IBM Takes Cloud, Collaboration to Government Agencies

by admin on July 25, 2011

IBM has announced new cloud-based collaboration services to help U.S. federal government organizations adopt social computing.

The new set of social collaboration services, delivered on IBM’s Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)-compliant Federal Community Cloud, addresses the administration’s drive to adopt a “cloud-first”
policy which is designed to help the government improve its overall IT
efficiency and delivery of services to citizens, IBM said in a press
release.

IBM’s new cloud services include social software such as wikis,
microblogs, communities, staff profiles, instant messaging, web
conferencing and email. IBM’s services also support popular mobile
devices including Android phones and tablets, Apple iPhone 4 and iPad,
BlackBerry, and Nokia Symbian platform. Industry analyst firm IDC
ranked IBM first in the social platforms market share for 2009 and
2010.

Accessing social software as a cloud service can help federal
agencies introduce new capabilities at a lower cost and in a more
timely fashion, IBM said. These services can be provided for staff on
demand without long term commitments and help the government reduce
waste and consolidate IT spending.

“The rise in Big Data and the demand for transparency and
collaboration will continue to put pressure on agencies to embrace new
computing environments such as cloud to improve IT capabilities,” said
Todd S. Ramsey, general manager of IBM’s U.S. Federal organization, in
a statement. “IBM cloud collaboration solutions will help agencies gain
faster access to the latest technologies, increase innovation across
departments and ultimately improve citizen services.”

IBM’s social software, which is part of the new service, has many
useful productivity tools including blogs to allow staff to gather and
prioritize community ideas, present their own ideas and learn from
others. And the software’s communities feature enables people to
exchange and share information with others through a web browser,
instant messaging, or email software.

Other productivity enhancing tools in the IBM solution include: File
sharing and microblogs to facilitate collaboration with dynamic
networks of co-workers, partners and customers; instant messaging and
online meetings to work seamlessly across geographies; and profiles
allow people to find and work with others who share common interests
and expertise as well as expand their social networks. Tags and social
analytics technologies assist with this task.

IBM’s Federal Community Cloud
is specifically designed to help federal government organizations
respond to technology requirements more quickly. The secure, private
cloud environment is part of IBM’s established and dedicated Federal
Data Center that provides secure and comprehensive certified computing
capabilities to federal government clients.

The new services will be ready for the required FISMA certification when they become available late this year. 

IBM is experienced at providing tools for organizations to collaborate both on premise and in the cloud. For example, the U.S. Army
is already using a variety of on premise IBM collaboration tools
including electronic IBM Forms which helps reduce the time, costs, and
problems inherent to paper-based forms processes to help speed process
automation. Additionally, several Federal government organizations use
IBM services that provide cloud and data center capabilities to quickly
build, manage, operate and analyze complex computing environments.

Meanwhile, in a another government-related deal, this one with a
state government, IBM and Silanis Technology announced that the State
of Vermont is using cloud computing to transform its business
operations to improve efficiencies, boost profits and more cost
effectively collaborate with vendors.

IBM said Vermont is lowering costs, reducing paper consumption and
increasing efficiency in its Department of Information and Innovation
(DII). The DII is transforming the way it processes vendor contracts
with IBM cloud services and Silanis’ electronic signature technology.

“Our department signs as many as 80 vendor contracts a month,” said
Kris Rowley, DII’s chief information security officer, in a statement.
“A Cloud-based business process using Silanis and IBM technology helped
us keep up with Vermont’s commitment to the environment and our plans
to adopt productivity-enhancing technologies. Hand-signing also meant
many of our people were spending valuable time chasing down multiple
signatures or correcting errors.”

The integration of Silanis’ subscription-based, secure online e-signing service, e-SignLive, with IBM’s LotusLive
cloud-based collaboration service enables Vermont’s DII to gather,
approve and process signatures and contracts in an efficient,
environmentally friendly, paperless manner.

While many of its contracts and relevant forms are downloadable from
its website, the need to sign them by hand meant added potential for
errors, extra work for staff, long wait times, and high processing
costs. To address this problem, DII is using a Web-based service that
doesn’t require any software downloads. The service captures strong
electronic evidence during the signing process which makes it extremely
difficult for signers to repudiate their signatures should there ever
be a dispute.

DII’s use of a cloud-based, electronic signing service provides a
cost-effective, easy to use and set up alternative to enterprise
licensed solutions.

“Silanis e-SignLive provided us with an extremely cost-effective,
yet secure means to relieve the signing bottleneck,” Rowley said.
“Contracts only got printed so they could be signed and then were
routed via interdepartmental mail, snail mail, to different cities, and
offices. Employing the software also encouraged us to re-evaluate our
business process and signing procedures and we ended up achieving
efficiencies we hadn’t even expected. Not only have we reduced paper,
but we have cut courier costs and the turnaround time for a typical
contract approval has dropped from weeks to minutes.”

Due to the success of this solution, DII is considering using additional IBM cloud collaboration capabilities in the future. IBM LotusLive’s
cloud collaboration service includes a range of tools such as project
tracking, web meetings and instant messaging, all of which serve to
promote team work, help quickly find expertise needed to get projects
done, and create effective partnerships.

e-SignLive enables organizations and individuals to invite their
customers, partners, and suppliers to instantly sign documents over the
web, while harnessing the power of online collaboration and social
networking during the negotiation and pre-signing process. Silanis’ e-SignLive
e-signature service allows multiple users to review, modify and sign a
single document in a secure and compliant extranet environment.

“This initiative is our way of taking a positive approach to the
downturn in the economy,” Rowley said. “It’s a challenge that has led
us to seek out ground-breaking technologies like the combination of
e-SignLive and LotusLive, which is improving the way we do business
while costing us less.”

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