As the provider of the leading CRM in the public sector, the Leidos DSI team deals with many Federal and state agencies who are struggling to efficiently manage their FOIA and public information request (PIR) processes. For agencies who may be looking to improve their FOIA management and customer service, here are five tips that we think will help your organization improve and simplify FOIA request management.

Proactive data posts

One way to help ease the burden of public information requests on your agency is to proactively publish unclassified materials that may be of interest to the public. One great example of this was the CIA’s decision in 2017 to publish thousands of recently de-classified files from the Kennedy assassination. Once they decided to de-classify the material, they may have been inundated with FOIA requests from journalists or citizens wanting to review the materials, but proactively making the documents available online made it accessible to the public without a FOIA request. Committing to proactive posts—particularly of files that may be of special interest to the public—ultimately results in a constantly growing library of documents available to the public online and can save your agency valuable time and staff resources that otherwise would be tied up in information requests.

Modern IT Tools

Making the request process simpler for both the requestor and your staff can also go a long way in saving your agency’s finite resources. There are many software solutions available that can help streamline and automate the request tracking, payment collecting and overall back and forth involved in processing and filling FOIA and PIR requests. However, even with these resources available, there are still many state and local agencies that are tracking and managing information requests in spreadsheets. Upgrading to a system that can take a request through your agency’s website, auto-assign it to a staff member, estimate and collect fees and provide a reference number to the agency and the requestor makes a huge difference in the efficiency and quality of the experience for the requestor and the organization. If you are interested in learning more about how software solutions can automate this process for you, take a demo of Intranet Quorum.

Disciplined Communication

Another big key to improving the FOIA process for both agency staff and the public is committing to disciplined communication. What this means is having a set of standards for communicating with the public about their requests and making sure those standards are consistently applied across your organization. Something as simple as acknowledging an incoming request when it’s received can make a big difference in the requester’s experience so implementing agency-wide communication guidelines can ensure each requestor has a positive experience. If your agency is using a modern tracking system, arming a requestor with their request’s tracking number and the ability to check in and see live status updates can eliminate many follow up communications and help ease the mind of an anxious reporter or other member of the public. Additionally, if you are communicating back and forth, it’s a best practice to record all of your communications in one repository where it can be referenced along with the request itself.

The spirit of the Freedom of Information Act is about government transparency. We know this is not always easy, but we believe it is important. One way to make sure that you’re complying with the nature of that stature, more than simply the letter of the law, is to think of your role as an advocate for the requestor by cooperating with them to try to understand what information they are looking for and doing the work to help fulfill the request. We know not everyone is a FOIA expert, and they may make a request that is not quite clear in scope or directive. We recommend whenever you encounter an unclear request to reach out directly to the requester, using plain language, and try to understand as best as you can exactly what they are looking for. This can help focus your work, foster good will with the requestor and help to avoid litigation or disputes later on.  

Disclosure Standards

Every agency, whether required to by law or not, should define and publish a “foreseeable harm” standard that is specific to their agency to ensure both openness and protection of information that could be harmful if improperly released. What we mean by this is clearly identify the types of materials that would be harmful to release to the public that your staff can refer to when they receive a request. A well-defined policy makes it easier for your staff to make informed decisions regarding disclosure while working with the public. When filling a request, be sure to confirm that requested documents that are classified continue to be properly classified, rather than assuming their status has not changed. Lastly, releasing documents to the requestors as they become available rather than waiting until the entire request is filled can help ease the mind of the requestor and show that your agency is working on their request.

Clear Fee Structure

Processing fees is a big part of FOIA processing which can be simplified by implementing a few best practices. First, agencies should provide costs estimates as soon as possible after receiving and reviewing a request. Having a defined pricing structure clearly listed on your website can help mitigate back and forth between the requestor and agency as well. Secondly, each agency should apply a minimum fee for small requests.  One federal agency does not charge for any request that they estimate to be less than $50. This makes it easy for their staff to process less labor intensive requests more quickly. Finally, agency staff should be empowered to waive fees above and beyond their outlined policies.  There may be a time when a staff member assesses that waiving a fee may be a more efficient means to accommodating the requester and avoiding a dispute. Providing flexibility for your staff to make that call in certain situations can help them manage a situation before it escalates.

