Fed Biz Solutions partners with Xentity Corporation

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Xentity Corporation (Xentity), a Colorado-based 8(a) certified business transformation consulting firm, and Fed Biz Solutions, Inc (FedBiz), a Colorado-based government compliance consulting and advisory firm, signed a partner agreement in November 2012 that enables Xentity to offer FedBiz services to customers

Xentity has integrated FedBiz service capabilities which help customers transform their business operations, alongside Xentity’s existing services that help transform customers’ mission operations. FedBiz now has the ability to offer services to customers under the SBA 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business program and Xentity has additional trained staff to support FedBiz efforts and provides a greater blend of skilled government business specialists, better customer responsiveness. This also results in a blended price point to customers, without a reduction in quality. 

About Xentity Corporation:

Xentity (ZEN-ti-tee), founded in 2001, receiving 8(a) program status in 2010,  is located at the Golden Signature Centre in Golden, CO, assists commercial and government organizations, large and small helping to create true value via enterprise and solution architecture, planning, analysis and execution support. Xentity is a participant in the Small Business Administration 8(a) program and is a minority-owned disadvantaged small business. Xentity has helped clients achieve their business goals with management consulting and mission-driven architecture, while providing unique communication methods. Xentity has assisted Business and Government, large and small, in the executive trusted advisor role helping clients create true value via enterprise planning and execution support: from shortening emergency response at airports, or reducing college loan application time from months to minutes, to making hidden geospatial data into frontline services, or transforming previous policy information management groups to transformational world leading agencies.
 

About Fed Biz Solutions, Inc:

Fed Biz began operations in 1997 as Sterling Innovations, Inc.  The company has had very good success from the beginning thanks to the many wonderful clients who have shown continual trust in our consulting practices.  In 2011, the decision was made to expand the contract opportunities to include long term, federal Gov’t and large prime contractor contracts to help take the company to ‘the next level’.  One of the steps taken was to change the name to Fed Biz Solutions.  The name change was felt necessary to create a better awareness of the services offered.  Fed Biz Solutions was chosen because of its closeness to FedBizOpps (www.fedbizopps.com), the largest source for finding Federal Government opportunities.   For that reason, on January 1, 2012, the name change took place.  Fed Biz was the first step, but our team knew more than a name change would be needed to make a difference. 

What are Various Architecture Staffing Models

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Various Architecture Staffing Models

Choose an Architect workforce model that addresses the above. Instead of full-time architect, consider the executive or director or technical sponsor for the role main question – “What will the role do after the first two projects/tasks?”.  

Architect as Full-Time Employee

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Low, Good ones move onPlateaus after two projects. No guaranteed output after first two projects. As well, ramp-up time typically more as requires more upfront trainingFull-time, even if after first two projects workload does not matchIts either a tech architect for short-term or exec. architect for long-term, rarely can you find both in one and keep them. No guarantee of knowledge transition to team/corporation.$150-200k/yr
$100-150k in salary plus 20% in benefits plus training, on-boarding every 3 years

Architect as Full-Time Employee with executive responsibilities (not necessarily supervisory)

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Increases based on add-onsKeeps Good ones around and performance-based payFull-time commitment, but workload may not match change agent value – would have to find workPerformance can only incent so much, so this is same problem as employee model$175-275k/yr
$100-150k in salary plus 20% in benefits plus training, on-boarding plus 20% in performance and/or equity 

Independent Contract-based employee Architect as near full-time or full-time

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Renew based on defined, known key result directives/areas. Typically this is one with relationship that exists so sometimes harder to let goRenewal-based to help buy-back risk on post first two projects.Can be full-time, part-time or variable (FFP, T&M) and renewal-basedCan either watch growth, change detail responsibility, or lower hours in one architect. No guarantee of knowledge transition to team/corporation.$150-250k/yr
Typically T&M models with NTE of full-time investment, less onboarding, no benefits/FUCA

Hybrid – Independent Consulting Architect to do & lead Junior Full-Time employees

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Renew based on defined, known key result directives/areas. Sometimes harder to let go if junior employees have grown attachedRenewal-based to help buy-back risk on post first two projects as well as increase corporate knowledge retentionCan be full-time, part-time or variable (FFP, T&M) and renewal-basedAssure knowledge transition and investment in growing staff

$175-275k/yr

$120-$200/hour with volume discounts. Typically more efficient than 100% full-time models

Architecture firm Consulting Services

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Renew and include key personnel requirementsHave more access to various executive, enterprise, solutions, technical, data, process, and services architecture as well as additional deeper tech-reachbackCan be individual or multiple full-time, part-time or variable (FFP, T&M) and renewal-basedCan vary investment in different architect types that change as the fast disruptive

$75 to up 300k/yr for equivalent of 1 FTE

Higher cost per hour, less hours

Recommend 3 to 8 $25 to 75k task order in first year max.

