Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Public Sector Coverage

  1. Your Coding Crash Course: Esri to Host First Developer Summit at Federal GIS Conference
  2. Tailor-Made: How GIS is Powering Innovation for Global Aid
  3. Clarity from Complexity: GIS Delivers for Transportation Leaders
  4. An Untold Story: How GIS is Transforming Federal Health Programs
  5. Putting the Where in Social Analytics: How Location Analytics and Social Media is Transforming Government
  6. Safe and Secure: How GIS Has Revolutionized Our National Security Efforts
  7. Protecting and Preserving Our Natural Resources With GIS
  8. Have You Seen the Top 5 Esri Story Maps?
  9. It’s Finally Here: The Citizen Engagement Tool Congress Has Been Waiting For
  10. How GIS and Maps Improve Public Discourse
  11. The Power of Storytelling and Map Making
  12. The Transformative Power of GIS – Your GIS Cheat Sheet
  13. 5 Ways to Build Your GIS Business Case
  14. 3 Ways GIS is Powering Civic Engagement Initiatives
  15. GovLoop Guide – The Mapping Revolution: Incorporating Geographic Information Systems in Government
  16. Celebrating 50 Years of Zip Codes through Story Maps
  17. Your GIS Research Hub: 10 GovLoop Resources
  18. California Supreme Court Rules GIS Files Should Be Publicly Accessible
  19. Gamification and GIS Case Study – Esri UC
  20. 3 Lessons Learned on Location Analytics and GIS
  21. Esri User Conference – Wednesday Wrap Up
  22. How GIS Can Help Child Placement for Foster Care
  23. GIS in the Trenches – Local Government Case Studies
  24. How GIS Can Be Used for Humanitarian Aid – Case Study from Direct Relief
  25. TED Founder Richard Saul Wurman’s Latest Project: The Urban Observatory
  26. Esri Plenary In Review: 7 Emerging Themes for GIS Professionals
  27. Jack Dangermond Opening Statements – GIS: Transforming Our World
  28. Esri UC – Plenary Session Agenda
  29. Understanding the Potential of Big Data and GIS
  30. Interactive Infographic: Exploring the Power of GIS for Facilities Management
  31. 3 Ways to Make Compelling Maps
  32. GovLoop & Esri Meet Up In Review: Story Maps
  33. How GIS Can Help Organizations Manage Facilities
  34. 5 Benefits of Leveraging ECM and GIS Technology
  35. How Citizen Engagement Can Be Improved Through Mobile GIS
  36. How Big Data and Location Analytics are Impacting GIS for Government
  37. Exploring How GIS Can Be Used to Manage Facilities and Plan Campuses
  38. 3 Benefits of Location Analytics for the Public Sector
  39. ArcGIS as a Platform: An Interview with Esri President – Jack Dangermond
  40. How GIS Shaped the Public Sector in 2012
  41. Survey Provides Insights to Future of GIS Technology for Government – Mobile, Cloud, Awareness
  42. Taking the Deep Dive – Exploring Our Oceans with GIS
  43. What is Your Greatest GIS Challenge?
  44. Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government: Emergency Management
  45. New GovLoop Report: Identifying the Promise of GIS for Government
  46. GIS – Not Just for Programmers or Tech Savvy
  47. Announcing: GovLoop State of Government Communications Report
  48. Using GIS During an Emergency
  49. Top 10 Benefits of GIS Technology
  50. ESRI Federal User Conference Recap: Plenary Session
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Creating A Modern Workplace Environment: The Unified Workspace

Originally Posted on GovLoop
 

In today’s digital landscape, leaders are looking to technology solutions to enable an increasingly mobile workforce and to create an environment that allows employees to work anywhere, anytime and on any device. Recently, I spoke with Michael Rau, Vice President and CTO, Borderless Network Architecture at Cisco. Michael Rau’s expert insights identifies that the unified workspace is a solution to meet the complex demands of the public sector workforce.

The unified workspace allows agencies to meet the complex demands of the workforce. As Michael Rau identifies, “There are fundamentally five big attributes to the unified workspace, it’s any device, any operating system, any expert, any location, any application. A unified workspace creates that environment.” In this report, Rau illustrates how a unified workspace creates a modern office environment. According to Rau, a unified workspace has become a strategic imperative for government to meet the complex demands of the public sector workforce.

As agencies are challenged to modernize and securely transform into a 21st century government, technology serves as a way to facilitate and expedite the required changes. Technology is redefining and transforming the modern workplace. Increasingly, IT departments are challenged to facilitate a secure and modern work environment that allows employees to work where, when, and how they desire. The unified workspace allows agencies to adopt a philosophy of “bring your own everything (BYOE).” Regardless if employees use personal laptops, tablets or smartphones, the BYOE approach allows employees to work on the device they desire at any location, any time.

