September 30, 2010

Apps for Mobile Health Care



Talking about apps for your phone…this one is amazing from MIT Media Labs.

Attach a $1-2 eyepiece (the "NETRA") to your phone and get your eye prescription in less than 2 minutes.

What's next?
I wonder if they will come out with more apps for health and wellbeing that check your vital signs such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and more.

I can envision the smartphone becoming our personal health assistant for monitoring and alerting us to dangerous medical conditions.

This will increase our ability to get timely medical care and save lives.
This is a long way from "I've fallen and I can't get up," and that's a great thing.

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September 28, 2010

What's Next an Escalator to Heaven?

Introducing the Levytator—or escalator replacement.

It is a creation of Jack Levy, Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of London.

Rather than just go straight up and down, this baby can go any which way—and even around curves.

Potentially a new mode of inner city transportation?

Take the Levytator to the gym and spend another half an hour on the treadmill!


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September 26, 2010

Now The Computer War Games Are Real

The Associated Press is reporting that the Iranian Bushehr Nuclear Plant has been hit with a sophisticated computer worm called Stuxnet.

The Iranian nuclear program hit has been claimed for civil nuclear power but has long been suspected of being a cover for making weapons, and Iran has been unabashedly vocal about its hostile intent to many nations, even going so far as to openly threaten some, especially Israel, with complete “annihilation.”

The technical aspects of Stuxnet as a weapon are fascinating, for this is the first computer program “specifically created to take over industrial control systems.” Another article in U.K.’s The Guardian quotes another source as saying it is “one of the most refined pieces of malware ever discovered.”

This worm works by exploiting Windows operating systems security holes and taking over critical infrastructure SCADA systems (AKA Supervisory Control And Data Acquisitions systems or industrial control systems).

What is maybe even more amazing than the technical feat of Stuxnet, is that for months or years, everyone has been focused on and hypothesizing about when a traditional military strike was going to occur to the ever menacing Iranian nuclear threat. However, instead of conventional planes and bombs making a big bang (remember “shock and awe”), we get a silent but “very sophisticated” cyber worm that no one seems to have expected.

So times have certainly changed and with it warfare. Prior military engagements occurred on land, sea, and air with kinetic “bang/boom” weapons. Today they have a new domain in cyberspace with bits and bytes that are just as impactful. But I think what hasn’t really hit home with most people is that cyber war is not just virtual, like playing a video game (like the SIMS) or acting out in virtual reality (like Second Life); cyberwarfare starts online but has real physical ramifications as we see with the Stuxnet worm. Industrial systems like nuclear plants or hosts of other critical infrastructure (in manufacturing, energy, telecommunications, etc.) can be taken out with cyber bombs just like with real bombs maybe even better, faster, cheaper, and cleaner (less collateral damage).

We had all better be prepared for the fight in this new realm as the potential damage is as real as any we have ever seen before.

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September 25, 2010

Rethinking Topgrading

Topgrading is a best practice for hiring top performers, developed by Dr. Bradford Smart, and used by many leading companies.

According to Dr. Smart—managers have only a 25% success rate in hiring star performers:

  • 1 in 4 hires end up actually being a high performer (“A players”)
  • 2 of 4 disappoint as mediocre (“B players”)
  • 1 in 4 turns out being low performers (“C players”)

Smart blames this on ineffective hiring techniques—resumes, traditional competency/behavioral interviews, and candidate selected references—where candidates can provide incomplete information, play up accomplishments, downplay negatives, and deceive interviewers.

Instead, Smart’s practice of Topgrading calls for a much more thorough screening process and therefore one that yields up to 90% success rates; the techniques used include:

  • Reference calls specifically with former bosses, not just anybody provided by candidates.
  • Complete career histories including salaries, ratings, likes/dislikes, and reasons for leaving.
  • Competency/behavior interviews (same as in traditional hiring), but augmented by a second chronological interview that walks through with candidates all of their jobs (from the first to the last) in somewhat painstaking detail and includes all of the following: success/accomplishments, failures/mistakes, appraisals by bosses, and key decisions and relationships.

