December 19, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
The federal government has issued a "cloud first" policy as a part of the Office of Management and Budget's 25-point plan to reform federal information technology management. The policy was described by federal CIO Vivek Kundra during a December 9, 2010 presentation. This cloud first policy was presented as an important aspect of government reform efforts in order to achieve operational efficiencies by adopting "light" technology and shared services.
The potential benefits from implementing cloud computing are huge. One slide near the ends of the Mr. Kundra's presentation offered this bullet on how reforms will change the status quo: "Utilizing 'Cloud First' approach, provision solutions on demand at up to 50% lower per unit cost."
Federal agencies are already getting onboard, and the General Service Administration (GSA) has announced plans to move to a web-based email system, similar to Google's Gmail. According to the Washington Post
"The GSA is the first federal agency to make the Internet switch, and its decision follows the Office of Management and Budget's declaration last month that the government is now operating under a ‘cloud-first’ policy, meaning agencies must give priority to Web-based applications and services. ...
The Obama administration has said that cloud computing will allow more people to share a common infrastructure, cutting technology and support costs. But some technologists have warned that Web-based software may not be as secure as systems built for a dedicated purpose. And the programs often depend on stable network connections."
The cloud first policy itself has several specific mandates in section 3.2. "Each Agency CIO will be required to identify three 'must move' services and create a project plan for migrating each of them to cloud solutions and retiring the associated legacy systems. Of the three, at least one of the services must fully migrate to a cloud solution within 12 months and the remaining two within 18 months."
Moving forward, many implementation questions remain. How will the cloud computing contracts actually work across multiple agencies with different requirements? Will security protections be adequate? What parameters will be in place to prohibit offshore cloud facilities? Will the promised savings materialize? What flexibility will be included to allow state and local governments to take advantage of these new federal cloud offerings?
Still, these are the right actions overall for the federal government to take, in my opinion. A "cloud first" policy will shape the future for IT management in government. Many of these 25 federal reforms need to be adopted by state and local governments. So what should state and local technology leaders be doing now? What does a cloud first policy really mean outside the DC beltway? Quite a bit, I think. Here are three items to consider:
What are your thoughts regarding the announced "cloud first" policy? What does it mean for your government?
December 4, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
"It’s not in the contract.” We hear these words every day in government.
Or, “Why can’t we just get the system to do it this way?”
Or perhaps, “Why wasn’t (such & such) included in the statement of work? It should have been built into the Request for Proposal (RFP).”
But it wasn’t, so now the vendor’s change is expensive.
I especially like these ideas from GSA’s Mary Davie entitled: 7 More Ideas for Better Buys. Here are a few excerpts (but I urge you to read all of her thoughts):
I especially like these ideas from GSA’s Mary Davie entitled: 7 More Ideas for Better Buys. Here are a few excerpts (but I urge you to read all of her thoughts):The challenge is huge: To be innovative in our RFPs or Invitations to Bid (ITBs) and still be efficient. Government teams around the world are notorious for “paving the cow path” or asking for the wrong things or changing our minds after the contract is in place.
This problem is not new. I remember discussing the costs associated with contract changes back in the mid-'80s. I was at Johns Hopkins getting my master's degree at night, and the class was discussing system development lifecycles. The farther one gets into the software development process, the higher the traditional cost of change
Both the public and private sector know about these contract challenges which cost billions of dollars globallyand can even lead to project failure. Meanwhile, the consumerization of IT and other trendsare causing government enterprises to relook at how they procure things. A key question is: How can we be more innovative while controlling costs in our procurement processes in 2011 and beyond?
Which leads me to point out several helpful articles that I’ve come across lately that got me thinking about this topic (again). They all point to the central importance of building better requirements into our RFPs. There are many different opinions on how to do this, and it’s worth taking some time to explore those options.
The main piece, called 13 ideas for building better RFPswas from Federal Computer Week (FCW). Another interesting article is called: The problem is procurement (and the associated comments at the end). There are also many websites like this one to help vendors and agencies with a variety of related procurement topics.
Yes, I realize that this is a very, very complex topic that requires a lifetime of training and expertise to cover all of the complex legal issues associated with contracts, etc. No, I am not a lawyer or an expert on procurement reform. Yes, we’ll probably still be talking about these same topics 20 years from now.
Nevertheless, I plan to do more in this area in the coming year. RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, SOWs, and contract creation, vendor selection, contract management and the cost of change orders are at the heart of answering that basic question: Can we do that?
November 21, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
According to Federal Computer Week (FCW), the Obama administration has developed a five-pronged strategy for improving IT management in the federal government. The US Office of Management & Budget (OMB) will be implementing fundamental changes that “entail structural changes in how programs are funded, staffed and managed.”
The plans call for a “cloud-first” policy which boosts the use of government cloud computing for new systems.
The five areas which will see dramatic changes include:
1. Align budgets and acquisitions with the technology cycle.
2. Strengthen program management
3. Increase accountability and streamline government.
4. Increase engagement with industry
5. Adopt light technologies and shared solutions.
These areas are described in more detail in the Federal Computer Week article, and CIO Vivek Kundra will hold a public event Dec. 9 to offer additional details on action items.