Interim Consult/Contract

RetentionQualityLevel of WorkGrowthTotal Cost
Known end with options to extendsame as non-employee options aboveTypically Full-time as it is placeholding for full-time positionVaries by model chosen above – contract, independent consultant, consulting firm$125-300k/yr
As well, given the task order is more long-term, and has authority as would employee, this reduces the “consulting” model tensionVaries greatly and sometimes requires hefty headhunter fee

 

Xentity can support any of these models in contract-to-hire, staff augmentation, or various consulting capacities.

Transformation cannot survive without a Powerpoint intervention

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We’ve subscribed to Google Groups “The Enterprise Architecture Network” group for several years now. Mostly lurking.  Over that time, we definitely have been able to put great items in our “shopping cart” and gather a tenor of the state of EA. Our methods and work products are becoming more streamlined – at varying paces of satisfaction. Our work products are improving with training and information availability. But in that time, much like our U.S. policies on EA hasn’t changed since the Clinger-Cohen Act in 1996 pre-internet, neither has our EA communication mediums. 

We could blame ourselves, as we do as we are natural evaluators, and we tend to work on content, methods, arguing approaches – we look at the hard science. This is not uncommon as EAs tend to derive from IT which is about logic, organization, and somehow dealing with rapid transformation.
But, the executives, the ones we work for are still struggling with how they go about Layering Cultural and Business Transformation with rapid technology transformation. 
I’d offer we are looking in the wrong place. Yes, our methods, frameworks, tools could improve – a lot! But its the softer side of how we present, what we present to which audience I believe is what is killing enterprise, segment, portfolio, or any large transformation efforts with enterprise architecture seeking to be in the forefront. 

We’d offer an initial focus change for EA and transformation in and of itself: change our communication mediums

Corporations and Government are in lust with slideware, so we use such. To the point, Powerpoint is killing transformation analysis and EA and other complex topics and our core architecture conceptsPPT is too sequential and too outline oriented. Its been used, abused, and most of the time we use it in knee-jerk fashion.

How we get them off slide-meth (or pick your drug metaphor) is the trick?  Call me a Tuftian (Search Edward Tufte Powerpoint).

Getting people to care about Transformation and Architecture

Anyhow, if we want people to care, back to the title of the thread in Google groups, I think the content from this group and the general community is all well and very good in many cases, but we are in need of a branding enema. 
EA is in desperate need of marketing and branding. The efforts of the EA Google Group community and across the spectrum are good basis of content, but finding that audience to engage is our interest.  We need a way to focus on storytelling the output to multiple audiences. Anyone interested in some new mediums for presenting EA or transformation concepts.
To be very fair, at my company, we’re a a big offender as well – buzzword bingo, write too much (constant battle with the Twain Pascal quote “If I Had More Time I Would Write a Shorter Letter”) , go too far down path ahead of client, pushing, etc. while balancing challenging the client, helping them challenge themselves, simplifying complexity, and seek what most people fear – change. 
So, as a start, we have beta’d some variant approaches on some clients –
  • Early phases of powerpoint exit strategy 
    • Weening off powerpoint with 1-pager and a graphic and more discussion time, no presentation (maybe some highlights)
    • Switching powerpoints to be graphical only/mostly and use whitepaper conpendium so they can read themselves when discussing graphic
  • Increasing communication role over work products
    • Treating Communication products as dear and near as our architecture work products when organizing by audience level and focus area (choose your favorite framework when considering that)
    • Interactive data visualization for self-exploration with an executive summary – make it fun to see the line of sight.
  • Agile Management and its communication mediums/tools – notification tracking with plans as they are implemented in Program Management Offices
    • Minor little things like allowing users to reply to the notification and not to have to log in
    • Integrate Content wiki’s with data repositories to increase exploration possibilities and context which allows to notifications on discussions
    • Shifting email discussions to comment threads on issue tracking and content wiki’s which again further increase transparency and exposes transactive knowledge hidden in emails or hidden group threads.
  • Storytell with the goals, outcomes, impacts, and other high-points and denouement.  
    • Can be done using a low-cost high-quality mini-documentary (TLC/History Cable Channel quality) style that storytells about programs, the changes, from customer and investor point of views (rather than self-serving). 
    • Blog more – storytell more – bits and pieces at a time – rather than gems hidden in industry groups, open up the transparency and inclusivity of the topics.
But, we would like to take a step further.  

