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Big Data Bling?
This ain’t no Robin Hood story. As Uncle Sam reels from the recession, street rats are becoming fat cats – and taxpayers are serving up the sardines. Get these fishy numbers. One woman, Rashia Wilson, pocketed $11 million in fraudulent tax rebates. IRS paid out on 1.5 million fake tax claims in 2011 – sending 655 refunds to one address in Lithuania. In 2010, IRS sent 4,900 refunds to five addresses in the U.S. You have to read this week’s Economist. Here’s the shakedown – consider this an overweight retweet.
Rake in Recipe?
Start with identity theft. Three every second in America – that’s 12.6 million heists per year. Then mix in tax-refund fraud. Americans file 145 million returns each year – three quarters ask for rebates. Next, you go to a store and set up a prepaid debit card. You don’t need a bank account. The government pays refunds directly on this platform – and it leaves no trace. And, there you have the perfect recipe for Stolen Identity Refund Fraud – SIRF.
Getting Tough on Drugs?
Defrauding the Feds is replacing drug trafficking – as gangs log off the streets and onto the Internet. Let’s get real – it’s higher margin, lower risk, and less time if you get collared. But, even jail time’s no deterrent. IRS caught 170,000 fraudulent tax claims filed from inside prison – it’s anybody’s guess how many other claims slipped through the bars.
Cure Worse than the Disease?
And, SIRF’s not the only fraud game in town. Consider Medicaid and food stamps. After the website misfire, the rush to make the Affordable Healthcare Act more accessible is going to open us up to all kinds of new scams. Hungry for a good story? The state of Florida caught one woman applying for food stamps in all 50 states.
Big Data to the Rescue…
But, here’s the good news. Fed, state, and local agencies are getting smarter about detection. Seems ignorance isn’t bliss. We’re heat mapping data to immediately identify suspicious concentrations. We’re using data mapping tools like Experian, LexisNexis, and Equifax to flag coincidences – multiple claims from the same address. Three cheers for Joe Hungate and his colleagues at TIGTA.
Big Data promise is electric in a down economy. Invest in these systems and watch immediate exponential RoI – while catching criminals. Talk about return on political capital…
As for Miss Wilson, the first lady of tax fraud, Big Data got her number. She’s in the pen doing 21 years. But, maybe we didn’t need Big Data to catch this smart criminal. She boasted about her exploits on Facebook – posting pictures of herself holding wads of Uncle Sam’s cash.
Seem like an easy way to make a bundle? My advice – don’t try this at home.
Middle Child Syndrome…?
I’m in the middle. I wore my brother’s hand-me-downs. I had to sit between my brother and sister on road trips. PaaS is the middle child in the Fed cloud family. Stuck between IaaS and SaaS, all too often, he’s overlooked by his Uncle Sam.
At a time when government IT program clangers are dinner conversation across America, maybe it’s time to bounce the little fella on his uncle’s knee? So, the timing of MeriTalk’s new study, "PaaS or Play? Cloud's Next Move," is perfect as we bring our families together to talk turkey.
The study tells us Uncle Sam can carve $20.5 Billion in savings by developing and testing new apps in the cloud.
Based on a survey of Fed IT execs, the study provides new insight on our dysfunctional Fed app development family. The average application development process takes three and a half years. Forty-one percent of Feds say their agency’s applications are outdated and 77 percent say new app development is vital to agency mission success. And, here’s the evil stepparent, 50 percent say government’s missing out on benefits due to contractor lock in.
Since Sliced Bread…
The study highlights PaaS' potential to rain down benefits Inside and Outside the Beltway. Ninety-two percent say PaaS is vital to broader cloud transition, 90 percent say it’s key to FDCCI, 73 percent link it to big-data rollout, 69 percent flag it as mobility mobilizer, and 42 percent say it’ll improve security. And, slicing to the business issue that thwarts OMB’s big five super programs, 79 percent link PaaS to shared-service adoption.
Are We There Yet?
So if 95 percent of Feds dig PaaS, where are we on implementation? Disappointingly, just 12 percent of Feds say they’re using PaaS today. "Why?" I hear you cry. Here’s cloud’s crazy aunt in the closet again – 67 percent point to security as the spoiler. But, folks who tasted the PaaS pie give it yum-yum reviews. Far from a turkey, 83 percent of PaaS pilgrims say they sailed across the cloud transition with no fear of the Mayflower springing a leak.
