Want to communicate with government employees? Go mobile

A game-changing development is quietly taking place within government agencies.

A game-changing development is quietly taking place within government agencies. It will have significant implications not only for agencies but also for companies doing business with those agencies.

The evidence is so strong, we can safely say 2012 will be the year that the majority of government workers go mobile for work, migrating from desktops to mobile devices and performing their job on a wide variety of platforms unchained from their desks.

At Bluetext, we began to notice this last year when looking at the analytics of the websites, microsites, and landing pages we've designed and launched for some of our technology clients, all targeted at government employees. These include GovDefenders.com, for DLT Solutions, Oracle, Symantec, and Quest Software; TheCloudPlaybook.com and DataCenterChampions.com for NetApp resellers; and GovTransformers.com for Google. More and more visitors to those sites – more than half of the traffic by the end of the year – arrived by way of the mobile versions of Andoid and Safari.

While the move to mobile has been a topic of conversation for several years, our data suggested that it was happening more quickly and pervasively in the government than previously believed. We decided to survey federal employees that work in IT and ask them directly. With the help of the opinion research firm Fabrizio Ward, we surveyed 200 federal IT workers shortly before Christmas. The conclusions confirmed our data.

The survey found that 45% of IT staff are using mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones, for work on a daily basis, and another 7% are doing so at least once a week. In other words, more than half of IT workers are now regularly, if not daily, relying on mobile devices to do their job. We then asked about their non-IT colleagues, and here's where the adoption starts to get pervasive across agencies. Thirty-eight percent reported many of their colleagues are using mobile devices, while another 19% reported most of the employees across their agencies are doing so. Only 3% said none of their colleagues use mobile. This means that not only are the majority of federal IT staff using mobile devices for work, but that the majority of non-IT staff have also migrated to mobile. That's more than a trend.

Indeed, those who are using their mobile devices for work are doing so frequently. The survey found that of those who have gone mobile, 66% are doing so daily, and another 22% are doing so at least once a week. While email was by the far the more common application for mobile access, more than a third used project-management tools, and another 20% used social media for work. Facebook was the most-used social media platform on mobile devices, followed by Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

This is important news for government agencies that need to act more like commercial organizations if they want to efficiently meet their mission demands and attract the highest caliber employees. It's also a challenge to companies who want to communicate with and engage government employees. If you want to be heard, make sure your digital strategies are mobile-friendly and optimized for all devices.

Don Goldberg is a partner at Bluetext, an integrated communications firm in Washington, DC.

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