Hopefully these tips will be useful for your agency in efficiently managing the FOIA process. For more information on how Intranet Quorum can help you improve public relations and service fulfillment at your agency, please reach out to us at iq.info@leidos.com

FedRAMP, or the US Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services. Through FedRAMP, federal agencies can work with an approved cloud computing service provider with complete confidence that their data is secured according to a stringent set of cybersecurity safeguards. This is critical in the digital age as some of the nation’s largest companies have succumbed to phishing scams and data breaches. It is imperative that the government, across its many agencies, stays vigilant in ensuring the safety and security of their mission-critical data and sensitive information.

When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise.  Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments.  When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe. 

IQ is the CRM solution designed specifically for government organizations. It’s flexible enough to handle the complex and unique processes of robust government agencies and available on a FedRAMP approved cloud platform to ensure the utmost in security standards and regulatory compliance. When you choose IQ, your government agency benefits from the security, flexibility, and reliability of a CRM provider invested in helping you carry out the mission of your government organization.

Security
IQ is available on a FedRAMPed CSP uniquely positioned as a highly secure option for organizations operating at every level of classified status.

Flexibility
IQ is highly configurable and designed to navigate complex workflows. We work with 100+ government agencies to help simplify and automate even the most involved business processes.  

Reliability
When you choose IQ, you will receive a Project Manager, an Information Technology Consultant, an Engineer, and a Trainer to help you install and tailor IQ to fit your unique organizational priorities, and to guide you along the process of getting set up.

Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer government agencies IQ, our industry leading CRM solution, available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform. IQ can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K.  To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!

After the 2016 election, many political scientists turned their attention to the ways social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are impacting and evolving political discourse in the US. And while Facebook has been around for a long time, its use as a conduit for the spread of political information feels much newer. Facebook, which started out as a social network to help college students meet and connect, has grown into a platform for over 2 billion people, companies, and brands around the world to reach each other in ways people could hardly imagine just 15 years ago.

But is this phenomenon really new? Or is it just new to our democracy? Much research has been published on the effects of social media on governments in other parts of the world. The Arab uprisings, which began with the ousting of Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, have been repeatedly cited as evidence of the destabilizing effects social media can have on longstanding regimes. Most Western talking heads pointed to social media with pride while examining its role in tumbling governments in other parts of the world. However, now that the focus has shifted to the US and we are beginning to see exactly how powerful and disruptive social media can be to the usual order of politics, suddenly there is a sense that we may have created a monster that even we cannot control.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Facebook may in fact be contributing to increased polarization on both sides of the aisle. Pew reported that 25% of social media users follow government officials or political candidates online, and that Facebook is the main social media site most Americans go to for news. Pew analyzed data from January 2015 to July 2017, and found that of the news articles shared by Members of Congress on Facebook nearly half (48%) were to outlets predominantly linked to by members of just one party – and 5% of those news links pointed to outlets that were exclusively shared by members on only one side of the political divide. Additionally, they found that the more partisan the news source was that the Member of Congress linked to, the more likely it was to be shared among Facebook users – meaning the most partisan stories had the farthest reach.

In analyzing this data, it’s no surprise that many have been feeling a rise in political tensions in the US relative to the past few decades. But the heightened tension online has not escaped those in Silicon Valley. Facebook has faced intense scrutiny over its role in spreading “fake news” with executives even being asked to testify before Members of Congress about vetting practices of political advertisers. In response to growing concerns by Congress and the public, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced some surprising changes to its News Feed algorithms, changes that he said in a Facebook post, “should encourage meaningful interactions between people” by making public content like posts from businesses, brands, and the media less visible to Facebook users. He also conceded that he expected time spent using Facebook to decrease among users as a result. Advertisers and media outlets alike have decried the change, arguing that it will hurt American democracy and advertisers’ revenues. But the true impact of the imposed changes remains to be seen.

What do you think about the role of social media in politics? Has your office faced challenges adapting to the age of social media? For tips on using social media to connect with younger demographics, check out our best practice tips here.

