How Open Data Contributes Toward Better Interagency Collaboration and Orchestration at all Levels

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In a recent email thread with Xentity, NASCIO, and members of Smart Lean Government, the following thoughts were offered on OpenData by NASCIO Program Director, Enterprise Architecture & Governance for National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), Eric Sweden and republished with his permission

I believe open data contributes toward better inter agency collaboration and orchestration at all levels – notwithstanding PII is specifically removed from open data initiatives and must be.  But there is a place for open data in serving individual needs of citizens – for example – clinical epidemiology.  Employing population data – and even specific population data in evaluating prognosis and treatment regimes.  Think of the value in public health and medical services to underserved populations AND really anyone else.  Trends, patterns, correlations will surface for a similar approach / strategy in other government lines of business – we’re just at the brink of this kind of use data exploitation.

I’m looking beyond life events and also considering the complete Smart Lean Government concept.  Life events are a critical element – but there are also events abstracted up from individuals to communities.  So we move up an upside down pyramid from life events to “community events” or “community issues.”   Consider open data – and the larger concept of open government – in enabling better government.  Thus, a necessary part of Smart Lean Government.  Think about how government is able to work better together in collaboration and that leads to sharing data and information.

Example, Minnesota Department of Public Safety and Department of Transportation working together in drawing necessary correlations between crash data (from DPS) and speed/road conditions/weather data from DOT to develop strategy for safer roads and highways.

This particular example resonates with the “Imperatives of 21st Century Government Services” from volume one of the practical guide; steps 1-4 of the “Sustainable Shared  Services Lifecycle Model” from volume two of the practical guide.

This example is at the community event level – but impacting every individual and family that uses those roads and highways.

In 2014 Every Business will be Disrupted by Open Technology

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The article “In 2014 Every Business will be Disrupted by Open Technology” raised some very key points on some key disruptive patterns. A key theme we picked up on was the movement from bleeding and leading edge to more popular adoption of the open data and Open platforms. 

As the article notes:

Yet the true impact begins not with invention, but adoption.  That’s when the second and third-order effects kick in. After all, the automobile was important not because it ended travel by horse, but because it created suburbs, gas stations and shopping malls

A few tangible themes we picked up on are:

  1. Stand-alone brands are shifting to open platforms for co-creation
  2. Open platforms built on a brand`s intellectual property enhance the value, not threaten it
  3. Open platforms provide enterprise-level capabilities to the smallest players, leveling the playing field, accelerating innovation, and amplifying competition
  4. Open platforms for co-creation shifts the focus away from driving out inefficiencies, and toward the power of networking and collaboration to create value.

Where its happening already: Federal, State, City, Commercial

In FedFocus 2014, they also emphasized that with the budget appropriations for 2014 and 2015, two big disruptive areas will continue to be in Open Data and Big Data. Especially, with the May 2013 release of the WhiteHouse Open Data memorandum for going into effect in November 2013, it will impact Open Data by:

Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, this Memorandum establishes a framework to help institutionalize the principles of effective information management at each stage of the information`s life cycle to promote interoperability and openness. Whether or not particular information can be made public, agencies can apply this framework to all information resources to promote efficiency and produce value.

We are seeing states get into the mix as well with Open Data movements like http://gocode.colorado.gov/

Go Code Colorado was created to help Colorado companies grow, by giving them better and more usable access to public data. Teams will compete to build business apps, creating tools that Colorado businesses actually need, making our economy stronger.

Also, at the city level with the City of Raleigh, North Carolina which is well recognized for its award-winning Open Data Portal.

 

We had previously tweeted on how IBM opened up their Watson cognitive computing API for developers…. publicly. This is a big deal. They know with open data platforms as an ecosystem, they not only get more use, which means more comfort, which means more apps, but every transaction that happens on it, that is legally allowed, they to improve their interpretative signals that make Watson so wicked smart. This article points this key example out as well. 

 

And back to National Data Assets moving ahead to make their data more distributable over the cloud, moving data closer to cloud applications, offering data via web services where they are too large or updated too often to sync, download, or sneakernet.

