Archive for October 2011
But first… a quick review of the other stories that were news for the last week of October…
We start with the technology story of the week… which was… the first speech [PDF] by the new federal CIO, Steve VanRoekel. Unfortunately he didn’t speak to an audience of government executives — the 21st annual Executive Leadership Conference was going on this week. VanRoekel decided to speak to an audience in California — specifically, at Palo Alto’s storied PARC headquarters.
That aside, it was the federal CIO’s first speech since he took that post nearly three months ago. And he stressed that his focus will be to drive innovation in government and make investments in technology that better serve the American people.
He detailed specific initiatives inside each of the administration’s focus areas — maximizing IT return on investment, improving citizen and business interaction with agencies, closing the so-called productivity gap and cybersecurity.
I’ll have a round-up of stories about the speech soon on DorobekINSIDER.
Staying in technology… what are the challenges facing state technology executives? The National Association of State CIOs has just published its annual list of the strategies, management processes and solutions [PDF]. Topping the list — it will be no surprise to you: consolidation — and I would add, doing more with less. Number two is budget and cost controls. Security comes in at number six… and mobile comes in at number 10.
The top tech priority for state CIOs, according to NASCIO: virtualization.
Read full list [PDF]… GovLoop is also asking you for your thoughts about the priorities and technologies that will help you do your job.
Our management story of the week… well, it also involves technology… it’s the ongoing troubles with the government’s job site: USAJobs.gov. We’ve told you over the weeks that the Office of Personnel Management rolled out a brand new version of USA-Jobs, but the new site has been plagued with problems. The Washington Post reports that the site would crash repeatedly, error messages popped up over and over, résumés disappeared, passwords were obliterated. In some cases, it even got geography wrong. Searches for Delaware, for example, turning up jobs in Germany. And Federal Computer Week notes those problems were having an impact. An analysis indicates that the number of resumes coming in through the new site is at least 60 percent less than the earlier version. And now lawmakers are asking the federal CIO to step in to help.
In gov 2.0 news… The Department of Veterans Affairs named RelayHealth as the winner of its “Blue Button for All Americans” contest. The Blue Button allows veterans across the country to download their health data. Even better: McKesson’s RelayHealth announced that it is donating the $50,000 prize to the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports programs that assist injured Servicemembers, Veterans and their families. Awesome — all the way around!
Our budget story of the week… is, of course, the super-committee, which is facing a deadline just before Thanksgiving to make its recommendations on cuts. And there is a lot of back-and-fourth fighting going on. At the Executive Leadership Conference this week, a congressional staffer suggested that agencies should expect significant budget cuts. We’ll continue to watch it, of course.
And four recommendations for some reading this weekend…
One from the Harvard Business Review about government start-ups… Government “start-ups” — new agencies, offices, or initiatives — have the potential to be a powerful tool for solving critical policy problems at the local, state, and federal levels. But while creating the “new and the nimble” within an established bureaucracy is a well-known art form in the private sector, governments are still struggling to do it effectively. Read more — we have the link online.
FastCompany has the story about the Silicon Valley’s new hiring strategy for IT: NOT hiring PhDs.
And are you having trouble finding the right person for the right job? In the Wall Street Journal, this week, a piece on why companies are facing the same challenge.
Finally, social media experts… some feel uncomfortable with that title. The EPA’s Jeffrey Levey explains on GovLoop.
But the GovLoop Issue of the Week… the end of October also marks the end of cyber-security awareness month… and this week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Washington Post that she spends a considerable amount of time dealing with cybersecurity threats, including potential attacks on the nation’s infrastructure. (Video)
This week, the Security Innovation Network was holding a conference in Washington assessing ways to help solve the challenges facing government — and there are many of them, and they have been evolving quickly. Robert Rodriguez is the chairman and Managing Principal of the Security Innovation Network. He tells me that things are changing in the age of austerity…
Today, as part of ELC’s technology innovation track – the last panel of the day – and we are trying an ELC innovation about innovation. We are holding an UN-session. For the past several years, there have been un-conferences. Un-conferences — and, by extension, our un-session — is very open. There is a topic, but there are no set list of speakers. It is wisdom of the crowds in the conference format — it enables open, collaborative learning using a format that “creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity.”