Read the Report Here

 

How to Avoid Hidden Costs of the Cloud

Originally Posted on GovLoop 

Agencies have been looking at cloud computing as a way to reduce waste, increase efficiency and cut cost. The benefits of the cloud are clear, as proper cloud adoption can assist agencies to increase software capacity, increase staffing capacity, improve collaboration and become more agile. For many, the cloud presents dozens of benefits to help agencies serve their most critical mission objectives. Yet, the cloud does come with a host of implementation and security challenges. Although the cloud certainly can deliver on benefits, agencies must be sure that technology is implemented properly to deliver on the promises of cloud technology.

In a recent report by Symantec, Avoiding the Hidden Costs of Cloud 2013 Survey, the findings show that in some cases, organizations have moved to the cloud too quickly, neglecting to take proper steps to implement cloud technology. If the impact of migrating to the cloud is not fully understood, agencies may face a host of new and complex challenges within the cloud – not fully benefitting what the cloud offers. Undoubtedly, the cloud will continue to be imperative to transform the way government operates, but like all emerging technologies, agencies cannot rush to adopt cloud technology. The report found five hidden costs of cloud adoption:

  • Rogue Cloud Implementations
  • Cloud Back Up and Recovery
  • Inefficient Cloud Storage
  • Compliance and eDiscovery
  • SSL Certificate Management

Two trends in particular that are important considerations for government are rogue cloud implementations and cloud back up and recovery.

Rogue Cloud Implementations

One of the interesting sections in the report identifies that rogue cloud deployments lead to increased costs and security risks, as sensitive data is being placed in the cloud absent management. An example would be sharing materials via an unauthorized Dropbox account. The report identified that for many, rogue cloud deployments were happening, and employees did not realize what they were doing was wrong.

Rogue cloud adoption indicates the need for IT departments to embrace emerging technologies. With tight restrictions to government information and data, IT departments cannot risk pushing people outside the walls of IT. This is true for cloud adoption, BYOD implementation, mobile apps and the various workplace productivity tools that are being implemented in government. Employees are looking to improve how they do their job, and are savvy enough to find tools without the formal assistance of IT departments. By embracing emerging technology, IT can provide the tools employees desire in a safe and secure workplace environment.

Cloud Back Up and Recovery

A second area of interest was cloud back up and recovery. For government, there is great importance in preserving and protecting data and information collected. The report states, “More than 40 percent have lost data in the cloud and have had to restore their information from backups (47 percent of enterprises and 37 percent of SMBs). Two-thirds of those organizations saw recovery operations fail.  Furthermore, recovering data from the cloud is slow. Just one-third [of those surveyed] rate cloud data recovery as fast. How slow? More than one-fifth estimates recovering from the cloud would take three days or longer.”

With the increasing amounts of volume, and the speed at which data is collected, any cloud adoption program must address data back up and security. This trend will only continue to grow in importance, as agencies move towards real-time analysis, complex algorithms and use predictive analytics to drive improved decision-making. The report concludes with some strategies to avoid hidden costs in cloud implementation:

  1. Focus policies on information and people, not technologies or platforms
  2. Educate, monitor and enforce policies
  3. Embrace tools that are platform agnostic
  4. Deduplicate data in the cloud

As the cloud continues to grow as an important way to improve the efficiency and productivity of government, agencies must understand the impacts of adopting the cloud in terms of culture and business process. Symantec’s lessons learned of policy, education, tool agnostic, and validating data is a great start to avoiding some common pitfalls of cloud adoption.

For the report, Symantec worked with ReRez Research to conduct a survey of business and IT executives in 3,246 organizations in 29 countries. The report also samples companies ranging from five to over 5,000 employees.

What is your greatest challenge with cloud computing? How can you avoid common pitfalls?

 

7 Ways To Improve Your Decision Making

Originally Posted on GovLoop

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the big decisions I’ve made in my life. Some choices have changed the course of my career and my life. While others, which felt so grave at the moment, have ultimately turned into minor blips on my radar.

When you are deeply invested in the operations of an organization, the challenge becomes that you need be sensitive and realize implications across your team. If you are completely dismissive or unaware of the impact of your actions and decisions, you run the risk of de-motivating your team, and failing to meet organizational goals or objectives. With our decisions and actions, we want to move our organizations forward to collaboratively see our organization achieve our mission and reach our goals.

This philosophy is not new and nothing we haven’t heard before. Yet, it is a reminder that no matter how large or small the decision, clarity while making a decision is essential. This does not mean we make decisions in a robotic fashion, calculated or absent emotions. In fact, the calmness and clarity of a leader to make a decision shows the ability to manage their emotions, and rationalize each decision. It’s a skill that we all strive for, and are constantly learning how to manage our emotions, and make the right decision for our organization. When articulating a position and explaining a decision, it’s not just taking into consideration hard facts, it’s acknowledging and empathizing with the very human element of decision making.