This year, take the time to engage with the people who sent you to Washington.  Your state may still be in a blackout period with various restrictions on your outreach. But that doesn't mean you can't proactively communicate with your constituents - within Franking rules.  Sending 499s is a great way to communicate with targeted groups or random selections of contacts.  Whether you are restricted by blackout rules or not, we can help make sure your next email campaign is effective as possible.  Here are a few tips for optimizing your next newsletter:

1.  Design

Did you know that 84% of email users aged 18-34 use a preview pane to manage their inboxes?  Emails that don't pass the sniff test in the preview pane are destined to wind up in the trash.  Using intriguing design elements is a great way to engage your constituents before they get to your primary message.  Don't have an in-house design team?  We do.  Our graphic artists design custom eNewsletter templates for IQ offices - free of charge.

2.  Subject Line

A catchy, succinct subject line can sometimes be the difference between a successful email campaign and one that falls flat.  In fact, studies show that 69% of email users in the U.S. may report an email as spam based on the subject line alone!  Try to keep your subject line under 50 characters and resist the urge to use splashy clichés.

3. Use Social Media

Social media is a excellent way to generate opt-ins, build your contact lists organically and promote meaningful engagement in your district.  After all, anyone who follows the Member on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. has already taken an active interest in what the Member is up to in Washington.  Using the IQ eNewsletter Wizard you can push your latest newsletter out to your social channels in just one click and direct your followers to your email opt-in page.

4. Events

Live events in the district are another great way to increase your opt-ins and build better contact lists.  IQ is integrated with Eventbrite, a leading global event management platform, which allows you to capture the contact data for everyone who registers for an event in your district, and then import into IQ for use in your next outreach campaign.

5.  Call to Action

As simple as it may be, a strong, consistent call to action is vital to generating opt-ins.  If you want people to sign up for your mailing lists, don't forget to ask!

6. Optimize for Mobile

Last year, 48% of all emails in the U.S. were opened via mobile devices.  Optimize for mobile and make sure your message is accessible in any format.  Clickable areas should be between 40-50 pixels and any images you use should be compressed.  This way, your audience can access and interact with your message on a mobile device, even with a weak cell signal.

7. Purchase Scrubbed Contact Lists

While we do believe that organic growth through opt-ins is the best way to build your lists, sometimes it is necessary to augment by purchasing new data.  If you do decide to go this route, it's very important to work only with trusted sources.  Leidos offers fully vetted, scrubbed data files to Congressional offices in a variety of purchasing options that can meet any budget.

8.  Quality vs. Quantity

In some Congressional offices, staff are under pressure to reach out to the largest possible number of constituents, regardless of the quality of the contacts or the likelihood of an interaction.  We encourage you to focus on fostering meaningful conversations with engaged constituents rather than simply looking at the total number of outgoing emails in a given campaign.

9.  Timing

When planning your next email campaign, consider conducting a simple A/B test to better understand when you can best reach your constituents. To perform an A/B test, simply split your list in two, choose different day/time combinations for each group, then send and review the results after about 48 hours.  While every district is different, Tuesdays and Thursdays, mid-mornings and late afternoons are historically considered "sweet spots" for email campaigns.

10.  Targeting Your Message

The audience of your message is one of the most fundamental componenets of any outreach campaign.  However, even the most experienced communications staffers sometimes neglect to take the time to properly understand who will receive their messages.  IQ gives you the ability to easily slice and dice your data until you've targeted the exact group you want to reach.  For example if you wanted to reach out to retired veterans in a certain ZIP code who also consider agricultural legislation their top issue, you can identify and select this group in just a few clicks and then craft messaging specifically for that group.

To learn more about how we can help your office optimize email outreach and generate opt-ins, get in touch with us today.

Quorum is the most comprehensive database of legislative information and constituent analytics on the market for Hill professionals. 

Elected officials and their staff use Quorum to track issues through the legislative process, on the internet and across social media platforms. With Quorum, Hill staffers are able to identify unlikely allies on key issues. The powerful data available at your fingertips can help you find out which Member of Congress is most vocal on a given issue, whose constituents are most likely to be impacted by a certain bill or event, to immediately identify any changes to legislation and easily connect with the staffers who are working on a particular bill.

 

To celebrate the partnership between Quorum and IQ, we'll be sharing one interesting fact from Quorum's database every day in October. 