Topgrading also calls for Tandem interviewing—using 2 interviewers at a time. Again, the idea is to be thorough and thereby more careful in the hiring process to yield better results.

While I certainly agree with improving our hiring competencies and doing everything we can to hire the “best and brightest,” I think the premise of having everyone be an A player, all the time, is really more than a little na├»ve.

People are not things, like gems or coins that you trade and collect and see who has the shiniest, most valuable collection. Rather, people are human beings, and they come to work, as they do to all aspects of their lives, imperfect.

While I understand that Smart means by A player is not someone who is perfect, but “one who qualifies among the top 10 percent of those available,” and that we should of course strive to hire the top qualified available people for all our positions, I also believe that people come in all shapes and sizes and finding top quality is not a one size fits all (i.e. like a caste system), rather we need to find and match the right person to the right job.

Many will say, that prior successful behavior is the key determinate to future success, however, if your not failing, your probably not trying hard enough—so I think we need to look at people as a composite of who they are, what they’ve done, what their potential is, where do their interests lie, is it a god fit, and so on. It’s more than just are they “top 10” (grades, schools, appraisals, etc.). Remember the movie Rocky, he didn’t start out a top 10, but ended up the world champion.

In the end, we are all a lot more than our career histories and reference checks, and timing and fit have a huge impact on whether we are successful in a particular endeavor.

I know that I have certainly seen top performers from one job “fall on their face” in another job that was just wrong for them, and vice versa, people who failed miserably in one job (due to a misfit in culture, organization, boss, duties, etc.), thrive when they are in a better suited opportunity.

So Topgrading’s scientific approach to hiring has the potential of missing the finer point that people are complex organisms. The quantifiable approach is helpful, but only when coupled with qualitatively looking at the fit being the particular organization, job, person, place, and time.

Moreover, in searching only for the A players, Topgrading has the potential to perpetuate the way of thinking that we must only look for those who are robotic, conformists that get the best grades and appraisals, rather than breaking the mold and looking for those that are non-conformist, innovative, and put everything into question. Who will reward someone like that? Not everyone. So in some cases, it may actually be the A players that are the worst players—it actually depends on the situation.

In summary, I would say yes, Topgrade to do due diligence as a leader and manager in looking for and hiring the best talent, but recognize that people have ups and downs—sometimes due to the job, sometimes due to factors completely outside the job, and sometimes its their own undoing—but don’t expect that every one you hire will be perfect, are you?


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September 24, 2010

The User-centric Web

David Siegel has written a book called “Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web To Transform Your Business” (Dec. 2009).

The main idea is that businesses (suppliers) need to adapt to a new world, where rather than them “push” whatever data they want to us when they want, we (consumers) will be able to get to the information we want and “pull” it whenever we need it (i.e. on demand).

Siegel identifies three types of data online of which less than 1% is currently visible web pages:

  • Public Web—what “we normally see when searching and browsing for information online: at least 21 billion pages indexed by search engines.
  • Deep Web—includes the “large data repositories that requires their internal searches,” such as Facebook, Craigslist, etc.—“about 6 trillion documents generally not seen by search engines.”
  • Private Web—data that “we can only get access to if we qualify: corporate intranets, private networks, subscription based services, and so on—about 3 trillion pages also not seen by search engines.”

In the future, Siegel sees an end of push (i.e. viewing just the Public Web) and instead a new world of pull (i.e. access to the Deep Web).

Moreover, Siegel builds on the “Semantic Web” definition of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who coined the term in the 1990s, as a virtual world where:

  • Data is unambiguous (i.e. means exactly the same things to anyone or any system).
  • Data is interconnected (i.e. it lives online in a web of databases, rather than in incompatible silos buried and inaccessible).
  • Data has an authoritative source (i.e. each piece of information has a unique name, single source, and specified terms of distribution).