So how do we improve our decision making? Here are a few strategies I have used, based on my experiences and from what I’ve learned from mentors and peers:

Use Data
Using data always helps make an informed decision, and some ways takes the emotion out of a decision. Data allows you to clearly process trends, explain arguments and have a sound discussion with team members.

Process Information
Take some time to think through information, process data, and get a full view of an issue. For everyone, they have a different process to get there. Take the time to learn your individual process to understand and distill information. This will only help you confront an issue with clarity, and to make stronger decisions.

Visualize the Impact
Take a moment to think about the outcomes of the decision, what could possibly happen if I say X, what if I say Y? How will my team react? What’s going to happen to our organization? What are the implications? Is this a philosophical shift? Ask yourself the tough questions to understand the issue in its entirety, and really work to understand what’s the impact of your decision.

Do not let conversation erupt into a debate
If you are making a difficult decision that is emotionally charged, the conversation can quickly launch into a debate. Although this one is largely outside your control, do your best to remain calm and clearly articulate your position. If the conversation starts to get heated, allowing people to express emotion is not necessarily bad, but work hard to get the conversation back to a point in which it is constructive for all parties involved.

Practice reflective listening
Reflective listening is such a critical skill to develop. The ability to keenly listen, process opposing information and articulate a position back is an essential skill. Learn how to listen, practice listening, and really get to the bottom of an issue.

Align towards common goals – make sure you have a shared vision
Without a shared vision, any decision is going to continue to dissolve into the wrong conversation. Make sure that you and your team are aligned towards a shared goal, the same outcomes, and are looking at the right way to get there as a team.

Engage Core Stakeholders
It’s so important that prior to any decision that a leader talk through options and listen to the concerns of stakeholders. Only through this process will decision makers truly understand the issue from a variety of perspectives, and can make a well-informed decision. Good leaders may already know the answer or the perspective an employee will articulate, but taking the time to invest and listen is essential, it’s one of the many ways to build trust, empower employees, and work towards building positive relationships with your team.

The process of how arrive to a decision has large implications for an organization. Decision makers have the opportunity to build trust, show leadership and drive organizations forward by investing in the time to make the proper decision, and empower the team along the way.
What are some tips you can share? How do we make better decisions to move our organizations forward? 

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10 Parallels Between the US and UK Digital Government Strategy

Originally Posted on GovLoop

In November of last year, the UK Government released their Digital Government Strategy. As a lot of attention here in the states has been placed on the federal Digital Government Strategy I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the UK’s version, and find any lessons learned we could apply here in the states.

Like in the US, the UK’s digital government strategy was developed out of the need to accommodate a society increasingly dependent on technology. As technology continues to permeate deeper into our lives, we turn to the web to request services, pay bills, and interact with our government. This trend has led to many agencies developing new web strategies and allow citizens to perform more transactions through self-service platforms.

The UK strategy lays out 14 goals and milestones to improve technology in government. The website states, “The strategy contains 14 actions which we have tried to ensure are meaningful and measurable. We recognize that departments are often more different than they are alike, so their departmental digital strategies – due for publication in December – will set out how they will each deliver the actions in light of their own users and services.”

I really enjoyed the quote, and the leadership philosophy the UK has embraced. Similar to the US, the quote is the indication that UK leaders understand that part of leadership is setting the vision, articulating the goals and providing a road map, but letting the agency leads drive the car to the final destination.

The UK’s 14 goals can be found below, followed by some parallels I saw to the US strategy. Overall, both the US and UK are taking the right approach to improving technology in government, and fully leveraging emerging tools to transform and redefine the customer experience for citizens. Here’s the UK version:

  1. Ensure there is an active digital leader on departmental and transactional agency boards
  2. Empower skilled and experienced Service Managers to direct the redesign and operation of services
  3. Ensure that appropriate digital capability exists in-house across departments
  4. Support improved digital capability across departments
  5. Redesign services with over 100,000 transactions each year
  6. Ensure all new or redesigned transactional services meet the digital by default service standard from April 2014
  7. Move the publishing activities of central government departments onto GOV.UK by March 2013, with agency and arm’s length bodies’ to follow by March 2014
  8. Raise awareness of digital services so that more people know about, and use, them
  9. Take a cross-government approach to assisted digital, and help people who have rarely or never been online to access and use services
  10. Offer leaner and more lightweight tendering processes
  11. Lead in the definition and delivery of a suite of common technology platforms to underpin the new services
  12. Remove legislative barriers which unnecessarily prevent the development of straightforward and convenient digital services
  13. Define and supply consistent management information for transactional services
  14. Use digital tools and techniques to engage with and consult the public

The 14 goals are interesting to explore. What was clear about the UK Digital Strategy is that like the US, the strategy clearly articulates a shared vision of how government should operate and run. Also, like the US strategy, it places a large burden of implementation and meeting objectives in the hands of agency leaders. The final comment in my brief overview is that the UK strategy clearly establishes metrics, standards, and goals for agencies to strive for collectively, and individually.

