GAO 4th annual report cites Enterprise Architecture, Geospatial, and Coordinating Research among ways to help reduce duplication – fragmentation – overlap

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GAO relased its 2014 Annual Report identified 11 new areas of fragmentation, overlap, and duplication in federal programs and activities. GAO also identified 15 new opportunities for cost savings and revenue enhancement. Related work and GAO’s Action Tracker—a tool that tracks progress on GAO’s specific suggestions for improvement.

The social services clearly are under the highest scrutiny as heritage.org notes:

In the previous three reports, the GAO found that Congress spent:

GAO summarizes their highlights as:

In its 2014 report, GAO presents 64 actions that the executive branch or Congress could take to improve efficiency and effectiveness across 26 areas that span a broad range of government missions and functions.
  • GAO suggests 19 actions to address evidence of fragmentation, overlap, or duplication in 11 new areas across the government missions of defense, health, income security, information technology, and international affairs.
  • GAO also presents 45 opportunities for executive branch agencies or Congress to take actions to reduce the cost of government operations or enhance revenue collections for the Treasury across 15 areas of government.

One blog took a fairly direct, yet appropriate view to this – “Why Have One Government Program When 10 Can Do the Same Thing? GAO Report Reveals Duplicated Efforts, Wasted Money.

Because, as the GAO points out, “the federal government faces an unsustainable fiscal path,” and getting out of its own way is one of the easier means of cutting costs.

They do point out a sort of ray of hope in that :

After taking a grand tour of federal government multiplicity, the GAO recommends 45 actions for cutting costs. Don’t get your hopes too high, though. Of the 380 reforms previously recommended, only 124 have been fully addressed.

I say ray of hope as about 1/3 improvement is actually, possibly sadly, not bad for the largest organization in the world. Beyond 1/3, who can or will use this? This is a fantastic guiding light, but for who? Clearly it is for congress, executive branch politicals, and Program Directors, but will they be interested to act? Does it fit with their agendas and objectives? Who has influence to more than suggest it should be part of such?

 

Topics we’ll be tracking

But more in our neck of the woods, where we look to help, and how we analyzed, here are some mission take-ways:

  • Renewable Energy programs are VERY fragmented, though not uncommon for organization all trying to get a service or solution piece of a new up and coming and relevant disruption. Specifically, they cite more coordination between USDA and DOE

Area 4: Renewable Energy Initiatives: Federal support for wind and solar energy,
biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, which has been estimated at several
billion dollars per year, is fragmented because 23 agencies implemented hundreds of
renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010—the latest year for which GAO
developed these original data. Further, the DOE and USDA could take additional
actions—to the extent possible within their statutory authority—to help ensure effective
use of financial support from several wind initiatives, which GAO found provided
duplicative support that may not have been needed in all cases for projects to be built

  • In the 2011 reports under General Government, Enterprise Architecture and Data Center Consolidation were high on the list (Page 24):

Area 14: Enterprise architectures: key mechanisms for identifying potential overlap
and duplication. Well-defined and implemented enterprise architectures in federal agencies can lead to consolidation and reuse of shared services and elimination of antiquated and redundant mission operations, which can result in significant cost savings. For example, the Department of the Interior demonstrated that it had used enterprise architecture to modernize agency information technology operations and avoid costs through enterprise software license agreements and hardware procurement consolidation, resulting in financial savings of at least $80 million. In addition, Health and Human Services will achieve savings and cost avoidance of over $150 million between fiscal years 2011 to 2015 by leveraging its enterprise architecture to improve its telecommunications infrastructure.

Area 15: Consolidating federal data centers provides opportunity to improve
government efficiency. Consolidating federal data centers provides an opportunity to improve government efficiency and achieve cost savings of up to $3 billion over 10 years.

For what its worth, for some horn tooting, Xentity staff were providing support to the Interior Enterprise Architecture during the 2003-2005 period where DOI EA focused on the Enterprise license consolidation across all its bureaus to department-wide.