Guessing PaaS will become an increasingly appetizing cloud-menu option. Like me, PaaS may be the punk kid, but sometimes the punks rock.
As comrade Snowden cuddles up with papa Putin, Uncle Sam’s cyber security is feeling the chill. If it wasn’t for Sebelius’ sniffles, cyber would be the number-one Fed IT ailment. So, the timing for the new MeriTalk Cyber Security Experience study is healthy. It gets inside Feds’ heads, points to protection vs. productivity pressures – and hints at a prescription for a cure.
So is FDCCI DOA? We've consolidated ourselves from 932 data centers in February 2010 to 7,000+ at last count. But, who's counting anyway? Do we really have a good handle on how many data centers Uncle Sam owns? And, most importantly, what should we measure – clearly counting data centers ain't working.
We've heard that the CIO Council's merging FDCCI with PortfolioStat – is this just wallpapering over the failure or can we use this opportunity to grab victory out of the jaws of defeat? And, if so, how? GAO unveiled a new report on PortfolioStat this week, uncovering more savings opportunities and yet more kinks. When will we see the savings?
Okay, Steve, that's a lot of questions – what do you have to say? Apologies – that was your question, not mine.
Who's counting? The Hill. Issa, Connolly, Carper, and Coburn were promised savings. They won't give up easily.
Do we really have a good handle on how many data centers Uncle Sam owns? Nope. My prediction – the number of data centers will spike higher as we find out where the bodies are buried. What's the bid? Will anybody give me 8,000? 10,000? 15,000? Sadly, I'm not joking.
What should we measure and how do we empower and motivate better efficiency?
Data center cost is composed of three components – facilities (which includes real estate and energy), IT, and people. Those expenses roll into two, and sometimes three, separate budgets. Then you've got IT – and the "shadow IT” shell game. Many data centers don't sit in the CIO shops – they're part of the mission budget. And, to add insult to injury, very few CIO shops know what they spend on energy in the data center – the facilities folks pay the electric bill. The same is true for real estate costs.
So where do we start? First, let's acknowledge that we don't have good cost data. Let's break it up into constituent parts so that we can eat the elephant in smaller bites – but not one bite at a time. Let's generate a map of applications by agency – and then map the duplication within and among agencies to pinpoint opportunities for rationalization – think GAO already has a lot of this data.
Application rationalization is number one. Let's measure existing data center utilization levels – we'll quickly see who's carrying the heavy load. Let's measure floor space – it's a crude measure, but it is a measure. Let's meter existing facilities to understand power costs. We'll quickly separate the core data centers from the nice-to-haves. And, critically, we need a strong definition of what is core – something with hard edges around it. Then let's get to work unplugging non-core resources.
First step, OMB needs to publish its existing data center TCO model. We know it's not perfect. But, publishing the model will allow folks to provide constructive feedback – that's how the validity of the model improves. Second step, might I suggest that agencies should publish their service catalogs? That'd allow Feds to see where they can access better, cheaper services elsewhere – unleash the forces of supply and demand.
Simon Szykman, CIO Commerce – Wingman?
A picture’s worth a thousand words. What’s it they say about books and covers?
Let’s level here – if you ask America for adjectives to describe Feds – risk-taker and innovator wouldn’t make the top 1,000. But we know differently. And, on the heels of the shutdown, what better time to recognize Feds’ grit and gumption? We’re people, not statistics – right?
By day, mild-mannered IT exec, Simon Szykman, CIO at Commerce, likes to walk on the wild side – literally. Check out this snap of Simon wing walking at 2,000 feet. Yep, take a leaf out of Mr. Szykman’s book – turn convention upside down. Sorry, I can’t resist – Simon’s got a whole new perspective on cloud, he’s not afraid to make the leap. Evel Knievel, eat your heart out.
Zoom in on Innovators
Keep an eye peeled for the new MeriTalk Zoom feature. Each month, we’ll get up close and personal with a new Fed IT exec – new insight on the innovators.
Simon Szykman shows that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – not exactly sure how that works on an iPad…
Network Not Work?
Rotting on the Vine?
Uncle Sam loves him some blackberries. But, as Canada's one-time tech darling goes splat, Feds risk looking like gooseberries.
BlackBerry's U.S. smartphone market share is just four percent. i/OS and Android own 92.3 percent of the market. BlackBerry's global share is now below Windows. The company's valuation has dropped from over $80 billion to just $4 billion. It's slashed staff and stepped out of the consumer market – and that's where all the innovation's happening.
