By Clara Conti, Presidio Federal with guest Carl De Groote
No government process happens in a vacuum. Whether it is making laws, providing essential services, or something in between, collaboration is essential—and it has to be possible regardless of external circumstances.
I caught up recently with Carl De Groote, area vice president for Cisco U.S. Federal. Carl has spent nearly two decades delivering Cisco solutions to help federal agencies increase efficiency, create better customer experiences, and, of course, strengthen collaboration.
Like me, Carl is in constant contact with decision makers in the federal government who are curious about where technology is headed. But the questions we’ve gotten recently have been less about “What does the future of work look like?” and more about “How is work going to be done in the future?” It’s a subtle but important distinction that gets at how communications and teamwork will be a part of the future workplace experience.
Our conversation covered a number of topics around the future of collaboration, how to do it securely, and the technologies that will empower it in the years to come. Highlights follow.
Security comes first
“Mobile and global” guides much of Cisco’s work, Carl says – it’s almost an unofficial company motto. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cisco was providing tools to help users collaborate from anywhere in the world.
There’s a critical step before you get to the point where people are talking with each other—first you much have a secure infrastructure in place to ensure that remote work won’t be compromised. This is especially true for clients in the federal government.
Carl: “The true nature of work needs security and zero trust platforms in combination with collaboration, networking, software modernization to do work anytime, anywhere.”
Clara: “Bad actors are everywhere. With so many federal workers at home communicating and collaborating over the Internet, security has to be a primary concern—even for basic day-to-day office operations within an agency.”
Carl: “In government and the intel community, we have the responsibility to protect information in conversations. Identity is uber important. You need products that ensure the person you’re collaborating with really is who you think they are. Even if you don’t have video capabilities, Cisco offers products that confirm identity through voice fidelity.”
Making security work with your systems
It’s one thing to have a system that defends against threats, but it’s another to ensure it doesn’t cause your users headaches. Your system can’t be so fortified that it impedes communication or workflow.
Technologies such as 5G and edge computing present opportunities to collaborate that are faster, personalized, and more secure—if you follow the right protocols.
Clara: “5G enables broader application and adoption of edge computing—but it comes with new devices, access points, and entities. Zero trust is the only security model that makes sense in that scenario because it enables security and collaboration at the same time.
Carl: “Absolutely. We’re providing that today. Look at the flight line: Mechanics have to be able to collaborate with manufacturers on sensitive design work, whether they’re a couple miles away or on the other side of the world. We bring all of that together and make it simple for the government to point, click, connect, and get the most important work done.”
Clara: “That’s also a great example of how to use data at the edge. There’s so much potential value in the customization, personalization, and situational awareness of edge computing. When you talk about using data ‘at the speed of relevance,’ as we do at Presidio, edge computing provides an advantage.”
What work will look like in 2026
Our concept of collaboration goes well beyond visual communication and screen sharing. As tools like WebEx achieve wider adoption, users will expect those solutions to deliver more.
In five years, digital collaboration will be a ubiquitous and immersive part of doing business—incorporating tools like augmented reality to widen the scope of contributors.
Carl: “A lot of collaboration tools are geared at providing ‘equity of experience.’ We’re making sure that everyone has access to the experience so that they can contribute.”
Clara: “More and more, we’re finding that equity of experience is extended through modernization, cloud migration, all these things that are happening in terms of transformation. As customers modernize, they have to be able to reach all segments of populations.”
Carl: “The more inclusive we are, the better ideas come through. What I’ve learned is when you bring different perspectives, you get more because they challenge the status quo.”