Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalia Murillo, a native of San Diego, participates in a video conference with Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE) West during a drill weekend. NPASE reserve units paused in-person drills as early as March in accordance with Navy-wide coronavirus precaution. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Natalia Murillo)

DoD Telework: What We’ve Learned and What We Need

Department of Defense (DoD) IT and program managers want telework to stay, but many are also concerned about long-term security and collaboration challenges for the department.

Together with MeriTalk, Microsoft recently explored the state of DoD remote work, comparing perspectives and best practices from DoD IT and program managers in a new report, “Meeting the Mobile Mission: Secure Collaboration for National Defense.”

The survey showed that the majority – 81 percent – want to see the DoD telework more frequently, even when things return to “normal,” and 85 percent say lessons learned will leave the DoD better prepared to support the warfighter in the future.

Securing the Mission

Just 32 percent report that their department was “very prepared” to meet the mission when the transition to telework was announced in March of this year; the majority attribute this to security challenges, and almost all DoD IT and program managers report they are taking steps to improve telework security. For program managers, these steps include configuring home Wi-Fi according to best practices, and ensuring personal devices are updated with the latest operating system and security patches.

IT managers are likewise making progress – providing telework-specific security training and increasing use of virtual private networks (VPNs).

But there is no silver bullet. DoD IT and program managers recommend continued network updates and continuously providing security patches to remote computers – particularly as threats are on the rise with bad actors working to exploit remote environment vulnerabilities.

Enabling Productive Collaboration

According to the research, almost all – 94 percent – of IT managers say they’ve adopted new solutions to nurture workforce collaboration, including commercial virtual remote (CVR) environments, web-based chat platforms, and cloud-based email.

While IT leaders are enabling teams to stay in touch using chat applications, shared documents, and conference calls, security of remote environments is also top of mind. The key is to evaluate the tools used to ensure prevention of unauthorized access on the network, while controlling authorized user access. And as users continue to work from home, it’s more important than ever to reduce credential compromise and protect users’ identities.

Continued Progress at Scale

Today, supporting the mission means empowering teams with the ability to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time – whether they are in the field, in the office, or at home. It means secure bring-your-own-device policies, cloud, and collaboration.

The most important element, as we all know, is the people and how they use the tools. Everyone is adjusting to meeting, chatting, and collaborating exclusively online. We know this collaboration is key for a productive, connected, and healthy team – and we are all working to create opportunities for teams to work together virtually, yet seamlessly. It’s all about finding new ways to be productive, from anywhere.

As leaders across government have worked to achieve these goals – we are seeing tremendous examples of success, and creativity. See examples from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency.

We have effectively fast-forwarded digital transformation over these past months. The key is to continue the progress at scale.

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Greg Myers is the Vice President at Microsoft Corporation responsible for the Federal Government business worldwide. Greg works closely with top government customers and defines the strategy and oversees the execution of sales, contracting, pre-sales technical support, product marketing, customer satisfaction, and performance of Microsoft’s US Federal Government business worldwide. Greg joined Microsoft in April 2009 as General Manager of the US Federal Civilian and Healthcare Sales and Operations. In that role, he was responsible for the overall sales vision and creating successful strategies for a critical set of Federal customers. Greg previously served as Senior Vice President of Worldwide and Government Sales at Approva Corporation, a dedicated Microsoft partner in the Washington D.C. area.

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