 

  1. Combined, members of Congress tweet over 400,000 times per year.

  2. Members of Congress collectively deliver over 24,000 speeches from the floor a year.

  3. Collectively, Members of Congress cosponsor over 77,000 bills each year.

  4. Over 4,000 bills are introduced in Congress each year.

  5. Members of Congress collectively make around 373,000 individual voting decisions per year.

  6. The average Republican in Congress has missed around 2% of floor votes.

  7. But, the average Democrat in Congress has missed around 3% of floor votes.

  8. The top 3 most shared news outlets by Members of Congress are CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC.

  9. Senate Republicans represent states with the highest uninsured rates.

  10. The top key words mentioned by Members of Congress on social media for the past week were "woman" for Democrats, and "tax" for Republicans. See what else their conversations have included:
                                          

  11. On average, the 115th Congress is among the oldest in history.

  12. The average age of the Leadership in the House is 48 in the GOP and 72 for Democrats.

  13. The 115th Black Caucus is the largest in the Caucus' history.

  14. There are 105 women serving in the 115th Congress - occupying almost a fifth of the chambers.

  15. The average House Democrat votes against their party 6% of the time.

  16. Senator Hassan has been the most vocal Member of Congress on the opioid crisis - mentioning it over 136 times in the 115th Congress.

  17. Rep. Pramila Jayapal is the most vocal Member of Congress on immigration; she's mentioned it over 600 times in statements this Congress.

  18. When it comes to cybersecurity, Rep. Langevin is the most vocal Member of Congress. He has mentioned it over 130 times in the 115th Congress.

  19. Sen. Richard Blumenthal has sponsored or cosponsored over 340 bills this Congress - more than any other Senator.

  20. Sen. Dianne Feinsten may be the most effective Senator in the 115th Congress, she has sponsored or cosponsored 45 bills that have been enacted this session, more than any other Senator.

  21. Rep. Pete Sessions has sponsored or cosponsored the most enacted bills in the House this Congress - 22 in total!

  22. Washington, DC's Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has sponsored or cosponsored over 690 bills this Congress, far surpassing any of her colleagues.

  23. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9) is the most bipartisan Democrat in the 115th Congress. She's cosponsored more Republican sponsored bills than any of her Democratic colleagues this Congress. Here's the top most bipartisan Democrats:

  24. The most bipartisan Republican in the 115th Congress is Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC-3). Here are the top 10 Republicans that have sponsored Democratic bills:

  25. Democrats in Congress have mentioned "fake news" in floor statements 45 times in the past year, compared to 4 times from Republican Members.

  26. Democrats in the 115th Congress have mentioned Russia from the floor twice as many times as GOP Members in the past year.

  27. More than half of the Senators up for reelection in 2018 will be over the age of 65.

  28. Only 2% of Congress represent a region of the US-Mexico border.

  29. Elected officials mentioned "Comey" in social media posts and floor statements over 1500 times in 2016, and over 5400 times in 2017. That's an increase of 257%!

  30. The average Republican and the average Democrat in the Senate vote against their party 9% of the time.

  31. Sen. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has been the most vocal member on net neutrality mentioning it 84 times in the last year.

 

That's it for our Quorum campaign! Thanks for tuning in all month for fun facts from Quorum. Please email house.sales@leidos.com if you're interested in learning more about how Quorum can transform your legislative strategy.

Connecting over the phone is one of the most effective ways to engage a broad spectrum of constituents in meaningful dialogue. Recently, two of the prominent vendors supporting the U.S. House of Representatives, Leidos Digital Solutions and Broadnet, introduced Surveyor® – an innovative phone polling solution that integrates constituent poll data with Leidos’ IQ CRM software.

This state-of-the-art survey platform is propelling citizen engagement and transforming the way town halls are conducted. Surveyor provides elected officials cutting-edge insight into their constituents’ most pressing interests and concerns, while simultaneously scrubbing their phone data for bad numbers that drive up town hall costs.

House offices are seeing town hall participation up by nearly 20% and event costs down by as much as 10% after just one Surveyor deployment.

Using Surveyor, elected officials can create and send surveys to a broad constituent audience before spending funds on a telephone town hall event. This intuitive survey-building tool is configured to produce meaningful results with the ability to convert the data into charts and graphs for real-time, instant analysis. Best of all, the poll data can be readily imported into IQ for easy access when planning future events. Savvy communications directors are leveraging this information to target specific demographics and ensure that their Representatives are addressing the issues that most concern their constituents during each town hall.