Xentity and its partners have been at the forefront of all these movements.

We have enjoyed being on the leading edge since the early leading edge phases of this movement. Our architectures are less on commodity IT, which not to undersell the importance of affordable, fast, robust, scalable, enabling IT services and data center models. Our architectures have been more focused on putting the I back in IT.

We have been moving National Geospatial Data Assets into these delivery models as data products and services (Xentity is awarded USGS IDIQ for Enterprise and Solution Architecture), supporting the architecture of data.gov (Xentity chosen to help re-arch data.gov), and recently supporting the data wrangling on Colorado`s State OpenData efforts. We are examining Can a predictable supply chain for geospatial data be done and actively participating in NSF EarthCube which looks to “Imagine a world…where you can easily plot data from any source and visualize it any way you want.” We have presented concepts

Our architecture methods (Developing a Transformation Approach) are slanted to examine mission oriented performance gains, process efficiencies, data lifecycle management orientation, integrating service models, and balancing the technology footprint while innovating. For instance, we are heavily involved in the new ACT-IAC Smart Lean Government efforts to look at aligning services across government and organizational boundaries around community life events much like other nations are beginning to move to.

Xentity is very excited about the open data movements and supported platforms and the traction it is getting in industry. This may move us forward from information services into the popular space to and for knowledge services (Why we focus on spatial data science)


GAO releases report on FGDC Role and Geospatial Information

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GAO release report on us of geospatial information with title “OMB and Agencies Can Reduce Duplication by Making Coordination a Priority”. Readers Digest – focus on integrating data. 

Click to download PDF

We tend to agree. FGDC is currently very focused on a service enabling management model (Geoplatform) to accomplish this. It is bold, but if their role of being a service provisioner can directly or indirectly get them in the game to address the real problem of data lifecycle management, they will have a chance to address this. 

Point being, FGDC knows its role is not to be in IT Operations as its direct goal. But, they also saw that being a sideline judge with no carrot or stick role would not garner the direction and recommendations that GAO suggests. They are getting on the playing field, taking advantage of the open service provider role, being that broker, and using that role to move IT costs down, and also enabling those shifts in monies to then focus on the data issues cited. Its bold, and a unique approach, and there are many questions can a traditionally non-operational group develop that culture to be effective. Proof will show over the next 2 years.

Below find our summary of strategic direction for FGDC’s geoplatform.

The challenges and recommendation sections are:

  1. FGDC Had Not Made Fully Implementing Key Activities for Coordinating Geospatial Data a Priority
  2. Departments Had Not Fully Implemented Important Activities for Coordinating and Managing Geospatial Data
  3. Theme-lead Agencies Had Not Fully Implemented Important Activities for Coordinating and Managing Geospatial Data
  4. OMB Did Not Have Complete and Reliable Information to Identify Duplicative Geospatial Investments

Our review of Background – then and now

The foundation the FGDC has put in place. The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has always been a catalyst and leader enabling the adoption and use of geospatial information.

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) has been successfully creating the geospatial building blocks for the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) and empowering users to exploit the value of geospatial information.  The FGDC has been leading the development of the NSDI by creating the standards and tools to organize the asset inventory, enhance data and system interoperability and increase the use of national geospatial assets. The FGDC has successfully created policy, metadata, data and lifecycle standards, clearinghouses, catalogs, segment architectures and platforms that broaden the types and number of geospatial users while increasing the reuse of geospatial assets. [1] 

What is next? The Geospatial Platform and NGDA portfolio will be the mechanism for adoption of shared geospatial services to create customer value

Recently, the FGDC and its’ partners, have expanded their vision to include the management and development of a shared services platform and a National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA)portfolio.  The goals are to “develop National Shared Services Capabilities, Ensure Accountability and Effective Development and Management of Federal Geospatial Resources, and Convene Leadership of the National Geospatial Community benefitting the communities of interest with cost savings, improved process and decision making”.[2]

As the FGDC continues on the road to establish a world class geospatial data, application and service infrastructure, it will face significant challenges “where the Managing Partner, along with a growing partner network, will move from start‐up and proof‐of‐concept to an operational Geospatial Platform”.[3]