Here is an example of a mini-documentary, one in a series of four that helps tell the story of the client’s program, its value and the underlying tone of change its undergone, undergoing, and planned:

More can be seen at Communication Services (Video Series Example) which further describes:
These simple stories can show and explain the value of complex programs products, services, solutions, and systems that powerpoints, whitepapers, or multiple conferences cannot achieve. As well, these mediums have helped convey messages, even during times of pressures to reduce travel.

We’d like to do a video series for transformation and EA not unlike what Penn State did for Geospatial as part of their Geospatial Revolution Series – http://geospatialrevolution.psu.edu/ . It would be interesting to pool partners, efforts, gather up funding, and put together a series (process disclaimers aside) using mediums that connect EA and transformation in this new light. Anyone interested, can keep posted on threads in Google Groups “The Enterprise Architecture Network” group

The Surprising Reasons Why America Lost Its Ability To Compete

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Our Architecture Services Lead found this interesting Forbes article on “The Surprising Reasons Why America Lost Its Ability To Compete” written by several Harvard Business School MBA alumni. The article ultimately calls out management, not external factors as the reason for failure. 

 if there are disastrous shortfalls in the ability to compete, then surely the quality of management itself—the art and science of getting things done—must have a lot to do with it

Specifically, the focus on short-term and blaming external factors. At Xentity, we agree that though we understand management pressures in private and public sector have very impending issues to keep the organization within budget (public sector) and maintaining shareholder margins (private sector), but without and investment in outyear and next generation transformation, workforce, and research, the bailing water approach to management will not allow the organization to survive without adaptation. The article outlines:

  • Management trending to blame external factors instead of innovating, adapting, overcoming.
  • Management shifted to short-term focus and today’s numbers, versus investing in shared resources and pooling for longer haul
  • Managers have focused innovations and transformations more on cost-efficiency and cost-reductions and less on value-adding and increasing relevancy
    • Management education partly to blame focusing on short-term financial outcomes
    • Management shifted to focusing on maximizing shareholders outcomes while ignoring stakeholders needs
  • Instead of focusing on workforce/talent strategy, research, management instead continued focusing on short-term needs
  • Management can complain about government, external factors, but unless management finds way to not just focus on short-term needs, there is limited factors that government execution of new policies can do to stimulate growth
  • Management didn’t mention customer once in the report. C-level types have lost sight of understanding the communities of use, supply, and understanding their market
    • Management has lost ability to look back at the purpose of the program – to create the customer and balance with shareholder value

These observations from the study are very in-line with the Xentity’s published list of anti-patterns core architecture concepts towards view on transformation. As we published back in 2008, Our concepts are biased towards the next “generations” concept. The solutions recommended by the article generally align with our focuses on change as well:

Achieving continuous innovation and customer delight lies outside the performance envelope of firms that are built on hierarchical bureaucracy and focused on short-term gains and the stock price. It requires a fundamentally different way of leading and managing—in effect, a paradigm shift in management. It means:

Harvard Study: Management shiftsXentity Core concepts on addressing change

a shift from controlling individuals to self-organizing teams;

We are growing partners.

a shift from coordinating work by hierarchical bureaucracy to dynamic linking;

We think big on change, while changing small bits at a time

a shift from a preoccupation with economic value to an embrace of values that will grow the firm; and

We support executives transform their visions into action.

a shift from top-down communications to horizontal conversations.We share our concepts and supporting assets openly.

