November 1, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) released their list of best practices at their annual conference in Austin, Texas last week. I think the entire list of submissions deserves more attention by federal, state and local technology pros. The list of best practice recipients, as well as the other finalists in each category, can be found at the NASCIO award web site.
In my opinion, the list of thirty top submissions (three in each of the ten categories) should become required reading for government technology professionals nationwide. No, I'm not talking about the summaries, but the full (six page) write-ups. These projects offer the right mix of people, process and technology innovation which is essential to program success.
From enhanced drivers licenses to electronic disease surveillance systems to state portal widgets, the business return on investments are impressive. As I read these documents, I can't help being impressed by both the creativity and effectiveness of these IT teams. I urge you to take the time and at least look at the list and pass the write-ups along to the right staff within your organization.
What are your thoughts on these state best practices?
October 27, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
The University of Michigan released a report today rating and ranking 104 federal government websites in terms of how well the satisfy citizens. The report is the well-known quarterly American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Index. Each of the 104 websites is given a score on the Index's 100-point scale.
The report shows that satisfaction with e-gov is at an all-time high, had the greatest quarter-over-quarter increase since the study was founded 6 years ago, and that many individual government websites are outperforming private sector stalwarts like Amazon and Google in terms of customer satisfaction.
"The increase in e-government satisfaction also brings government more into pace with the private sector. While the e-government aggregate (75.2) still significantly trails private sector industries like portals and search engines (83) and e-retail (82), e-gov outperforms the online news and information industry aggregate (74), online brokerage and investment (74), and just edges out the online travel industry (75)."
The top score of 91 went to the Social Security Adminstration's (SSA's) retirement estimator. You can get to that website by going to www.ssa.gov/estimator
To download a free copy of the full report, please visit www.ForeSeeResults.com. To follow discussion about the report on Twitter, please visit #ACSI.
October 26, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
What's the best strategy regarding upgrades to your desktop and netbook operating systems? Should governments move to Windows 7, Linux or wait for Google's new Chrome OS?
Everyone is talking about Microsoft's recent launch of Windows 7. In describing the benefits of their new operating system, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer called Windows 7 "simpler, faster and more responsive" than Vista. Annoying prompts and frequent pop-ups have now been eliminated, and Windows 7 offers better security and fewer resources - actually running smoothly with less memory. Windows 7 can sleep and wake up faster, and if you are still running XP, the overall improvements that you experience will be even more significant.
Analysis from around the world has been generally positive, with global experts proclaiming that Windows 7 is like Vista but good. Here's an interesting quote from the United Kingdom:
"All round, then, Windows 7 is generally good, and some Windows fans reckon it's better than Apple's Mac OS X. It's certainly easier to use than Mac OS X if you are already familiar with the Windows way of doing things. Also, Windows 7 - released to companies on August 6 - has so far proved to be a lot less buggy than Apple's Snow Leopard, which has even lost users' data....
Windows 7 is simply the best version of Windows you can get."
So what's a government technology manager to do at this point? Are you planning to upgrade? USA Today's Byron Acohido writes that Despite Windows 7, Linux raps harder at company doors .
"IBM, whose Lotus Symphony programs work well on Linux, for years has pushed to get companies to dump Windows for Linux. More recently, Google has promoted Google Docs, a Microsoft Office-like suite of programs delivered over the Web. And Google's Android smartphone uses Linux technology....
Still, of the 655 information technology buyers recently surveyed by Forrester, 66% said they expect to move to Windows 7 computers. 'Users have historically voted for Windows above Linux," says Charles Smulders, tech industry analyst at Gartner.'"Information Week ran an article saying that Uncle Sam Mulls the Move to Windows 7, but despite the fact that many government agencies participated in the Windows 7 beta, the public sector is expected to trail the private sector in early adoption.
"Of federal IT managers with plans to move to Windows 7, 60% plan to make the move in six months or more.... Among the factors influencing Windows 7 adoption by federal agencies are the time required for management approvals and any related IT upgrades. According to Dell, 60% of federal agencies with Windows 7 migration plans will make the move as part of their normal PC and laptop refresh cycle...."
The article goes on to describe current Microsoft deals. "Microsoft is ramping up its Windows 7 push in the public sector. It's offering 15% discounts on Windows 7 professional edition for small government customers, will host a Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual event on Nov. 10, and is preparing a Windows 7 e-book for government customers."
In Michigan, we are one of the governments still using XP desktops and laptops. Like many others, we have very few users of Vista. We have traditionally waited for service pack one to be released and/or to migrated to a new OS as a part of the PC and laptop refresh cycle. We have not made a decision regarding Windows 7 at this time.