Surveyor also flags phone numbers that trigger undeliverable calls, also known as operator intercepts. These numbers include disconnected, changed, unassigned, or Do-Not-Call numbers and represent sunk costs for offices at every event. By using Surveyor before conducting a town hall, communications staff are building final dial-out lists virtually free from these unreachable numbers. This saves taxpayer dollars by helping offices avoid paying for unnecessarily large dial out lists. The operator intercept data is also uploaded into IQ which reduces the amount of time staff spend scrubbing data and building town hall audiences.

Surveyor data can be used to measure trends in public opinion while dramatically reducing costs.

Even more importantly, Surveyor can also be employed to enrich elected officials’ understanding of voter sentiment and allow them to make decisions that truly represent their districts. Not only does this drive constituent satisfaction, but on a grander scale it inspires engaged citizens to exert more influence over public policy and empowers Representatives to be more responsive. More efficient spending also means that elected officials are able to host town halls more frequently and establish a robust ongoing dialogue with the people they serve.

Since it was introduced, Surveyor has been generating truly remarkable results. One Representative from North Carolina scheduled a Surveyor poll through Leidos before conducting a town hall event targeting nearly 100,000 constituents. The final operator intercept rate for the event was less than 5%, meaning the Representative was able to reach nearly 100% of their targeted constituents. The office was extremely pleased with their results from using Surveyor and will be employing the platform for subsequent town hall events.

A North Carolina Member office saw operator intecept levels below 5% after just a single Surveyor poll--saving potentially thousands of dollars in event costs.

Leidos offers Surveyor polling through its telephone town hall menu for a very low price. Put this low cost and highly effective strategy to work for your constituents.  Contact your Leidos sales representative, IQ consultant, or house.sales@leidos.com to schedule your Surveyor and town hall events today!

As most Capitol Hill professionals can attest, Congressional staffers are stretched pretty thin these days.  With today's 24/7 news cycle, seemingly constant international crises and partisan politics reaching fever pitch, there's plenty of work to go around in Congressional offices.  With that said, there are other factors that contribute to the heavy workloads on the Hill.  Staff turnover and stagnant pay has become a real problem in Congress and has led to a widening gap in institutional knowledge.  A study from the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) found that there are fewer House staff and fewer legislative support agency personnel now than at any time since 1979. The effect of this lack of support staff is felt most acutely in the staffs for the Congressional Research Office, the Government Accountability Office, and the Congressional Budget Office who have lost 45% of their combined staff from 1975 to 2015.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that on average each House member represents about 200,000 more constituents today than they did 30 years ago, while the average Senator represents 1.6 million more. 63% of the DC staffers polled by the CMF stated that they wanted to find another job, most often due to the fact that salaries have gone unchanged (and in some cases decreased) in the past two decades. With a competitive and thriving market for former Hill talent, staffers can easily find higher pay in the private sector. Because of this, the average age for a DC-based Hill staffer is only 31.  Fortunately, most professionals on the Hill are called to this line of work not because of the financial benefits, but due to the unique opportunity to make a true difference in the direction of the country.  In fact, 94% of Congressional staffers choose to stay in their jobs rather than test the private sector, “because they believe what they’re doing is meaningful”.

This gap in experience and education is making it more and more difficult for Members to get the information they need for important legislative actions like determining voting positions and drafting new bills. More and more Congressional offices are turning to lobbyists, interest groups and private sector resources for help, allowing these groups to exert a unique influence in the halls of Congress.  Most Members of Congress would probably agree that relying on outside experts for legislative guidance is not always ideal. 

Fortunately, there is an option to provide fair, accurate and unbiased data to Congress when staffers don't have the bandwidth or expertise. Quorum Analytics provides the world’s most comprehensive database of legislative information on an intuitive, web-based platform, allowing easy access to bills, votes, Tweets, Facebook posts, press releases, floor statements, hearing schedules and transcripts, committee reports, Dear Colleague letters, CRS reports and much more. Bill text comparison allows Congressional staff to effortlessly highlight additions, subtractions, and modifications to every bill so they never miss a thing as the bill makes its way to the floor.  Integrated Legislative outreach allows staffers to easily help the Member prepare for meetings and update colleagues, making it easier to find and share what’s most important.  Quantitative legislative targeting provides actionable insights to help you identify active Members, affected constituents and key relationships, providing you with key demographic data to allow you to make more informed legislative decisions.  With those available features and the fully functional mobile app, it’s never been easier to provide the best possible and most informed service for your constituents.

