Federal, state and local government agencies have historically led the U.S. market in adoption of computer-based training, primarily driven by the need to train for specific job-skill attainment. Much like their private-sector counterparts, however, these electronic training initiatives have lacked a long-term training strategy or process for cross-agency or cross-departmental coordination. In the government market this has led to over-reliance on legacy training technologies (e.g., video, production studios, CDs, homegrown training and administration systems with manual feeds). META Group research indicates that many government CLOs have had no long-term strategy for these legacy systems or plans for integration with more automated online solutions, putting government users at a significant disadvantage. But since Sept. 11, events have changed this view, highlighting the need for increased levels of incident response and awareness training, all tied to a larger human capital management (HCM) and knowledge management (KM) strategy. (See Figure 1.) This has become a catalyst for change, leading to funding and investment in next-generation learning and workforce management systems and contributing to an estimated 20 percent growth in government e-learning spending in 2003.
By 2005, META Group estimates that 25 percent of large jurisdictions (populations over 1 million) will begin implementing homeland security communities of practice, providing e-learning, collaboration and knowledge management functionality via a knowledge worker infrastructure foundation. (See Figure 2.)
While a large segment of the corporate e-learning market has been mired in bottom-line cost savings, public-sector drivers are more directly correlated with specific mandates that must be met regardless of cost or time constraint. Factors that have come together to drive public-sector e-learning investments include:
- Centralization: Increased attention on enterprise architecture, cross-agency collaboration and information sharing (driven primarily by homeland security) and the impact of budget deficits have forced jurisdictions to revisit areas where investment consolidation and centralization make sense. Current fragmented government “silos” neither leverage best practices across the major government programs nor provide consistent policy adherence, architecture and implementations (e.g., infrastructure, operations) across programs. As jurisdictions identify prospective enterprise implementations, e-learning as part of a blended-learning strategy will ensemble consistent learning programs and savings through cost avoidance and volume purchases. By 2005 to 2006, 35 percent of state and local governments will have implemented centralized e-learning initiatives; federal e-learning initiatives will be standardized at the agency level where knowledge of current skills gaps exists.
- HCM Crisis: Between 2002 and 2006, META Group estimates that 50 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement, with substantial percentages (30 percent) in state and local government. While this retirement boom is not occurring as fast as initially anticipated, it does create a large group of “at will” employees, forcing jurisdictions to develop succession plans to address potential skills gaps.
- Outsourcing: Local and international governments are more aggressively outsourcing their IT functions, leveraging private-sector skill sets to meet the demands of a mounting IT agenda. By 2005 to 2006, 25 percent of local governments and a handful of states will totally outsource their IT departments as a way of meeting transformation goals set by the chief elected official. E-learning will enable the re-skilling of some former IT workers into program managers and contract negotiators.
- Workforce Virtualization: As employees are empowered with access to technology anytime, anywhere, traditional 9-to-5 office jobs are increasingly a thing of the past (e.g., the Office for Personnel is requiring agencies to develop telecommuting strategies to provide flexible work environments). Employees are spending more time out of the office working from remote locations (police, transportation, case workers, etc.) and less time in offices performing administrative functions. E-learning augments this by providing employees access to training where and when it fits their schedule. During 2006 to 2007, 55 percent of knowledge workers will partake in e-learning classes rather than traveling to off-site training academies.
As leading-edge public-sector organizations implement processes for expanding employee efficiency and effectiveness (in conjunction with Civil Service), these efforts will drive an increased focus on training consolidation (driving down unit costs, leveraging investments) and increased employee self-service. Indeed, aggregation of training purchases across agencies will give way to broader initiatives across local, state and federal governments (driven both by homeland security and the desire on the part of local governments to leverage state contracting vehicles). Over the next few years, budget deficits will force progressive state and local governments to coordinate training budgets and focus on building common training platforms. At the federal level, Mark Foreman, associate director for information technology and e-government for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will continue to encourage agencies to aggregate platforms prior to authorizing expenditures.
