Showing posts with label Flexibility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flexibility. Show all posts

June 11, 2017

The Cloud Pays Off

So for those of you who thought the cloud only pays if your a consumer of technology who is looking for scalability and flexible pricing models, think again. 

Bloomberg has an interesting article on how Adobe is growing their revenue by billions switching their apps to to the cloud. 

Instead of customers paying a one time purchase price for Creative Suite or Acrobat, now customers must pay for Creative Cloud or Document Cloud subscription fees that may sound small in the beginning, but really add up over time. 

And more than that, Adobe doesn't have to worry about wowing customers with the next upgrade in order to get them to make another purchase, because as long as their products are competitive, the customers will keep paying their subscriptions fees money month after money month.

What's better than making a sale to a customer?  Selling to them in a cloud subscription model that keeps paying and paying and paying. 

No wonder it's better to have your head and technology in the cloud--it's a true rainmaker! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 15, 2015

Acrobatic Fun





This was a cool show we saw at the Maryland Renaissance Festival this past weekend. 

The show combined some nice acrobatic tricks with a good sense of humor. 

The torture and killing was nasty in the medieval ages, but at least they took the edge off with some daring and showmanship in the joust and on stage. ;-)

(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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September 11, 2014

Okay For A Drive By

So, having grown up in New York, I've definitely heard of a drive by shooting, but never a "drive by meeting". 

Until a colleague asked me, "Okay for a drive by?"

A little taken aback, but I was available (and figured not in any imminent danger by his type of "drive by"), so I agreed to meet for a few minutes. 

The meeting was quick, like a car whizzing by, but we discussed what was needed and accomplished the immediate goal. 

Personally, I prefer when someone is driving the meeting, rather than having a drive by meeting, but we all need to be agile to whatever the day brings. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 28, 2012

The Materiality of Super Strength Graphene

Scientific researchers in Britain, Norway and the U.S. are bringing us a major breakthrough in material science—by developing a “super strength” substance called graphene.

According to the Guardian (26 December 2012), graphene has “unmatched electrical and physical properties.” It’s made of an “atom-thick sheet of carbon molecules, arranged in a honeycomb lattice,” and promises to revolutionize telecommunications, electronics, energy industries, not to mention the untold applications for the military.

- Conductivity:  Transmits electricity a million times better than copper
- Strength: The strongest material known to humankind, 200 times that of steel (Sciencebuzz)
- Transparency & Flexibility:  So thin that light comes through it; more stretchable than any known conductor of electricity

Just a few of the amazing uses graphene will make possible (some of these from MarketOracle):

- Home windows that are also solar panels—clear off that roof and yard
- TV in your windows and mirrors—think you have information overload now?
- Thinner, lighter, and wrappable LED touch screens around your wrists—everyone can have Dick Tracy style
- Medical implants and organ replacements that can “last disease-free for a hundred years”—giving you that much more time to be a helicopter parent
- Vastly more powerful voice, video and data and palm-size computers—giving the average person the “power of 10,000 mainframes”
- Both larger and lighter satellites and space vehicles—imagine a skyscraper-size vehicle weighing less than your “patio barbecue grill”!
- Tougher and faster tanks and armored personnel carriers with the plus of an invisibility cloak—even “Harry Potter” would be jealous

The potential is truly amazing, so whomever thinks that the best technology is behind us, better think again. Better yet, soon they’ll be able to get a graphene brain implant to help them realize what they’ve been missing. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to University of Maryland)