This discussion will continue in a future GovLoop report. At GovLoop we are currently working on a new research report, exploring how agencies are implementing aspects of a digital government strategy, and how emerging technology trends are impact government at the state and local level. We also are going to compare the UK and the US digital strategy plans, with that; here is your chance to take part in the report. We’ll be releasing a survey soon, but feel free to leave a comment sharing your success with digital government. To get the conversation started, I’ve listed ten parallels between the US and UK Digital Government Strategy, and would love to hear some of your ideas.

  1. Lead from the top, empower the agency leaders
  2. Set realistic expectations for agencies
  3. Give people the tools and resources they need to excel
  4. Accept trends happening in society, place trends into proper context to maximize benefits for government
  5. Expectations are higher now for government, and less room for error – use this to motivate and serve as a catalyst for change in government
  6. Set clear, measurable goals for agencies
  7. Importance of defining and engaging stakeholders (internal/external customers, citizens)
  8. Move to self-service for cost savings, efficiency
  9. Make technology and innovation part of an agency’s ethos
  10. Provide a clear vision to re-imagine and modernize government services

I’d love to hear any parallels you’ve identified, and thoughts on my 10 listed above. If you’re interested in learning more about our report, please feel free to send me an email, pat@govloop.com.

5 Questions to Ask for Analytics Initiatives

Originally posted on GovLoop

Undoubtedly, analytics is transforming the way government operates and delivers services to customers. At all levels of government, agencies are now challenged to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and implement innovative measures to meet the complex needs of an agency. Yet, government analytics still continues to mystify and challenge the public sector, as agencies are pressed to understand the value and leverage the opportunity which analytics presents.

Whether it is challenges to leadership, identifying value, or understand costs, agencies today are exploring how to understand how to truly leverage the power of analytics. As many government websites are becoming increasingly transactional and services move to self-service platforms, it’s becoming clear that with the volume of data that government collects, creates, stores and manages, can be used to transform how services are delivered. For government leaders looking to implement an analytics program, five basic questions come to mind to assist in the decision making process:

– Do employees have access to the right information?
– What problem are is trying to be solved? Or what service is needs improvement?
– How do agencies connect the dots and access other data?
– What new value has been created for customers? What’s the ROI?
– How do we show leadership and change culture with data?

Although these questions are important, one of the first steps to unlocking the power of analytics is basic data discovery to know what format data is, how to access data, verifying authenticity and beginning to baseline information. As data can be structured (relational database), semi-structured (think XML and email ) and unstructured (not predefined, doesn’t fit well into relational databases), it is important to know and learn what kind of format data is in, to start to unlock the power of analytics.

Clearly, there are dozens of questions an IT manager can ask, and GovLoop would love to learn some more of your insights to data analytics in our upcoming report. Be sure to take our survey and help us create a community based resource to help your peers address core challenges with government analytics, and how to fully leverage the volume of data agencies currently have.

Do we have access to the right information?

Understanding where data rests, the format of the data and who has access is essential to any analytics initiative. Once the decision is made to invest in an analytics strategy, agencies must locate and be sure they are actually collecting the right data to solve an organizational problem. For instance, if an agency is going to start recruiting employees due to members of the workforce retiring, agencies need to locate data that shows them retirement trends, expected retirement dates, and the start to craft their strategy around available information, or survey and collect the right information.

What problem are we trying to solve? Or what service are we trying to fix?

With the large volume of data that is created and stored, agencies must take a laser-like focus to solving problems with data use. If the end goal is to increase self-service through a new online portal, goals and metrics should be defined that clearly map to the over arching goal.

How do we connect the dots and access other data?

Once data is collected, stored and understood, it is important that information is shared, securely and safely. If information is confidential or sensitive information, then this information likely should not be shared. But, if information is not very confidential, like web information or page visits, then information should be shared to peers to help them see impact of any program they are running.

What new value has been created for customers? What’s the ROI?

A great case study of using customer insights and data to improve government services comes from the City of Santa Cruz. Emily Jarvis, GovLoop’s Online Producer shared the story on the DorobekINSIDER, you can check out the story by following the links below, Emily writes:

The City of Santa Cruz is the smallest community to ever partner with Code for America, but it had one of the largest problems to solve: how to make it easier to take an idea for a small business from conception to reality.

They created an online permitting portal OpenCounter. The portal launched last Wednesday January 9, after an intense year of development, testing, and refinement.

This question is also particularly important, because it will indicate how data has improved a service. With clear metrics set, and a thorough analysis of data, agencies can calculate their return on investment for analytics.

How do we show leadership and change culture with data?

Recently GovLoop’s Research Fellow, Kate Long, wrote a great post identifying that leadership as a missing piece to analytics. Be sure to check out her post, as she does a great job outlining some of the challenges to leadership and analytics. For those leading government analytics programs, it is essential to continue to craft a culture of openness, placing a strong emphasis on program effectiveness, supporting employees needs for technology and leading by example.

