“Where do you get your blog and/or article ideas?” I’m often asked that question. Or colleagues want to know: “What are the top ten websites you turn to in order to gauge innovative technology trends and new ideas that work?”
I typically provide a simple, safe answer, sounding like many lawyers: “It depends.” I've even promised a few friends to write an article with a more complete answer to these questions.
So I thought I’d dedicate a July 4th weekend article to sharing how I find innovative ideas that are working around the world. My hope is to provide government technology pros (like you) some techniques and examples to help improve your research on topics in Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) Infrastructures.
Yes, I write about the technology, security or other “stuff” that interests me at work and/or home. That often means something new is announced by Apple, Google, Microsoft or some hot new startup company. But more often than not, I find that buying a new "black box" or software is the easy part. Successfully implementing technology is much harder in a large government enterprise, especially when you add in the people and process issues – including required cultural change. As portrayed in the TV sitcom “The Office,” our interactions with others are often the most interesting and most complex aspect of our professional work.
Here’s my general outline:
1) Start with questions that need answering. What problems need to be solved by business areas? What topics are being discussed, or need to be discussed by your government teams? [Tip: Break out of the daily grind, if possible. Think bigger picture, unless you are focusing on a very specific answer to a particular infrastructure topic.]
2) Ask: What best-practices are being implemented in governments around the country? What common challenges, projects, solutions and/or approaches can be shared? These can come from the public or private sector. [Tip: Read on for a list of some “go-to” places both online and offline to help uncover these best-practices and intriguing stories.]
3) Bring it home. All infrastructure projects (like politics) are local, so try to apply the national trend or solution to your local situation. [Tip: Cross-check solutions from multiple sources and/or contacts around the country. If a vendor claims an incredible success with one state or local government, verify the results with a government contact and a second reference if possible.]
OK, so where do I go online and offline? As far as finding answers or general ideas, my search techniques have changed over the past few years. Here are a few of my favorite places to look:
Offline: I like to read overview and in depth reports from Gartner and Forrester. [Note: many of these reports aren’t free.] If your government doesn’t have subscriptions, you may want to consider a trial to see what you’re missing. You can also read some of their free material at their websites to get a feel for their available content. I like to learn from conferences and summits like SecureWorld Expo, NASCIO annual and mid-year conferences, regional Government Technology Magazine events, as well as national conferences like RSA for security. Of course, speaking at these events (even as a panelist) can reduce your expense.
Online: There are an endless number of free webinars and white papers available from vendor websites. I like to visit NASCIO’s Publications Website which provides great case studies and examples. You can also visit Centers of Excellence in Public Policy, like the material offered by Harvard and the Pew Charitable Trust. Beyond these, I like to check out these online news places. These websites are in no particular order. [Note: the news websites such as USA Today are recent additions to my list to gauge what the wider population is reading about.]
10) And of course: http://www.govtech.com/ (with associated sub-sites like PCIO)
As I’ve mentioned on other occasions, I also like to occasionally see what the United Kingdom websites and news organizations are saying about US technology, politics and trends. You can easily do this review at the BBC’s website or at The Mail Online’s Science & Tech Section. The London Times is also a great information source, but they now charge for much of their material.
Finally, you can always “google” the idea or issue to gauge what others are saying around a topic. I’ve found that topics like “Cloud Computing” and “Mobile Computing” are everywhere, so you need to be as specific as possible. You can also find conflicting answers. For example, a search for “Government smartphone policies” yields almost 26 million results.
I know that there are plenty of other places to go online to learn more about innovation. We live in an exciting and challenging time. I hope this quick overview of some of my top sources of data can help your research efforts. In a later post I will cover some of the bloggers I follow.
Any good technology websites that you’d like to share?