Leidos is pleased to be the exclusive reseller of Quorum Analytics on Capitol Hill and we'd love to provide a short demo to show you how Quorum Analytics can be your legislative team's best friend.  Contact us today with any questions or to schedule a demo.

On Monday, April 1st, President Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era bill known as Section 222. Section 222 of the Communications Act was initially intended to create an affirmative right to privacy in our communications and was due to be in effect through 2017. In March of this year Congress enacted a rarely used procedural move known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to initiate a repeal. How does this affect you? Well, let’s start with the basics:

What is Internet Privacy?

Internet Privacy is your right or mandate to personal privacy of your information via the internet. This can involve browsing history, personal data, demographics, purchasing history and more. Today, Internet privacy has a different connotation than standard privacy concerns and typically pertains to user information. The 1997 Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) defined information privacy as "an individual's claim to control the terms under which personal information--information identifiable to the individual--is acquired, disclosed, and used." At present, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are not required to obtain an individual’s consent before accessing and selling a user’s information.

What was the bill going to do?  What are the consequences of the repeal?

The new regulations under Section 222 would have required Internet Service Providers to receive consent from users before selling their information, protecting the individual’s privacy from telecommunications carriers with unique access to our communications and our personal information. These new regulations would have adapted Section 222 to apply to broadband companies in a way that, since the founding of the bill in 1996, they had not. The CRA repeal of these new regulations removes some restrictions on ISP’s access to information, and was clearly a priority for ISP companies, given that they spent nearly $8 million dollars lobbying Congress to pass the repeal. “Historically, regulations have treated data as the property of the consumer,” GeekWire wrote. Under the new bill, “it will be viewed more like the property of internet providers.” In theory, anyone from insurance companies, airlines, banks, and retailers to political parties or governments could buy data profiles of consumers. The CRA repeal also essentially hamstrung the previous regulations by including caveats to make it more difficult for the FCC to pursue similar regulations in the future.

But there are benefits to the repeal of Section 222. The proliferation of public information about users could make it easier for companies to more effectively reach their target audiences, cutting through bothersome, irrelevant ads and saving businesses millions in lost advertising dollars.  In theory, if advertisers can more effectively find their customers and spend less money doing so, prices could drop in a variety of industries, especially those with heavy eCommerce presences.  Also, the ability for ISPs to use consumer data could allow them to more evenly balance advertising and usage, allowing you more time surfing without being barraged with ads. 

However, in could be quite a while before we know the true effect of the repeal of Section 222.  In the two months since the repeal was signed, roughly a dozen state senators have taken up measures in enhance their state’s internet privacy laws and protect constituent’s privacy. Many Members of Congress have vocally protested the repeal and the issue is unlikely to die down anytime soon.  Stay tuned!

Intern Season is Here

May 31, 2017

Every summer, the nation’s best and brightest college students flock to Capitol Hill and government offices all around the country to explore careers in public service.  Because internships on the Hill and in high profile government offices are so competitive and demanding, the average intern is not only sharp and capable, but also ambitious and eager to contribute on Day One.  That’s why it’s so important to start your interns off right with a structured onboarding plan, clear expectations and well-defined benchmarks for success.  In this blog, we’ll explore a few strategies that will help your interns contribute in a real way and walk away with highly valuable experience at the end of the summer.

 

1)      Dress Code

Things you take for granted as an experienced professional, like what to wear to work, may not be as obvious to a college-aged intern.  If possible, connect with him/her before the first day about the dress code in your office.  Something as simple as showing up on Day One dressed appropriately can set the tone for a productive experience for you both.  Every office has its own unique culture so don’t be afraid to be specific about the do’s and don’ts.

