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GCN : May 2016
TELEWORK 38 GCN MAY 2016 • GCN.COM designed to streamline and customize agency telework flows and features. NetComm, a small company that for the past 30 years has been developing data visualization and electronic forms primarily for the National Institutes of Health, has begun designing forms for the agency’s telework managers. “Even though they have certain standards they have to adhere to, they all want something just a little bit dif- ferent,” said Louise Marie White, Net- comm’s chief growth officer. Clients want a range of features, in- cluding reports on who has not turned in telework forms. Others want to be able to approve telework forms on the fly via their mobile devices. “What makes our solution different than others is that our solution set is really for telework,” White said. “We actually meet with each organization at NIH and tailor that workflow exact- ly to what they want to see.” TELEWORK’S NEXT FRONTIER Although telework might have started out as a way to maintain continuity of operations, new tools will be necessary to deliver what some experts consider the next era of telework: linking man- agers and employees in ways that im- prove performance. In equipping its employees for telework, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office took a full- services approach. It provided its many home-office-based workers with a virtual set of tools that duplicate what is available to workers at USPTO headquarters. The agency was able to outfit enough of its patent examiners for full-time telework that it could maintain staff productivity without having to expand its real estate footprint. “ That’s one extreme of teleworking, where workers aren’t necessarily mobile but are working out of their home offices,” said Cisco Federal CTO Dan Kent, whose company supported the project. The other extreme is the fully mobile employee who works on a laptop or smartphone and uses a limited set of productivity apps. In that case, teleworkers will need “some type of software on their devices that will create a secure tunnel,” Kent said. Between those levels of service, additional support might be necessary to authenticate, manage and secure applications used by teleworkers in a way that is more finely tuned to individual users, their devices and the context in which they work. As teleworkers go mobile, agencies increasingly want to track the devices they are using, the software patches and workforce policies that are required, and the locations from which teleworkers are logging into the network. “ We want to do more than just a secure [virtual private network],” Kent said. “ We want to authenticate you. We want to authenticate your device and understand the context of your telework. As you go more mobile with your laptop and phone, I want to know [how] you’re connecting to my network.” By tracking those user attributes, agencies can control individual teleworkers’ access to applications on the network and at the data center. “I might not give you any access except email, or I can give you access to these three applications because they ’re low impact, or I might give you full access,” Kent said. He added that administrators can control the decisions via a policy- based identity services engine, which manages authentication and identification. “ Five years ago, it was all about ‘give me a VPN,’” Kent said. “ Now we’re getting much more granular with the security and the access controls. Even when you get your VPN and connect in, we can track not only who you are but where you are and what you are using on the network.” — PAUL McCLOSKEY Keeping track of mobile employees 0516gcn_034-040.indd 38 4/26/16 9:29 AM
March and April 2016
June and July 2016