What happens when the fruit stand closes? What happens if a Chinese firm comes courting?
Let's face facts. It's not a matter of if, but when, the BlackBerry harvest spoils.
For Feds, BYOD can't be a debate much longer. Agencies need transition roadmaps. Either that or Uncle Sam needs to issue Feds a whole new generation of mobile devices – and we've clearly got a whole load of excess budget sitting in our coffers. We're staring down the barrel of a mobile shutdown. So, I ask you, where are the transition plans?
It's time to hang it up. Clutching the Berry will leave Feds in a jam.
Out of Office
Maybe it's gallows humor, but we're getting some pretty amusing out-of-office responses from furloughed Feds. Top three:
Ladies and Gentlemen: Due to Congress not passing an appropriations budget I have been placed on furlough. Therefore I cannot answer your emails or assist you in any way. If you need assistance from a government employee during this furlough period please contact your congressman.
I am currently unavailable due to the overwhelming incompetence of our elected government officials who have forced 100,000s of us to be mandatorily furloughed. However, should you be one of the fortunate ones still working and being paid, and you need immediate assistance on Knowledge Management issues, please contact...
And Our Winner
I am currently on furlough and prohibited by law from checking my e-mail, so you will not get a response to this message. As opposed to when I am not on furlough, and am just ignoring you.
Don't they say grin and bear it? Hoping we're all back to work next week.
Tempest in a Teacup?
Elephants and donkeys play chicken. Sequestration and the shutdown are a vice squeezing D.C. It's terrible, but what hasn't been written about this stuff?
How about the knock-on effect on liquidity and interest rates? Uncle Sam just got through the spending binge that is Federal year end. Companies booked revenue – and reported it to Wall Street. But agencies can't process payments because they're shut. That means a cash squeeze for corporate America – talk about collateral damage. Consider most tech companies generate 15-20 percent of their revenue from Feds.
Let's focus locally. Resellers are in a bind. Their agreements with tech companies commit them to deliver revenue in 30 or 45 days. But, they're not getting paid by the Feds. Is a day or even a week delay in processing payment a big deal? Yes, if you're bridging $50 million in orders from last week – and operating on a three-percent margin. Resellers are torn between partners and customers. We'll likely see a thinning of the herd. Smart ISVs and OEMs will find a way to provide relief for their valued partners.
Now consider the payment impact for direct suppliers outside of IT – what if you sold a $1 billion weapons system last week?
This mess is hurting everybody, and it will only get worse if left unresolved. The credit crunch – and its knock-on impact for Wall Street and our economy – will throw more than a pinch of salt in our economic wounds. If this drags on past October 18, when the U.S. will run out of cash without a rise in the debt limit, we will have the elements in place for a perfect storm. Watch for the price of borrowing to rise – that’ll move against fiscal easing. Pennsylvania Avenue sabotages Main Street. That’s how a tempest in a tea cup can become a tsunami.
Parting the Clouds
Don’t mean to rain on the parade, but what hasn’t been said about cloud computing?
How about are Federal agencies making any real progress in cloud and are we saving any money? That, and the new Cloud Computing Caucus, are on the menu as Fed cloud leaders and the Hill huddle at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on January 16.
Cloud First Consumer Guide
So Cloud First made Feds move three apps to the cloud. But, what did they move and how’s it working? Well here’s the Cloud First list from OMB. MeriTalk decided to reach out to the Cloud First app owners at the agencies and find out what’s working. We’ll preview the Cloud First Consumer Guide at a government-only breakfast on January 16, and you’ll have to attend to get in the know. Government folks sign up here.
Cloud Computing Caucus
Congressmen Issa (R-Ca) and Connolly (D-Va) want to get to grips with Cloud in a more tangible way. That’s why they’re co-chairs for the soon-to-be Cloud Computing Caucus. The caucus will make the Hill geek chic – helping members and staff catch up on cloud cool. I’m not supposed to give away too many details before January 16. Want more information? Sign up here.
Cloud Computing Brainstorm
Oh, and I almost forgot, all of this is taking place at the MeriTalk Cloud Computing Brainstorm at the Newseum on January 16. You’ll hear from Dave McClure at GSA on the government-wide cloud forecast. Then Fed cloud experts on FedRAMP, cloud brokering, and public and private hosting options.
We’ve got 200+ Fed cloud experts registered. There are only 20 spots left. Register now or risk getting left out in the rain.