I’m thrilled to be working with Kathy Conrad, the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
The UN-session is the final panel of the ELC’s technology innovation track. And our goal is to walk out of the UNsession with… homework, for lack of a better term. We want to come up with tools that people can take — and try — in their organization that encourage and enable innovation. And we are then continuing the sharing after ELC ends — I’ve created a section on GovLoop, the social network for government, where I hope people will share their lessons… what worked, what didn’t. (Hear Conrad talk about some of her thoughts on the GovLoop Insights Issue of the Week podcast from this past week.)
One of my new favorite books is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries — and I think it is a book about innovation. It’s about making it a part of your live and your thinking. (A preview: The DorobekINSIDER book club will be coming back next year — and, if we can work out schedules, this will be our book. More to come. Stay tuned.)
Read our thoughts — and our notes for the un-session — after the break.
Our issue of the week is about you doing your job better.But, before we get to that… our round-up of the stories that made news for the third week of October 2011…
And we start with your money… where there were were a number of stories. We lead, of course, with the talk — and the likelihood — that pay for feds will be frozen for the third year. The Washington Post says that Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the chairman of and ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are also suggesting that the way that feds retirement befits are calculated should be recalculated. And Federal Times notes that the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and other Republican members on the panel called on the budget supercommittee to extend the federal pay freeze through 2015. They also called on the supercommittee to permanently end “non-performance-based” step increases.
Speaking of that budget supercommittee: Many eyes still watching the work that is going on behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The Washington Post says there is growing unease that the supercommittee might not do much of anything.
Meanwhile the U-S intelligence agencies are bracing for big budget cuts, Wired’s Danger Room blog reports. The intelligence community is facing a “double digit” percentage cut to its $80 billion annual budget, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said at a conference this week.
And the age of austerity is getting increasingly real for feds. This week, the Justice Department said it may shut down some offices around the country. That angered attorneys working in those cities… and the Government Accountability Office said it may have to consider ferloughs if proposed budget cuts pass.
Very serious issues, but could there be austerity hype? For government tech, maybe, at least according to immixGroup’s Market Intelligence organization. It presented it’s assessment of the budget this week. They said that while continuing resolutions and ongoing budget cuts will have an impact, most federal IT spending requests are slightly ahead of 2011 levels, with buying trends expected to emphasize telework/mobile computing, cloud computing/virtualization, and cybersecurity.
A few other quick money items:
* The unemployment rate for veterans is outpacing the rate for civilians. The Washington Post has the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed the unemployement rate for veterans at nearly 12 percent, well above the overall jobless rate of about 9.1 percent.
* And we told you last week about Moneyball managers. Politico this week has the story about Moneyball economics. And they quote White House Office of Management and Budget Associate Director for Performance and Personnel Management Shelley Metzenbaum, who wrote an OMB blog post talking about the Moneyball book and film. Moneyball is about the baseball manager who uses… atypical data to make decisions… Metzenbaum says that could be a model for government agencies. (NOTE: Updated 10.23 to include Metzenbaum’s OMB blog post on the topic.)
The defense story of the week… from the New York Times, which reported that the Obama administration considered using cyber-attacks on Lybian leaders to disrupt and disable the Qaddafi government, but eventually decided to use traditional air strikes. (Last week, we spoke to Mark Bowden – the author and journalist. His most famous work is Black Hawk Down, but his most recent book is Worm: The First Digital World War. Hear that conversation here.)
Our procurement story of the week… The Government Accountability Office sustained a protest of the General Services Administration’s cloud computing contract. GAO essentially recommended a do over. We have a link to Washington Technology’s story and the GAO decision — read it for yourself.