Xentity has reviewed the FGDC’s current strategy, business plan and policies and identified the following critical issues that need to be solved to attain the goals:

  • Building and maintaining a federated, “tagged”[4] standards-based NGDA and an open interoperable Geospatial platform. The assets need to provide sufficient data quantity and quality with service performance to attract and sustain partner and customer engagement[5]
  • Developing a customer base with enough critical mass to justify the FGDC portfolio and provide an “Increased return on existing geospatial investments by promoting the reuse of data application, web sites, and tools, executed through the Geospatial Platform” [6]
  • Improving Service Management and customer-partner relationship capabilities to accelerate the  adoption of interoperable “shared services” vision and satisfy customers [7]
  • Executing simple, transparent and responsive Task Order and Requirements management processes that result in standards based interoperable solutions.  [8]

The Big Challenges

Establish the financial value and business impact of the FGDC’s Portfolio!

The Geospatial Platform and NGDA will provide valuable cost saving opportunities for its adopters.  It will save employee’s time; avoid redundant data acquisition and management costs, and improve decision making and business processes.  The financial impact to government and commercial communities could be staggering. It is a big and unknown figure.

The Geospatial Platform by definition and design is a powerful efficient technology with the capacity to generate a significant return on investment.  It is a community investment and requires community participation to realize the return.  The solution will need to assist the communities with the creation and sharing of return on investment information, cost modeling, case studies, funding strategies, tools, references and continue to build the investment justification.  The solution will need to optimize funding enhancement and be responsive to shorter term “spot” or within current budget opportunities while always positioning for long term sustainability.  The FGDC Geospatial Platform Strategic Plan suggests a truly efficient capability could create powerful streamlined channels between much broader stakeholder communities including citizens, private sector, or other government-to-government interfaces. Similar to the market and business impacts of GPS, DOQ, satellite imaging technology, the platform could in turn promote more citizen satisfaction, private sector growth, or multiplier effects on engaged lines of business.

To get a big return, it will demand continuous creative thinking to develop investment, funding, management and communication approaches to realize and calculate the value.  It is a complex national challenge involving many organizations, geospatial policy, conflicting requirements, interests and intended uses.

The key is demonstrable successes.  Successes become the premise for investment strategy and cost savings for the customers.  Offering “a suite of well‐managed, highly available, and trusted geospatial data, services, and application, web site for use by Federal agencies—and their State, local, Tribal, and regional partners” [9] is the means to create the big value.  

”A successful model of enterprise service delivery will create an even greater business demand for these assets while reducing their incremental service delivery costs.” [10]

FGDC has to create and tell a compelling “geospatial” value proposition story

To successfully implement the FGDC’s vision, it will demand a robust set of outreach and marketing capabilities.  The solution will need to help construct the platforms value proposition and marketing story to build and inform the community.  The objective is to ensure longer term sustainable funding and community participation.  The solution will need to bring geospatial community awareness, incentive modeling, financial evaluation tools, multi-channel communication and funding development experience to the FGDC.  The solution will need to have transparently developed and implemented communication and marketing strategies that have led to growth in customer base, alternative portfolio funding models and shared services environments for the geospatial communities.  The solution will need to have an approach that will be transparent, engage the customer and partners and continuously build the community.

This is a challenging time to obtain needed capital and win customers even for efficient economic engines like shared geospatial data and services.  The solution will need to approach the community outreach is impactful, trusted and will tell the story of efficiencies, cost savings, and higher quality information.  The platform and NGDA must impact the customer program objectives. Figure 1 – FGDC Performance and Value framework shows how the platform’s value chain aligns with the types of performance benefits that can be realized throughout its inherent processes. The supporting team’s understanding of this model will need to organize the “Story” to convince the customer and partners that the platform can:

  • Provide decision makers with content that they can use with confidence to support daily functions and important issues,
  • Provide consistency of base maps and services that can be used by multiple organizations to address complex issues,
  • Eliminate the need to choose from redundant geospatial resources by providing access to preferred data, maps and services[11] 