Big Data CliffsNotes
I studied English and Economics in school – but I must confess, sometimes I didn't do all the reading. Sometimes I'd skimp on Joyce and Friedman. Fast forward 25 years, and I've learned to do the homework – but aren't we all looking for a shortcut? For those who want to get Big Smart on Big Data, I'd thoroughly recommend you read Ms. Jean Yan's excellent “Big Data, Bigger Opportunities” whitepaper. It's well researched, written, and sourced. But, for those of you that want your data by the cup, here are the CliffsNotes:
BD's Daddy: BD ain't new. Doug Laney with META Group – now part of Gartner – coined the BD term in 2001.
Five “V”s: A lot of folks define BD through the three “V”s – volume, velocity, and variety. Add in two more: veracity – integrity/provenance – and value – usefulness.
Data Explosion: TechAmerica tells us that 80-90 percent of all existing data was generated in the past two years. The New York Times has generated three billion words since inception – Twitter users generate eight billion words every day.
Search Surge: Google Trends show U.S. search interest in BD was up 90 percent between 2011 and March 2013.
Gartner Gauge: Gartner says government is the hot spot for BD. Gartner predicts worldwide IT spending associated with BD will hit $56 billion by 2016 – that's not just government.
No Cake Walk: Speed bumps on the BD highway. Challenges include: talent - accent on data scientists - leadership, capacities - that's tech - and, not to be left out, our old friend, budget.
Risky Business: And, speaking of old friends, here comes cyber security to rain on the BD parade. Yes, security is, and should be, a significant concern. Riding shot gun, we've got the look-before-you-leap factor. We need to be cautious not to attribute cause-and-effect just because data trend in the same direction.
And, now for the big finish. A big thank you to Ms. Jean Yan for the whitepaper. A big hand for the teams at the White House – NITRD – GAO, GSA, and OPM for their respective BD projects. MeriTalk hosts our own Big Data Exchange to bring together BD leaders from across government. We welcome govies on November 6th. And, if you're really interested in making your brain bigger, check out additional BD research reading.
Summer-Saults for Mobility?
That’s it for Summer. Bummer. Sure, Fall’s fun. But then it’s the big W – no, not that W. Even Republicans are relieved he’s not coming back to D.C. So, what do we have to look forward to this Fall? It’s a new Federal year – so farewell to furloughs. Let’s hope Obama and Boehner hug it out – and slay the sequestration serpent. Oh, and as we prep for the big chill, mobility’s warming up Federal productivity. Mark your calendar to join me at the Mobile Work Exchange Town Hall Meeting on September 12th. Despite the change of season, seems Feds are still doing Summer-saults for mobility.
A new MeriTalk study, “Feds on the Go,” puts mobility in a new light. First, it tells us that better mobile infrastructure could boost Fed productivity by $14,000 per year, per employee. Stay tuned for the how.
The study puts new sunshine on Feds’ remote work behaviors. Eighty-one percent of Feds “remote in” weekly, 54 percent daily, and 45 percent connect several times a day. The average Fed puts in nine hours overtime per week – checking their email from outside. And, the laptop’s still the remote work go-to pony – 88 percent fat finger it. Other popular steeds, smartphones and tablets – 53 and 19 percent, respectively. However, while most Feds use laptops, the volume’s certainly much higher on smart devices – that’s a walk versus a gallop.
Okay, now back to how to unlock $14,000 mobile productivity gains per person. And, this dips beneath the BYOD buzz. It’s about the network nexus. Eighty-two percent dial down on frustration with current connectivity and mobile access – 65 percent are inhibited by slow connections and 57 percent are strangled by security. Seventy percent say they can’t access all of the information they need remotely. Download the full study to get all the stats for success.
Okay, now for the dismount. Figure many of you are reading on the go. Don’t want the cup to clog your connectivity conduit – so I’ll keep it short. Stop by the Mobile Work Exchange Town Hall Meeting to connect with over 1,000 Fed mobility leaders – including keynote from ATF CIO Rick Holgate, Marine Corps, NRC, USDA, Coast Guard, DHS, and more.
And, don’t shed a tear for Summer. The heat’s on in mobility this Fall – see you on September 12th at the D.C. Convention Center.
End of the Year as We Know IT
Crazy times. Furloughs froze contracting shops and requiring organizations. Last year's playbook for year-end opportunities is no good. Everybody – inside and outside of government – trying to work out what September will bring. Here's a take on how the Army will close ranks – from a fella who's spent some time in the foxhole.
What's the Net Upfront?