While, I enjoyed browsing this book, I wasn’t completely satisfied:

  1. It’s not a tug of war between push and pullthey are not mutually exclusive. Providers push information out (i.e. make information available), and at the same time, consumers pull information in (access it on-demand).
  2. It’s not just about data anymore—it’s also about the applications (“apps”). Like data, apps are pushed out by suppliers and are pulled down by consumers. The apps make the data friendly and usable to the consumer. Rather than providing raw data or information overload, apps can help ready the data for end-user consumption.

All semantics aside, getting to information on the web is important—through a combination of push and pull—but ultimately, making the information more helpful to people through countless of innovative applications is the next phase of the how the web is evolving.

I would call this next phase, the “user-centric web.” It relies on a sound semantic web—where data is unambiguous, interconnected, and authoritative—but also takes it to the next level, serving up sound semantic information to the end-user through a myriad of applications that make the information available in ever changing and intelligent ways. This is more user-centric, and ultimately closer to where we want to be.


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September 23, 2010

World 2020

Forbes Magazine (7 September 2010) has an interesting look ahead at the world over the next ten years.

There were some notable predictions that stood out in terms of the good, the bad, and the ugly:

  • 2011: The Terrafugia flying car goes on sales for $200,000. (GOOD—roads are congested)
  • 2012: Oil prices skyrocket following Israeli raid on Iranian nukes. (GOOD—nuclear non-proliferation/ BAD—oil prices) Facebook IPOs at $40 billion. (GOOD—social media still sizzling)
  • 2014:Marines deploy tens of thousands of HULC3 exoskeletons—robotic suits—to soldiers in Afghanistan. Lockheed Martin suits increases strength and endurance. (GOOD—“the edge” goes to our warfighters)
  • 2016: First Internet balloting for U.S. President with 7% of votes cast online. (GOOD—the old ballot machines are so like “yesterday”)
  • 2018: Trans Euro-Asia Express—world’s fastest train arrives in Paris from Bejing, break 300 MPH record. (Good—alternative to airlines)
  • 2019: U.S. Life expectancy declines for first time in a century; doctors blame 55% obesity rate. (UGLY—“meaning really bad”—national health is in serious jeopardy)
  • 2020: WalMart sales pass $1 trillion...now employs 5 million worldwide. (GOOD—low prices/BAD—low paying jobs) First privately owned spacecraft lands 6 men and 2 women on moon. (GOOD—Thanks Virgin Galactic; Star Trek is a closer reality: "To boldly go...")

Here are ten more predictions I’d like to see (from Forbes or others) in terms of what happens to:

  1. World peace (e.g. Middle-east)
  2. Cure for cancer (and other horrible illnesses)
  3. Economy
  4. Federal deficit
  5. Freedom and human rights
  6. Environment (including global warming)
  7. Osama bin Laden (and his terrorist henchmen)
  8. Everything new technology (insatiable appetite for this one!)
  9. Best careers (so I can advise the youngsters)
  10. Stock market (hey, wouldn’t it be great to know) :-)

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September 19, 2010

Doomsday Clock Architecture

There is something fascinating to me about the doomsday clock—where we attempt to predict our own self-destruction and hopefully prevent it

The chart in this post from the Mirror in the U.K. shows the movement of the Doomsday Clock over the last 60 plus years.


Currently in 2010 (not shown in the chart), we stand at 6 minutes to midnight (midnight being a euphemism for the end of the world or Armageddon).


Since 1947, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has hypothesized and visualized with the dials on the clock how close they believe mankind is to self-extinction.

The closest we’ve gotten is 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 after the U.S. and Russia test the first nuclear devices.

The furthest we’ve gotten from midnight is 17 minutes in 1991, when the Cold War was over, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed, and the U.S. and Russia took their fingers off the hair-trigger alert on their nuclear arsenals pointed at each other.



