Category: Cloud Technology


Since I last wrote about social media and the government, I have been contemplating ways to expand my own definition of social collaboration. In light of the lofty goals put forth by President Obama both in terms of capabilities and cost cutting measures, government agencies must take a serious look at the way they do anything that has to do with IT. No longer will the old paper operations meet expectations. Not only can social collaboration bring the daily operations of the government to the technological forefront, but the return on the investment can be significant.

 

The business ready social software offerings can be used to easily and quickly share information both within and outside of the organization. Many of the offerings in the market are able to be very specifically tailored to the needs of the users. This is particularly true of the IBM offerings for which I wish to make my bias obvious, as they are the products I use on a daily basis. Social collaboration softwares can operate through a single user friendly dashboard. They can integrate email, communities, chat, filesharing, virtual meetings and e-signing. Through this single window sign on extremely disparate branches of the same agency can work together as though they are sharing an office. The speed with which they can interact with one another and conduct business can be in nearly real time. This intense level of collaboration can speed the efficiency and encourage highly successful branches to be able to encourage and assist those in their organization in need their help. The ability to sign documents virtually saves shipping money and can cut turn around to a fraction of what it currently takes making every employee more effective.

 

The cost of these softwares can be further managed through the purchasing of cloud offerings. Additionally the transition to a different email system is one of the simplest movements to cloud. Combining business collaboration and cloud computing initiatives could be one of the most effective ways to move towards the goals of Government 2.0.

One of the most compelling stories I have seen from a user perspective is UPS:

In light of the recent tragic events in Tuscon the political rhetoric of the US has fixated on the idea of the two political parties working together. In a significant break with tradition Republican and Democratic legislative members will be sitting together during the State of the Union address on 25 January 2011.[1] Whether or not the spirit of cooperation will last into the spring remains to be seen, but it should make for a more entertaining speech tomorrow night. Perhaps the citizens of America will watch it in hope of awkward standing ovations or that the legislators will behave as we all did in grade school when our teachers made us sit boy-girl-boy. CNN suggests that it might even turn the speech into less of a pep rally for the party of the executive branch and more of a forum where citizens to learn what is going on from their elected leader.[2] Well here’s to hoping anyways.

 

Members of the House and Senate have jumped at this bipartisanship as a platform to distinguish themselves to their constituents. Many have chosen to focus on financial reform, which almost inevitably leads to a negative tone. However Representative Gerry Connelly D-Va has chosen a different path. Working in conjunction with Rep. Darrell Issa R-Ca, he is seeking to reform and streamline the government IT procurement process.[3] Connelly is seeking comprehensive hearings to evaluate everything from the efficiency of the procurement process, the use of federal employees instead of contractors and the use of current technology.[4] He is particularly interested in exploring with government IT experts the money saving potential of cloud computing instead of data centers.

 

Having spent the last several months calling government IT workers, I think most would agree that there are both positive and negative things about the current procurement process. Depending on which agency has to be used for acquisition the choices may be drastically limited. The natural fear will be that any new legislation might exacerbate any existing problems. I believe that the potential to revise what is a confusing and frustrating system for employees into a mechanism of technology acquisition that is beneficial for all parties. A simpler faster system would improve the service provided to the tax payer and with the implementation of cloud cost could be drastically reduced while multiplying efficiency.

 

Government IT is not likely to be the blockbuster story like the tragedy of the shooting of Representative Giffords, who I am very glad is recovering in my home state. But whether or not it creates the kind of news the traditional outlets are looking for, the health of the information technology of this country is imperative as we move through this new decade. Other countries in the world, particularly China, are investing heavily in technology and the US must keep pace even if in a recession or we will be left behind.