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January 22, 2012

Work Off Of Standards, But Stay Flexible to Change

Interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2012) on Standards: Recipes for Reality by Lawrence Busch.
Standards are a fundamental principle of enterprise architecture, and they can mean many things to different people--they can imply what is normal or expected and even what is considered ethical.
Reading and thinking about this book review helped me to summarize in my own mind, the numerous benefits of standards:
- Predictability--You get whatever the standard says you get.
- Quality--By removing the deviation and defects, you produce a consistently higher quality.
- Speed--Taking the decision-making out of the routine production of standardized parts (i.e. we don't have to "reinvent the wheel each time"), helps us to move the production process along that much faster.
- Economy--Standardizing facilitates mass production and economies of scale lowering the cost of goods produced and sold.
- Interoperability--Creating standards enables parts from different suppliers to inter-operate and work seamlessly and this has allowed for greater trade and globalization.
- Differentiation--Through the standardization of the routine elements, we are able to focus on differentiating other value-add areas for the consumer to appeal to various tastes, styles, and genuine improvements.
While the benefits of standards are many, there are some concerns or risks:
- Boring--This is the fear of the Ford Model-T that came in only one color, black--if we standardize too much, then we understate the importance of differentiation and as they say "variety is the spice of life."
- Stagnation--If we over-standardize, then we run the risk of stifling innovation and creativity, because everything has to be just "one way."
- Rigidity--By standardizing and requiring things like 3rd-party certification, we risk becoming so rigid in what we do and produce that we may become inflexible in addressing specific needs or meeting new requirements.
The key then when applying standards is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.
This requires maintaining a state of vigilance as to what consumers are looking for and the corollary of what is not important to them or what they are not keen on changing. Moreover, it necessitates using consumer feedback to continuously research and develop improvements to products and services. Finally, it is important to always be open to introducing changes when you are reasonably confident that the benefits will outweigh the costs of moving away from the accepted standard(s).
While it's important to work off of a standard, it is critical not to become inflexible to change.
(Source Photo: here )

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November 15, 2011

Now That's Flexible



This couch should be the poster child for flexibility.
Absolutely incredible.
It weights about 40 lbs and extends like an accordian in just about any configuration you can imagine.

One minute it's a chair, a bench, a love seat, a couch--it's straight, curvy, a circle--it's short, it's long--whatever you want.

This is what we should aim for--whether it's with technology, leadership, or life--flexibility to meet the needs of the occasion.
Like this couch--be flexible and adaptable yet stable and reliable--and you will amaze!

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May 22, 2010

Staying Open to Open Source

I don’t know about you, but I have always been a pretty big believer that you get what you pay for.

That is until everything Internet came along and upended the payment model with so many freebies including news and information, email and productivity tools, social networking, videos, games, and so much more.

So when it comes to something like open source (“free”) software, is this something to really take seriously for enterprise use?

According to a cover story in ComputerWorld, 10 May 2010, called “Hidden Snags In Open Source” 61% say “open source has become more acceptable in enterprises over the past few years.” And 80% cited cost-savings as the driving factor or “No. 1 benefit of open-source software.”

However, many companies do not want to take the risk of relying on community support and so “opt to purchase a license for the software rather than using the free-of-charge community version…to get access to the vendor’s support team or to extra features and extensions to the core software, such as management tools.”

To some degree then, the license costs negates open source from being a complete freebie to the enterprise (even if it is cheaper than buying commercial software).

The other major benefit called out from open source is its flexibility—you’ve got the source code and can modify as you like—you can “take a standard install and rip out the guts and do all kinds of weird stuff and make it fit the environment.”

The article notes a word of caution on using open source from Gartner analyst Mark Driver: “The key to minimizing the potential downside and minimizing the upside is governance. Without that you’re shooting in the dark.”

I think that really hits the target on this issue, because to take open source code and make that work in a organization, you have got to have mature processes (such as governance and system development life cycle, SDLC) in place for working with that code, modifying it, and ensuring that it meets the enterprise requirements, integrates well, tests out, complies with security, privacy and other policies, and can be adequately supported over its useful life.

If you can’t do all that, then the open source software savings ultimately won’t pan out and you really will have gotten what you paid for.

In short, open source is fine, but make sure you’ve got good governance and strong SDLC processes; otherwise you may find that the cowboys have taken over the Wild West.


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March 14, 2010

Hard On Issues, Soft on People

There is a classic article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Hard Work of Being A Soft Manager” (1991) by William H. Peace, which sums up “soft leadership” this way: “the stereotypical leader is a solitary tough guy, never in doubt and immune to criticism. Real leaders break that mold. They invite candid feedback and even admit they don’t have all the answers.”