While some may take the Doomsday Clock as a morbid or pessimistic reminder of our human frailties, missteps, and movement toward potential calamity, I see it as a tool that attempts to keep us—as humankind—from going over the edge.


This is very architecture-like, to me. We look at where we are and (implicitly here) set targets for ourselves to move the hands backward away from Armageddon. The architecture piece that we need to concentrate on is a crystal clear plan to get those hands on the clock way back to where we can feel more secure in our future and that of our children and grandchildren.


Wired Magazine (October 2010) has an article called “Suspend the Deathwatch,” calling for the measurement of “a wider variety of apocalyptic scenarios” and for the addition of a “Doom Queue, with a host of globe-killing catastrophes jockeying for slot number one.” The main idea being that we “do more than predict The End; it would organize our collective anxieties into a plan of action.”


I definitely like the idea of a plan of action—we need that. We need to plan for life, continuity, and a flourishing society that goes beyond the limits of sustainability of our situation today.


We are aware of the world’s growing population (aka the population explosion), the scarcity of vital resources like water, energy, arable land, etc. and the potential for conflict that arises from this. We need to plan for the “what ifs” even when they are uncomfortable. That is part of responsible leadership and a true world architecture. That is a big, but meaningful job indeed.

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See A Compelling Future and Make It That Way

I really like Tony Robbins and especially his show on NBC "Breakthrough."

Tony Robbins is incredibly motivational, inspirational, and has a vision for a better future for individuals and society.

I liked this piece he did on relationships (but which can be applied more broadly) with the basic message of three lessons that everyone involved in enterprise architecture can certainly appreciate:
  1. "See things as they are, but not worse than they are" -- People make things worse than they are, so they don't have to try ("it takes no guts to be a pessimist").
  2. "See it better than it is; see a compelling future" -- "Today can be tough, but if the future is compelling, we can get there."
  3. "Make it the way we see it" - This last one, in my opinion, is why we're here in life: to improve things, to add value, to leave things better than when you found them.
We all can have a positive impact in this world, in our work, in our relationships.

All we need to do is find our true selves, do something we truly believe in, and commit to it--no excuses, lots of hard work and of course have fun with it!

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The Printer’s Dilemma

There is a lot of interest these days in managed print solutions (MPS)—sharing printers and managing these centrally—for many reasons.

Some of the benefits are: higher printer use rates; reduction in printing; cost saving; and various environmental benefits.

Government Computer News (5 April 2010) has an article called “Printing Money” that states: managed printing is an obvious but overlooked way to cut costs, improve efficiency, and bolster security.”

But there are also a number of questions to consider:

- What’s the business model? Why are “printing companies” telling us to buy less printers and to print less? Do car companies tell us to buy less cars and drive less (maybe drive more fuel efficient vehicles, but drive less or buy less?) or do food companies advise us to buy less food or eat less (maybe eat healthier food, but less food)? To some vendors, the business model is simple, if we use their printers and cartridges—rather than a competitor’s—then even if we use less overall, the managed print vendor is getting more business, so for them, the business model makes sense.
- What's the cost model? Analysts claim agencies by moving to managed print solutions “could save at least 25 percent of their printing expenses” and vendors claim hundreds of thousands, if not millions in savings, and that is attractive. However, the cost of commodity printers, even the multifunction ones with fax/copy/scan functions, has come way down, and so has the print cartridges—although they are still too high priced—and we change them not all that often (I just changed one and I can barely remember the last time that I did). As an offset to cost savings, do we need to consider the potential impact to productivity and effectiveness as well as morale—even if the latter is just the “annoyance factor”?

- What’s the consumer market doing? When we look at the consumer market, which has in many analyst and consumer opinions jumped ahead of where we are technologically in the office environment, most people have a printer sitting right next to them in their home office—don’t you? I’d venture to say that many people even have separate printers for other family members with their own computers set ups, because cost and convenience (functional)-wise, it just makes sense.