The article solutions wrap with balancing shareholder/budget-interests focus with stakeholder/relevancy focus:

 The article had some follow-on reads relating to this problem and emboldens many of the articles points:

And read also: 

In private and public sector, the management challenge is the same – external factors are continually battling against the mission, but management is doing the same thing to respond: Short-term cost-efficiency or cost-reduction approaches only with focus on the shareholder (private) or year-to-year budgeting (public). Management is not finding ways to balance the short-term and the long-term relevancy, and only education and leadership can help address, not waiting for external factors to make it easier.

Flattening the classroom by flipping the teaching engagement model

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Continuing on from: The world is getting flatter – Why isnt our educational system?

With this approach, teaching resources will not be spent on redundant or duplicative efforts such as preparing and delivering the lesson. 

The video lesson and supporting services will do that.  A simple rough order magnitude business case estimates we can shift an enormous set of resources from preparation and delivery to creativity, facilitation and assessment.  Here is how significant a shift it is:

$63,033,390,000 = (180 days/year X 3.5 hours / days X $30/hr.) X 3,335,100 teachers

 

These tools will work for the vast majority of subjects and lessons. This cursory analysis assumes 2/3 of the lessons can be affected and that teachers deliver 5 classes /day with an average teacher salary of $30 dollars an hour sans benefits.  This obviously does not include the cost of developing the alternative content which should be offset by the cost avoidance benefit of not buying text books, improvement in teacher productivity, remedial education etc… 

This approach is certainly not arguing for a reduction in teaching resources or in their level of subject matter expertise.  This approach is arguing for:

  • A reallocation of the resources away from redundant lesson preparation and delivery towards ensuring the lesson is understood.
  • A role change that would place greater responsibility on the student and introduce the opportunity to customize educational delivery.
  • teachers to become facilitators of learning and apply their creativity, knowledge and inter-personal skills but at a different phase of the learning cycle.
  • students to be able to work with parents and other students to comprehend the lesson. 
  • for student centric education.

The combination of the Khan Academy and flipped classrooms allow us to do that.  The target state value chain now adopts the “create and facilitate” functions in lieu of prepare and deliver. (See Figure 2)  Ideally, if this is implemented and it provides the opportunity to save human resources by increasing the number of student to teacher ratio, the resulting resources savings should be reallocated to Early Childhood Education (ECE). Either way, as any rationale individual would conclude, ECE should be a high priority target investment opportunity due to its Return on Investment (ROI) and social benefits (3)

With this synthesized approach, we can achieve a form of scalability that allows us to focus on the application and assessment of the student’s progress.  It allows for creativity and the development of best of breed approaches for lesson preparation and delivery.  Students can progress at personalized rates using tools that conform to their learning styles.

Now, how do now get the best “quality” lesson preparation and delivery?

We take our “best” or most impactful teachers and they become the lesson producers who create and deliver the content for this new model.  We allow the best of breed lessons to develop at a grass roots level and let the market demand for quality establish what is effective.  If we empower the educators, we will find hidden stars and performers and discover teachers who are even more creative in enhancing this new model of education.  We will have tapped into a rare commodity that will enhance other teacher’s approaches and engage the students with a personalized approach. Motivating and positioning teachers to out create one another will only ensure the students are getting the quality they deserve.

Another fundamental deficiency within the current educational system is the limited role parents have.  

They are effectively shielded from the most critical part of the process – delivery. The communication model is woefully inadequate and in essence is single point of failure network with the child as the weakest link. (See Figure 3)

 

This new model allows us to “flatten” communication increase shared access to information between parents, teachers and students. It offers a number of additional possibilities.  A student will be more empowered and vested in their educational journey and will now be more responsible and motivated to set and reach greater educational goals.  The student’s goals and progress will be easily tracked and monitored by parent and teacher.  The approach aligns well with the rapidly developing technology trends on how our whole society is researching, discovering and learning new information – self-paced, personalized and content rich.  Each lesson can be the launch point for self-exploration and research on related subjects or a deeper dive into the content.  A student’s time and motivation, home support or peer group will now be the constraining factors.  The student is no longer the weak link between parent and teacher.  Parents will have the option take a more proactive role. If they do, wonderful, if not, the student has options to pursue with peers or go solo.  Inevitably, as the amount of information and content flow increases between the parents, students and teachers, the awareness of educational system performance and accountability will organically improve. (See Figure 4)

 

We will accelerate the transformation from the teacher-centered pedantic model to a student-centered responsibility model.  

