Time to set the record straight. When it comes to collaboration tools and security, it is a necessary and equal partnership.

Government officials often position collaboration and security as opposites pitted against each other. Many federal CIOs and IT managers have long considered security an inhibitor that has slowed or even prevented them from driving greater collaboration among IT tools, ultimately increasing efficiency.

This is a misconception.

In fact, the opposite is true. Security is not an “added feature” to be bolted on after purchase like a car accessory. Rather, it is essential for modern collaboration, allowing solutions to reach peak performance and enabling agencies to adopt new innovative communication technologies.

Flexibility (Interoperability) Is Critical

In any relationship, flexibility is important. The same is true for collaboration tools, especially today – when connected technologies and individual user preferences change quickly.

However, federal agencies must meet some baseline security requirements for their email and collaboration tools, and this is in addition to compliance requirements from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). The most critical requirement is interoperability.

Agency employees and end users (i.e. citizens) are spread across the United States and around the globe. To communicate effectively, agencies today need their web-based communications and collaboration tools to be completely available and accessible. The tools must also meet the diverse requirements and individual preferences of these users. This means, for instance, that mobile devices must function securely and connect easily from various locations, whether they are government-owned, contractor-owned or personal.

Federal agencies today are under pressure to more effectively share resources and information with each other, with state and local government and with the private sector. Challenges arise when organizations have small variations in their security requirements and as access specifications vary across countries.

On top of that, many federal organizations today want to move their collaboration tools to the cloud to improve availability and accessibility. Without the proper security built in, however, the free-flow of communication between agencies cannot take place.

Effective Communication Requires Trust

In any partnership, relationship or marriage, trust is perhaps the most important ingredient to long-term success.

Collaboration is more than just the single instance of a “meeting,” a “discussion,” or an “email thread.” True collaborations encompasses the “before,” “during,” and “after” activities that take place online and offline, asynchronously (different time, different place) and synchronously (same time, different place), using a variety of disparate tools.

Security is especially important when dealing with synchronous collaboration – communicating at the same time, but from different places. Government employees regularly discuss and share sensitive information, making it imperative for them to use reliable and secure channels of communication.

Secure messaging tools enable agencies to connect teams and users easily with the added benefits of that before-, during-, and after-meeting messaging and content sharing. Whether through 1-to-1 or group messaging conversations, users can collaborate both synchronously in real time or asynchronously to share information. Agencies can conserve costs by standing up or removing these virtual rooms for communications as needed, on a project basis.

Messaging is just one component, as government agencies today require various channels to communicate effectively. The way the government operated five or 10 years ago differs drastically from how it functions today and how agencies will operate in the future. We do know government agencies will continue to need to communicate securely, using trusted channels and solutions. Thus, security should be at the core of the collaboration toolset – including voice, video, web conferencing and whatever the next innovative tool will be.

Enabling the Best Possible Collaboration

“Being with you makes me a better version of myself.”

We have all heard something similar to this in wedding vows or a speech. However, this sentiment also reveals the real relationship between collaboration and security today.

Government agencies need to build in more agility to their collaboration strategy to cut across boundaries to communication with compromise – anytime, anywhere, with any device and with the combined benefits of on-premise and cloud technology. Security is the catalyst for making this happen. Agencies cannot be agile and utilize the latest collaboration tools without the security necessary to support it.

Going back to the car accessories analogy – brakes are essential to a car for a reason. They are not an optional accessory to be added later. Nobody thinks brakes are included to stop a car from driving quickly; rather, brakes are what allow the car to go faster safely.

Security is that enabler for collaboration tools and other solutions. In other words, security is what allows collaboration to “become the best version” of itself for agencies.

That is why collaboration tools and security are the perfect marriage.