- What’s the cultural/technological trend? Culturally and technologically, we are in the “information age,” most people in this country are “information workers,” and we are a fast-paced (and what’s becoming a faster and faster-paced) society where things like turn around time and convenience (e.g. “Just In Time inventory, overnight delivery, microwave dinners, etc.) are really important. Moreover, I ask myself is Generation Y, that is texting and Tweeting and Facebooking—here, there, and everywhere—going to be moving toward giving up there printers or in fact, wanting to print from wherever they are (using the cloud or other services) and get to their documents and information immediately?

- What’s the security impact? Understanding that printing to central printers is secure especially with access cards or pin numbers to get your print jobs, I ask whether in an age, where security and privacy of information (including corporate theft and identity theft) are huge issues, does having a printer close by make sense, especially when dealing with sensitive information like corporate strategy or “trade secrets,” mission security, personnel issues, or acquisition sensitive matters, and so on. Additionally, we can we still achieve the other security benefits of MPS—managing (securing, patching etc.) and monitoring printers and print jobs in a more decentralized model through the same or similar network management functions that we use for our other end user-devices (computers, servers, storage, etc.)

- What’s the environmental impact? There are lots of statistics about the carbon footprint from printing—and most I believe is from the paper, not the printers. So perhaps we can print smarter, not only with reducing printers, but also with ongoing education and sensitivity to our environment and the needs of future generations. It goes without saying, that we can and should cut down (significantly) on what and how much we print (and drive, and generally consume, etc.) in a resource constrained environment—planet Earth.

In the end, there are a lot of considerations in moving to managed print solutions and certainly, there is a valid and compelling case to moving to MPS, especially in terms of the potential cost-saving to the organization (and this is particularly important in tough economic environments, like now), but we should also weight others considerations, such as productivity offsets, cultural and technological trends, and overall security and environmental impacts, and come up with what’s best for our organizations.

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September 15, 2010

Eat, Pray, Fly

Imagine your airplane flight with 40% more people than today's already crammed cabin...

(Pretty unimaginable right?)

Well check out these new airline seats called Skyriders, marketed by Italian company Aviointeriors.

The catch is that the Skyrider seats are only 23 inches narrow and passengers are expected to be in this crazy, half-sitting, half-standing "ergonomic" position for up to 2 hour flights.

The company's advice to larger size people: "You have to lose some weight!"

This certainly doesn't seem like a very customer-centric attitude, nor a very practical way to fly, no matter how much their spokesperson tries to "sell us the Brooklyn Bridge" on this one.

GONG! Back to the drawing board on this "innovation."
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September 12, 2010

The Humanization of Computers

The Wall Street Journal recently reviewed (Sept. 10, 2010) “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop,” by Clifford Nass.

The book examines human-computer interactions in order to “teach us about human relationships.”

The reviewer, David Robinson, sums up with a question about computers (and relationships): “do we really think it’s just a machine?”

Answer: “A new field of research says no. The CASA paradigm-short for ‘computers as social actors’—takes its starting point the observation that although we deny that we interact with a computer as we would with a human being, many of us actually do.”

The book review sums up human-computer interaction, as follows:

Our brains can't fundamentally distinguish between interacting with people and interacting with devices. We will ‘protect’ a computer's feelings, feel flattered by a brown-nosing piece of software, and even do favors for technology that has been "nice" to us. All without even realizing it.”

Some interesting examples of how we treat computers like people:

- Having a heart for your computer: People in studies giving feedback on computer software have shown themselves to “be afraid to offend the machine” if they are using their own computers for the evaluation rather than a separate ‘evaluation computer.’

- Sexualizing your computer: People sexualize computer voices lauding a male sounding tutor voice as better at teaching ‘technical subjects,’ and a female sounding voice as better at teaching ‘love and relationship’ material.

- A little empathy from your computer goes a long way: People are more forthcoming in typing messages about their own mistakes “if the computer first ‘apologizes’ for crashing so often.”