A few big management stories this week…
The 7,000 memmbers of the Senior Executive Service — you’re going to be getting a new performance management system… and soon. Federal Times reports the new system, being finalized by the Office of Management and Budget, aims to evaluate SES members on how well they demonstrate the SES’s five “core qualifications”: leading people, leading change, business acumen, building coalitions and being results driven.
And the management of government technology… specifically… the role of the CIO…
GAO put out its assessment on the role of the federal chief information officer. What is probably little shock to anybody: GAO found that CIOs don’t fully have a full seat at the leadership table in many agencies. (AFFIRM will be holding it’s own assessment on the changing role of the CIO at it’s lunch on November 16.)
Meanwhile, the Federal CIO Council put out it’s thoughts on the critically of what are called integrated program teams. We’ll have more on this later, but you can read why the Federal CIO Council believe they are important online… dorobek insider dot com… and insights.govloop.com.
And just in case you think managing technology is easy, a story out of Canada where that government’s CIO said that it could take a decade to remake that country’s IT structure.
Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a story this week about ways of updating the suggestion box. And we’ve seen that across government. TSA — and now DHS — have their Idea Factory. But here is a way to have your say on waste. the National Academy of Public Administration and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board are looking for your insights on how to find waste, fraud and abuse. You can have your say at fedaccountabilitydialogue.net.
I should mention that the Journal also had a story about the trials and tribulations of having these kinds of open forums. The Journal notes that a White House promised to answer questions raised in an online petition. One petition wants to legalize raw milk sales. Others seek to mandate the spaying and neutering of pets, abolish the Transportation Security Administration and even to “formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race.” There is even one to save the Postal Service. There you go.
All of that aside, our issue of the week… is about innovation.
There were a few stories this week about different agencies seeking different ways to be innovative. The New York Times reports that the postal union representing letter carriers’ has hired a former investment banker, and a the financial firm to help craft a plan to breathe some life into the ailing postal service.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how the government can be innovative. Next week, at the Industry Advisory Council’s Executive Leadership Conference, a big focus will be on innovation. And, in fact, we are going to try something a big different — maybe even innovative. As part of that discussion, there will be an UN-session. You have have heard of an un-conference. These are where you don’t have a panel — or even an agenda. You have… well, the people in the room. You tap the wisdom of crowds. At ELC, we are doing an UN-session. When I say we, the UN-session is going to be guided by me… and Kathy Conrad… she is the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
I asked her to join me this week to talk about government and innovation… and she says that the government isn’t given enough credit for its innovation — even by government employees…
Kathy Conrad… she is the principal deputy associate administrator of GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
Now there are ways that YOU can participate. I’ll post some of our thoughts this weekend on on DorobekINSIDER… and we are creating a GovLoop discussion where you can offer your thoughts… and we are giving people at ELC homework — what are they going to do to be… innovative. And we’re going to follow up and see what works — and what doesn’t. And we hope you will join us for all of that.
And that is our question of the week — what are the biggest challenges to innovation in your organization?
It’s GovLoop — so we’d love to get your thoughts.
But before we get to the big story of the week, we look at the other stories making news… and we’re trying something new this week selecting the top stories across a number of topic areas — management… policy… technology… Defense… security… Your Money…And we start with the Defense story of the week… where the new Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, made his first policy speech this week laying out his vision of the future of the nation’s fighting forcein the age of austerity. In his speech, Panetta scaled back the amount of money that the armed services can cut to $60 billion. The Pentagon has been waging an agressive battle to reduce overhead, waste and duplication. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates had said those efforts could save $100 billion.Panetta also said that military pay and benefits must be part of an over all austerity plan, but that the troops should not bear the burden for reducing the deficit.
