Once reserved mainly for field workers and snow days, remote work has taken off in the government in recent years. Moreover, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the move to telework became a necessity for many agencies looking to protect the health and safety of their workers.
Now, as remote work looks likely to become a more permanent shift for many in the public sector, underlying technology could help to bring an even larger boom, experts say. The forthcoming fifth-generation wireless communications network — known as 5G — is expected to bring turbo-charged network speeds, boosted capacity, and even more reliable connections, all of which can take telework to the next level.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 40% of the government workforce was eligible to telework. With even more powerful mobile capabilities at their disposal thanks to 5G, some experts predict technological breakthroughs will lead to an uptick in remote work at all levels of government that could “unleash unprecedented change in the workplace,” as the Society of Human Resources Management recently put it.
“The 5G aspect means faster and more reliable connections that allow employees to work more effectively,” says Phillip Bunnell, senior solutions consultant at SAP Concur, a leading software solution that provides travel, expense and invoice management services.
“We're going to want to be able to work from home and be able to do things more efficiently and faster with a system that's easy to use,” he adds.
But to have a truly effective mobile workforce in the 5G era, employees need the technology and tools to perform work functions anywhere, anytime.
Gaining the Tools to Succeed
Beyond simply being handed mobile devices, employees need to be empowered with strong software tools when navigating the new normal of a more remote and distributed workforce.
Cloud-based tools, such as SAP Concur solutions, allow employees to seamlessly process critical accounting and financial management tasks regardless of their location. Automating invoicing and accounts payable has many benefits, including eliminating cumbersome paper-based processes — no more filling out Excel spreadsheets or dealing with PDF documents that need to be printed.
The SAP Concur mobile app also adds to that ease of use and allows employees to submit and approve expense reports and manage invoices from anywhere, at any time — a major consideration when offices simply aren't open.
Creating an expense report takes just seconds: Tap open the mobile app, snap a picture of the receipt, create that expense, and it’s done. A manager will then receive a notification an expense report or invoice needs to be reviewed and approved, without ever having to deal with a paper trail. This process minimizes delays in approval and reimbursement — a win-win for the employee and the finance team.
“And they can get back to their true roles of serving their agencies, and the citizens and their governments,” Bunnell adds.
Navigating New Security Risks
While necessary, extending employee capabilities outside of the office comes with higher security risk, hence the need to tap secure technologies. With mobile tools specifically, agencies need to think about the security of the app. For example, how will the user log in securely? What does the app connect to, a virtual private network or to the internal network of the agency? Will the app share any data between a data agency and the vendor? Finally, has the app been audited and certified?
“You need to make sure you're providing a secure environment so that you're minimizing the risk of your agency or department, but then also providing a good end-user experience,” says Tim Martino, senior security and technology consultant at SAP Concur.
Depending on an organization’s preference, the SAP Concur mobile app offers various, secure ways to log in: a single sign-on, a pin or a password, or a user’s face ID or thumbprint. The app has controls in place that ensure all data is encrypted, whether the user is on an Android or iOS device.
The app also doesn’t store any personally identifiable information, so if the device goes missing, no harm done.
“If something happened, like a phone was lost or a nefarious agent could grab something personal from that device, we're ensuring that's not going to happen,” Martino says.
Moreover, adopting now can mean the difference between being prepared for a more mobile future, or trying to catch up to it — and mobility adoption is not slowing down anytime soon. In March 2020, the White House unveiled its blueprint to secure the future of 5G, the next-generation communications infrastructure that will provide blazing-fast network connections and potentially transform how we work and communicate.
Wider 5G adoption means employees can do more of their work remotely, faster, and more efficiently — but they need easy-to-use, secure tools to do it. Increased mobility requires user-friendly tools employees want to use and that are compliant with agency policies and give finance teams better visibility into how the money is being spent. As telework persists both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, thanks to 5G, software like SAP Concur solutions can help state and local governments reap the benefits of mobility without the risk.
This content is made possible by our sponsor SAP Concur; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Route Fifty’s editorial staff.