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    by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

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    • #3050457

      Welcome to my blog!

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to those of you that
      are not familiar with me through my writings as the author of the
      Government Technology Newsletters. I am a 17 year technology
      veteran (more than that if you count my tinkering before I was actually
      employed as an IT professional) who started as a programmmer analyst
      and worked my way up to CIO and now as a consultant. I spent 16
      of those years in government IT, 5 at the executive level, so I feel
      that I have a little knowledge and experience that I can draw upon as I
      add to this blog and the newsletters.

      My passion has been and still remains the intelligent application of
      technology to solve problems. While I have always had an interest
      in the technology just for technology’s sake, I get a real kick out of
      making technology really work
      for an organization. So while you might find a strictly technical
      article from me on occasion, most of what I concentrate on are the hows
      and whys of technology and how best to manage it in the
      organization. After all, if it isnt being managed properly,
      technology is probably not doing the organization all that much good.

      So if you find yourself reading this and are new to my writings,
      welcome aboard. If you are an old friend, thanks for the
      continued readership. In either case, I hope to continue to make
      you think, inspire you to act, or in some way possible aid you as you
      go about your duties in your organization.

      Thanks for reading!

      Ramon

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
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      • #3050791

        Welcome to my blog!

        by fatfreddy ·

        In reply to Welcome to my blog!

        Hi Ramon, I am a consultant as well in Sarawak, Malaysia and my company specialises in Government IT consulting. I am very pleased to hear that you are starting this blog.? I will be tracking this blog and will try to contribute in a meaningful manner.? For your information our current charter is on Technical and Information Architectures and some of our projects include implementation of a Technology Life Cycle Management Process and A pilot Taxonomy of the ICT Unit.My very best ! Chin Koon Siang?

    • #3052278

      Longhorn gets a real name (Vista). So why am I not excited?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      After what seems to be an eternity, Microsoft is about to
      put its next operating system out for beta.
      Perhaps I am becoming jaded but the operating system releases from
      Microsoft over the years have been more of a relieving of pain from the last
      one, rather than excitement over new features.

      In this preview: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1840730,00.asp you will see that Microsoft has gotten a
      clue from Unix/Linux and users will no longer run under accounts with
      administrator privileges. Additionally,
      they are introducing tabbed browsing in IE 7, another take from an existing product
      (Firefox for one). Obviously there are more
      changes than these so you need to take a look.

      Why do I say need?
      Well despite statements like this from the article linked above,
       
      ?It’s too
      early to see how Vista measures up against competitive operating systems, but a
      lot of the more visible features are familiar. Apple’s Mac OS X
      “Tiger” already has many 3D visual effects and a search interface,
      Spotlight. Unix has had usable limited-rights accounts for years. But Vista’s
      biggest competitor probably isn’t any of these?it’s previous versions of
      Windows. Microsoft needs to make these features more mainstream and make them
      attractive to developers, while still retaining compatibility with previous
      versions.?

      – we all know that
      there is really no competition for the OS and your ?enterprise licensing
      agreement? will help make sure you make the transition to the OS when it comes
      out.

      Actually, there is competition, but it takes a lot of courage to switch an organization to a
      new OS. I believe it can be done and
      I?ll share my thoughts on how in the near future.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

    • #3052273

      Beware the QA bullies

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I came across this blog the other day and it made me want to
      scream. http://www.mindsay.com/comments/gamecoder/37

      Yes, I realize it is about game programming, but there is an important lesson in
      there and I promise I will tie it back to government technology shortly. In
      order to understand why I wanted to scream I have to set some context for this
      blog post. Gunship was a simulation/game of the Apache helicopter that was created
      by Microprose circa 1986. Two subsequent releases were done between 1986 and
      1999.

      The blog’s author does not state which version he was working on, but in
      any of the versions, the battlebuilder he created was groundbreaking for the genre at the time. Having played those
      games, I would have loved the feature he created. It would have added
      tremendously to the game’s fun and replayability and surely would have resulted
      in even better reviews and sales – thus the reason for my first scream.

      The reason for my second scream was the fact that Quality
      Assurance (QA) was allowed to nix such a major feature (with a pretty lame
      excuse) and that the lead programmer allowed it to happen. These two things get
      my gander up pretty quickly as I have worked with large government
      organizations that have their QA departments wield considerably too much power
      ? costing the organizations time and money in the realm of application
      development.

      Whenever I see a QA department that has an adversarial
      relationship with development, one that derives some sort of sick pleasure in
      kicking work back or halting production, I know I am looking at a unit whose
      management has lost sight of the purpose of QA.

      The purpose of a quality assurance system is to ensure that
      all products developed/manufactured and supplied meet the organization?s
      specifications in full. In the world of software development it means a unit
      who is working to make sure that any application developed meets the
      organization?s application standards and that the subsequent code is as error
      free as possible.

      Additionally, QA should work to help the software development
      team to identify problems as early as possible in the development process. (See
      ISO 9126 for a full listing of software quality standards: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_9126
      ) It is no secret that catching problems earlier in the process is much more
      cost effective than catching them late in production.