The Army's never turned money back to the Treasury in any significant amount – and it's not going to start this year. That said, there will be no new contracts awarded this fiscal year that haven't already been in the contracting office pipeline. The Army is obligating funds to existing vehicles to the utmost extent, with the exception of those new contracts/TOs/POs that were already in the pipeline. If you've got contracts in place, or contracts/POs/TOs in the queue at a contracting office, you're in good shape. If not – and you can't find a prime to work with – don't expect any year-end windfalls.
How'd We Get Here?
Like a hard March frost, sequestration froze everything and dammed up the normal steady contracting and subsequent cash flows from the government to industry. Agencies throttled back on obligating money pending analysis of where to take cuts – up to 50 percent was held back once sequestration hit. And funds stayed locked up until agencies figured out how and where to cut, and how to manage the money that remained. One way to do this was to furlough civilian employees. Agencies did – and this choked off funds obligation further through a reduced work week at both contracting offices and requiring organizations that feed contracting offices. That drove a lot of uncertainty, pent-up demand, and frustration.
Where's the Money?
If organizations cannot spend their money, it'll roll up the chain of command to their higher headquarters, until what's left reaches Agency headquarters. It's the opposite process of what happens at the beginning of a new fiscal year, where money flows down from Agency HQs to subordinate organizations until it reaches the lowest levels. Look up the chain to higher-level organizations in the Agency for end-of-year spending. Primes with existing contracts with HQ organizations are well-positioned to accept this year's money as it flows back up at year end. Look for the Army to apply any large amount of remaining funds that come up to HQs on infrastructure and omnibus contracts – long-haul communications, professional services, and the like.
How to Make IT Happen?
In closing, this year-end's opportunity is all about leveraging existing contracts, with HQs the place to focus – and yes, the money will come that way. I'd like everyone to give a shout out to all hard-working and embattled contracting pros – you've been furloughed and now you're in the firing line and on the critical path to completing miracles at Fiscal Year End. The community recognizes that morale is at a new low, and we appreciate everything you do. We all hope next year will be better, at least from a process perspective, as we know the funding and fiscal challenges will continue for the foreseeable future. Thank you for your service and keep up the superb work for our nation.
Gary Winkler is the President of Cyber Solutions & Services, Inc.; former Army PEO for Enterprise Information Systems and Principal Director in Army CIO/G-6.
You Heard It Here First
Don't we love our jargon in Fed IT? Here's three new buzz phrases to energize and confuse you.
Kill Chain – Cyber security speak. Focus on where you stop an attacker. If you have a fence, a front door, and a safe in the wall – you want to stop the intruder as far away from your valuables as possible. If they can't get over the fence, you've stopped them early in the kill chain. That's the cheapest way to go. And, let's be honest, kill chain sounds really macho, doesn't it? Sort of cyber security special forces...
OODA Loop – No it's not Big Data yodeling. Conceived by military strategist Colonel John Richard Boyd, Observe, Orient, Decide, Act is a circular methodology for better, faster decision making. Genghis John saw action in Korea and passed in 1997. Seems he was a real Big Data pioneer.
DevOps – As the name suggests, DevOps brings software development and production operations into closer proximity. It stresses agile, rapid prototype and fielding – that means no more three year, monolithic build cycles. Give me the bad news quickly and let me adjust course in real time.
And, if a picture's worth a thousand words, this'll be the biggest Cup of IT ever. Take a gander. Tom Soderstrom, NASA JPL CTO, presented this bubble map of 20 minutes in the life of JPL's intrusion detection logs by attacking nation. Greg Elin, Chief Data Officer at FCC, presented this chart of national Internet service provider performance throughout the day. Seems America likes Facebook for dessert. FiOS rocks. Cablevision, not so much.
Some new tech terms and pictures. Perhaps the title should have read, “You Saw It Here First”...
My Cup of IT: Are You Paid Enough?
Cyber security pros are hot stuff – in the past five years, demand bolted 3.5 times faster than other IT jobs. That’s why the average cyber security pro earns $116,000 a year – or $55.77 an hour. That’s the cabbage count according to the Cyber Census, a new study from Semper Secure, a public-private cyber security partnership stood up by Virginia and hosted in the MeriTalk Cyber Security Exchange. The study is based on a survey of 500 cyber security pros from 40 industries, across 43 states.
