By Subbarao Mupparaju, Deputy Director of Information Technology Division
Amid all the uncertainty about how fast COVID-19 is spreading across the United States, our directorate has authorized emergency telework for Department of FISCal (FI$Cal) employees and contractors to telework. Because our system is modern, fast and secure, we were able to transition to telework seamlessly while still meeting the essential functions we provide to our customers.
As long as staff have access to an internet connection, FI$Cal employees and contractors have the ability to access the software, data and systems they use to provide services to our customers. The FI$Cal system is a browser-based application and thus can be accessed from anywhere. FI$Cal Service Center staff are utilizing tools like Microsoft Office 365, ServiceNow, and IBM Rational Tools remotely and responding and resolving customer incidents with the same speed as they do when working from the FI$Cal office.
Employees and contractors who need to access their data from the FI$Cal network drives and perform software development and testing activities can connect to the FI$Cal network through Virtual Private Network (VPN). Access to VPN is available to all staff through FI$Cal-owned laptops, which have the latest security patches and protection. Staff who perform deeper technical activities, such as system administrators, have access to Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI), which they use even when they are in the office. Additionally, various teleconferencing options such as WebEx, Skype and audio conference lines are available for collaboration and are being used for daily activities among various teams.
While teleworking at FI$Cal at this scale started only two weeks ago, our efforts to make FI$Cal an agile workplace began more than four years ago. Our first steps were to issue laptops to employees with VPN access and to migrate our SharePoint and email to Microsoft Office 365. We also migrated several services to the cloud and invested in upgrading our on-premises infrastructure for the IT services that could not be migrated to the cloud. Over the past three years, we upgraded our firewalls, doubled our internet bandwidth, eliminated most single points of failure, and upgraded our VDI infrastructure using hyper-converged technologies. In addition, we provided self-service incident-reporting capability for FI$Cal system users through the ServiceNow customer-service management tool.
FI$Cal staff and managers have the experience of working after hours and on weekends to perform system administrative functions, system testing, customer support and implementation of production releases. This has assisted the transition to telework at scale. As we move forward, we will continue our efforts to deploy tools to make telework even easier – Microsoft Teams, Softphones, and cloud-based test environments are coming.
The Department of FISCal is showing how telework can be done while maintaining top-notch customer service.