Starting, implementing, reforming or ending a program in government is no easy task, but the right decision can be made by sound data analysis. As government continues to develop more data and becomes increasingly complex, analytics is going to play an essential role in transforming how government operates.

What would you recommend to your peers? How can they get started with analytics? What questions should they be asking?

Expert Insights: David Graziano of Cisco Talks BYOD

This post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent report, Exploring Bring Your Own Device in the Public Sector.

David Graziano, Director, Security and Unified Access, US Public Sector, Cisco, spoke with Pat Fiorenza of GovLoop on the state of BYOD in the public sector. David provided expert insights on how to best manage, control and implement a BYOD program for a public sector agency.

This guide addressed numerous best practices and ways to overcome common challenges for public sector agencies looking to implement BYOD initiatives. Graziano’s in- sights provide further evidence that although challenges still remain for BYOD, this is one of the most important trends occurring in government. During the interview, David was clear to highlight the benefits of BYOD, from optimizing business lines to workforce productivity and morale, BYOD clearly has the potential to transform how agencies operate. Although the benefits are clear, there are numerous best practices that David highlighted for agencies to consider.

He advised that agencies must start by embracing BYOD, and accept that BYOD is a trend that they must act upon, “Embracing BYOD is really important, because if they don’t, then the agency is actually moving away from technology rather than leveraging it to achieve their mission,” states Graziano.

Embracing BYOD is essential. BYOD initiatives show a commit- ment to becoming an innovative workplace and allowing people to work on the platform they desire. “If you embrace BYOD and make it very easy for people to get on the network and enforce policies to protect data, that is the best thing,” David keenly acknowledges. Once BYOD is embraced by agencies, he advises that it is essential that the organization create a simple user experience. David states:

“You need to create a simple user experience. This involves guest ac- cess and on-boarding, this means potentially allowing people access who do not work for you and limit- ing information they can access. If it is an employee, it is simple onboard- ing, managing the user experience of getting on the network, establishing and confirming their identity and authenticate who they are and their device, just making this a very smooth process.”

Clearly, the intent is not to limit ac- cess or have challenges connecting to a respective network. Although bringing in a tablet for work use can aid in productivity, David is sure to address the importance of setting policy to protect government data.

Graziano advises that the right kind of policy needs to be developed, and that if necessary, the agency has the right to delete all data on the tablet. Further, David advises the use of Next Generation Encryption in any BYOD initiative. Cara Sioman recently described Next Generation Encryption in a Cisco blog post as:

“The next generation of encryption technologies meets the evolving needs of agencies and enterprises by utilizing modern, but well reviewed and tested cryptographic algorithms and protocols. As an ex- ample, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) is used in place of the more traditional Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) algorithms. By upgrading these algorithms, NGE cryptography pre- vents hackers from having a single low-point in the system to exploit and efficiently scales to high data rates, while providing all of the security of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher.”

Security and protecting government data is the preeminent concern for any BYOD initiative, with the use of Next Generation Encryption, agencies can work to remain safe, and still implement a successful BYOD initiative.

David highlighted four core challenges for BYOD, the loss of control, protecting government data, limited access, and changing work practices for new employees. The loss of control is absolutely one of the most critical concerns with BYOD.

Graziano states, “Typically loss of control is related to policy, if you are going to let these things on your network, how do you possibly control where they are allowed to go, and what they are allowed to do?” These are important considerations to make while crafting a BYOD policy, and as David mentioned, the importance of a well-crafted policy is essential to the success of any government BYOD initiative.

Closely linked to the challenge of a loss of control, is the need to protect government data. David states, “If you are going to allow people access to data and in theory they could pull it down, you run the risk of losing that government data.”

Additionally, Graziano advises that policies will differ for government furnished devices and personal de- vices. “If the devices are government furnished, you can establish one set of policies, and if it is literally BYOD, then you have to establish a different set of policies for that,” stated David. Beyond operational and efficiency gains, BYOD also may contribute to tackling the challenges to recruit and retain top talent in government.

BYOD has the potential to shape how government entities recruit the next generation of public servants. BYOD is becoming a necessity for recruitment, as a new demographic of employees enter the workforce; entrants have expectations that information will be available at their fingertips. “They have expectations that they are gong to be able to access information on any device, any time anywhere,” David states.

David provided some great insights on BYOD and how it is shaping public sector entities. As the mobile boom continues, and agencies work towards delivering improved services, BYOD initiatives will be critical to improve how government operates.

David provided great insights how BYOD is shaping the public sector. As the mobile boom continues, and agencies work towards delivering improved services, BYOD initiatives will play a critical role trans- forming government operations and service delivery.

