Talking Tech: Using Cloud to Improve Collaboration

The State Department is starting to give its thousands of employees around the world access to cloud-based collaboration tools, beginning with the safest of State’s missions: public diplomacy.

Rusty Pickens, senior advisor for Digital Programs, is helping to lead the charge, leveraging commercial software-as-a-service products that are common in commercial practice but brand new to many of his users. Because these are unclassified communications, such as press releases, event listings and fact sheets on American culture and values, security is not a concern.

But finding tools that work as well – or almost as well – in remote locations with slow Internet connections as they do in cities with fiber-optic broadband is a challenge. So is State’s email-centric culture.

“It’s still very email and file based,” says Pickens, who spent six years at the White House before joining State. “And so we’re hoping to help some of that along to the next evolution of centralized cloud repositories where there’s just one copy of this cable.”

Pickens’ goal: increase collaboration but “kill the email threads.”

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