DGS Case Study
Here you will find the process used by the Department of General Services (DGS) to develop a solution to effectively monitor and support the transition to telework.
DGS dashboard measures telework use and impacts
- From tools to impact: How DGS’ transition to telework saved millions of miles
- How DGS automated telework tracking and measuring impact
- DGS’ telework journey: rapid tools lead to big results
- DGS and telework: turning mandate into mission critical
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck California. Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of Emergency on March 4, 2020, and the administration directed all non-essential telework eligible staff to transition to telework as a protective measure to limit the spread of the virus. The Department of General Services (DGS), which had stood up its Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government (COOP-COG) team for daily meetings, quickly developed and deployed a plan to appropriately transition staff to full-time telework.
DGS needed to move as many staff to full-time telework as quickly as possible to help keep staff safe and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, DGS’s existing departmental telework policy set a framework for determining which employees were eligible for telework based on their job duties.
However, DGS also needed a way to keep track of staff teleworking, what equipment staff took home, and how to reach them by phone. DGS also needed to assure that staff understood their obligations while teleworking, particularly with respect to securing their remote environment if they were using their own equipment. Given the scale, manual tracking was too cumbersome. So DGS needed to quickly develop a solution to effectively monitor employees’ telework status and frequency and support the staff transition to telework.
What DGS did
Rapid workflow implementation via ServiceNow
DGS already had experience developing workflows and applications with ServiceNow, a software tool that supports operational management. While the ServiceNow platform is optimized for IT Service Management, the DGS team has found many other uses including creating business driven workflow and applications. Development on ServiceNow can be done quickly, leveraging reusable modules and rapid application development techniques. The DGS team determined it was an effective choice for creating a simple workflow to track staff and their schedules.
Leveraging ServiceNow, DGS created and deployed an electronic workflow to allow staff to “request” telework via a service request catalog item in its existing Service Portal. Messaging went out to all DGS employees providing direction on how to use the new catalog item to request telework. The request allowed employees to identify their telework schedule (days and start/end times), provide their remote contact information, and electronically accept the department’s telework agreement. Once submitted, the request was electronically routed to the employee’s supervisor for approval.
Additionally, to track equipment, DGS created and deployed a ‘Take Equipment Home’ catalog item in ServiceNow, which allowed employees to request, and supervisors to approve, taking their assigned IT and ergonomic equipment (desktops/laptops, monitors, etc.) to use at home.
The workflows were built within 5 days (12 to 16 hours per day). As a result, DGS was able to swiftly approve more than 1,700 individual telework requests coupled with comprehensive tracking.
Monitoring and improving the transition to telework
Once the system was in place, DGS’s IT Team began pulling weekly reports from ServiceNow to update management and the administration on its telework status at COOP-COG meetings. This became a forum to discuss challenges and identify solutions. Department leaders could see who was and was not teleworking within their programs, discuss why some staff were still coming into the office, collaborate to develop solutions, and ultimately move more people over to telework.
As a result of these meetings, program managers changed business processes and implemented rotational telework to minimize the number of staff in the office while ensuring that all operational work continued. In one case, staff from the Real Estate Services Division needed access to their high-powered desktop applications. To help more of the team shift to remote work, IT staff procured additional licenses for the department’s remote desktop application. Further the teams moved quickly to ensure full deployment of collaboration applications and made digital signature applications more widely available.
With these changes, DGS’s telework percentage continued to rise over a period of several weeks. The organization reached a point where it realized the only staff periodically coming into the office were those that were absolutely necessary to be on-site to meet operational needs.
Migrating to a long term operational and management dashboard tool
As the pandemic continued, the administration directed departments to keep as many staff on telework as possible. DGS realized it now had a long-term business need to track telework-related statistics at the enterprise level. Having a more comprehensive reporting tool would allow program leaders and managers to make informed daily decisions regarding their business operations. The team also identified a long term need to be able to monitor telework use across all offices, locations and eligible classifications to ensure telework was being used to the maximum extent possible. And as the department was also in the middle of updating the statewide telework policy, DGS determined there was value in capturing the broader benefits from increased telework.
Leaders within the Administration Division’s Enterprise Technology Solutions (ETS) team and the Office of Human Resources (OHR) team collaborated to develop a telework dashboard to visualize activities across the department. ETS was able to combine ServiceNow information on individual telework activity with the employee’s home address from an existing human resources system. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology and Microsoft Power Business Intelligence (Power BI), ETS deployed a dashboard that provided a variety of views and insights into telework across the department. OHR was able to provide ETS specifics on eligible telework classifications, as well as alternate work week schedules.
In early May, DGS launched a telework dashboard internally for operational use. The dashboard quickly became a management tool used across the organization for leaders to understand the telework activities of their programs. DGS has employees located across the state in more than 80 different locations. For the first time, DGS leadership could see who was teleworking, how frequently, and from what location. As a result, DGS was able to answer significant questions about telework use, including:
- What are the differences in telework use by office? Why do they exist?
- Why are there more/less staff teleworking at one location than another location with similar operations?