This is a practical and useful report for government agencies considering BYOD at their agency. The report will guide you through the challenges and common roadblocks faced by your peers in government, helping you to consider all the numerous aspects of BYOD and encouraging you to think of the challenges within your agency, and implementing some of the lessons learned from the report. As always, we want to hear from you, your challenges, and best practices you have found.

GAO Releases Report Providing Best Practices for Agile Development

Originally Posted on GovLoop 

The hope of any IT investment by government is to improve the operational efficiency and performance to meet public demand. With increasing interactions between citizens and government through technology, limited resources and increased project scrutiny, there is little room for making a poor and ineffective IT investment.

Agile development has subsequently been pursued by many agencies  as a technique to develop improved software, avoid multi-year projects and deliver improved services to constituents. The hope through agile development is that software will be developed with an emphasis on close knit collaboration across teams, small iterations on projects to improve functionality. GAO recently announced a report, “Effective Practices and Federal Challenges in Applying Agile Methods,” the report was an interesting read, and provides some great insights on agile software development for the federal government. The report states:

GAO identified 32 practices and approaches as effective for applying Agile software development methods to IT projects. The practices generally align with five key software development project management activities: strategic planning, organizational commitment and collaboration, preparation, execution, and evaluation. Officials who have used Agile methods on federal projects generally agreed that these practices are effective. Specifically, each practice was used and found effective by officials from at least one agency, and ten practices were used and found effective by officials from all five agencies. The ten practices are
                               

  1. Start with Agile guidance and an Agile adoption strategy.  
  2. Enhance migration to Agile concepts using Agile terms, such as user stories (used to convey requirements), and Agile examples, such as demonstrating how to write a user story.
  3. Continuously improve Agile adoption at both the project level and organization level.
  4. Seek to identify and address impediments at the organization and project levels.
  5. Obtain stakeholder/customer feedback frequently.
  6. Empower small, cross-functional teams.
  7. Include requirements related to security and progress monitoring in your queue of unfinished work (the backlog).         
  8. Gain trust by demonstrating value at the end of each iteration.      
  9. Track progress using tools and metrics.
  10. Track progress daily and visibly. 

The ten practices are essential to implementing agile in government. Number three, in particular struck me as extremely important, Continuously improve Agile adoption at both the project level and organization level. For anything to work, at any organization, there needs to be buy-in across the entire agency. If senior level management are calling for changes to adopt agile development, but are not engaging in agile themselves, or are having trouble implementing themselves, red flags go up and employees pick up. Changing structures that have may have been institutionalized for decades is by no means an easy task, so actions are important, and setting the right examples. The report also identified 14 challenges to implement agile development. The report states:

“We identified 14 challenges with adapting to and applying Agile in the federal environment based on an analysis of experiences collected from five federal agencies that had applied Agile to a development effort. These challenges relate to significant differences in not only how software is developed but also how projects are managed in an Agile development environment versus a waterfall development environment. We aligned the challenges with four of the project management activities used to organize effective practices: (1) ensuring organizational commitment and collaboration, (2) preparing for Agile, (3) executing development in an Agile environment, and (4) evaluating the product and project. In addition to identifying challenges, federal officials described efforts underway at their agencies to address these challenges.”

As with any one project or program, there are varying solutions, opportunities and resources to explore. Agile development may be another way for organizations to solve some of their most pressing needs. I’d highly encourage agencies to take a look at the report, as it provides a solid overview of agile, and how to potentially implement within your agency.

Customer Service In Focus: New York City

Originally posted on GovLoop

This week GovLoop has been celebrating National Customer Service week. The following is an excerpt from the GovLoop Report, Re-Imagining Customer Service in Government. This is a fantastic interview with Francisco Navarro, Customer Service Policy Advisor, New York City. Francisco shared some fascinating insights, and provides some great insights for customer service officials in government.

In Focus: New York City

As part of our research study, GovLoop sought to interview not only federal agency leads, but also those involved in customer service at the local level. Francisco Navarro, Customer Service Policy Advisor, New York City, agreed to sit down with us and talk through his role as Customer Service Policy Advisor. In a city as large as New York City, providing great customer service is no easy task. Navarro listed his core responsibilities as:

  • Coordinate participation of thirty agencies in New York City’s Customer Service Week,
  • Edit, publish and distribute a quarterly customer service newsletter,
  • Oversee the Citywide Excellence in Customer Service Awards,
  • Provide guidance and leadership for citywide walk-in center inspections,
  • Provide plain language edits for rules issued by City agencies,
  • Market and help oversee Customer Service Certificate Program, and
  • Provide input, guidance, and analysis for other customer service related programs and projects.