The author recalls his mentor whom he says “taught me how important it is to be a flesh-and-blood human being as well as a manager. He taught me that soft qualities like openness, sensitivity, and thoughtful intelligence are at least as critical to management success as harder qualities like charisma, aggressiveness, and always being right.”

To me, there is a time and place for hard and soft leadership qualities. Leaders must be firm when it comes to driving organizational results and performing with the highest ethical conduct and integrity, but they should act with greater flexibility when it comes to open communications and collaboration with people.

I believe that leaders would be wise to follow the leadership adage of “be hard on issues and soft on people”. This means that great leaders stand up and fight for what they believe is best for their organization and they team and collaborate with their people to make results happen. In this way, leaders and their staffs are working in unity of purpose and as a genuine team, with leaders seen as human, credible and worthy of people’s dedication and hard work. To me the perfect example of this leadership style is Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks who is relentless in his pursuit of a successful global coffee retailing company, but is also passionate about taking care of his diverse stakeholders from employees to coffee growers and even the environment.

In contrast dysfunctional managers are hard on people and soft on issues. They are indecisive, waiver, or are seen as subjective on business issues and this is hard on their people. Moreover, these managers let out their professional and personal frustrations on the very people that are there to support them in the enterprise. Here, leaders alienate and disenfranchise their people, fragment any semblance of teams and fail at their projects. The leaders are viewed as powerful figures that rule but do so with injustice and without meaning. An example of this failed leadership style is “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap who relentlessly cut people to cut costs, but as Slate put it (31 August 1997) “built his ‘turnarounds’ on cosmetic measures designed to prop up stock prices.”

By being unyielding in doing what is right for the mission, and acting with restraint with people, leaders can bring the best of hard and soft leadership qualities to bear in their positions.

Of course, these leadership traits must be used appropriately in day-to-day situations. Leaders should be hard on issues, but know when to throttle back so business issues can be worked through with stakeholders and change can evolve along with organizational readiness. Similarly, leaders should be soft on people, but know when to throttle up to manage performance or conduct issues, as necessary. In this way, hard and soft qualities are guidelines and not rules for effective leadership, and leaders will act appropriately in every situation.


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February 21, 2010

Common Language for Enterprise Architecture

What happens when one set of enterprise architects can’t read another’s enterprise architecture “artifacts”?

This may sound ridiculous, but this is a very real problem at the Department of Defense (DoD) and at many other agencies.

Government Computer News, 1 February 2010, has an article on “Primitives and the Future of SOA” about how “DoD looks to develop a common vocabulary to improve system design.”

Dennis Wisnosky, the chief technical officer at the DoD Business Transformation Agency came face-to-face with this problem:

“We were building a business enterprise architecture when the whole team changed because the contract [that the work was being performed under] was won by different people…The new company came in and, all of a sudden, their people had different ideas for how the architecture should be built…Their way might have been a good way, but we had already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in another way, and it seemed to be a wiser course of business action to get these new people to learn the old way.”

Mr. Wisnosky tackled the problem head-on:

Like the periodic table of 117 core elements that make up everything in our world, Mr. Wisnosky set out to build the DoD architecture using a set of primitives or basic building blocks. “Primitives are a standard set of viewing elements and associated symbols” based in DoD’s case on the Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN)”—a graphical representation for processes in a workflow. Armed with the set of primitives, DoD was able to get “the business process architecture, so that they are described in a way that the meaning of this architecture…is absolutely clear to everyone.”

Wisnosky aptly compared using a common language (or set of primitives) for EA, so everyone could read and understand it, regardless of their particular EA methodology to how musicians anywhere in the world can read standard music notation and similarly how electrical engineers can read electrical diagrams based on standards symbols.

