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Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 1/9/2014 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

New Year's Resolutions?

Swimming pools saturated. Treadmills trampled. Burgers biteless. Yes, it's early January – and as we push away from holiday excess and New Year's hangovers, everybody's resolved to do better in 2014.

Uncle Sam's no exception. Let's consider once sleepy, now Snowden-sexy, Federal records management. Federal agencies have seen their belt-popping records balloon to record girth – Federal agencies manage, on average, 209 million records or 8.4 billion government-wide – as new data relentlessly pours in – yes, that includes email.

All of that paper cholesterol is bad for agencies’ health – creating legal liabilities, putting information at risk, and generally making Federal mission owners unable to operate effectively. And so, the ever-fit President Obama has put Feds on a records weight-loss program. The Presidential Directive on Managing Government Records requires agencies to transition to electronic recordkeeping for all permanent records by 2019 – the office equivalent of six-pack abs.

Time to Weigh In

Well, New Year's Eve 2013 marked the deadline for agencies to identify all their permanent records from the last 30 years – and, importantly, to report e-transformation progress. MeriTalk's "Federal Records and Information Management: Ready to Rumble?" study surveyed 100 Fed records and information management professionals to learn just how lean and mean agencies have become. The net:  Not quite time to go shopping for those skinny jeans.

Paper Wait?

Just 54 percent said their agency would identify permanent records by the end of 2013. Just 18 percent note their agency has made significant progress toward managing records and email in electronic format and are ready to report. A whopping 92 percent assert their agency has a lot of work to do to meet the directive.  Check out the study.

Paper Cut?

But, while agency leads lament progress – agencies agree that leaner records management makes the whole agency healthier. Quizzed on the benefits; 50 percent earmark improved accessibility; 45 percent flag increased overall agency efficiency; 38 percent note the benefits for search, eDiscovery, and FOIA; 33 percent see government transparency wins and cost savings, respectively.  Check out the study.

Forget the fad diets, Abercisers, and disco yoga – agencies need to embrace a real lifestyle change to slim down those muffin-top file cabinets. That means better-trained records management personnel. It means dedicated budgets – not just part of the administrative line item. And, it means leadership that cares. Isn’t it typically true – if the head leads, the body will follow?

Paper Tiger?

Like FDCCI, HSPD-12, and other diet plans, too many resolutions lose resolution as the stuff of life heaps more on our plates. If Uncle Sam forgets America's memory, we can always rely on WikiLeaks – right?

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Posted: 12/18/2013 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Social Santa?

With Thanksgiving safely in the rearview mirror, it's that time of the year again.  No, not Santy.  But, whether you believe in social media or not, MeriTalk's coming out with the Federal CIO naughty or nice list.  The second annual sCIOal Circle study rates Fed CIOs' social skills.

And, some added bonuses in your stocking this year.  First, we broadened the reach to look at Deputy CIOs.  Second, we expanded the scope from the big three – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  This year's study looks at IT leaders’ participation in GovLoop.  Last, but not least, we've racked and stacked our ratings against commercial data.  How do our scores map against Feds’ Klout scores – and how does Fed CIO social volume compare with their counterparts in the Fortune 250?

You'd Better Watch Out

A quick read in on the methodology.  It's pretty easy, really.  Social media's an open book – mostly.  So MeriTalk looked at the major social media platforms to understand if Fed IT decision makers have a presence – and if so, how actively they are engaged.  More accounts and more activity means more points.

Who's Got Klout?

Just like last year – GSA's Casey Coleman and ATF&E's Rick Holgate are the hottest Fed CIOs – each scoring 11 points.  Next up, its Shawn Kingsberry of the Recovery Board and Bob Brese from Energy – both huge climbers from last year, where they ranked in the middle of the pack.  Honorable mentions to Frank Baitman of HHS, Mike Wash of NARA, and Richard McKinney at DoT.  OMB's Steven VanRoekel is the big slider – his sCIOal Circle ranking drops from second in 2012 to the number-12 spot this year.

And, to give you a sense for how our Fed CIOs rank against the big dogs in social media – as measured by Klout – only Casey, Rick, Sean, Bob, and Steven VanRoekel hit it.  To provide scale, President Obama scores 99 on Klout.  Justin Bieber scores 95.  Steven VanRoekel has a Klout score of 50. 

Digital Deputies

And, doesn't everybody know that it's not all about the CIOs?  So this year, MeriTalk took a look at the Deputy CIOs.  Sonny Hashmi at GSA's in pole position.  Joyce Hunter at USDA's in second.  Deborah Diaz at NASA, Kevin Cooke at HUD, and Larry Gross at Interior place three, four, and five, respectively. 

LinkedIn vs. Twitter vs. Fortune 250.