However, I do use Vista on my home (family-owned) desktop PCs and laptops. (With a family of six, we have two desktops and two laptops. One of my daughters also wants a new laptop for Christmas.) I plan to migrate one of our home laptops to Windows 7 to check it out. I'll let you know my thoughts over the holidays.
So what are your thoughts and/or plans regarding on Windows 7?
October 19, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
This past week we held the annual Michigan Digital Government Summit in Lansing. Our opening keynote was presented by Mark Allen, six time world champion, Ironman Triathlon. He offered many motivational examples of how he overcame numerous obstacles in his life to achieve success in his endeavors. Mark encouraged each of us to apply those same tools and principles to our daily lives.
Here is what the Summit program guide said as an introduction on the session:
"In Government IT today, success - or even holding on for dear life - requires great toughness, endurance and resiliency. Who better to inspire us than the man who is arguably the most successful endurance athlete of our time? As a professional triathlete, Mark won 66 of the 96 races he entered, six consecutive Ironman World Championships in six starts (a record), and a World Championship at age 37 (another record). These achievements did not come easy. In this fascinating keynote address, Mark shares the principles that enabled him to turn devastating setbacks into historic triumphs; principles each of us can use to achieve the highest levels of success in our personal and professional lives."
I found a version of Mark's inspiring presentation, The Art of Ironman Success, on YouTube, so you can watch and enjoy his story. The three tools that he described were:
1) Have a clear strategy based upon what your goal is asking you to do to accomplish it. Mark stressed that many people want to win, but on their terms and by doing what they want to do. Most people don't want to do what is required for success.
2) A willingness to adjust your strategy when you see how it interacts with the real world. Our situations can become very complex. Sometimes we need to stop and examine our actions and optimize what we are doing for optimal performance.
3) Stick with it! Absolute commitment to complete the race and realize the goals we set out to accomplish. We need to do the work that is required all the way to the end.
Mark's story provided a wonderful, motivational start to our conference. As we went on to discuss everything from cross-boundary collaboration to cloud computing to security, his example was very helpful. I heard many people talking about his life story and how we need to keep a positive attitude during these very difficult budget times.
Mark also has books and articles on a wide variety of fitness and health topics, such as this article on: Working your heart.
What are your thoughts on dedication and a positive attitude? Do these types of presentations motivate you and/or your government technology team to success?
October 4, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
It was Saturday morning, October 3, 2009, and I was trying to log into my gmail (Google mail) account about 7:45 AM (EST). After typing in the URL and hitting return, nothing happened. The screen froze. I tried Google search, and I got the same thing. What's going on?
I quickly tried Microsoft's Bing search, no problems. I also visited USAToday, the Detroit News, our State of Michigan portal and others. They all worked - and they were fast. I thought: "No, the Internet is not down and my home wireless network is working fine."
Over the next twenty minutes, I ran some more searches (using Bing) to try and trouble-shoot the problem from my end. I searched on "Is Google Down?"
There were plenty of stories about how Google has gone down many times over the past couple of years. Here are some of the stories I read. Last year, eWeek ran this story. Later, ComputerWorld described a February 2009 outage, as well as another one in May 2009.
More recently, Google apologized for September 2009 gmail outages. Blogs popped up all over the place with Google analysis and even Google said the outages were a big deal. Some are now asking what these outages mean for cloud services.
But none of these told me anything about my current situation. I searched some more...
I typed: "Is there a Google outage on October 3, 2009?" I couldn't find anything initially. I went back to Google by 9:05 AM, and everything worked. A few minutes later, I found that I was not alone. Check out this post: Google search is Down, Adsense, GMail... This post said that everything was up by 5:18 AM, but I'm not sure what time zone this person was in.
The Google App Status Dashboard listed no status for for 10/3/09 (as of 9:45 AM), so I don't know what their official stance is yet for this outage. However, there is no doubt that these outages are starting to rattle users.
I'm not sure where this is heading. It could become a serious PR issue for Google, if they don't get this outage situation fixed quickly. Can we rely on Google apps at work? It may also be a serious issue for their cloud services, if they can't provide uptime.
Don't get me wrong. I am a Google-fan. Their service is free at home and very good overall - in my opinion. I use more of their apps all the time. I've viewed Google as unbeatable - like the old UCLA basketball team that won 88 games in a row over four seasons. The question is whether they are getting too big and can keep the winning-ways going.
Perhaps the expectations are too high for Google? I'm no longer so sure that they will dominate our Internet future in the long run.
What are your thoughts? Are Google outages becoming a serious problem?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.