This is a big step for EA, where traditional architecture artifacts are not as user-centric as they should be and often leave their readers/audience questioning the purpose and message intended. In contrast, the use of a common EA vocabulary and set of symbols is right in line with developing a user-centric enterprise architecture that is easy for users to understand and apply, because once you know the standard set of primitives you can read and understand the architecture better than an architecture based on a proprietary or ever changing vocabulary.

As Wisnosky points out, primitives are also a nice fit with Service Oriented Architecture, because you can use primitives or patterns of primitives to represent standard business processes and these can be used over and over again for the same services that are needed throughout the business.

This use of primitives for business process notation is consistent with the use of the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) for information notation. “NIEM enables information sharing, focusing on information exchanged among organizations as part of their current or intended business practices. The NIEM exchange development methodology results in a common semantic understanding among participating organizations and data formatted in a semantically consistent manner. NIEM will standardize content (actual data exchange standards), provide tools, and managed processes.”

While, we need to leave a certain amount of flexibility in EA for architects to apply their trade to meet specific agency requirements, there is a huge benefit to standardizing on a common vocabulary, so architects can speak the same language. This concept is all the better when the language and design methodology selected for EA is simple and clear so that even non-EA’s (our regular business and IT people) can read and understand the architecture.

Building EA with primitives and clear and simple vocabulary and design represents a user-centric EA moment that I for one, applaud loudly. Another way to say this is that an EA without primitives is a primitive EA.


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February 12, 2010

The Do It Yourself Future

Technology is the great emancipator. With it we can do things ourselves that we needed others to do for us before.

Of course, the examples are endless. As we approach tax season, just think how many people do their own taxes online with TurboTax or other online programs when before they needed an accountant to do it for them. Similarly, it was common to have secretaries supporting various office tasks and now we pretty much have all become our own desktop publishers and office productivity mavens. I remember having a graphics department years ago for creating presentations and a research department for investigating issues, events, people, and causes, now with all the productivity tools and the Internet, it’s all at our fingertips.

Wired Magazine, February 2010 in an article called “Atoms Are The New Bits” by Chris Anderson states that “the Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of participation and participants in everything digital.”

With technology, we are free to help ourselves. We are independent, self-sufficient, and that’s typically how we like it. And not only are we able to do for ourselves, but the barriers to entrance for entrepreneurs and small companies have come way down.

The author states: “In the age of democratized industry, every garage is a potential micro-factory, every citizen a potential entrepreneur.” Similarly, Cory Doctorow wrote in The Makers that “The days of General Electric, and General Mills, and General Motors are over. The money on the table…can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people.”

We all know how Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, working out of a garage building computers, started Apple. Similarly, how Michael Dell started operations out of his dorm room. Nowadays, we see more and more people going out on their own as contract workers and as teleworkers, not tied to particular companies or work locations. They have been freed by technology to work for whom they want and where they want.

At the extreme and in certain cases, there is a perception that “working with a company often imposes higher transaction costs then running a project online…Companies are full of bureaucracy, procedures, and approval processes, a structure designed to defend the integrity of the organization...[instead] the new industrial organizational model [is] built around small pieces loosely joined. Companies are small virtual, and informal. Most participants are not employees. They form and re-form on the fly driven by ability and need rather than affiliation and obligation.”

While I do not believe that companies will be disadvantaged for large and complex projects like building a bridge or designing a new commercial airline, there is no doubt that technology is changing not only what we can do ourselves, but also how and when we associate ourselves with others. We can do work for ourselves or for others practically on the fly. We can communicate immediately and over long distances with ease. We can form relationships on social networks for specific tasks or as desired and then reorient for the next. There is a new flexibility brought about by a do it yourself culture facilitated with simple, affordable, and readily available technology, and this DIY phenomenon is only going to increase and accelerate as the technology advances further and further.

Some important implications are as follows:

  • One, we need to constantly look for cost-savings in the organization and at home from the new technologies that we are bringing online enabling us to do more ourselves—there are cost offsets for the support we needed before and no longer require.
  • Secondly, we need to encourage our employees to take advantage of the new technologies, to learn them, and use them to their utmost and not to fear them.
  • Thirdly, the next generation of workers is going to demand more flexibility, empowerment, and continued work-life balance based on their increasing ability to go it alone, if necessary.
  • Finally, new technologies that are user-centric—easy to use and useful—will outperform technologies that are overly complex and not intuitive; the new normal is do it yourself and technologies that don’t simply enable that will be finished.


