July 9, 2008

Telework Influencing Technology Investments

By Zeidner, Rita

Technology that supports telecommuting initiatives takes an increasing bite out of federal technology budgets, new research shows. Many federal managers are lukewarm on telecommuting, supporting only small numbers of employees to work from home. But a survey released this spring by the Telework Exchange, a public- private partnership that supports telecommuting, suggests high gas prices and worsening traffic are prompting many managers to take a second look.

Slightly more than half of federal IT managers surveyed from 70 federal agencies say they consider telework requirements when making information technology investment decisions.

In the next two years, however, 68 percent of respondents predicted IT spending on telework would increase. Defense Department officials predicted a spending increase of 15 percent, compared to 17 percent in civilian agencies.

Respondents predicted their allocations to various types of telework-friendly technology to remain steady during the next two years. Desktop and laptop computers are expected to account for more than one-fifth of telecommuting expenses, the survey found. Other technologies include portable phones and BlackBerry-type handheld devices, software, network infrastructure, security, tech support and remote access solutions.

The most important aspects of telework technologies (these responses were not mutually exclusive) are:

* Voice, e-mail and/or instant messaging communications (66 percent).

* Access to support their agency's continuity of operations plans (43 percent).

* Remote access to desktop applications including their intranet and files (41 percent).

* Supporting remote security requirements (30 percent).

* Remote access to back-end systems and databases for IT staff (25 percent).

The study suggests only a few agencies are tracking the return on investment of telework technology.

The study was funded, in part, by Research In Motion, the company behind the BlackBerry.

By Rita Zeidner, senior writer for HR Magazine. Until recently, she managed the SHRM Online HR Technology Focus Area.

Reprinted with the permission of Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org), Alexandria, VA.

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