In 2012, GAO also added:

Area 19: Information Technology Investment Management: The Office of Management and Budget and the Departments Defense and Energy need to address potentially duplicative information technology investments to avoid investing in unnecessary systems.

For Geospatial Investment, it cites (Page 196) our general mantra on Geospatial Integrated Services and Capabilities :

Area 11: Geospatial Investments: Better coordination among federal agencies that collect, maintain, and use geospatial information could help reduce duplication of geospatial investments and provide the opportunity for potential savings of millions of dollar

This repeats its report concepts – mind you, at a higher level – on the GAO releases report on FGDC Role and Geospatial Information

Also, there was a trend to improve simplify Federal Contracting 

Finally, in talking about Research, they noted

Area 10: Dissemination of Technical Research Reports: Congress should consider whether the fee-based model under which the National Technical Information Service currently operates for disseminating technical information is still viable or appropriate, given that many of the reports overlap with similar information available from the issuing organizations or other sources for free.

There is so much more in this report, the question is, will the powers that be embrace these ideas as part of their program or political agendas and objectives?

 

State of Colorado IT highlighted in GovExec as example of Smart Lean Government

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Xentity staff has been supporting Methodology Development with ACT-IAC on Smart Lean Government – http://smartleangovernment.com . A recent GovExec article has come out highlighting Smart Lean Government as well as the State of Colorado. 

Opening

In a data-driven world, agencies can’t afford to go it along any more. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, the response and recovery were considered a disaster for government. There was no clear chain of command.

Our efforts at Smart Lean Government is in trying to introduce cross-government management and design of services across communities, be life event-based, and find ways to integrate services in design and implementation.

You can see the print magazine version in PDF here or the web version.

Here specifically is the part on the State of Colorado Office of Information Technology point of view

Treating Citizens Like Customers in Colorado

As a private sector technology executive, Kristin Russell [note: recently outgoing CIO] watched companies become adept at tracking customers from one division to the next and learning everything they could about them along the way. 

When a warranty expired, a product was recalled or a superior product came out, they knew just who to contact. And they knew the best way to contact them. 

When Russell became Colorado’s chief information officer, she saw something different. State agencies weren’t competing with anyone, so they had little incentive to offer great customer service. 

This wasn’t just bad for citizens. It was costly for government too. One agency spent $4 million annually on postage. If citizens could opt for email-only contacts statewide, that figure could be reduced significantly, Russell says. 

Russell and Colorado’s Chief Technology Officer Sherri Hammons started planning for a governmentwide customer relations management system that could recognize citizens from one agency to the next, save their addresses and personal information, and alert them to services they might qualify for. 

An early version, called PEAK, offers a unified portal for medical, welfare and child support services and links to the state’s new online health insurance marketplace. Russell hopes to expand the PEAK concept across Colorado’s 22 agencies so citizens can interact with government once and be done. 

****

Xentity is excited to be supported both the SLG initiative and a service provider for the OIT in support of moving to IT in the state to a customer oriented set of services as part of the Xentity’s recent award of IT IDIQ from State of Colorado.

Exploring Public Domain Maps and Imagery – Historic Denver West

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Matt Tricomi

Doing some light examination of Denver West, the following is just two aspects of free public domain data. There is so much more beyond imagery and maps, and even more maps and more imagery (i.e. MODIS, LANDSAT, other NASA products).

Historic Maps

USGS Topo Map 1-meter Quads are clockwise:

(Download this KML file to see all options or click the years above the thumbnails below to grab that historic map)

Golden – Download – 1939194219441957

6 Diff dates for 15 Quads 1939-1965

Arvada – Download – 19411944195019571965

5 Diff dates for 12 Quads 1941-1965 

Morrison – Download – 19381942194719571965

5 Diff dates for 11 Quads 1938-1965 

Fort Logan – Download – 1941194819571965

4 Diff dates for 8 Quads 1939-1965 

Historic Imagery

Historic Imagery typeYearMetadataThumbnail (Actual Files range from 20-200 MB)
Digital Orthophoto Quadrangles (DOQs)1994
  • Entity ID: DI00000000912683
  • Acquisition Date: 23-SEP-94
  • Map Name: FORT LOGAN
  • State: CO

