More than a year after Unisys transitioned the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to cloud-based Google Apps for Government, agency officials say the new tools have transformed the way they conduct their business and led to increased collaboration and reduced costs.
The GSA awarded a contract to Unisys in late 2010 to install Google Apps for Government, which includes email and collaboration tools. About 17,500 GSA employees began using these tools in June 2011. Since then, GSA estimates it has saved about $2 million and expects another $15 million reduction in IT costs over the next five years.
GSA employees have created and shared more than 274,000 documents in Google Docs, and created more than 500 internal web sites using Google Sites.
GSA also cites a nearly 90 percent reduction in server energy consumption and 85 percent reduction in related carbon emissions. According to estimates by Google, the cost savings from this reduction in energy use will be $285,000 annually.
Examples of how Google Apps has transformed the agency were illustrated by the experiences of two GSA organizations: the Federal Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM) and the Public Building Service (PBS).
FEDSIM, the GSA organization that provides acquisition services to enable large-scale technology projects for other federal agencies, has used Google Apps to promote the mobility of its workforce. Many FEDSIM employees must work remotely at client sites, and Google Apps allows them to use their smartphones and tablets to stay in touch with their managers, edit documents and to view their colleagues' calendars.
The video chat functionality in Google Apps helps employees reduce travel expenses while still allowing them to collaborate "face-to-face."
In addition, FEDSIM used Google Sites to set up an internal portal within three days, at no additional cost - a process that previously could have required months when the work had been done through a contractor.
The infrastructure is now entirely under FEDSIM control. Employees use it as a repository for forms and policy documents; to reserve conference rooms and government-owned cars; to create and share award nominations, marketing slides, training materials and other documents. They are continually adding new features.
Public Building Service
The managers of PBS quickly recognized the potential of Google Apps as a knowledge management tool for organizing information and making it accessible to the workforce using a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets. The organization has rolled out a project this year to use the tools to create a knowledge hub that serves as a focal point for sharing best practices, policies and standards for property management.
PBS used Google Sites to set up "communities" built around various mission areas such as facilities management, leasing and customers - allowing managers in different regions to share information on their activities. For example, PBS manages multiple facilities for the FBI across the country, and PBS managers who work with the FBI were able to use Google Apps to discuss common challenges and best practices.
Consequently, PBS is now better positioned to address GSA's overall goal of driving consistency and standardization across the organization. As one PBS regional official stated, "The main benefit for me is knowing that there is a team of individuals working to reduce redundancy in effort."
More importantly, Google Apps provides standardization and consistency, and that makes PBS more efficient and leads to better customer service.
"GSA has proven that innovative cloud-based solutions can help the government improve operations while cutting costs," said Venkatapathi "PV" Puvvada, group vice president for civilian agencies at Unisys Federal Systems. "We are thrilled to be GSA's industry partner in this project and look forward to helping them continue to maximize the benefits of these tools as well as helping other agencies to follow GSA's lead."
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