MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe


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Posted: 6/27/2011 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Strategery be damned. Tired of big think? How do we make government better today?

The answer - cut waste and put new ideas into practice. And, the Merit Awards submission box is buzzing - hundreds of ideas already. We will announce the winner of the $50,000 prize at Innovation Nation on August 23. The contest is open to anybody - including Feds. Don’t be intimidated by the tech geeks. Remember, often the best ideas are the “Post It Notes” - Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Replace face-to-face with video meetings. Mobile apps replace call centers. Smart cars that issue speeding tickets - wince.

The awards program itself shows real change - never before has an administration partnered with industry to judge a contest to improve government. The prize money won’t come out of tax payers’ pockets - but the savings will go in. Impressive panel of judges - excepting yours truly:

  • Vivek Kundra, Federal Chief Information Officer
  • Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.)
  • Vint Cerf, Google
  • Tom Soderstrom, IT Chief Technology Officer, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Honorable Thomas M. Davis III
  • Honorable Mark Forman, First Administrator for E-Government and IT, U.S. Office of Management and Budget

So, don’t delay - submit your idea(s). And tell your friends - more ideas are better. The submission box is open through August 1. Here’s your chance to accelerate the pace of change - and make a difference for America. We’ll announce the winner at Innovation Nation - go ahead and register today. Oh, and somebody’ll win the $50,000 prize. As Mahatma Gandhi used to say - why shouldn’t it be you?

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Posted: 6/20/2011 - 26 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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There was a CIO called Vivek
Who said Fed IT was a wreck
His cloud vision was true
His dashboard was new
Now he’s moving to Harvard - what the heck?

Does Vivek’s departure move you to verse? Care to pen your own limerick or even a sonnet? Lost your poetic license? Just let us know how you feel about our first Federal CIO.

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Posted: 6/13/2011 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Interesting times for America’s pocketbook. Aging population (count me in - I just joined AARP). Sputtering economy. Declining tax base. More demand for services.

Four solutions.

Euthanasia - unpopular with AARP. Increase the birth rate - unpopular with working moms. Increase immigration - unpopular in Arizona. Innovate - send Uncle Sam to the gym.

But, is it possible to change government’s eating and exercise habits? Is Uncle Sam at the breaking point - can he deliver with today’s budgets? And, if we are committed to change, how and what kind of savings could we deliver?

A recent MeriTalk study - Taxing Times - put these and other government efficiency opportunity questions to 150 Federal finance, operations, and performance management professionals. The net upfront, Feds assert that they can drive meaningful savings - 13 percent or $481 billion - from existing budgets. But, the picture’s not all rosy. Fifty-six percent of respondents do not believe their agencies have the funding required to accomplish their FY2012 goals.

So Feds see the opportunity and realize the pressing requirement for change - but can we get there from here? The straight answer is no.

Four problems.

First, agencies lack the necessary budget analysis and insight. Only 47 percent say their agency conducts analysis on operational costs to identify opportunities for increased efficiencies. Thirty-one percent say that insufficient controls and insight into program performance hinder efficiency efforts.

Second, agencies lack disciplined management practices. Just 31 percent say their agency has a formal plan to identify spending inefficiencies. Twenty-seven percent say that management is not making oversight a priority.

Third, agencies are leaving too many stones unturned. Only 18 percent say they analyze their enterprise IT for savings. Nineteen percent review asset management, 27 percent consider program overlap/duplication, and 27 percent mine acquisition/sourcing for greater efficiency and cost reduction.

Finally, and most troubling, Feds report that they lack incentives to cut costs. Some 40 percent cite use-it-or-lose-it budget mentality as a critical obstacle to realizing real savings.

So, is it all doom and gloom, or is there a way to do better? Feds say they need more granular project information and clear executive direction to realize real savings. Thirty-six percent recommend analyzing spending by project and 33 percent call for the ability to prioritize spending by senior execs.

As the old saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned. Good old-fashioned common sense and a dash of new business intelligence insight promise real returns for our government.

Join me on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Newseum for an executive panel discussion of the study. I'll be presenting with Owen Barwell, Chief Operating Officer of Loan Programs Office, Department of Energy; Debra Bond, Deputy Controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management, OMB; and Clyde G. McShan II, former Deputy Chief Financial Officer, Department of Commerce.

And, if you're interested in grabbing an early dinner at Denny’s, I’m buying…

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Posted: 6/6/2011 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Fancy a pint? Aren't those the three most alluring words in the dictionary?

And, you thought I was i-teetotal? This week's installment is more of a shot than a beer.

If you’re in the D.C. area on June 9, please stop by Ireland’s Four Provinces in Falls Church to raise a Guinness and help celebrate O’Keeffe & Company’s 14th anniversary. I'm buying. And, if you're feeling lucky, go ahead and register to drive away in an A.C. Cobra. Great company, Guinness, and the chance to win a car. But, please don't drink and drive - you might spill some...

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Posted: 6/1/2011 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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Tech is Uncle Sam’s Rodney Dangerfield - we don’t get no respect. Why? We know the budget of everything and the cost for nothing - how is it the Department of Energy doesn’t know its electricity bill? Truth is, IT’s techno babble and messy metrics turn off CFOs.

We already get $80 billion each year - so who cares, right? Well, Mr. Kundra should. OMB promises huge IT cost savings. But, here’s the cloud and data center consolidation secret - getting to savings will require investment, transformation isn’t free. Unfortunately, IT keeps striking out with finance - see verse one. So how can IT get a date with CFOs to make the business case?

Now, I’m no expert on finance, but I do know a little about dating. Here are three tips:

  • Mingle: Hang out where CFOs congregate
  • Listen: Work out what CFOs want
  • Behave: Learn to talk the talk and walk the walk

So, here’s your chance to make the right connection. MeriTalk will host Dr. Alan Greenspan as our morning keynote speaker for Innovation Nation on August 23 at the D.C. Convention Center. The conference program focuses on the business case for innovation in the most disruptive areas of IT – cloud, data center, cyber security, and open source. Register today. What CFO could resist hearing from Dr. Greenspan? Now it’s up to the IT community to ask for a dance…

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