 

 

 
National Aerial Photography Program (NAPP)1988
  • Entity ID: NP0NAPP001033224
  • Coordinates: 39.8125 , -105.03125
  • Acquisition Date: 10-JUL-88
 
National High Altitude Photography (NHAP)1983
  • Coordinates: 39.671135 , -105.043794
  • Acquisition Date: 25-JUN-80
  • Scale: 120400

Download ~30MB file

 

Space Acquired Photography   

Single Frame Records

Black-and-white, natural color, and color

infrared aerial photographs

400 or 1,000 dpi.

1978
  • Entity ID: AR1VEQP00010142
  • Coordinates: 39.688989 , -105.053705
  • Acquisition Date: 01-SEP-78
  • Scale: 78000
Aerial Photo Mosaics (Used when creating early/mid-USGS Topo Maps)1953
  • Entity ID: ARDDA001260930776
  • Coordinates: 39.5 , -105.5
  • Acquisition Date: 25-SEP-53
  • Scale: 63299

Download the 30MB file

 

    
High Resolution OrthoImagery (Corrected – Generally .3 meter, color) 

2002 – HistoricOrthoCoverageAreas.kml

 

 
Declass 1 (1996) Stereo Images1965
  • Entity ID: DS1027-1015DA011
  • Coordinates: 39.69 , -104.516
  • Camera Resolution: Stereo Medium
  • Acquisition Date: 10-DEC-65
Declass 2 (2002) Stereo Images1966
  • Entity ID:DZB00403500080H001015
  • Coordinates: 42.49 , -103.45
  • Acquisition Date: 10-DEC-66
  • Camera Resolution: 2 to 4 feet

OK, I applied for a position – Now what

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If you are curious as to what is involved in our screening and interview process

…will I get a call back? when? do I call you? how long? how many interviews? how can I prepare?

OK, I applied, Now what?

Great, your resume has been logged, filed, and notifications have gone out to hiring decision makers. There are two types of job postings and three types of next steps

Looking for immediate Hire and you are screened as a fit!

Looking for Immediate Hire, but not contacted, what does that mean?

Posting says not immediate hire

We will start the resume screen immediately. Actually, hiring managers are notified immediately when you click submit.

We do receive a high volume of resumes, so we look for the best match of capability, skills, and presentation of your passion and of course availability.

If you are a fit, you will receive a call at times you noted.

If you are not a fit, you will not receive a call nor email until the position is filled.

Once a final decision has been made, the position will be closed, and you will receive an email to at least keep you posted on our decision.

We do have a capability for you to enter your email can check the status of the position if your are curious.

But, if we do not select you to move forward, we will keep your resume on file for future positions.

We will likely not contact you for anywhere from 30-120 days. Our goal for these type of job postings is to build a pool of strong candidates who are searching for new opportunities who may already have a job, but are looking for a career growth option and being selective in their search.

Keep in mind, on these positions, you can reach out to us, but be creative – we get lots of calls, emails, resume. So if you do that, think of a valuable mutual outcome that will differentiate yourself

Our interview approach will seek to learn five simple things to discover and attract great leaders of change:

  • Discover your passion for change and growth
  • Understand your leadership and management capabilities
  • Test your domain and subject matter skillset
  • Allow you the chance to get to know us your way
  • Derive a valuable compensation package

Through this our interview process, we believe we are finding good people.

  • Through our projects we attract, we believe we have great people. 
  • Through our compensation model, we retain amazing talent. 

Logistics

  • Upon applying, you may receive a phone call for a short logistics screening to discuss availability, validate your information, few high-level position questions
  • After that, if we proceed, you will be scheduled for an interview up to 2 hours to demonstrate and discuss previous deliverables, conduct and review technical exercise, and answer questions you may have
  • Sometimes for larger projects, we may ask your to participate in a group interview and luncheon where you perform a team exercise with other candidates and have a chance to interact with Xentity Employees and Executives or potentially client executive interaction.
  • Finally, if we are ready to consider a job offer, a final interview and assumed signing session would occur up to one hour for a presentation of the role, career growth plan, final questions, and compensation package.