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September 3, 2009

Zipcar = Cloud Computing

No, not exactly. But they actually do have a lot in common in that they are both about sharing resources and using them to achieve cost-savings and flexibility.

An article in Fortune Magazine (September 14, 2009) on Zipcars really got me thinking about this.

With cloud computing, we are sharing our IT infrastructure, storage, and/or applications with others and using the services of cloud providers. It is one big virtual environment, where instead of everyone having their own technologies and applications, we make use of shared resources and we meet our information technology needs on demand and pay only for what we use.

Zipcars has the same-shared model as the cloud, and shifting toward this new paradigm is going to help preserve the environment.

Usage: Like cloud computing, Zipcars provides for the use of automobile when you need one and you pay by the hour or day, according to what you use. It’s flexible, saves money, and cuts down on the number of vehicles on the road and therefore on the pollution associated with them.

Cost: Both Zipcars and cloud computing cost pennies on the dollar. For a basic $50 membership and $11.25 an hour you can drive a Zipcar (note: drivers who give up their own cars save an average of $800 per month). For 12-25 cents per month you can store a gigabyte in the cloud or for 10 cents-$1.25 an hour you can process tasks on the Elastic Computer Cloud (EC2).

Functionality: Zipcars move people around and cloud computing moves data.

Centralization: Zipcars are co-located in “company created ‘pods’ or group of cars in parking lots or garages,” and cloud computing services are centralized in data centers of large cloud providers (like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM)

Market: Zipcars has grown already to 325,000 members and is growing 30% a year with a overall market for shared vehicles expected to balloon to $800 million over the next five years (Fortune), and business IT spending on cloud computing is expected to rise from $16 billion last year to $42 billion by 2012 (IDC).

Users: Major companies (not just individuals) are using Zipcars—so far “about 8,500 companies have signed up, including Lockheed Martin, Gap, and Nike.” And brand name companies are signing up for cloud computing, such as NY Times, NASDAQ, Major League Baseball, ESPN, Hasbro and more. (http://www.johnmwillis.com/other/top-10-entperises-in-the-cloud/).

Going green: Each shared Zipcar “takes up to 20 cars off the road as members sell their rides or decide not to buy new ones.” Each move to cloud computing makes some or all of organizations unique servers, storage devices, and applications obsolete.

The trend: With the transportation market, the future will be “a blend of things like the Zipcar, public transportation, and private car ownership (according to Bill Ford), and with the IT industry, the future will be a combination of cloud computing, managed services, and in-house IT service provision.

Zipcars and cloud computing are benefiting from the new shared services model driven by cost-savings, flexibility, efficiencies of allotment, and eco-consciousness. These are driving change in our usage of transportation and computing for the better.


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December 17, 2008

Nanobots—Mobility Solutions Saves Organizations Money

Times are tough. The economy is in tatters. People have lost confidence, savings, jobs, and in many cases, even their homes. So, fear is pervasive among consumers, and they are cutting back on their spending.

And in an economy, where consumer spending drives 70% of the total economy, organizations are cutting back to save money too. One thing that they are doing is cutting facility costs and encouraging alternate work arrangements for staff such as teleworking, hoteling, and so forth,

The CIO is a major enabler for these alternate work arrangements and therefore for saving organizations money.

In teleworking, telecommunications is used for workers to link to the office, rather than have them actually commuting to work everyday, and in hoteling, workers have unassigned, flexible seating in the office, so their does not need to be separate office space allocated for every worker.

In these non-conventional work arrangements, IT creates for a far more mobile and agile workforce and this enables organizations to save significant money on costly fixed office space.

According to Area Development Online “as much as 50 percent of corporate office space goes unused at any given time, yet companies continue to pay for 100 percent of it. Yesterday’s ‘everyone in one place’ approach to workspace has become outdated in a business world where some types of work can be more about what you do than where you go.”

