Arizona CTO brings agencies’ communications up to speed with Facebook at Work

For Arizona’s technology agency, Facebook at Work could be the communications tool needed to improve project delivery through state agencies.

Jason Simpson, the state’s chief technology officer, has only been on the job for five months, but thinks Facebook’s foray into workplace communication could bring big changes to the way state agencies communicate with one another.

One of the reasons the state transitioned to Facebook at Work was to improve email collaboration, Simpson said in a video interview at the National Association of State Technology Directors Annual Conference.

“Unfortunately for the state, because they didn’t have a way to communicate at all easily, if I wanted to get ahold of you, with email, I had to get your business card to get your email,” Simpson said. “There’s no way to look it up. There’s no way to collaborate.”

Morgan Reed, the state chief information officer and director of the state’s technology agency, used the platform during a pilot test in the Department of Administration, Simpson said. After the department’s apparent success, other state agencies have followed suit and are working to get on board.

Now, according to Simpson, employees can engage on a single platform in order to discuss situations as they occur. The platform allows agencies to create polls, and use other tools to improve communication — as well as generate more comprehensive data for those agencies.

While the communication features are similar to the version of Facebook used by more than a billion people worldwide, the enterprise collaboration platform allows groups like Arizona state government more communications and collaboration amongst the various agencies — something Simpson believes they were unable to do as before the switch.

“It’s a really great platform to be able to collaborate almost in real time.” and that it,  “[Facebook at Work] allows you to create those groups, and then be able to collaborate with colleagues either in the building or across the state,” Simpson said

The Facebook at Work initiative spreading across state government is only a start, Simpson said. The state’s federated approach to technology makes it a challenge to roll out enterprise technology programs across state government. However, Simpson also said that the state’s technology agency is trying to encourage more agencies to take advantage of things like cloud computing options and to move away from on-premise operations.