Depending on the number of position requirements, positions, candidates, and requisitions involved, this process can be long and may take anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months.

If you have passed the screening process, and would like to know more, you will be granted further access to the candidate intranet, and are encouraged to take additional time to review the mid-level process on How Xentity finds top talent

Handling delays on Internal Projects due to skill gaps

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Other duties as assigned or projects performed by employees are both precarious and advantageous.

There are slower times in employees operations, and most talented employees will enjoy the extra challenge, which means you can get more production out of them as well as they can add skillsets to their career. But, the peter principle of management typically yields adding more other duties, projects, or promotions until the performance level drops. Typically, to get them back on track, coaching, consulting, or even get-well plans are required. Also, during this phase, if not addressed, when career growth is stymied as either bored or overwhelmed, they want to retain with minimal effort, while just enough to retain employment and to have time to surf for future jobs on the web.

So if the staff is not familiar with these other duties or projects, they will most definitely slip, cost more, done with lowest quality, or requested scope. So, you have four options – coach more, invest in consulting, put on get-well plan, or let go due to underperformance – or the fifth no action and let those duties and project objectives slip.

If this is staff you want to retain, then get well or coaching can help, but if you have near-term project objectives, the only other option is adding consultants. You may have internal folks who can be that, but many times, they are also under duress with their own scope. This means introducing consultants. Possibly, the solution is a new hire for a new permanent position, but the perception will be for the first 90 days, this person is an “outside” consultant.

Avoiding The Bobs

“What would you say you do here?” is the imminent persona of a consultant as portrayed on the movie office space. 

Employees have had many bad experiences working with consultants. Sure, many good ones as well, and a lot of times they are re-hired or even converted. All in all, though, it is less the consultant or more the way the consultant was brought in.

  • “I’ve had consultants work for me before and they gave me ideas way too advanced for our culture.” – In this case, deliverables were not designed, the contract was not performance-based, and the sponsor did not know exactly what they were buying
  • “They explain things using a different language. They don’t get us.” – The consultant went off and interviewed other staff or trained, and it was not tailored to their priorities, lingo, acronyms, objectives, maturity, etc.
  • Or water cooler chatter, “Why do I need these guys, they costs twice as much, and I have to train them”. There was never clear definition of measures for the staff to get the project done, so if they didn’t, on what would trigger additional help

Point being, we all have had bad experiences with consultants just like we have experiences with peer employees. The different of course is one is part of the plan most the time, and the other is a remediation when the plan has gaps.

There are a few ways to introduce outside consultants.

The best way is when you hire, promote, or give them a project, you budget this upfront knowing their gaps. But, sometimes you may want to see what the employee is made of first, or the complexity of the task/project was unknown. Bringing in consultants unplanned can tend to introduce cultural issues, and creates various turbulence if not brought in right. You still need to either start your project right or get your project back on track, and outside consulting can do just that, assuming, on a separate topic, the project is scoped right, vetted right, priced mutually well, and is clearly defined for delivery and transition. 

Also, the level of consultant you bring in will change the types of possible reaction:

  • Strategic Advisor Intrusion
  • Embedded Consultant Insult
  • Consulting Project Team Infestation

The following captures some common issues and suggested solutions for engaging outside support in hero mode.