As the approach is implemented, the FGDC, its partners and the Communities of Interest will have successfully accelerated the adoption and use of location based information.  Uses will recognize the value offering and reap the benefits to their operations and bottom line.   The benefits will be measurable and support the following FGDC business case objectives:

  • Increasing Return on Existing Investments, Government Efficiency, Service Delivery
  • Reducing (unintentional) Redundancy and Development and Management Costs
  • Increasing Quality and Usability[12]

Our Suggested Solution

FGDC’s challenges requires PMO, integrated lifecycle management, partner focus, and blend experience with an integrated approach and single voice designed to meet the FGDC’s strategic objectives and provide a world-class service shared services and data portfolio.  Doing this, they can integrate organizations, data, and service provision.

A solution like this would provide the program, partner and customer relationship management, communications, development and operational capabilities required to successfully implement the FGDC’s vision and business plan. The focus will need to 

  1. Coordinate cross-agency tasks, portfolio needs in agile prgoram management coordination with a single voice,
  2. implement an understanding of critical lifecycle processes to manage and operate the data, technology, capital assets and development projects for a secure cloud-based platform
  3. have communications and outreach focused on communities for partner and customer engagement in the lifecycle decisions
  4. Finally, make sure secretariat staff and team has rotating collective experience with representatives and contractors who hav esuccessfully performed at this scale across all functional areas with domain knowledge in Geospatial, technology, program, service, development and operations.

The strategy and collective experience and techniques will enable FGDC to provide a single voice from all management domains (PMO, Development, Operations and Service Management) for customer engagement. The approach will be need to be integrated with the existing FGDC operating model creating a sum value greater than that of its individual parts. This approach will help create the relationship to develop trusted partner relations services. 


[1]  (page 7 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[2]  (page 2 – Draft NSDI –Strategic Plan 2014-2016 V2)

[3]  (page 28 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[4]  (page 11 – Ibid )

[5]  (page 9 – Ibid)

[6]  (page 26 – Ibid)

[7]  (page 4 – Ibid)

[8]  (page 6 – Ibid)

[9]  (page 2 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[10]  (DOI Geospatial Services Blueprint – 2007)

[11]  (page 13 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[12]  (Appendix A – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[13]  (Page 12 – OMB Circular A-16 Supplemental Guidance)

[14]  (page 12 – Geospatial –Platform-Business-Plan-Redacted-Final)

[15]  (page 36 – Ibid)

[16]  (ITSM – Service Operations V3.0)

[17]  (page 26 – Ibid) 


Xentity Hosting Geo Colorado Meetup

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A Geo Colorado Meetup is scheduled for this Thursday 8/8 at 7PM in Golden near Colo Mills/NREL at Xentity Headquarters. 

The Geo CO group – http://www.meetup.com/Geo-CO/ – formed in early 2012 with a goal of:
This is a meetup group for those in the Colorado area who like maps, GIS, OpenStreetMap, cartography, shapefiles, cartodb, tilemill, and anything in between. Based on the idea to help connect each other for learning and socializing about mapping, software, projects, datasets, biodiversity and anything else that sounds related.
Meet some other folks and hear what interesting projects, tech, problems they are working on. 
Invite others, more the merrier. If you aren’t available, but think of others that may be, feel free to pass this on.

How can we help geoscience to move their data to shared services

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Most data that is generated out of science is not intended to be used on broader scale problems outside of their own research or their own specific domain. Let’s stick with geoscience to check this ‘hypothesis’ out and check on the ‘so what?’ factor.

Current grant and programmatic funding models are not designed to develop shared services or interoperable data for the geosciences.  There are few true shared services that are managed and extended to the community as products and services should be. “We broadly estimate that 20% of users of a dataset might be experts in the field for which it was created, while 80% might be others.” There is currently limited to no incentive for most geoscientists to think beyond immediate needs. “The culture of collaborative Science is just being established.”  Finally, there is no current clear way to build and sustain the large and diverse geosciences community.

The key we believe starts not with the tech, the money, the management, the govnernance, but with stakeholder alignment which can be “the extent to which interdependent stakeholder orient and connect with one another to advance their separate and shared interests”. 