It seems to me that attributing human attributes (feelings, sexuality, and camaraderie) to an inanimate object like a computer is a social ill that we should all be concerned about.

Sure, we all spend a lot of time going back and forth between our physical realities, virtual realities, and now augmented realities, but in the process we seem to be losing perspective of what is real and what is not.

Perhaps to too many people, their computers have become their best friends, closest allies, and likely the biggest time hog of everything they do. They are:

- Doing their work at arms length from computers rather than seriously working together with other people to solve large and complex problems facing us all.

- Interacting virtually on social networks rather than with friends in real life, and similarly gaming online rather than meeting at the ballpark for some swings at the bat.

- Blogging and tweeting their thoughts and feelings on their keyboards and screens, rather than with loved ones who care and really want to share.

We have taken shelter behind our computers and to some extent are in love with our computers—both of these are hugely problematic. Computers are tools and not hideaways or surrogate lovers!

Of course, the risk of treating computers as people is that we in turn treat people as inanimate computers—or maybe we already have?

This is a dangerous game of mistaken reality we are playing.

[Photo Source: http://www.wilsoninfo.com/computerclipart.shtml]


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Earned Value Management - Made Easy

Some exceptional Earned Value Management (EVM) instructional videos. These are great whether you are studying for your Project Management Professional (PMP) exam or wanting to apply EVM to your projects at work:

  • Part I: Basic Concepts


  • Part II: Calculating Variances and Indexes


  • Part III: Forecasting Completion


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September 11, 2010

A Boss that Looks Like a Vacuum Cleaner


This is too much…an article and picture in MIT Technology Review (September/October 2010) of a robotic boss, called Anybot—but this boss looks like a vacuum cleaner, costs $15,000, and is controlled remotely from a keyboard by your manager.



So much for the personal touch—does this count toward getting some face time with your superiors in the office?


With a robotic boss rolling up to check on employees, I guess we can forget about the chit-chat, going out for a Starbucks together, or seriously working through the issues. 

Unless of course, you can see yourself looking into the “eyes” of the vacuum cleaner and getting some meaningful dialogue going.


This is an example of technology divorced from the human reality and going in absolutely the wrong direction!

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Toward A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board


A Federal Enterprise Architecture Board (FEAB) would provide “teeth” to further implementing enterprise architecture across government.

We have a Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) that provides a government wide framework for architecture strategy and planning, but we do not have a FEA Board to govern the subsequent IT investments through capital planning and investment control (CPIC). CPIC is the governance process whereby we select, control, and evaluate new IT investments.

Interestingly, The Federal CIO Council’s Architecture Alignment and Assessment Guide (October 2000) specifically calls for complementary EA and CPIC functions (see graphics).

In this paradigm, the enterprise architecture (EA) informs, guides, drives the CPIC, and in turn the decisions from the CPIC governance process updates the EA planning, so that the EA and CPIC processes are seen as mutually supportive.

In the federal government, we have departmental and agency architectures and boards that serve to plan and govern IT investments at their respective levels. However, as we seek to build greater standardization, interoperability, and reuse across government with IT initiatives that cut across traditional government boundaries driven and guided by the Federal CIO and Federal CIO Council, there is a need for a FEAB to review new and major changes to IT investments.

There would be many purposes for the FEAB.

  • Strategic alignment: One would be to ensure strategic alignment not to any single department or agency mission, but rather to the greater federal government strategy and policy. Some examples of this would be data center consolidation, green IT, open government, and more.
  • Streamlining of investments: Additionally, the FEAB would assess IT investments to ensure that there is no overlap or opportunities for consolidation of initiatives. OMB performs some of this function today, but a FEAB would augment their capability with IT subject matter experts from across the government.
  • Other key benefits: Of course, the FEAB would also look at things like return on investment measures, risk mitigation plans, technical compliance to federal architecture standards and mandates (security, privacy, records, FOIA, Section 508, etc.).