He also said that lawmakers on Capitol Hill should keep pet projects out of the defense budget. Panetta said that Congress must be a responsible partner in creating a defense strategy that may not include specific projects or systems.
And we always like to follow the money, so… A few short stories about your money this week… first, your agency’s money… The budget super committee continued its meetings — very little is known about what is actually going on. Politico however, spoke to insiders to get a rough a rough sketch of the priorities of the individual members. They found that some members seem intent on guarding their turf, others want to be seen as real deal makers, while others feel the need to protect their party’s base priorities. Meanwhile National Journal says that House Democrats have offered their suggestions for cuts — and revenues. The House Democrats recommend the committee avoid “precipitous” cuts to defense and national security programs.
And Americans are skeptical about the federal government’s role in the economy and its ability to reach an agreement on the budget deficit… that according to a new poll just out from National Journal.
And YOUR money… where will the stock market end the year with only one quarter left. That, of course, impacts your Thrift Savings Plan accounts. The New York Times find that the experts are… well, they’re more pessimistic.
Our procurement story of the week… from the Government Accountability Office, which testified this week saying that most federal agencies aren’t doing enough to police unethical government contractors. GAO analyzed five years’ worth of government contracts. It found that only a handful of agencies penalized contractors. Six agencies that awarded billions of dollars to contractors never suspended nor disbarred any of them. We have a link to the GAO report online.
Our gov 2.0 story of the week comes from Fast Company, which reports that the The New York Federal Reserve Bank is going to be tracking how people feel about the economy — by watching social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the web. Fed officials wouldn’t provide many details, but… they did say that the goal is to monitor these public feeds to get a better sense of the relevant concerns and discussions that are taking place… and to improve the Federal Reserve’s communications and engagement with the public.
And a few tech stories — a Blackberry outage sent many Washingtonians spinning, but National Journal says that for official Washington, the Blackberry is still number one. And some experts say that isn’t likely to change quickly. Yet the new iPhone got it’s release and, as we said last week, most of the changes are behind the scene. But every indication is that customers are still thrilled. Record numbers signed up for pre-order. AND it is getting rave reviews. David Pogue of the New York Times calls the new iPhone conceals sheer magic.
Finally my must-read of the week — and it comes the Harvard Business Review — with a hat tip to the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Journal — and the headline is How Will the ‘Moneyball Generation’ Influence Management? Harvard professor James Heskett, who studies how culture affects management trends, asks a fascinating question about whether the “Moneyball” film (and book) will result in more Billy Beane-style managers in business. Moneyball is about Billy Beane, the baseball manager, who is credited with revolutionizing baseball by focusing not only on metrics, but on the sort of indirect metrics that others were ignoring — and that are particularly key to winning games, such as performance in late-inning pressure situations he discusses the importance of adding non-financial measures to the management dashboard, “indirect goals” that help predict and explain financial performance beyond the “direct goal” of profit. VERY interesting for government. Heskett has written a new book himself: The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance. In that book, he comes up with 35 indirect measures key to future company performance. They included such things as the proportion of new business referred by existing customers and the proportion of employees leaving the organization voluntarily. My thought was what might be those non-financial metrics for government.But our Issue of the Week is one that has been dominant throughout 2011 — cyber-security. And it is about another book that I told you about a few weeks ago. This week I got to sit down for a conversation with Mark Bowden — the author and journalist. You may not know him by name, but you have probably heard of his most famous book, Black Hawk Down. He is just out with a new book — Worm: The First Digital World War — and it is about the fight against the Confickr Internet worm and what it tells us about cyber-security. There have been many stories in recent weeks about the challenges facing government cyber-security experts— with a skyrocketing number of attacks.Worm is really a story as old as time — good guys vs bad guys…And that brings us to the GovLoop Insights Question of the Week: How should the government prioritize cyber-security in this age of austerity. We don’t have to tell you that money is tight. So — where does cyber-security get prioritize?It’s GovLoop — so we’d love to get your thoughts.