The first place to look for Fed CIOs in social media is LinkedIn.  Eighty-two percent of CIOs have LinkedIn accounts versus 34 percent who have Twitter accounts.  Interesting to compare Fed CIOs' LinkedIn adoption versus their Fortune 250 counterparts – 82 versus 66 percent.

All a Twitter?

Okay, Twitter's not as big as LinkedIn.  Thirty-four percent of CIOs have Twitter accounts versus just 10 percent of their Fortune-250 counterparts.  But, here's a confusing story.  The number of Fed CIOs on Twitter increased over last year, but the total Fed CIO Tweet volume declined over last year.  Another twist, overall agency tweeting is up – every agency, but the CIA, now has a Twitter account.

And, here's some interesting insight, who are Fed CIOs following on Twitter?  The answer: one another.  But also news and analysis sources like FCW, GCN, Gartner, and MeriTalk.

Facebook Fizzles

As Facebook becomes part of the S&P 500, its stock as a communications vehicle to reach Fed CIOs declines.  Just 26 percent – 10 of 38 – of Fed CIOs had publicly searchable Facebook accounts.  Of these, just three are actively and publicly posting.  The net, Fed CIOs don't want people to use pictures of their families as sales tools against them – how is your daughter and isn't your dog a cutie? 

GovLoop Grinch

Interesting insight on GovLoop.  Steve Ressler's done the best job of building a social platform for government – the site boasts 100,000 users.  But, seems Fed IT's not feeling the awesome.  While 26 percent of Fed CIOs have a GovLoop account, not one has signed onto the network as of September 2013.

That's the final cup for 2014.  Wishing you all a safe, warm, and joyous holiday season.  Here's another link to the study if you need something to read by the tree.  We'll put another kettle on the stove in January.

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Posted: 12/12/2013 - 9 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

DHS Cyber and the Dentist Chair

I'm not much on going to the dentist. Perhaps it's a cultural thing? The waiting. The drilling. The fibs about flossing. The chopper doc's just not my thing. And, if IG reports are like visits to the dentist for your average Fed exec, these exams are like root canals for Fed CISOs. So, when I cracked the November 21 IG Evaluation of DHS' Information Security Program, I feared halitosis, cavities, decay, and, dare I say it, gingivitis...
Cap or Crown?
But wait. Little here to set my teeth on edge. Reading the exec summary in the waiting room makes me feel better about the pearly whites. DHS IG's initial sound bites:
"DHS continues to improve and strengthen its information security program" – good job, fewer cavities.
"During the past year, DHS drafted an ongoing authorization methodology to help improve the security of the Department's information systems through a new risk management approach. This revised approach transitions the Department from a static, paperwork-driven, security authorization process to a dynamic framework that can provide security-related information on demand to make risk-based decisions" – better job brushing and flossing.
"DHS has also taken actions to address the Administration's cyber security priorities, which include the implementation of TIC, continuous monitoring, and strong authentication" – better nutrition and exercise support better overall wellness.

Routine Cleaning:
But who gets out of the chair Scot free? IG does point to five areas for improvement. But they’re not recommending oral surgery, or even braces.
Some systems with no ATOs. Some missing POAMs. Some missing security configuration baselines. More attention needed in incident detection and analysis, training, account and identity management, as well as contingency planning. Continue to work to complete in TIC and implementing PIV compliance.
I've been called cheeky – and yes, by some, sometimes overly critical. While DHS cyber security still has work to do, it's great to see Jeff Eisensmith and his team headed in the right direction. Also great to see a positive relationship between IG and department. Nice to have something to smile about in government IT.
Here's that link again – reading for the waiting room. Now, what's the number for my dentist...?
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Posted: 12/5/2013 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.

CCX Brainstorm


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Posted: 11/19/2013 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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. 
Different Gravy
The study tells us Uncle Sam can carve $20.5 Billion in savings by developing and testing new apps in the cloud.
Family Feud
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. 
Sid Vicious?
Guessing PaaS will become an increasingly appetizing cloud-menu option.  Like me, PaaS may be the punk kid, but sometimes the punks rock.

CCX Brainstorm 

Posted: 11/11/2013 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Cyber Schizo?

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.

Pros and Cons
Our Federal cyber worriers – sorry, warriors – question force readiness.  Seventy-four percent say agencies aren’t prepared to rebuff foreign attacks or support new mobile models.  Only 30 percent feel ready to weather DoS attacks and secure new cloud models.  And, they point to trouble ahead.  Half anticipate they’ll get hit by a DoS attack in the coming year – maybe that’s what ails HHS?

List Lobotomy

Fed cyber pros and end users keep very different cyber priority lists.

Cyber pros worry first about preventing data theft – 74 percent ranked it job one.  Not surprising considering the Snowden scenario.  The priority chase pack includes maintaining and upgrading security systems, deploying up-to-date cyber security protocols, and mitigating DOS.  Last on the list – with just 40 percent of cyber pros flagging it as a priority – ensuring a user-friendly cyber security experience.