The FEAB would not be a substitute for the EA Boards that provide oversight functions at the department and agency levels, but would provide governance for the largest and riskiest IT initiatives and those that cut across different agencies.

While the OMB currently assesses IT investments using Exhibits 300s and 53s, which include EA assessment questions, the FEAB would provide a governance board made up of cross-cutting governmental IT subject matter experts to vet these business cases from an EA perspective thoroughly and provide recommendations to the Federal CIO Council and the OMB on approval or denial. Therefore, and not unimportantly, the stand-up of a FEAB would add an important human factor to the Federal Enterprise Architecture and make it “real.”

Of course, with a portfolio of some 10,000 IT systems, the FEAB would not be able to govern every new Federal IT investment. Therefore, it would be critical to establish thresholds that would be practical for implementation.

I would envision the FEAB being chaired by the Federal Architect and the board being a recommendation body to the Federal CIO Council and the Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President.

Critical initiatives by Federal CIO Vivek Kundra to effectively manage (i.e. CPIC control phase) IT investments through the Federal IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions would be augmented by the FEAB work to carefully recommend for selection (i.e. CPIC select phase) new federal IT investments.

Together, I see the federal select and control mechanisms of CPIC functioning in harmony to enhance governments IT planning, investment decision-making, and execution. Essentially, the FEA (architecture) and FEAB (governance) on the “front-end” will guide new IT investments, and the IT Dashboard and TechStat sessions on the “back-end” will ensure IT investments are properly progressing for the taxpayer based on cost, schedule, and performance measures.

In summary, the Federal Enterprise Architecture Board would be the governance arm of the Federal Enterprise Architecture, and serve as a support to the IT leadership of the Federal CIO, the Federal CIO Council, and the IT budgetary functions performed by the Office of Management and Budget.

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September 7, 2010

Enterprise Architecture Panel - Snowmaggedon and the End of the (Desktop) World: The Mobile Workforce


[Pictured (Left to Right): Andy Blumenthal, Chief Technology Officer, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Ms. Doreen Cox, Chief Enterprise Architect, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Mr. Rod Turk, Chief Information Security Officer, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.]

Introduction:

Good afternoon. I'm Andy Blumenthal, the Chief Technology Officer at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It's a great honor for me to be here with you today to talk about telework and how EA is shaping it's adoption.

Just coming out of the blazing hot summer, the blizzard this past February seems like ages ago. Yet this storm brought the federal workforce in D.C. to a halt for 6 days, costing more than $100 million in lost productivity per day. This was offset only by the 1/3 of the federal workforce which was teleworking.

Just in case you don't remember take a look at this:

I still remember Snowmaggedon because that was when we shoveled out the wrong car because the snow was so high we couldn't see which was ours.


More seriously though, telework benefits federal agencies in many ways:

1. Increases productivity
2. Enhances work-life balance and morale
3. Helps the environment by keeping cars off the road
4. Can save the taxpayer money by reducing the agency's footprint


Data from the Telework Research Network indicate that telework could save agencies and participants as much as $11 billion annually (on such things as real estate, electricity, absenteeism, and employee turnover) and that if eligible employees telecommuted just one day every other week, agencies would increase productivity by more than $2.3 billion per year (driven by employee wellness, quality of life, and morale).

According to OPM telework adoption is growing. As of 2008, telework increased 9% over the previous year and now slightly more than 5% of the federal workforce are teleworking.

Telework got a boost when the House and the Senate passed similar bills--in May and July respectively--to expand telework opportunities. The two chambers now must reconcile their versions before a final bill heads to President Obama for approval. The Telework Enhancement Act would make employees presumptively eligible and require that agencies establish telework policies, designate a telework managing officer, and incorporate telework into agency's continuity of operations plans.