Teachers will fulfill the challenging role of content creation, facilitation and assessment. If it takes the student 10 viewings to understand the lesson, they can now do that without system or peer pressure.  The student may do the lesson by themselves, with their family or with their peers. They can and should discuss it on social networks or in their friend’s basement.  Encourage educational topics to be discussed – anywhere and everywhere. Encourage the growth of educational communities.  Let’s destroy this anti-intellectual notion that we only learn in school and that it is best to learn by oneself.

Extending lesson delivery beyond the classroom, frees the student to collaborate and explore the best means to meet the lessons ends with a less restrictive timeframe.  Students could even share a computer and learn lessons together.  Why not?  Learning with peers has proven to one of the more effective means for intellectual, social and emotional growth.  Students should be encouraged and trained to learn collaboratively.  Why would we want to constrain lessons and learning to a teacher-centric classroom?  This is certainly not what will be expected of them in the workplace or in their personnel lives.  The world is flattening, why not the educational system and the classrooms?

Parents will no longer be “blind” to how good or bad a lesson has been delivered.  

They can be active participants in educating their children using a medium that is much more natural and intuitive than a text book.  They will be able to learn for the first time or relearn, as we often have to, along with their child. They will be able to take an earlier and more pivotal role in the learning process. This is potentially the most valuable and challenging departure from the traditional model. Why is it so important?  Parents will now have the option to model education and learning in addition to all other forms of social norms. Today, we have positioned parents in the background and we wonder why we do not get more school to home communication.  The achievement gap will also improve as we can shift the roles of parent and student to be integral to personalizing the educational experience.

We all know this has to change but we have never given the parents the tools to participate nor have we positioned them effectively in the learning process. 

We ask parents to help with homework but only after the child has had the lesson.  They have no insight into how effectively it has been delivered. We ask the parent to help the frustrated child when the parent has no idea how the lesson is structured or if they are contradicting what has been stated.  Let’s face it. We have outsourced education from the family. If we believe our own rhetoric and the underlying research, we all know that bridging the learning process between educators and family is transformational and the best means to ensure lifelong learners and an educated society.

Teachers should be empowered to create a “marketplace” for lessons and to be permitted to promote and sell them to schools.  

Teachers should be financially compensated for these creative outputs but more importantly honored for creating a better way to educate a student. Education is one of the few work pursuits, other than entrepreneurship, where one can readily create or influence the value of the core product or service.  We can improve educational performance with consistent content that is bundled with a customized delivery that addresses our inherent learning differences. Students should be able to choose from these alternative designs and personalize their educational approach based on what works for them.  We can develop a core lessons taxonomy and semantic model that will provide a means to catalog or organize the marketplace.  Teachers, administrators, students and parents will be able to search and discover based on content and delivery style what is needed for the individual.  Imagine a parent and child researching or shopping for a lesson to understand the Pythagorean Theorem and having choices.  No more running out to shop for just pens, notebooks, rulers and backpacks.  The family can now research and construct personalized curriculum for the school year!

This marketplace would allow teachers to develop a stronger and more creative voice, to be the principal producers of lessons and content that speaks directly to the primary stakeholders – the students. 

Teachers are the ones who get to see and assess what is working every day.  Allow them to build it, evolve it and ensure its impact.  Restore educators to a position of honor and respect.  Give a voice to students who undoubtedly will let the system know when it is not working.  Build a smart system that feeds and learns from itself and in the process let the model flatten.

If we do this with a national commitment, we will quickly rediscover the fact that children are not “robots”. 

They are much more capable of learning and taking initiative than we have come to expect from them.  What is needed is for them to know they are the principal stakeholders in their educational pursuit.  Given the chance they will take an active role in the structuring their educational destiny from the outset in collaboration with parents, teachers, friends and peers. Our future is at stake.

(1)      National Center on Educational Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

(2)      ASCD September 2009, Volume 15, Number 3, Highly Effective Teachers: Defining Rewarding, Supporting and Expanding their Roles. Laura Varlas

(3)      The Economics of Inequality – The Value of Early Childhood Education  James Heckman, American Educator Spring 2011http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2011/Heckman.pdf