Fed end users, surveyed in the same report dog security.  Sixty-six percent find security protocols burdensome.  Thirty-one percent say they use a security workaround at least once a week.

Stop the Madness
Despite their differences, seems everybody’s mad about security.  Ninety-five percent of cyber-pro and end-user communities flag cyber as a top mission priority. Almost all say that keeping agency networks and data secure is everybody’s responsibility.

It’s time for new sanity in cyber security thinking.  Forward-thinking cyber pros have given up on trying to lock down devices and are working to liberalize draconian security processes – they realize users will just end around to achieve their mission.

So is cyber a straightjacket or sanity salve?  The answer’s yes.

And, closing as we opened, back to Snowden and Putin.  Seems that the Russians presented all international guests at the G20 with iPhone chargers and USB thumb drives as welcome gifts.  From Russia with love.

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Posted: 11/1/2013 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Consolidation Conundrum

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.

DCX Brainstorm

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?
We need to stop counting data centers and start counting green backs – who's spending what and on what?  Sounds simple right? Dead wrong, I'm afraid. Here's the rub. Agencies themselves don't know what they spend on data centers – so how's Uncle Sam supposed to get to grips with his total bill?

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.

DCX Brainstorm

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.
And, the $64,000 question for the dismount, how do we motivate better efficiency? One word – transparency. Don't say that the political issues are insurmountable. If the DoD has achieved success on BRAC – then anything is possible.

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.

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Posted: 10/28/2013 - 10 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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?
High Flier?
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…

CCX Brainstorm

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Posted: 10/24/2013 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Network Not Work?

Feds are pumping hard to the Big 5 – cloud, data center, cyber security, big data, and mobility.  But, what does all this mean for agencies’ IT plumbing – the network arteries that allow Uncle Sam to feel his digits?  MeriTalk recently released a new study that looks at the network effect of IT transformation.  Net takeaway, keep a mop and some Drano nearby – real concerns about burst pipes and the potential backup bonanza.

CCX Brainstorm

Packet Priorities
According to Federal network managers, their agencies are set to roll the Big 5 into mainstream business in the next two years.  But those same Feds tell us that their pipes will strain – the network load will increase by 79 percent.  Eighty four percent say that their networks will fail without significant bandwidth boosts.

Network Neurosis

And, Fed network managers say backups aren’t their only worry – the squeeze will impact mission. Seventy percent fear security compromise, 54 and 46 percent feel the pinch in bandwidth and latency respectively.  Forty two percent express anxiety about blow back due to storage limitations.

CCX Brainstorm

Pipe Dreams
Does IT transformation spell DVT for Uncle Sam?  Let’s hope not.  Half of network managers plan to transform their network infrastructure by 2015 – which means that half do not.  The net takeaway, agencies need to invest in infrastructure improvements to power the Big 5. With the kinks in our coffers, I'm predicting SDN PDQ.

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Posted: 10/15/2013 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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. 

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Posted: 10/10/2013 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

Out of Office

Maybe it's gallows humor, but we're getting some pretty amusing out-of-office responses from furloughed Feds. Top three:
Number 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.
Number Two
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.
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Posted: 10/3/2013 - 6 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.
 CCX Brainstorm 
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?
CCX Brainstorm
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.

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Posted: 9/24/2013 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.  

CCX Brainstorm

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.

CCX Brainstorm

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.

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Posted: 9/12/2013 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.

CCX Brainstorm

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.

Prez Profile:  The White House formed a BD Steering Committee in 2010 – it identified 17 Federal BD case studies.

CCX Brainstorm

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.

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Posted: 9/4/2013 - 3 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.

Monetizing 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.

MWE Town Hall Meeting

 Mapping Mobility

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.

Maximizing Mobility

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.

MWE Town Hall Meeting

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.

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Posted: 8/28/2013 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.
Mobile Work Exchange Town Hall Meeting
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.
Cloud Computing Brainstorm
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.

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Posted: 8/15/2013 - 2 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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”...


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Posted: 8/8/2013 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.
Big Data Webinar
Dream Date?
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.
Really Dude?
No greater shocker here – cyber security’s a dude fest – 81 percent of pros are fellas.  We hope to hear from more cyber sirens.
CCX Brainstorm
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…

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Posted: 8/1/2013 - 5 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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.
Data Dive
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.
Federal Forum 2013
Brainiac Bonanza
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.
Federal Forum 2013
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:
  • Blind spots exist -- frequently, government doesn’t know the data it owns
  • Incentive issues -- program offices aren’t motivated to create systems that enable analysis outside the silos
  • Legislative log jams -- jurisdictional barriers make Big Data small potatoes
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.

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Posted: 7/23/2013 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

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…

Innovation Inspiration Webinar

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.
Purchasing Pariah
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.
Innovation Inspiration Study
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.

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