Looking through the list, these same actions are bound to become priorities within state governments, in my view. The main reason is that cost-cutting will be even more important in the coming year, as well as showing a return on technology investments. In addition, state governments must follow their federal partners in many cases in order to obtain funding for projects. (In Michigan, approximately 60% of IT dollars spent come from the federal government.)
Therefore, state governments are usually affected by federal trends, either directly or indirectly. Bottom line, expect these same five areas to show up in a state or local government near you. Similar trends can be seen in the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) priority list for the coming year.
What are your thoughts on upcoming management changes in technology for 2011?
November 5, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
There are many ramifications from the state and local government election results this week, such as this article which highlights new Governors to bring big turnover of State CIOs. So what should current (or prospective) government technology professionals be doing now to prepare for 2011?
One place to start is the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) latest priority list. Here’s a quick peek at the top five priority strategies for 2011:
1. Consolidation / Optimization
2. Budget and Cost Control
3. Health Care
4. Cloud Computing
5. Shared Services
The top five priority technologies for 2011 include:
1. Virtualization (servers, storage, computing, data center)
2. Cloud computing (software as a service, infrastructure, applications, storage)
3. Networking (voice and data communications, unified communications)
4. Legacy application modernization / renovation
5. Identity and access management
Another document worth reading is this “issue brief” from the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices on state government redesign efforts in 2009 and 2010.
Of course, all politics are local, so understanding the priorities from the incoming elected officials is vital.
It’s a good idea to visit the website of our soon-to-be leaders and read about their plans and approaches. Some websites even solicit ideas and take resumes.
Here are a few examples: Governor-elect Rick Snyder in Michigan
Governor-elect Rick Scott in Florida &
Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii
What are your thoughts on transition planning or planning for 2011 and beyond?
October 23, 2010 By Dan Lohrmann
Our Michigan Digital Summit was held this past week, and the opening keynote was truly different – in a fun way. Dan Thurman motivated, challenged, inspired and entertained us while illustrating concepts from his two books: Off Balance On Purpose and Success in Action. To get a sense for what this acrobatic performance is like, check out this preview video.
Trying to summarize his presentation is a bit like trying to tell a young child about the circus. Words certainly don’t have the same impact as the visual experience. Still, I’m taking a stab at some of the points that I took away from Dan Thurman’s high-powered performance.
1) We must have commitment to our platform. Oftentimes, we must commit before we have everything figured out. Once we make the commitment, we gain new energy and ideas. (This first point came as Dan prepared to “redo” his opening with a triple flip on the stage.)
2) Transformation only comes when bold promises are backed up by consistent daily action. Our actions must match our words. This point was backed up with the story of Harry Lind, who is known to be one of the greatest American jugglers (scroll down to see his life story and how he made clubs to juggle). Despite many setbacks is life, he kept practicing and improving.
3) Learn from mistakes. Thurman said we are all “professional jugglers” in life. We learn the most from what we drop. We must choose our team members very carefully. Exchange ideas, stories, and vision with others – as well as honestly about mistakes made and what works and what doesn’t.
4) Day to day we are off balance – pulled by different priorities in life. We need to lean forward intentionally and boldly (as he described and showed us how to ride a unicycle.) We will never have perfect balance in life – thus we need to be off balance – but on purpose. Always look “down path.” Be ready for what’s next. Anticipate change.
5) Do one thing, really, really fast – Multitasking really doesn’t work. Our brains need to relearn “a new thing” which might include two other synthesized tasks. Just because you do two different tasks well (one at a time), doesn’t mean you can do the same two tasks well at the same time. (His example was texting and driving.) You must practice the new task (he joked that he was not advocating texting and driving at once.) Thurman was very funny throughout his presentation – throwing in lines like, “this is like cloud computing” when riding a unicycle and juggling at once.
6) Take action when you have the opportunity. You need to be ready to embrace new things you’ve never done before. The next challenge will always be different than you first envisioned. But … you made a commitment, so you must follow-through with that.
7) There is always space between the throws and actions. (This was illustrated while teaching us to juggle more balls). The better you get, the more you learn to see the space and the process slows down for you. This is true in life as well. (Sports side note: I hear that NFL quarterbacks get batter when the game “slows down” for them and they see the field better.)
8) To improve, we need to “up the risk.” (To learn to improve at juggling four balls, Dan needed to practice juggling five balls.) He also added knives into the juggling and not just wood clubs. If you think what you’re doing is difficult, try doing something even harder. Be always learning.
9) Do whatever you are passionate about. Dan became one of the best by practicing juggling, despite setbacks.
10) With every gift comes responsibility. Thurman told the story of how he was given Harry Lind’s clubs by a man he met at a performance. (You never know who is in the crowd.) We must use the gifts we are given and improve. Also, pass the gift on to others – be a mentor.
If you want to learn more from Dan Thurman, I encourage you to watch the videos and/or read his books. (I am certain that this brief summary does not do justice to his many illustrated points.
In conclusion, I have heard many talks on work/life balance. I have even written a few pieces on our need for unplugging during vacations, how we get too many emails, the seven habits of online integrity and related topics as well. However, Dan Thurman gets his points across more powerfully, since he illustrates his points in fun ways that grab the audience. If you get the chance to hear him speak, go for it. He really got the 2 day conference off to a great start.
Any other thoughts from attendees at the Michigan Digital Summit or others who have heard Dan Thurman speak?
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.