[1] Tom Cohen, “Legislators pairing off for bipartisan seating at Obama speech,” CNN Politics, http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/01/23/congress.date.night/index.html?hpt=Sbin, Posted on 24 January 2011.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Matthew Weigelt, “Outsourcing, insourcing and partisanship, Lawmaker seeks cooperation, not conflict,” Federal Computer Week, http://fcw.com/Articles/2011/01/21/Gerry-Connelly-bipartisan-issues-James-Lankford-subcommittee.aspx?Page=2, Posted 21 January 2011.

[4] Ibid.

President Obama’s most recent Executive Order on Improving Regulations and Regulatory Review lays out “his regulatory strategy to support continued economic growth and job creation, while protecting the safety, health and rights of all Americans.”[1]

In the guidelines he lays out the priorities of new regulation to focus on inter-department collaboration, cost saving and appropriate input of the American public. Not surprisingly the cost cutting has been one of the most highlighted parts of the order, with the President emphasizing that any actions must be fully cost justified.[2] He emphasized that the efforts should be “transparent, coordinated and simplified, flexible, necessary and up-to-date.”[3]

Within 120 days of this order all agencies must have a preliminary plan submitted to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.[4] In just 4 months all of the diverse agencies of the US government must find a very cost effective way, as there is very little money available for IT spending, to reach the public and gain their participation in the regulatory process. In addition to traditional modes of communication with the public, I believe that social media may be the answer to this challenge. There are numerous free sites frequented by millions of Americans daily, where agencies can solicit response from those they serve. Twitter and Facebook could be used to communicate the period of time set aside for public comment and a simple survey engine like Survey Monkey could be used to track results. The President specifically specified that that such participation should be made available via the internet in an effort to reach as many Americans as possible.[5]

 

Interagency collaboration is a different kind of challenge than reaching out for public input. Based on existing laws and regulations, agencies will likely have to procure collaboration software from one of the major tech companies. Though the free social media offerings are exciting ways to reach the public, they are not secure enough for interdepartmental communication. As software licensing can become costly depending on how many workstations are enabled, this may be another instance of where federal agencies can implement cloud technology to minimize their spending and meet the federal cloud mandate.

 


[1] Alice Lipowicz,  “President wants to put rulemaking and compliance activities online,” Federal Computer Week, http://fcw.com/articles/2011/01/18/obama-issues-order-on-regulatory-transparency-and-review.aspx, Posted on Jan 18, 2011.

[2] Barak Obama, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review- Executive Order,” http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/18/improving-regulation-and-regulatory-review-executive-order, Released by the Office of the Press Secretary on January 18, 2011.

[3] Lipowicz.

[4] Obama.

[5] Ibid.

The Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative was announced in February of 2010 and underwent revisions through the beginning of October. The Initiative is closely linked to the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan (SSPP) and Cloud Computing, two of the best funded government IT projects.[1]

 

In 1998 there were only 432 data centers owned by the federal government, by 2009 there were more than 1,100. This number increased by 90% percent to 2,094 as of December 2011 according to number published by CIO Council.[2]

The primary goal is to reduce costs by improving energy efficiency and square footage, though perhaps the greatest benefit will be the reallocation of IT resources within the government for new initiatives instead of maintenance.[3]

Virtualization and Cloud computing are two of the recommended ways to achieve consolidation by the 2012 deadline. With such a large project choosing where to begin can be daunting. Rutrell Yasin, a writer for Federal Computer Week, suggests that e-mail is one of the easiest applications to put in the cloud. It can be the first important step toward meeting the requirement of 3 applications moved to cloud within 18 months.[4]

Even with the changes in the government at the beginning of 2011 these deadlines press on. How will you be ready?


[1] CIO Council, Federal Data Center Consolidation FAQ, http://ow.ly/3Dcxm, Posted 06.30.2010.

[2] CIO Council, Update on Federal Data Center Consolidation, http://ow.ly/3DcPs, Posted on 10.01.2010.

[3] CIO Council, Federal Data Center Consolidation FAQ.

[4] Rutrell Yasin. “Implementing the cloud-first Policy? Start with e-mail,” Federal Computer Week, Posted on 12.17.2010.