The federal government has been more aggressive in making online training purchasing decisions than state and local governments and was first to begin linking e-learning to larger HR contracts. Learning solutions are typically bought through prime contractors (e.g., Buck Mellon, EDS, Lockheed Martin and Booz-Allen) in charge of managing five- to six-year flexible contracts around ERP, CRM or HCM implementations. In addition, efforts are currently underway to centralize training contracts (e.g., Geolearning’s Go Learn contract, see Figure 3) and limit the number of contractors federal agencies can purchase from in order to enable government agencies to leverage consistent infrastructure and benefit from economies of scale. This initiative provides training contracts and access to a training portal, but fails to deliver integration into the larger HCM strategy, where agencies are able to derive greater value through strategic training management, succession planning, resource deployment and recruitment requirements. META Group research shows that, due to size and the decentralized nature of the federal government, e-learning contracts will continue on an agency-by-agency basis as part of a broader HCM initiative.
Figure 3: Case Study: The Gov Online Learning Center
The Gov Online Learning Center is an effort by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to simplify and unify e-training services across the federal government. It is one of 24 e-government initiatives that support the President’s Management Agenda. The Gov Online Learning Center is both a centralized portal for federal agencies as well as an OPM contracting vehicle where OPM can control the funding as well as have project oversight for e-learning contracts.
While there is resistance among agencies around the mandate, they will benefit from OPM’s push to make agencies put in a similar architecture as well as an economies-of-scale advantage resulting from consolidated government licenses.
In 2002, GeoLearning Inc.’s ASP-delivered GeoMaestro learning management system platform was selected to power the first module of the Gov Online Learning Center, which delivers nearly 40 e-training courses, e-books, a search-and-select feature and resource center links. Many additional services and e-courseware materials can be purchased by government agencies for a fee. These include libraries of thousands of e-training courses and assistance with implementation of learning management systems and custom content development.
It should be noted, however, that OMB and OPM’s selection of GeoLearning is a laudable effort to simplify training across the federal government. But it’s not a federal agency’s only choice. Indeed, the LMS faces competition from a number of firms with credible presence in the federal government, including Pathlore, Saba Software and Plateau Systems, which serve the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and Transportation Security Administration, respectively.
State and Local Government
META Group research shows that state and local jurisdictions currently lag three years behind the federal market in training technology purchases; however, this will change in the long term due to IT centralization initiatives focused at the state level. This centralization is occurring due to the increased financial demands resulting from homeland security and other mandates, as well as aging-workforce issues, leading to the leveraging of categorical funds for the purchase of e-learning management, Web conferencing and other enterprise software solutions. Numerous grants are available to aid in paying for employee preparedness training, cross-jurisdictional collaboration, expertise location and communities of practice.
In April 2003 President Bush signed the FY ’03 Supplemental Bill authorizing an additional $6.71 billion for the Department of Homeland Security to support departmental functions and domestic counterterrorism operations that have been activated as a part of Operation Liberty Shield at the start of the war in Iraq. (See Figure 4.) The seeming abundance of funding will enable state and local agencies to make the shift from tactical training to address the needs of cross-agency collaboration, enabling government knowledge workers to learn via peer interaction and communities, which can be used to identify best practices. In order to track government workers’ competencies in addressing specific mandates such as homeland security, state agencies must focus on coordination of metrics and enterprise goals, ensuring workers are provided the training to do their jobs and stay within compliance.
Figure 4: Homeland Security Funding
Available Grants Related to Homeland Security Funding:
DHS FY ’03 Supplemental Funding Fact Sheet
DHS – $165 Million in Grants to States for All Hazards Emergency and Terrorism Preparedness
FEMA – $225 Million for State and Local Preparedness
Grants.gov, the electronic storefront for federal grants
Grant Writing USA
Federal Funds Information for State (FFIS) list of grants per state and per capita
Declassified details of the U.S. Operating Budget for FY ‘04
E-learning strategies in the private and public sectors deliver the most value when tied to broader training and development that reflect enterprise requirements. Given increasing federal and state mandates and the skill gaps of an aging workforce, government entities should begin linking e-learning programs to larger HCM and KM strategies to address the upcoming retirement boom by ensuring proper skill sets are recruited, re-skilled and retained. Private-sector CLOs should monitor pubic-sector trends and leverage government best practices in addressing the corporate market’s own ongoing retirement trends.