Edging into what everyone hopes will be a post-pandemic environment, Federal agencies have learned a lot about remote work. But as employees continue to work from remote environments, agency tech leaders will need to continue to rethink policies, IT modernization, security, and training practices to ensure an integrated workplace environment, several Federal CIOs chief said during ATARC’s CIO Virtual Summit Jan. 25.

Nagesh Rao, CIO for the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said he sees telework as an opportunity to leverage emerging advanced technologies to meet mission needs efficiently.

“A virtual workforce opens opportunities for expanded recruiting, greater operational efficiency, and more engaged employees,” Rao said. “But to get there, we need to remember the importance of training up our workforce to transition to a hybrid or fully remote work environment.”

Thomas Peng, CIO of the Peace Corps, agreed with Rao’s assessment of the importance of training the workforce. He added that while agencies have many technologies and systems available to them, their value won’t be maximized without adequate training.

In addition to training, Peng emphasized that constant communication throughout the agency is crucial in meeting mission needs in a remote work environment.

“It’s easy to fall into these silos when working in hybrid or remote environments,” he said. “So leaders in an agency need to utilize emerging technologies and systems to prevent this from happening, expanding and ensuring collaboration, accessibility, and communication within the agency as a whole.”

Yet, while many agencies move to adapt to the post-pandemic new normal, Shaun Costello, acting CIO for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), reminded agencies they need to take a step back and prioritize specific agency mission needs before implementing any processes or technologies.

“Agencies first need to know what they need to solve or do, and then find the technology that works for them. You cannot blindly implement something because it works for another Federal agency. It may not work for you,” Costello said.

He also emphasized that agencies must remember that not all work can be performed remotely. For example, he explained that the FCC handles sensitive material that can’t be discussed or worked on over tools like Zoom. Therefore, certain parts of the workforce will need to work in a traditional government facility depending on those types of considerations, he said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.