Some Dell executives were in Bay Area yesterday, briefing myself and a handful of others on the latest in the company's global public business efforts, a year-old series of moves by Dell to maintain and grow its presence in the education, government and health care sectors.
We covered a lot of ground during the presentation, talking about the challenges of strapped budgets, the state of schools today and the efforts to help government run more efficiently. The executives stressed that their efforts aren't tied to just selling hardware. With the acquisition of Perot Systems, the company is now equipped to offer support and service offerings, as well. And they're talking to those customers about their needs, their limitations and their frustrations.
At one point, the conversation shifted and focused on government inefficiency and how some decision-makers not only need to be educated on the technology available but also on how to maximize its usage so that the returns on investment are evident. That's when I remembered a guest post I read on this blog last week that was based on a Washington Post piece about how the federal government pretty much went on a full-scale shutdown following Mother Nature's blizzard pummeling of the region.
What does one have to do with the other? Well, the government shutdown was exactly that - a shut down. A very small percentage of government employees are set up for telecommuting so, even if the employees had access to a computer and a high-speed connection at home, they were unable to do any kind of work there. There's a bit of an anti-telecommute culture in Washington and the Blizzard of 2010 illustrated how that needs to change.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that the government jump feet first into cloud computing or that all files be accessible on a mobile phone. The government still has access and privacy concerns within some agencies that makes a telecommuting option impractical. But some of those employees must be able to do some sort of remote work.
It's still not business-as-usual in Washington. A Washington Post report noted early Tuesday that the federal government would be back to 100 percent today - but then the forecast called for a a 30 percent chance of snow today, which means that there's a 30 percent chance that the federal government might not re-open today.
Those of us in Silicon Valley have no business judging anyone who is struggling to get around with 50+ inches of snow on the sides of the roads. An inch or so of rain on California freeways is enough to send us into a tailspin. But, out here in Silicon Valley, we know about things like virtualization and cloud computing as tools that unleash a workforce from the cubicles.
Out in Texas at Dell corporate, they also know about technologies that keep businesses humming when obstacles such as poor weather conditions get in the way. Hopefully, the memory of the Blizzard of 2010 is one of those events that Dell reps can point to when they talk to Washington about breaking down government inefficiencies that cost the taxpayers an estimated $100 million a day.
Imagine how much of that money could have helped schools around the country invest in teachers, money-saving digital textbooks or a new set of kid-friendly laptop computers for classrooms.