand, on screen. Rather than print – sign – scan.

The project's benefits have been not only realised within the Department but also recognised beyond the Department. The workplace mobility solution is considered to be a benchmark in method and process for the public sector.

Led by the ICT Infrastructure Director, Mr Russell Wentworth, and his team worked with our award winning partners ASG to achieve a significant cornerstone in bringing the Department's working environment to a sophisticated level. This has enabled the Department as an organisation to be more productive, collaborative and flexible. The project has enabled the Department to make even further gains in realising its 2014-17 ICT, People, Communications and Digital Communications Strategies and has achieved a cultural change by setting the foundations for a digitally-fit workforce.

Project impact

This Workforce Mobility project has been the foundation for the cultural change in the Department, in the process creating a new digitally-fit culture.

This digital transition has given staff the freedom and the flexibility to work on any chosen device, on a wider range of applications and software. The diversity of devices has also been important in cultivating innovation. It has ensured staff can now work on their preferred device, typically one which is integrated with their online identity.
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017