      What QA is not supposed to be about is hindrance and
      suppression of innovation and creativeness. QA is not about design nor are they
      the design experts. While they can offer valuable feedback regarding
      functionality and ease of use, that is not their primary role nor should they
      have the power to “fail” a product because they don’t
      “like” a particular feature. You laugh, yet I have had software fail
      QA because the head of QA did not like the screen design – yet the customer not
      only approved the design, they suggested it.

      Besides losing sight of what QA is about, management that
      lets the above situations happen is grossly negligent. Software development by
      its nature is a process that starts behind schedule and over budget. Most
      software development is in response to a need ? one that is usually causing the
      organization some level of “pain”. Therefore, the desire for the
      software solution is high and the time for it to be delivered was
      “yesterday”. In addition, whatever amount of money is budgeted for
      the solution, it always seems “too much” to the client, yet not
      enough for the developer. Allowing the QA unit to wield such power as to add
      considerable delay and expense to a project for subjective reasons is not only bad management but poor customer
      service.

      In the blog that inspired me to write this piece, the QA
      department’s response should have been, “We haven?t encountered something
      like this. Help us devise some tests that we can use to make sure this piece is
      operating as intended.”
      Similarly, the lead programmer should have had the
      backbone to say, “This is an important feature that clearly adds value to
      our product. Let?s work together to find a way to test it.”

      Please don?t mistake my ranting as a knock on QA. It is
      extremely important and, if applied correctly, is a critical part of the software
      development process. However, like anything else, if not performed and managed
      properly, it can prove detrimental to the organization. Have you examined the
      role of QA in your software development process lately? What kind of
      relationship does QA have with your application developers? Are you aware of
      how much time and effort you might be losing due to the relationship? Now might
      be the time to check things out.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3052800

        Beware the QA bullies

        by nostaff ·

        In reply to Beware the QA bullies

        How again did this tie back to government IT? Were the QA decisions politically motivated? Is the process flawed due to organizational design? I do not see your connection of this post to Government IT at all.

      • #3052676

        Beware the QA bullies

        by damunzy ·

        In reply to Beware the QA bullies

        Seems like it is a comment on software design in general. Not that I am complaining. I work in QA and we normally get ignored when we bring up issues, so I don’t think that this situation will be happening to us anytime soon. 🙂

      • #3052658

        Beware the QA bullies

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Beware the QA bullies

        Regarding “What does this have to do with government?”  If I had
        said it was politically motivated would that have made it more
        government?  Politics happens in both the public and private
        sector.  What I mentioned but perhaps not directly enough, is that
        I have seen this behavior (mismanaged QA) frequently in the government
        sector.  Why?  I suppose part of the reason is that often
        times people get placed into positions of authority (such as head of
        QA) based on longevity or as a political favor in government more often
        than they do in the private sector.  I’m sure there are many more
        reasons.  Regardless, the point is that it is a bad practice no
        matter what sector you are referring to.  QA shouldn’t be run
        differently based on sector – best practices apply equally to both.

      • #3052608

        Beware the QA bullies

        by jnatteford ·

        In reply to Beware the QA bullies

        I am currently doing system development consulting work with two similar government organizations — one which has a large and formal QA department and processes and another which has absolutely no testing or QA at all.  I’m surprised that I prefer working with the organization with the more robust QA process because it relieves me of some of the testing/QA burden and responsibility and, as one would expect, the quality of the final outputs are improved.

      • #3055877

        Beware the QA bullies

        by john ·

        In reply to Beware the QA bullies

        Both the QA department & the programmers gave up too easily.

        There is a pretty good solution for this that isn’t difficult to figure out.  Why couldn’t they store the randomly generated scenario into a file which is automatically deleted after a certain amount of time?

        Then if there was a problem; support could request the scenario file, load the file, and repeat the problem.

        IMO-They gave up and lost a major benefit.

    • #3049173

      Mired in Methodology

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      A colleague of mine and me often use the term M&Ms when
      describing an IT organization or a component of one ? as in ?They are just a
      bunch of M&Ms?. When doing so, we aren?t referring to chocolaty goodness but
      the fact that they are mired in methodology.

      You know what this is.
      This is when a group has decided for whatever reasons that process is an
      end unto itself. When methods are what
      drives the work and not the product.

      I see this quite a bit in government, particularly regarding
      project management. Often, project
      management is looked upon as a panacea and that it can cure all ills regarding IT
      projects. So the organization adopts a
      project management framework designed to launch the space shuttle and then
      requires all its projects to fit this framework, both large and small – failing
      to realize that your project management methodology needs to scale with the
      size of your project. The result?
      Projects that may or may not be successful but take forever to be
      completed.

      Want to know how to suck the enthusiasm out of both your
      staff AND the clients of your services?
      Burden them with unnecessary and/or over complicated processes and procedures
      in order to get anything done. Soon you
      will have nothing but a bunch of automatons going through the steps and clients
      who refuse to deal with you. On top of
      that you will develop a clientele that wrongfully hate all project management
      and any other processes and procedures because they equate it with your inefficiency
      and ineffectiveness.