The Strategic Advisor Intrusion:

A strategic consultant will spend time with a top sponsor. This is inserting influence where existing team used to have more time for. If value is produced that aligns all or most agendas, this is seen as positive. If no fruits are visibly linked to a wanted agenda, this is seen as an intrusion

Potential Reactions:  

  • Seen as insult to executive or leadership team
  • Some team members hog the advisor to advance own agenda possibly undermining the intended direction
  • Some team members take offense on why they aren’t receiving budget support for their gaps in support and feel their scope is undervalued and is seen as competing priorities

Suggested Solution:

  • Kick off the effort with a collaborative, tailored 2-day workshop to rapidly plan, capture drivers, needs, priorities in front of each other, make the deliverables each night, produce value immediately, show how the team can work together with the new advisor both showing they add great value, but also get their culture. Tailor the workshop to the project needs (complexity, as-is situation, defining target vision, scoping out resources, and setting milestones).

Embedded Consultant Insult

An embedded consultant can be seen as a short-timer “leader” working side-by-side existing staff trying to catalyze a vision where others may perceive as a sign of failure. If the value can be seen clearly by project or program objectives or measures advancing, this is typically on the whole seen as positive, but even then, the insult of having to get help can insult a minority of the staff, and some could be key staff.

Potential Reactions:

  • Especially in project recovery, if the sponsor forces the consultant on the lead, typical reactions go beyond resistance, and can actually go into sabotage as a sign of “Not in my backyard” protectionism. It can be seen as an insult to intelligence.
  • If also the consultant is replacing a previous leader, the “acting” or “temporary” leadership role the consultant will definitely experience an “awkard transition”. This is expensive as consultants do tend to run 1.25-2x employee costs

Solution:

  • To get this positive, three things need to happen
    • One, the lead has to recognize they are behind, the sponsor wants to help them address the gap and being specific to – project is behind, solution is not there, costs are overrunning or has a high burn rate, or project team needs more guidance to get quality up
    • Two, Consultant needs to be brought in as embedded consultant – part of the team. This is not a temp that does “rote” tasks and reports to a manager. The consultant needs be part of team, interact with all, and be expected to deliver within culture, get deliverables done. The consultant can gather, interact, make observations, and even present training or subject matter, but the concluding direction, recommendations should be presented outward by the manager. This demonstrates they get it, are competent, and can grow.
    • Thereafter, to address objectives for achieving value, the consultant needs to have clear deliverables, and early ones should be tangible and visible. This is so that others including the manager can see if they are getting what they paid for. The deliverables should be defined up front. Thereafter, you can decide to doe time & materials, but at minimum, milestones should still be clear.
    • As a way to get started, use a process that links the embedded consultant work to the newly defined/updated drivers, stakeholders, objectives, and milestones and always refer back to both when developing solution, so any collaboration is not personal, but using executive direction and proven process

Non-solution:

  • Train existing staff how to do a specific intermediate skillset – plan, design, research, architect, etc.. – who already is observed to be overwhelmed rarely yields success without first taking on more other duties or projects off their plate. These intermediate positions are multi-year effort with years of domain, subject, and pattern knowledge. The solution can be to start training, but they will come back with new acronyms and certifications (PME, ITIL, FEAC, CMMI, etc.), patterns, which take time to learn what applies when.

Consulting Project Team Infestation

A project team brought in to introduce a new system, process, migration, or evaluation can be a tidal wave when it hits. Project teams introduce a sub-culture within themselves, and can be referred to in a segregated fashion as they will be “gone soon”.

Potential Reactions: Awkard transition from previous development, resentment from those loyal to previous developers, initial stagnation, Attempted coup in defense of previous team, lower IT support to team, project team has myopic view of needs due to isolation and could impact deliverable results

Solution:

  • Foster new relationships early by getting a milestone successful executed out of gate to show the new team demonstrates results
  • Have a project liaison, whether that is the project manager, or the office correspondent, to the team that assures the project team has escalation of needs and as well help them acclimate to how “things get done around here” as well as opportunities to engage in the office culture (events, outings, even idea meetings, and brownbags)

Point being, bringing in consultants can be scary to staff if the expectations are not clear why.

Sure, there may be cases where the employee is on a get well pan while bringing in consultants. If you are not at that point, set the milestones for what needs to happen, and if those measures are not being met, and it is not at a fire point, and the coaching time dedicated is not cutting it, you need to move to consultant phase.