 

2)      IT Training

With roughly ten short weeks to make an impact, it’s important for interns to get up to speed on your core IT systems as quickly as possible.  One way to get ahead of the game and get your interns working on real tasks right away is to schedule their IQ training now.  We offer a variety of convenient training options including classroom training in our Capitol Hill training center (directions here)webinarseLearning videos and Quick Reference Guides.  Not sure where to begin?  Just ask your IQ Consultant for recommendations.  All online and DC-based sessions are totally free of charge so don’t be shy about loading up your interns’ calendars with IQ training!

 

3)      Social Media Policy

We’ve all seen the consequences of poorly managed, high-profile social media accounts.  It rarely ends well.  If you plan to have your intern help out with social media, make sure your office’s approval/publication policy is crystal clear before they begin posting.  Do your best to develop a dynamic where your interns always feel comfortable asking for feedback and input so you can avoid any social media surprises.

 

4)      Make a Project List

In most offices, there’s no shortage of work to be done and projects to be tackled.  However, it can sometimes be difficult to find time in your busy schedule to clearly define where your intern can help most.  Invest the time up front to work with your whole team and make an “intern project list” so there’s never any doubt about what your interns should be working on.  By establishing clear project goals, milestones, deliverables and due dates both you and your interns will be able to stay focused and have a productive summer together.

De-Mystifying FedRAMP

April 11, 2017

If you work in—or anywhere near—government IT, chances are you’ve heard the term FedRAMP a few times in the last year or two.  Or more likely, you’ve heard the term a few dozen times…this month.  FedRAMP is quickly becoming a buzzword among public sector professionals, particularly those in highly technical or security-centric roles.  In this post, we’re going to try to pull back the curtain and explain, in layman’s terms, what FedRAMP means and why it’s so important.

What is FedRAMP?

FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) is a government-wide program that acts as a standardized model for security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud-based IT products and services.  In other words, FedRAMP is a government-sanctioned stamp of approval indicating that a cloud service provider has met a specific set of stringent cybersecurity and performance benchmarks.  When a government agency selects a FedRAMP certified (or FedRAMPed) partner, they benefit from the highest possible levels of data protection but also from significant cost savings across the entire enterprise.  Working with a FedRAMPed cloud solution can cut costs by 30-40% and save staff time and energy by eliminating redundant security assessments.  When you see that a potential service provider is FedRAMPed, you can rest assured that they’re serious about keeping your data safe. 
 

Why Does it Matter?

Considering the nature of the work and the senstive information so often involved, it goes without saying that cybersecurity is vital to everday government operations.  It’s also true that faster processing speeds, increased computing elasticity and on-demand cloud-based solutions are becoming more and more attractive to government agencies.  Cybersecurity experts at the NSA, DoD, GSA and in the private sector agree that this migration toward the cloud will continue to grow expontentially in the coming years.  With that in mind, these experts have concluded that a standardized replacement for inconsistent, costly cloud assessment techniques is vital to maintaining a secure government IT infrastructure across the country.  That replacement is FedRAMP.  And for the last several years, government agencies are legally required to select FedRAMPed solutions if they wish to migrate core systems to the cloud.

 

How Does it Work?

Every cloud service provider that seeks FedRAMPed status for its products and services is required to undergo a comprehensive, three-step evaluation process, sometimes spanning a year or more. 

1.       Security Assessment.  The FedRAMP security assessment uses a standardized set of requirements in accordance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) using a baseline set of NIST 800-53 controls to grant security authorizations to cloud service providers.
 

2.       Leveraging and Authorization.  Government agencies view security authorization packages in the FedRAMP repository and leverage the security authorization packages to grant a security authorization at their own agency for an individual cloud service provider.  This step is known as the Authority to Operate (ATO).
 

3.       Ongoing Assessment & Authorization.  Once an authorization is granted, cloud service providers are subject to a series of stringent, ongoing assessments and authorizations in order to retain FedRAMPed status.

 

How Does Leidos Digital Fit In?

As of April 2017, Leidos Digital Solutions is pleased to offer a new way for government agencies to purchase IQ, our industry leading CRM solution.  IQ FedCloud and IQ GovCloud are now available on a secure, stable and scalable FedRAMP certified cloud platform and can be acquired quickly and easily on our GSA Schedule 70, Contract GS-35F-0636K.  To learn more about IQ, browse our website or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Visit our YouTube channel for a preview of how IQ really works!