Five years ago nobody would've thought that EA would inform the discussion on telework. EA was still primarily a compliance only mechanism and didn't have a real seat at the decision table. Now thanks to the efforts of all of you, it's strategic benefit is recognized, and
EA is playing a vital role in planning and governing strategic IT decisions such as in investing and implementing telework solutions for our agencies.


Our distinguished panelists here today will discuss how EA is informing the discussion of telework from both the policy, systems, and security perspectives.

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September 6, 2010

ITIL Version 3 - Serving Customers Like A Fine Restaurant

This is not a framework or vendor endorsement, but I liked this simple video explaining ITIL version 3.

It explains the five key IT service cycles by comparing them to business services in a restaurant, as follows:

1) Strategy to headquarters creating restaurant theming
2) Design to chefs developing the restaurant menu (to meet customer needs)
3) Transitions to cooks running the restaurant kitchen (reliably)
4) Operations to waiters/waitresses delivering services (and owning customer satisfaction)
5) Service Improvement to the maitre d' ensuring quality standards

The video is a little quirky in the way it cycles back and forth between ITIL and the restaurant, but overall I think the analogy works!


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September 3, 2010

What's In An IT Acronym

In the military and public safety world, information technology is often discussed in broader strategic and operational terms.

For example, in the Coast Guard, it is referred to as C4&IT--Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Information Technology.

In the Department of Defense, they often use the term C4ISR--Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance.

According to GovTech Magazine, some public safety agencies (i.e. law enforcement and firefighting) often use another version of this, namely 4CI--Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence.

The article provides some simple straightforward definitions for these (although perhaps skewed for first responders), as follows:

"- Command: The authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources, and for organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling personnel and equipment to fulfill a mission.

- Control: The ability to issue orders or directions, with the result that those directions are carried out.

- Communications: The most essential element. Communications between responders on the ground and command staff are critical to ensure that both groups have a common operating picture of the situation.

- Computers: They process, display and transport information needed by commanders, analysts and responders. Today this increasingly includes mobile devices, such as laptops and smartphones.

- Intelligence: The product of the collection, processing, integration, analysis, evaluation and interpretation of all available relevant information."

While these capabilities are all critical to mission performance, I am not sure why we have all these variations on the same theme, but at least, we all agree on the 4Cs or is it C4?


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Revenge of the Introverts

I am an introvert.

Does this mean I am among a minority of the population that is shy, anti-social, “snooty,” or worse?

Many people have misperceptions like these, which is why Psychology Today’s current issue has a feature story on the realities vs. the myths of introverts. Actually half of the people you meet on any given day are introverts.

According to the story, introverts are:

Collectors of thoughts…(and) solitude is the place where the collection is curated…to make sense of the present and the future.”

Most of us don’t realize that there are many introverts, because “perceptual biases lead us all to overestimate the number of extraverts among us.” (Basically you extraverts take up a lot of attention :-).)

To me, being an introvert is extremely helpful in my professional role because it enables me to accomplish some very important goals:

- I can apply my thinking to large and complex issues. Because I gravitate to working in a quiet (i.e. professional) environment, I am able to focus on studying issues, coming up with solutions, and seeing the impact of incremental improvements. (This will be TMI for some, but when I was a kid I had to study with noise reducing headphones on to get that absolute quiet to concentrate totally.)

- I like to develop meaningful relationships through all types of outreach, but especially when interacting one-on-one with people. As opposed to meaningless cocktail party chatter – “Hello, How are you today?” “Fine. And how are you?” “Fine.” Help, get me out of here!

- I get my energy from introspection and reflecting; therefore, I tend to be alert to areas where I may be making a mistake and I try to correct those early. In short, “I am my own biggest critic.”

So while it may be more fun to be an extrovert—“the life of the party”—and “the party’s going on all the time”—I like being an introvert and spending enough time thinking to make the doing in my life that much more meaningful and rewarding.

[Note: Lest you think that I hold a grudge against extraverts, not at all—you all are some of my best buds and frequently inspire me with your creativity and drive!]


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