This cup’ll give you the 411 on the study. But, if you want to get beyond the trends and averages to see what other cyber pros with your experience earn, go straight to the Cyber Census Calculator. Based on the survey responses that powered the study, the calculator will get more accurate as more cyber security pros check out their numbers. The calculator’s already famous. So come back again next week for better data.
But It Can’t Sing and Dance and It Can’t Walk
Is it all about money? Not in cyber. Just 25 percent of cyber pros said high salaries and benefits float their boat. So, what powers the U.S.S. Cyber? Fifty-six percent of cyber pros look for challenges. Forty-four percent want to do significant, meaningful work. And, 39 percent are hooked on the technology. That’s it for nautical references.
Powerful cyber romance advice for love-sick employers. So, if it’s not all filthy lucre, what turns cyber pros’ heads? Forty-four percent want an employer with a “code of honor” – interesting in the Snowden age. Thirty-four percent want to work for a leader in cyber security. And, here’s that stretch goal again – 33 percent want to work for an organization that pushes the edge.
Sea to Shining Sea
Most cyber pros hug the coast – highest densities are in California and the D.C. metro area. Seems Uncle Sam is the largest employer, directly or indirectly – top verticals, government, manufacturing, and defense/aerospace.
No greater shocker here – cyber security’s a dude fest – 81 percent of pros are fellas. We hope to hear from more cyber sirens.
Cut and Run?
So, what does all this mean for Uncle Sam? How are the sequestration squeeze and flight freeze impacting D.C.’s cyber workforce? Seems Feds are lining up to jump ship – and critical infrastructure providers are scooping the men and women overboard out of the drink. Sorry more maritime metaphors. Mark Morrison, former Deputy Defense CISO, deposited himself as the CISO at State Street Bank. Holly Ridgeway, former CISO at Justice, took her assets to PNC bank, again as CISO. Greg Schaffer, former Assistant Secretary for Cyber and Communications at DHS, transferred himself to the CISO spot at Fidelity National Information Services. And Gil Vega, CISO at Energy just announced he's moving off the government grid.
If you’re a CIO interested in keeping your cyber security talent or a cyber pro interested in finding out what you’re worth on the open market, check out the new Cyber Census and the Calculator. What’s the downside? You could find out you’re paid too much…
Big Data -- Triple Shot
I was walking down King Street last week and a gentleman asked me how to get to a restaurant. As we chatted, turns out he’s a Fed Big Data expert -- what more proof that Big Data is everywhere or that Feds are still looking for direction? True story.
So, let’s look at the data. Nine out of 10 Fed IT execs note challenges on the path forward. And, those barriers aren’t just a Fed phenomenon -- just 59 percent of state and local agencies are analyzing their data and less than half are using that data to make better decisions. This is according to three recent MeriTalk Big Data studies -- Big Data, Big Brains, the Federal Big Data Gap, as well as the State and Local Big Data Gap. Read on if you’re interested in the government-wide direction, dimensions, and dynamics for the Big Data opportunity.
It’s a triple shot this week -- so pour yourself a venti and pull up a seat.
Let’s start with the half-full picture. According to the government Big Data, Big Brains, Big Data will shift government’s success compass -- empowering Uncle Sam to surf the data deluge. This will allow us to model and analyze problems from start to finish -- unlocking critical decision interdependencies. It will deliver real-time calculations -- to provide immediate what-if projections. It will enable complete data-set projections -- sidestepping sample speculation. Lastly, Big Data will identify causalities -- empowering us to project, decompose, and pull on the threads to change the final picture.
But upbeat as they are, our expert panel notes Uncle Sam has work to do to harness the Big Data Bonanza. Top of the list -- people. Agencies need to recruit data scientists and statisticians. Next up, policy -- Feds need to level data silos and clarify data ownership. And, hardly surprisingly, our old friend budget is putting a damper on things -- agencies will need new IT solutions to make Big Data real.
Chocolate Coffee Pot?
This next study reminds me of the warning on the Tube back in London. The May 2012 Big Data Gap study told us Feds were three years from a Big Data blossom -- where they could take full advantage of Big Data. So, here’s hoping we’re accelerating to the prize. At that time, just 60 percent of agencies were analyzing the data they collected and 40 percent said they used that data to make strategic decisions.
Interestingly, Feds were unclear on who owns the data -- 42 percent report IT departments are the keepers, 28 percent say it’s owned by the mission,12 percent assert it belongs to agency leadership, and 15 percent assert that data analysts and scientists have dibbs. Yes, that means there are three percent who plain didn’t know.