Moreover, “With laptops, cell phones, mobile e-mail devices, and high-speed Internet available on every corner — and the 70 million-strong Millennial generation entering the work force — some workers have little need to spend time at a desk in a corporate office. In fact, research group IDC expects 75 percent of the U.S. work force to be mobile by 2011.”

The Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2008 reports that “There’s a new class of workers out there: Nearly Autonomous, Not in the Office, doing Business in their Own Time Staff. Or nanobots for short…Managed correctly, nanobots can be a huge asset to their company.”

Here’s how to enable nanobot workers?

  1. Robust technology—give them the access to the technologies they need to be successful; to stay connected and be productive. Remember, the technology has to provide telecommunications to overcome both the geographical distance as well the psychological distance of not having the social contact and face-to-face communication with management, peers, and even staff.
  2. Clear performance expectations—It important to set clear performance expectations, since the nanobot is not planted in a cube or office under watchful management eyes. Without clear expectatiuons nanobots may either underwork or overwork themselves. Generally, “nanobots thrive on their driven natures and the personal freedom with which they are entrusted…while nanobots relish the independence that mobile technologies give them, they are painfully aware that their devices are both freeing and binding. In some sense, they set their own hours because of their mobile devices; in another sense, they can never get away from the business which follows them everywhere.”
  3. Different strokes for different folks—recognize which employees are good candidates for each type of work arrangement. Some can be very successful working remotely, while others thrive in the office setting. Either way, enabling workers with a variety of mobility solutions will make for a happier and more productive workforce and a more cost efficient enterprise.

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July 18, 2008

Learning from the Private Sector and Enterprise Architecture

There is a terrific article in ComputerWorld, 17 July 2008, called “Pentagon’s IT unit seeks to borrow tech ideas from Google, Amazon, other companies.”

Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) provides IT solutions to the Department of Defense. So what DISA does has to be state-of-the- art and best practice 24x7x365. Their mission depends on it!

To keep ahead of the curve, John Garing, DISA’s CIO and a retired Air Force colonel has been visiting with top tier private sector companies like Google, Amazon, UPS, Sabre, and FedEx to identify their best practices and incorporate them.

What has DISA learned from the private sector?

1. Cloud Computing

According to Garing, cloud computing is “going to be the way—it has to be. We have to get to this standard environment that is provisionable and scalable.”

To this end, “DISA has begin deploying a system [Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE)] that is similar architecturally to Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) technology, a web-based computing service that enables users to quickly scale up their processing capabilities.”

Using RACE, a soldier in the field will be able to use a client device (like a PDA) with web support and “dynamically access a wide range of information sources and meld together data,” such as blue force tracking, mapping of combatant locations, identification of aid stations, fuel and ammunition supplies, and so forth.

2. Elastic and flexible

DISA has to be prepared to handle the unexpected and this means they need to be able to flexible to meet a mission need or fight a war or two. Garing has found that companies like Amazon and Sabre have built their IT infrastructures to enable “elasticity and flexibility.”

3. Competing for business

Like the private sector that competes for market share, DISA sees itself and operates “like a business and produce[s] an attractive offering of IT services at a competitive price. They recognize that they “compete for the business it gets from other military agencies, which in some cases have options to use private-sector IT service providers.”

4. Process-driven and Speedy

Like enterprise architecture, which looks at both business processes and technology enablement, Garing is “interested in the processes that companies use to deploy technology, not just their technology itself.” DISA wants to learn how to speed an idea to a service in just a few months as opposed to the years it often takes in DoD.

DISA is learning that cloud computing will enable increased standardization through a “standard suite of operating platforms” as well as increased “deployment speed and agility.”

By being open to learning from the private sector, Garing is leading an enterprise architecture that is making for a better and more capable DoD.

Job well done DISA and a shining example for the rest of the federal space!

Finally, learning is not a one-way street and surely the interchange between the public and private sector can lead to improvements for all.


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