August 30, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
In a recent interview with Government Computer News (GCN), Federal CIO Vivek Kundra revealed some very interesting perspectives regarding the need to upgrade technology infrastructure, enterprise IT architectures, better procurement, and keys to building partnerships between governments and contractors. The GCN interview offers a mixture of policy directions as well as pragmatic advice for technology leaders. I urge readers to pay attention.
Here are some highlights:
1) On infrastructure - "...Why not look at some of these game-changing technologies, like cloud computing? ... What about a migration into a shared-services model? ... Do we really need to spend billions of dollars in data centers across the federal government? Do we really need to use up all this energy when we can do it in a lighter-weight way?..."
2) On government / contractor relationships - "I believe that the partnerships will actually move to higher-value work. What I mean by that is that if you look at a lot of spending right now, we're not addressing some of the tough issues -- issues around re-engineering how these agencies work, rather than just going out and spending money on servers, routers and switches, and configuring them and upgrading them two years later...."
3) On enterprise architectures - "It's meaningless to have architecture filed away in cabinets. You could have the best document that is just sitting somewhere, yet everyone else is moving forward and implementing a completely different model."
4) On better procurement - "...I think we need to simplify. The [GSA] storefront is one model. I don't necessarily think that we need wholesale transformation right away, though we should evolve toward that...."
Other interesting points included an emphasis on reengineering business processes. He rightly described true business transformation as requiring a new way of thinking and not the approaches followed 30-50 years ago.
I think the interview provides an excellent set of objectives and goals for the next few years within governments nationwide. His comment regarding enterprise architectures that are shelf-ware and not really followed shows some pragmatic insight into how things are sometimes done within government. That is, the implementers and the planners are working off of two different game plans and/or are not working together well.
Overall, I believe that this was a very good interview. What are your thoughts?
August 17, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
Do you ever struggle with balancing work and family time? I certainly do. Turning off a Blackberry can be hard - even on vacation. No doubt, there's plenty of advice available that tends to go to one of the two extremes - totally unplug or stay connected 24 x 7 .
So what's possibly wrong with unplugging for a week or two? The benefits seem obvious, and experts encourage leaders to unplug so that others can to . A vacation should be a time to recharge and get away to de-stress, and many bloggers ( such as this one ) chastise people for reading emails on vacation. One argument goes further and says that your team needs to feel empowered and know that you trust them. Reading emails on vacation can even send the wrong message to your team.
However, not reading emails at all for 7-10 days can also cause issues. For one, you return to well over a thousand emails (at least in my case), and getting through them can require substantial time and energy once you return. In addition, what about hot questions or emergency issues sent requiring a quick reply? Yes, you can use "out of office" replies directing senders to others, but I have avoided dozens of major problems and challenges by providing a quick reply to customers or external partners on important projects.
On the other extreme, there is little doubt that you can ruin the vacation for your entire family if you trot around Disney World looking at you Blackberry all day. You are probably sending unwanted messages to your loved ones, and your mind may be focused elsewhere. That is not a vacation. I have seen Blackberry addicts at little league baseball games, in lines at amusement parks, and even in the lobby of a church right before a wedding. In each case, the user looked as if the "other activity" was secondary to sending their "essential" message.
So what do I do? Over the years, I've developed some guidelines that seem to work well for my entire family. I certainly "over-text or email" sometimes, and I make mistakes. But allow me to illustrate a middle-of-the road approach.
This past week my family of six enjoyed a wonderful week next to a beautiful lake in Northern Michigan. I knew that our rented house had no Internet access, and I was told that cell coverage was spotty at best. Yes, there was a landline phone in the house, but at ten cents a minute, I wasn't biting on that hook. My initial plan was to check into the office and catch-up on (only the most important) email two or three times during the week as part of planned visits to Mackinaw City and Mackinaw Island.
After we arrived, unpacked the car, divided out the bedrooms and ran out onto the dock with the kids to explore, my Blackberry started to vibrate. "I guess it does work up here. This will require discipline. Back to the guidelines," I thought to myself. I stuck to the guidelines, and in this case they worked well and provided plenty of needed rest.
So what are the guidelines? Every person and situation is different, but I try and follow a "one-hour rule." Here's what that includes:
I know. I'm supposed to have this perfected by now, since I wrote a book called Virtual Integrity and a PCIO article on the Seven Habits of Online Integrity . (Habit #5 is balancing online and offline life.) But this is still a constant battle requiring regular adjustments. The key is aligning your real priorities with your actual activities. I also recommend getting input from your family and friends as to how you are actually doing.
I doubt if my one hour rule will work when I travel with my daughter to South Africa in September (on vacation) to speak at GovTech 2009 in Durban . I doubt if my Blackberry will even connect, but I'll update you on how that turns out in a later blog.
Meanwhile, what's your approach to disconnecting? How do you deal with "family time?" Does your Blackberry, iPhone or web-enabled phone travel with you on vacation? Any tips to share?
I'd love to hear what works for you and what doesn't.
August 3, 2009 By Dan Lohrmann
Every few weeks I visit a few of the federal government technology websites like Government Computer News or Federal Computer Week to see what's hot in the federal government. Occasionally, the trends seem to be contradictory - like this past week.
Take the popular topic of using social networks (like Facebook and Twitter) in government. One recent article was entitled: Security Issues May Lead DoD to ban use of social media.
The next article seemed to offer another view: (Department of) State puts social networking to diplomatic use. Here's a quote from that one:
"Want to know where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is right now? A section of the State Department's Web site has details about where she is in the world (not surprisingly, she's often out of the country), where she has been recently and where she's off to next -- all highlighted on a Google map for easy viewing. At the time of this writing, she was traveling in India and Thailand, having just gotten back from Canada, Egypt and Iraq."
Here we go again. Is this a movie rerun? This seems like a repeat of the debate from two years ago. Remember this article: DOD asked to reevaluate social networking sites ban.
So why do I highlight this debate now? I certainly won't end the opposing views - and both sides have excellent arguments for and against the use of social networking in government. (I wrote a piece on this topic eighteen months ago at CSO Magazine - if you'd like to read more.)
No, I see another trend developing with social media. I started thinking about this much more after a lunch discussion session at SecureWorld Houston in February. I am seeing companies and governments doing large (120 or even 180-degree) swings on this topic. I can't name names, but many of the execs I have been talking with used to be wide open to social networking and now ban the use. Others banned Facebook and other social media sites or even engaging "non-work-related friends," but they are now wide open and encourage this use. Each side has war stories as to why they changed. The good, bad and ugly justifications are actually pretty simplistic. Over time, I expect to see this situation level off, but it hasn't happened yet.
So what am I predicting? We will continue to be deluged by positive and negative stories regarding social networking at work. There will be some very embarrassing situations revealed, as well as some excellent case studies showing why we need to expand the use of Facebook and Twitter at work.
Who is right? You tell me.
What are your thoughts?
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.