The State and Local Big Data Gap study, from April of this year, aligns with the Fed study. Only two percent of respondents said their agencies have a Big Data strategy. Some 44 percent haven’t even discussed the topic. Mapping back to the Fed study, just 59 percent of state and local execs are analyzing the data they collect and less than half are using it to make strategic decisions.
That said, state and local leaders get the big promise. They’re very much in touch with the overall agency efficiency, decision support, and citizen-centric benefit opportunities.
GAO & CIGIE Stage Recovery
MeriTalk’s Big Data Exchange isn’t the only group doing research on government Big Data. So I guess this is a triple shot with a twist. GAO, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board just released a report from their January 2013 Big Data forum. The group drilled down on law enforcement; fraud, waste, and abuse prevention; and government Big Data barriers. Here’s the 411:
But the group sparked ideas too. Key concepts -- centralize control to get the big picture, pool open-source resources and tools, as well as a recommendation to focus on quick wins to get support and drive momentum.
The group plans to continue to meet. GAO will brief its report and plans at the upcoming MeriTalk Big Data Exchange Quarterly Meeting on November 6th. Limited seating. Figure the more brains the better. And, yes, we’ll be serving coffee.
Can Software Save IT?
Seems like Fed IT innovators are tied to the rails as the big-iron locomotive careens down the track. A new MeriTalk study, “Innovation Inspiration: Can Software Save IT?,” tells us what we already know - we spend too much money updating and maintaining legacy systems - 79 percent of IT budgets. But, based on a survey of 152 Fed IT execs, the study gives us X-ray vision - providing new insight on the “what?” behind that scary number - as well as the “why?” we’re so challenged to change. But, this isn’t all a doom-and-gloom story - there’s a glimpse of a super-hero option - read on…
Mired in the Mundane
Traditional hardware processes are like kryptonite - draining Uncle Sam's time and money. Data center folks spend 33 percent of their time cracking their knuckles, provisioning for and prepping routine events - and a total of 42 percent of their workday performing routine events. Storage and network environments are also huge time draws. That’s why 63 percent of Fed IT execs report that they don’t have enough budget to keep up with required standard maintenance.
Feds assert today’s acquisition models are Lex Luthor - 54 percent say they can’t buy IT quick enough, with average upgrade cycles at 31 months.
Holy Leveled Silos
Feds propose a software-defined solution. In a software-defined world, data centers' compute, storage, and networking are pooled and elastic. Think of the agility and efficiency of accessing resources anywhere across your agency - or Holy Leveled Silos Batman - among agencies. This is the secret sauce in cloud. Beyond Software-Defined Networking, Feds are thirsting for the agility of software-defined Everything - IT-as-a-Service. Approximately one half of respondents assert software-defined models will unlock cost and performance improvements.
Man of Software
More than a comic book fantasy, the software shift is real in government today. Twenty-six percent of Feds have a transition roadmap. More concrete, 65 percent have implemented some software-defined servers.
First step in your super-hero transformation, download the study - then find a telephone box. Ironically, Uncle Sam. the IT super hero, is a man of software - not a man of steel.
Conference in the Cloud
Federal IT conferences are going down like ninepins as Uncle Sam tightens his belt. So, tell me something I don't know Steve.
Well buckle your seat belt...
D.C. No-Fly Zone
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., just introduced a new bill to change Feds' flight patterns. HR. 2643 pushes videoconferencing and telework as plane replacements. Here's the flight manifest. It drafts on the Prez's November 2011 E.O. 13589, OMB's May 2012 travel trouncer, and the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. If enacted, Fitzpatrick's D.C. no-fly zone would require agencies to report their travel savings to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in six months. Hats off to the Congressman and his fellow co-sponsors for introducing a bill that makes good business sense. The implications could be profound - and we're not just talking about the dough. Think more about carbon footprints, productivity, collaboration, training, and overall work-life balance.
Conference in the Cloud
And speaking of training, here's a new arrival. MeriTalk is launching a new Conference in the Cloud. Why? Grounded Feds are losing their IT credentials. If you think education is expensive - try ignorance. How are our IT pilots going to fly new tech without training?
That's why MeriTalk's collaborating with a squadron of Federal agencies to host the first government Conference in the Cloud. No, it's not a virtual conference - doesn't virtual mean pretend? It's a multi-channel, interactive IT hoedown. Here's a chance for Feds to refuel on education credits, learn about the latest and greatest gizmos, and use the network to network with your peers. And, all Feds can get a seat at the Conference in the Cloud - not just those in D.C.