- Why is a staff person in a telework ineligible class approved for telework?
- What is the frequency in which staff are teleworking in aggregate?
- Are there certain days of the week in which staff are teleworking more or less?
- Which classifications have the highest percentage of telework?
- How much are staff saving in commute time and vehicle miles traveled?
- Does DGS have the right addresses for work location and home location on file?
In one case, DGS noticed a few employees who were in classes deemed ineligible for telework who were on telework. This led to a deeper analysis of eligibility and a course correction for those staff who were deemed ineligible and unable to be reassigned. In another case, DGS found that staff in one regional office was teleworking at a different level than staff in another regional office. Through discussions with the program, leadership were able to course correct. DGS learned that a few employees preferred to continue coming into the office because they were not comfortable using telework tools. These staff were later able to successfully move to telework after receiving additional training on tools and ensuring they had everything they needed at home. The dashboard also showed some data issues, particularly with employee addresses and work locations, that were quickly explored and resolved.
Calculating the benefits of telework
Over time, DGS realized that, after connecting home and work address information with employee telework information, it could begin to calculate some of the unique benefits of telework across the organization. This led to an effort by the ETS team to track statistics such as commute time saved, driving time saved, and other metrics. These numbers could then be converted to interesting statistics including carbon dioxide emissions avoidance, gallons of gas saved, and more. The team also added trend reporting tools so telework activity across the department could be quickly managed at the enterprise level.
The results and impact
The results of DGS’ migration to telework were impressive. On the aggregate (by the week of August 17, 2020), DGS learned that for teleworking staff, their average one-way commute is 15.4 miles taking 27.3 minutes. Of DGS’ 1,979 telework eligible employees, 73 percent are now teleworking (21 percent part-time, 61 percent fulltime). That translates into teleworkers saving 222,000 commute miles and 6,500 hours during the week equating to approximately $30,000 in gas costs, and avoidance of about 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
The cumulative statistics are even more striking. Since transitioning into fulltime telework in March of 2020, DGS teleworkers have saved approximately 16.4 years of commute time. The total commute miles avoided is enough to travel around the Earth almost 200 times or make more than 10 roundtrips to the moon (through the week of August 17, 2020). DGS estimates saving almost 200,000 gallons of gasoline, equating to approximately $620,000 in gas dollars saved by our employees. In total, staff have avoided more than 1,761 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. DGS’ ability to measure the impact of their telework actions on the environment provides the state with valuable information on how telework can support environmental policy and climate change goals.
Most importantly, DGS is hearing the benefits of telework from its employees. Employees welcome getting back precious time in their days and saving money (not only on gas, but on wear and tear on their vehicles). In a recent survey of DGS teleworkers, nearly 80 percent of all respondents indicated they wanted to continue teleworking permanently.
After the May release, DGS worked with the Government Operations Agency team to continuously improve the dashboard. The team iterated on a summary dashboard that provides valuable information for not just DGS, but other state agencies, the administration, and the public. DGS has now documented the complete process of building the dashboard and is creating templates for other departments to use to recreate the dashboard metrics. The long-term goal is to create a statewide dashboard that tracks telework data from all state departments.
DGS’ Data Dictionary
Overview of data inputs
DGS’ Telework Dashboard is a combination of data elements brought together in Power BI. We utilized our Human Resources Division’s records system to obtain, home address, work address, employee classification, and alternate work week schedule. ServiceNow, our request and ticketing system, provided the teleworks days for each employee from a request item required for all teleworking employees. Esri ArcGIS took the information from our Human Resources system to calculate the commute miles and time for each employee. Historic gasoline process come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. All these elements are imported and offer various aspects of the department’s telework status.
ServiceNow tracks all telework requests and schedule details along with their approval status. Power BI retrieves data using REST API calls.
- Request ID
- Requester email
- Requested time
- Request stage & status
- Weekly telework details – each weekday’s telework status and schedules
Human Resources (HR) system and office provides all employees’ home, work addresses, alternate work week schedules, employee classifications, and list of telework ineligible classifications.
- Employee data – email, employee number, classification, home and work address
- Employees with alternate work week schedules – employee number, work time base, work regular day off (RDO)
- Telework ineligible classes – classification codes and classification names
Active Directory (AD) provides all employees’ division/office and contact information along with work addresses updated by employees. DGS has an existing database job pulling active employee’s data every day.
- Employee data – email, division/office, business phone, work address
ESRI ArcGIS provides all employees’ 1-way commute driving distance and driving time from HR provided home/work addresses. We exclude from our average calculations employees with a PO Box or those with more than 100 miles driving distance.
- Commute miles
- Commute minutes
U.S. Energy Information Administration provides California’s average weekly retail gasoline prices. The dashboard uses midgrade price for the week to calculate weekly gas dollar savings. The average fuel economy for gasoline passenger vehicles is 24.4 mpg, per the California Energy Commission’s analysis of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ registration data for personal gasoline vehicles as of the end of 2019.
- Gas Prices (Regular/Midgrade/Premium)