Undoubtedly, Navarrro has his hands full to provide a great customer experience in New York City. Navarro described the City of New York customers: “Our customers are anyone who lives in, works in or visits New York City.”  Navarro highlighted dozens of initiatives that the City of New York has undertaken to improve customer service in government. One initiative that is unique to New York is how the City conducts citywide inspections of walk in facilities; this initiative is called Customers Observing and Reporting Experiences (CORE). Navarro stated, “I believe our City is unique in conducting citywide inspections of walk-in facilities via the CORE program. Our inspectors visit approximately 300 walk-in centers at 28 different agencies located throughout the City’s five boroughs, and observe and rate facility conditions and customer service.  Inspectors visit sites that provide a wide range of services, from handgun licensing, to income support to payment of parking tickets. “

Navarro explained further how CORE works, “Inspectors rate both facility conditions and customer service interactions.  Agency CORE overall results are available in each agency’s Agency Customer Service section of the Mayor’s Management Report, the MMR: (The main entry page to the MMR is here).” Other interesting initiatives from the City of New York include:

  • Establishment of Customer Service Liaisons
  • Establishment of Language Access Coordinators
  • 311 iPhone Application
  • Business Customer Bill of Rights
  • Walk-in Center Inspections (CORE – Customers Observing and Reporting Experience)
  • Customer Service Week
  • Customer Service Certificate Program (Customer service training, Plain language training, Cultural sensitivity training)
  • Excellence in Customer Service Awards
  • Language Access Policy
  • NYC Certified – Program to Certify City Volunteers to Translate and Interpret
  • NYC Customer Service Newsletter
  • NYC Feedback Comment Cards
  • NYC.gov Language Gateway – multilingual web portal
  • Mayor’s Management Report Customer Service Indicators
  • Volunteer Language Bank
  • 311 Service Request Map

The CORE program is a great example of a successful customer service initiative. Navarro defined a successful customer service initiative as, “A successful customer service initiative is one that has tangible positive outcomes that last over time.” Navarro then credited the CORE program for this success, stating, “The CORE inspection program has resulted in improvements in the conditions at walk-in centers.  Also, City agency staff looks forward to Customer Service Week and the Excellence in Customer Service Awards that are given during that week.  This week has become a highlight for many agencies and their staff.”

With great customer service initiatives like CORE, there are a lot of positive outcomes. Navarro believed that by providing great customer service, trust in government improves. “The most important outcome of good customer service is building trust in government.  Too many customers have the attitude that “the City just wants the revenue”, or “you can’t fight City Hall.”  When customers are treated fairly and with dignity, and when they understand why a certain decision is made or an outcome required, and that ultimately decisions and policies are made with some greater good in mind – public health and safety, a healthy environment, educational attainment, then customers will develop respect and trust for the staff and the government it represents,” said Navarro.

One requirement that distinguishes New York City’s customer service approach is that NYC requires all agencies to survey customers at least once a year. Navarro stated, “We do require that all agencies survey their customers at least once a year and report the total number of customers surveyed.  Agencies now report on their surveying activities via the Citywide Performance System.  (The results can be foundhere.)”

Navarro provided numerous examples how NYC uses data to improve customer service, and how NYC has worked to identify and measure their customer service initiatives. Navarro stated, “In June 2008 the City conducted a comprehensive feedback survey using data gathered from surveys sent to 100,000 randomly selected households.” Further, Navarro identified, “In 2009 our office created the NYC Feedback form, a small card with five customer service questions.  Agencies are encouraged but not mandated to have these cards in their walk-in centers.”

In addition to surveys, New York City has also set a standard of response to customers to 14 calendar days. Navarro stated, “The standard for response to written correspondence is 14 calendar days.  The expected response time for certain types of conditions sent by phone, text, iPhone or online to 311 vary by condition reported or complained about.  For example, the Department of Buildings has three categories of seriousness of complaints with varying levels of expected response times.”

New York City is also using feedback from customers to help enable policy change. Navarro provided the following example and insights as to how feedback from customer service initiatives is used, “Feedback from customers, where possible and appropriate, is used to make process and policy changes.  For example, in response to a customer survey the Department of Transportation modified hours of operation and enabled cell phone service at one of their facilities.”

Although New York City excels in providing customer service, there are still challenges. Similar to our survey results, Navarro cited that resources, budgets and time are the main barriers, “The two probably most obvious barriers are resources (people and money) and time.  There is also the organizational cultural resistance to change,” stated Francisco.

Even with these barriers, Navarro was able to provide some solutions to removing roadblocks and delivering great customer service. Navarro noted, “The most important element in overcoming barriers is the need for executive support.  In our case Mayor Bloomberg is a champion of customer service in government who created the 311 customer service center and who signed an executive order compelling agencies to assign a liaison and make customer service an explicit priority.”

Navarro continued by asserting, “Without adding new resources, another barrier to overcome are the barriers of time and money to prioritize projects.  You also need to make sure that those prioritized projects are adding real value in some way. To overcome resistance to change, customer service needs to be sold as something that benefits both customers and staff.  Further, those overseeing change need to make sure that they can provide guidance and support.”

