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Open Roads, Open Future, Open Source

We do have a client using open source. Quite a large customer and internationally very well known. Although we are platform agnostic the majority of our clients are using some flavor of SharePoint.

I just read an article referring to the government that open source was quite well accepted and becoming more ubiquitous, from web sites to operating systems to blogs. Although initially embraced by the financial and intelligence community primarily due to high performance and not necessarily low cost, the tables are turning where lower cost is driving adoption in government.

According to Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst, about 50% of all operating systems are open source. From a marketing perspective I would be interested in your feedback regarding how you are using open source in your organization, if you are considering it, and what are the reasons?

Looking forward to your thoughts.

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Tattle tale, tattle tale, Hang your britches on a nail.

One of the things I like about government transparency is it reminds me of the tattle-tale in grade school. I tremble to think about what ‘we don’t know’ but often what we ‘do know’ is bad enough. Although I think government faces basically the same problems as many organizations but they are so massive the weaknesses can illustrate dramatic impacts on the business of government and taxes – oops I mean the costs to government.

Let’s take records management. In a new study, ‘Federal Records Management: Navigating the Storm’ by Meritalk and sponsored by Iron Mountain (registration required for download), they surveyed 100 Federal records management professionals and 100 finance professionals to ascertain the state of current records management, the costs, and the future (pretty bleak I may add).

Some astounding food for thought – and you thought your records management needed help.
• Federal agencies manage 8.4B records government wide
• By 2015 it is estimated they will be managing 20.4B records government wide (an increase of 144%)
• Federal agencies are spending $34.4M on records management – 17% more than allocated
• If records management goes unchecked they will spend an estimated $84.1M by 2015
• They estimate that they lose 18% of their total budget annually due to inefficient records management
• 60% of the finance professionals felt managing records hinders agency performance

Enough of that. What is interesting is the recommendations included better training (43%); more funding (33%); and agency leadership (32%) as the top ways to better manage records. In addition, 41% of Federal records are created in digital format yet managed in paper format! These are the two areas where I am somewhat surprised. Better technology was not listed as a recommendation, and they are managing records that was created digitally in paper format? Ok…. Both would seem to me as high priority areas that can, at least reduce the problem.

Let’s turn this around for your organization (I sincerely hope your records management processes don’t even come close to this scenario). What would you list as a priority for reducing costs and improving processes pertaining to records management? Or, not a problem?

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Where’s the missing link in government?

Although this blog focuses around government it highlights an interesting paradox. The first article details the US federal Chief Information Officers Council update on the list of core competencies for training and hiring policies so they can hire personnel that are capable of addressing new technology challenges facing government. The council recently released an updated Clinger-Cohen Core Competencies and Learning Objectives and recommended that every federal agency should include staff with experience in social media, open government, and cloud computing.

The document also includes new “competencies” in IT governance, IT program management leadership, vendor management, cybersecurity, and information assurance strategies and plans. According to the article, “Federal chief information officers should ensure that the knowledge, skills and abilities represented in each competency in this document are resident within their organization for overall staff productivity,” the document said. So far all’s well and good and a step in the right direction.

Switch to another scenario. In an editorial by Steve O’Keeffe, from MeriTalk, he discusses the GAO Report released in late January. What struck me as I read both articles back to back is the apparent lack of integrated agency operational plans and the lack of accountability. Some highlights from Mr. O’Keeffe’s article that are recommended in the first article are noted below.

  • Rampant systems duplication – with 777 supply chain systems, they now need a supply chain system to track their supply chain system inventory
  • Agencies spend 73 percent of “defined” IT budget on maintaining old systems
  • IT Dashboard says almost $12.5 billion in IT projects at risk
  • $3 billion worth of IT projects are without governance
  • Data center diaspora and dollar discrepancies. Only three of 24 agencies submitted data center inventories and only one has a complete consolidation plan
  • Failed IT programs total 2.6 billion

I wonder in a ‘real’ organization how often the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray? Although if you add up IT government agency spending it would probably make our eyes pop (luckily for us no one knows what that amount is), but even on a smaller scale how many companies state corporate direction and then it all falls through the cracks? The government is not alone. It is probably more than we think.


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The spending of government in IT

More so than the commercial sector, the government sector faces unique challenges. The impact of budgetary constraints requires thoughtful decisions and a strategic plan to modernize the current way of doing business and improve organizational performance. Quite simply, government needs to change how it does business and evaluate IT tools that are powerful and cost effective.

Some of the challenges facing government entities include:

  • Proprietary systems – developed with no effort to capitalize on technology innovations or interoperability with similar systems or capabilities
  • Narrow optimizations – that limit the opportunities to reuse or adapt capabilities for other systems
  • Closed designs – that prohibit visibility throughout the process and limits collaboration and community involvement
  • Non-standard architectures

The graphic below illustrates the seriousness of the problem. The typical government approach has been to purchase and customize systems for individual programs at each agency. This approach has resulted in information and operations silos that end up constraining government’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office, Information Technology: OMB Needs to Improve Its Guidance on IT Investments, GAO-11-826 September 2011

A question begging to be asked is why the government is spending more on managing IT than on the missions themselves? Part of the answer lies in the fact that over the past 20 years mission systems have become more complex and customized to meet very specific needs, resulting in information systems that have become even more siloed and complex. Another question is how would the government benefit from new technologies and how can the IT infrastructure be improved in alignment with budgetary considerations?

Traditional approaches have delivered benefits in the previous environment of large monolithic systems development. These approaches are no longer viable options for today’s environment, where rapid development cycles and capabilities can be quickly developed and deployed with the understanding that they will interoperate with the organization as a whole. Achieving interoperability in a net-centric environment is fundamental to realizing the full potential of transformation.

Our 21st Century Government – Mission Support through Technology Innovation white paper explores some of these issues.


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