If you want to learn more about the new MeriTalk Conference in the Cloud, please send me a note.
Guess it's time to stop the cloud talk - and walk the cloud walk. No walking required.
Ironic that the best place to see the cloud is not an aeroplane seat. No reason to power off electrical devices for this journey.
Paula Deen and Big Data?
If Big Data were a celebrity chef, I can't work out if it'd be Paula Deen or Rachael Ray. All calories, cholesterol, and color commentary, or cute, affordable, and nutritious? As appetizing aromas waft from the vendor-hype kitchens, everyone wants to know what's on Uncle Sam's Big Data menu? But, in a government that's short on funds and tired of empty metaphors, let's cut to brass tacks - how much can Big Data save Feds?
MeriTalk just released a new study - Smarter Uncle Sam: The Big Data Forecast. According to feedback from 150 Fed IT execs, better analysis and decision making could slash 14 percent of total Federal spending - that's $500 billion. Remember, Big Data's not just about IT efficiency - it impacts the whole enchilada, from Diversity to DoD. And, cutting beneath the bottom line, the vast majority of Fed IT leaders assert Big Data's not all big talk - 69 percent think it'll make Sam smarter.
Most Feds aren't doing Big Data today. Just one quarter of Fed IT execs have launched a Big Data initiative. Top investment areas - more storage, greater bandwidth, and enhanced data mining.
Why have three of four sat on their hands? Money, honey - just 31 percent believe their agency has enough money to fund Big Data.
Considering strategic priorities, Feds want better meta data - recommending we tag and analyze about 45 percent of all agency data. Tying Big Data to mission, 51 percent said it will improve processes and efficiency, 44 percent flag security benefits, and 31 percent predict better trend prediction.
The study looks beyond Big Data, to provide insight on the Big Bust - mapping Feds’ take on today's sequestration casualties. What's getting amputated? Training, hardware, and software upgrades, as well as new app development. Download the study for the stats on casualties. No wonder vendors are challenged to make quota - seems we're eating our own children.
As we wrestle with ever more constrained budgets, we need to prioritize. Fifty-one percent of Feds assert Big Data will help improve government processes and efficiency. And, with little appetite for new investment, seems Feds will need to cook their own Big Data brisket, bruschetta, or blancmange...
ESPCs and FDCCI
As if there weren't enough acronyms in Fed IT - here's a new one for you, ESPCs - or Energy Savings Performance Contracts. So, what is an ESPC and what does it have to do with the stalled FDCCI initiative? Well, let's start with FDCCI. It's a chicken-or-egg conundrum. We need to invest in order to realize savings. However, there's no money to invest, so there are no savings. Capiche?
Incidentally, Uptime Institute estimates that energy bills constitute 12 percent of data center operating costs. That's a lot of hamburgers.
ESPCs, ESCOs, and FEMP
Hang on to your hat - more acronyms. ESPCs are contract vehicles that finance energy savings projects without upfront capital investments and without Congressional appropriations. Energy Service Companies - ESCOs - conduct energy audits, identify improvements, and design energy savings projects. ESCOs also arrange financing and guarantee that cost savings will be sufficient to pay for the project. The ESCOs get paid out of the savings. Cost savings accrue to the agency after the contract expires. Sounds like free money for a Federal government that's cash strapped - and hell bent on delivering tangible savings. What's not to like?
DoE's Federal Energy Management Program has 16 ESCOs under an IDIQ contract. These contracts have traditionally been used to finance lighting and air conditioning modernization. Now Feds are interested in using them to break the impasse on OMB's FDCCI mandate...
Here's the irony. It seems that OMB is holding up the ESPC award for the first-ever data center consolidation project - to be clear, understand this is the B side not the M side - Steven VanRoekel has publicly expressed support for ESPCs. See this letter from Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
ESPCs are not new, they're just new to IT. Here's how it works. Schneider Electric, one of those 16 ESCOs, is modernizing the U.S. Coast Guard facilities in Puerto Rico. It's fixing leaking roofs - and at the same time installing solar panels - at no cost to the government. The Coast Guard gets out of the rain and access to cheaper power generated by the solar panels and pays for the improvements with the savings they generate.
Considering FDCCI progress to date - as highlighted in recent House and Senate hearings - seems we could all use a little relief from the rain. Sunshine and cheaper power seem like powerful medicine for Uncle Sam. Now apply that ESPC difference in IT - and everybody goes home a winner. What say you, OMB?