Technology clearly plays a critical role in enabling customer service. Navarro stated, “Technology is an enabler of customer service goals, a means to an end.  For example, we developed a phone app that allows customers to report conditions like graffiti and dirty vacant lots via their iPhones.  They can send pictures and text descriptions.  This allows agencies to more firmly document conditions and to respond more effectively.”

Navarro also mentioned that new media is at the forefront of enabling improved customer service in New York City, along with training, resources and technology. He stated, “Training, resources and technology are the enablers of customer service improvements.  Today, new media is at the forefront of enabling these improvements via phone apps, social media networks, and online services.”

New York City is a great case study for government to analyze for customer service. Navarro shared some of his best practices and lessons learned from his work in New York City, “A major factor in our success has been having the support from the top.  In our case it comes from Mayor Bloomberg himself.  In addition, establishing reporting requirements to track customer service indicators, as we do in the Mayor’s Management Report and online through our Citywide Performance Reporting (CPR) system, reinforces the commitment to customer service.”

Finally, Navarro advised to be persistent, and incorporate a culture of service within your agency, stating, “You need to be persistent and create an environment that sends the message that customer service is a permanent component of service, that it is not a “flavor of the month” or a temporary morale booster. This is accomplished by establishing various programs, especially training and recognition, and communicating the customer service message as many times and as many ways as possible.” NYC has made great strides in the way in which they deliver customer service. By offering a variety of services through multiple channels and using data to drive improved services, New York City has a great customer service model for government to replicate.

GAO Releases Report on Status of E-Government Act

GAO Releases Report on Status of E-Government Act

Originally Posted on GovLoop 

Earlier this month, GAO released a report highlighting progress on the E-Government Act. The report provides on some insights about the history of the E-Government Act, and some useful information for agencies going forward. The E-Government Act was signed into law in 2002, with the intentions of making information more accessible for citizens on the web. While reading the report, much of it sounded like the Obama Memorandum in 2009, for government to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative.  The GAO report states, The basic goals of the act are to use e-government to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of government service.” In many respects, the underlying philosophies of the E-Government Act and President Obama’s Memorandum are quite similar.

The report further asserts:

Almost a decade has passed since the enactment of the Electronic Government Act (E-Gov Act) of 2002.1 The major purposes of the act include promoting the use of the Internet and emerging technologies to provide citizens with government information and services, improving decision making by policy makers, and making the government more transparent and accountable. Toward these ends, the act established the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to oversee the implementation of its provisions, and mandated specific actions for federal agencies to take, such as improving public access to agency information and allowing for electronic access to rulemaking proceedings.

The report from GAO is especially informative in providing the background of the E-Government Act. I’ve noticed this in most GAO reports, the background context is typically extensive, and provides great context for the report. For people researching, or trying to learn more about a given topic, this is usually great information. Being generally interested, here are some bullet points from the background section of the report:  

  • Prior to the E-Gov Act, federal agencies key mandate for management of information and technology included the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 and the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996.
  • Interestingly, as early as May 2000, the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs created a website to collect comments from the public to learn how to improve government via the web.
  • The report states, “In 2001, the chair of the committee introduced legislation requiring a variety of e-government initiatives, which ultimately became the E-Gov Act. In the same time period, OMB began working on an e-government strategy, primarily through its Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and through the activities of the Associate Director for Information Technology and E-Government.”
  • The report identified that the first E-Government strategy was created in February 2002, “aimed at improving the quality of services to citizens, businesses, governments, and government employees, as well as the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government through the use of IT.” The strategy included specific initiatives aimed at regulatory rulemaking, tax filing, disaster assistance and recruitment.

The history section was interesting to look at, and draw some parallels to what we are seeing today in government. As new platforms have emerged on the web, many of the same challenges now exist as when the E-Government Act was released. The report touches on some of the key initiatives from the Obama Administration, such as USA.gov, Data.gov, IT Dashboard, USAspending.gov.

GAO also covered how E-Gov affects the digital divide and avoiding disparate impact with technology. See the chart below (found on page 27 of the report) for an overview of E-Gov Act requirements related to disparate access.

 

The report shared some further information:

  • Nearly all 24 agencies described actions they have taken to implement programs regarding government regarding the digital divide. The report provided three ways agencies have consider they are working to improve accessibility to information GAO mentioned that agencies continue to use multiple channels to provide access to information, such as “public events, television, telephone, newspapers, mail, and reading rooms for disseminating information about their programs, policy decisions, and activities. In addition, 12 agencies told us that they have plans to continue to improve access to the Internet for those who need it.”
  • Agencies are making considerations of the impact on people without the internet while implementing new IT
  • Agencies ensure that online activities supplement, not replace activities for people who access the internet
  • Agencies continue to explore alternate modes of delivery to individuals who do not own computers, limited access to internet

 

The report was interesting to look at, and was a solid reminder of the power of technology to transform government. If you are interested more in government technology, be sure to visit our Navigating the Digital Roadmap GuideDigital Government Strategy Infographic and all the great resources in thetechnology community.

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