The Geoscientist community – Big Head and Long Tail. Geoscientists with affiliated government institutions, academic and international partners. Data Scientists, Data and Information Stewards, Curators and Administrators (content and metadata), Data Product and Service Managers , Citizen Earth Science participants, Emerging Geoscientists found in the STEM community – (K-12)

Additionally, the supply chain roles from:

  • Data and Information Suppliers – NSF funded centers and systems.  Programmatic producers of geoscience related data and information – i.e. Earth Observation systems like Landsat or MODIS or specialized information systems that produce value added products like NAWQA. Indonesia NSDI, DOI Authoritative data sources and services
  • Cyber Infrastructure community/Development Collaborators – Basic and Applied Research and Development, Software and System Engineers, Data Manager and Analysts
  • Infrastructure  Management /Collaborators – IT Service Management (ITSM) – Managers and Operators of the shared infrastructure and key software services in industry, commercial, government, Research, and Cost-Sharing FFRDCs
  • Consumers reached out to via end user workshops., Public Policy, Regulatory, Legal and Administrative Analysts, Private Sector , Academia (non-participating state), Other science disciplines
  • Executive Sponsorship and Geoscience Various and Cross-Cutting Governance Community too numerous to get into in this blog at least

The stakeholder themes we have seen in data are generally the same. 

These challenge echoes the organizing themes of the Xentity supported developing 7-years ago for DOI Geospatial Services Architecture:

  • “I know the information exists, but I can’t find it or access it conveniently”, has its analog in “Considerable difficulties exist in finding and accessing data that already exists” 
  • “I don’t know who else I could be working with or who has the same needs”, has its analog in “Duplication of efforts across directorates and disciplines, disconnect between data and science; data graveyard –useless collection of data…”
  • “If I can find it, can I trust it?”, has its analog in “There is a need to evaluate consistency /accuracy of existing data. 

A start on this, to jump into boring consulting theory, is to Develop a clear line of sight to address stakeholder needs and community objectives. 

This ensures the analysis engages all the necessary dimensions and relationships within the architecture. Without a strategy like this, good solutions, business or technical, often suffer from lack of adoption or have unintended consequences and introduce unwanted constraints. The reason for this is the lack of alignment. Technology innovators tend not to share the same view of what is beneficial nor does the Geoscientist who is accustomed to enabling a single or small set of technology directives.

How does one create the shared enterprise view? Using the Line of Sight, our approach at least to architecture transformation and analysis creates the framework and operating model. It connects business drivers, objectives, stakeholders, products and services, data assets, systems, models, services, components and technologies.  Once the linkages have been established, the team will create the conceptual design using 40-50 geoscience domain investment areas. This will effectively describe the capabilities of the existing IT portfolio.  The architecture and the portfolio will be designed to support governance, future transition planning.

Sample Ecosystem Edge Analysis

Human Edges (adaptive systems)

Data and Information Edges

Computing and Infrastructure Edges

Citizen scientists/ STEM and Professional scientists

Data Supply and Information Product/Services

Centralization and federation of computing infrastructure

Geoscience as consumer and producer of data and information

Possessing the data and access the data

Commodity Computing vs. Analytical Computing

Individual science and collaborative science

Macro Scale data  vs. Micro Scale data

Mission driven systems and shared services access

Science Ideation: Piecemeal or segmented vs. holistic

Five data dimensions – spatial (x,y,z), temporal and scale

Domain Systems vs. Interoperability Frameworks

Individual vs. Collective Impact and credit

Authoritative sources vs. free for all data

Systems vs. Managed Services

Governance rigidity and flexibility

Data and models vs. Product

Big Head and Systematic Data Collection, vs. project components

Earth Science and Cyber-infrastructure and Engineering

Long Tail vs.  Big Head Data

 

The Line of Sight allows for exploring the complexities of geoscientist “ecosystem edges” and architect for greater interaction and production in the geosciences.   Those in the “Long Tail” encounter the same cross domain access, interoperability, management barriers as the “Big Head”. Neither have the incentive to develop common enabling data interoperability services, scalable incentive solutions, common planning approaches or increase the participation of the earth science community. Xentity’s believes architecture is an enabling design service.  It is used to empower the user community with the tools to expand its capacities. In this case, Xentity will provide the operating model and architecture framework in a conceptual design to bring together the currently unattended edges.  In the long run, the models will provide the emerging governance system the tools to develop investments strategies for new and legacy capabilities.

The Broader Impact

At its core, we believe the geoscience integration challenge is to exploit the benefits and possibilities of the current and future geoscience “ecosystems edge effect”.  In the ecosystem metaphor, the conceptual design approach will target the boundary zones lying between the habitats of the various geoscience disciplines and systems.   What is needed is an operating model, architectural framework and governance system that can understand the complexities of a geoscientist shared environment and successfully induce the “edge effect”.  It needs to balance the well performing aspects of the existing ecosystem with new edges to generate greater dynamism and diversification for all geosciences. 

An Operating Model example: Collaborative geoscience planning could make a good demonstration case for the benefits of the “edge effect”.  A lot of science efforts are driven by large scale programs or individual research groups who have very little knowledge of who else may be working in the same environmental zones, geographies or even on related topics.  A shared planning service could put disparate projects into known time, location and subject contexts and accelerate cross domain project resource savings and develop the resulting interdisciplinary cross pollination required to understand the earth’s systems.  An Enterprise geoscience initiative could provide a marketplace for geoscientist to shop around for collaborative opportunities.  The plans can be exposed in a market place to other resources like citizen scientists or STEM institutions.  The work can be decomposed so that environments like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk can post, track and monitor, distributed tasks.

By recognizing these edges, the architecture will create greater value or energy from the disciplines and improve the creativity, strength and diversity of ideas, and mitigate disruption.  The ecosystem-like design that balances the Big Head with the Long Tail will enable more cost effective geoscience projects and create a higher return on IT investments while collapsing the time to conduct quality impactful science. Most importantly, this will accelerate the realization of the sciences’ impact on other dependent scientific initiatives or time to develop and implement policy.  Xentity sees the potential to use this and other “ecosystem edges” to transform how geoscience is currently conducted. 

Xentity believes a geoscientist, emerging (STEM) or emeritus would be willing to participate in cross-cutting, shared service model based on how well these edges are architected and governed.  If designed and operated effectively, the edges will create an environment that will address the two key barriers to adoption: trust and value.  In essence, we see the scientists as consumers and producers.

  • As consumers of data, information and knowledge products and technology services, they are continuously looking to create more knowledge and contribute to social benefit. 
  • As producers they contribute data, information and knowledge back into their colleagues’ knowledge processes.  

In fact, the predominant challenge for such an approach is that the share-service will be develoepd by the community who themselves are a consumer. Just like any other consumer, they will have expectations when they purchase or use a product or a service.  If one cannot uphold the terms and conditions of product quality or a service agreement; you lose the consumer. So, how does the architecture ensure these “edges” develop and evolve?  It must ensure:

How to earn Geoscientists’ Trust

The scientists need to know that they will have highly reliable technical services and authoritative data that are available and perform well when they request them.  Most importantly, they will need to influence and control who and how they conduct the work within the shared environment. They need to ensure the quality of the science and appropriate credit.

How to demonstrate the value to the Geoscientist:

The scientists need the provider to correct products or services that will eliminate the most significant barriers and constraints to doing more and higher quality science – research, analysis and experimentation – with less effort.

In the short term, the shared service challenge is to earn the scientists trust and identify the optimal suite of products and services to provision value from the “community resources” as defined in Layered Architecture. For land elevation products up to 80% of the requests are for standardized products. If done correctly, the governance system, operating model and architecture framework will develop the trust and value recognition from the shared community.  In the longer term, the models and framework will guide the redirection of its limited resources towards an interoperable set of systems, processes and data.

Great, but even if we create this, how do we fund? 

See the next part on “Will geoscience go for a shared service environment” which discusses ways to address funding, ways to engage, encourage, enable, and support execution of these enterprise capabilities for geoscientists.