      Are you an M&M?
      If so, it might be worth taking a hard look at your processes and
      methodologies and see where they can be streamlined and improved. Make sure project management is not being
      done for the sake of itself, and by all means ? ask your customers how they
      feel about it. If you dare!

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3056356

        Mired in Methodology

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Mired in Methodology

        I believe a major subcategory of M&M is CMMI.  The whole rationale of work in a CMMI environment is to create “artifacts” based on the off-chance that some CMMI auditor will choose your project for evaluation.  Luckily, most project managers are aware that the project really ought to accomplish something.  They take there hits when an auditor’s evaluation comes back, make the appropriate gestures, and continue with the project. 

         

    • #3048582

      Grant Funding: Get your share of the “free” money

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I was going to begin this post with “in these tough
      economic times” in regards to funding for technology, but when do you ever
      have enough money to fund all the worthwhile projects that need to be done? It
      is rare to have more than enough money to get the job done.

      That being the case, we should always be on the lookout for
      ways to add to our existing funding streams. Grant funding is one way to do
      that. Oh, don?t roll your eyes. I know that while some departments live and
      breathe because of grant funding, technology departments don?t often seek them
      out because of the work involved ? and they are work!

      However they are certainly worth the effort and can provide
      a significant boost in your funding stream ? often for years.

      So what kinds of
      grants are available?

      There are numerous kinds of grants and sources of grants. Some
      of these are:

      Higher Education, Grants for Non Profit Organizations,
      University Grants, Non Profit Funding, K-12 Grants, School Grants, Education
      Grants, Science Education Grants, Vocational Education Grants, Federal Grants, Government
      Grants, Corporate Grants, Technology Grants, Technology Funding Grants, and the
      list goes on.

      What specific grants
      within the categories listed above can be had?

      This is where research comes into play. My first visit would
      be to your organization?s grant coordinator (if you have one available). If you
      do, make them your friend! They can be invaluable in navigating the myriad of
      possibilities out there. If you do not have a resource such as this, you can
      make use of the thousands of resources, paid and free available on the Web.

      http://www.fedgrants.gov/Applicants/
      http://www.ntia.doc.gov/top/grants/grants.htm

      Before you start looking or making an appointment with your
      grant coordinator, make sure you have your list of needs/projects in hand. In
      fact, one of the questions I always ask when evaluating a potential project is:
      “Is there any grant funding available?” That way, if the request is
      from a department, they will have done some of the research and perhaps used
      their inside information to determine grant-funding availability.

      Also be prepared to answer whether you have “matching
      funds” available. Some grants require you to put up half the funds in
      order to get the grant. So don?t go looking for a $5 million matching grant if
      you don?t have millions to put up as a match. However, be aware that your match
      does not always have to be in the form of dollars. In-kind contributions, such
      as value for work performed, employee?s salaries, hardware and software, can
      sometimes be used as all or part of your match.

      Things to know.

      Once you begin searching, keep an open mind. Acquiring grant
      funding is as much an art as a science. Know that while being super analytical
      can help you as a technologist, it is a drawback when evaluating possible
      grants. Know that grantors often give grants to programs/projects that in your
      mind are “loosely” connected to the purpose of the grant. That?s
      where the art of grant writing comes in. I am still boggled by some of the
      grant awards I have seen over the years and those were a testament to the “creativeness”
      of the grant writers.

      Also know that partnerships are highly valued when awarding
      grants. Grantors look kindly upon partnerships, especially public/private
      partnerships. So it is worth your while to foster good relations with other government
      organizations – local/state/federal as well as not-for-profits and even for-profit
      organizations.

      Understand the strings attached. Many people assume that
      grant money can only be spent for the express purposes of the grantee and that
      no one else can take advantage. This is expressly false. I have had grants that
      were for a specific department but purchased enterprise-level hardware because
      by doing so, I was able to provide the specific services to the department
      required by the grant. The fact that the rest of the organization benefited
      from the purchase was just a plus.

      The point is you will need to understand the caveats of the
      grant. Some grants assume you never actually own what you purchase with the funds and they expect that you return goods back to them when you take
      them out of service. Others offer much greater flexibility. Understand the
      grant to maximize your flexibility! Gray areas can be your friend.

      Make sure you are prepared to be a diligent record keeper
      and can show exactly where, when, and how grant funds were expended. You will
      be required to do so.

      Lastly, under the category of things to know, be prepared to
      spend the money! You will drive your finance department and the grantor crazy
      if you get funds allocated to you and then do not move forward with spending the
      funds at hand. So if you get a grant, make whatever projects associated with
      them a HIGH priority. Trust me, I speak from experience on this and being
      cautious and frugal is not what the grantor is looking for. In their minds, if
      you are not using the dollars in the time allotted, they may as well have given
      the funds to someone else.

      When you finally choose one or more grants to go after, it
      is then time to put on your writing hat. If you haven?t written one before (and
      even if you have), it often pays to get a model of a grant submission that was
      awarded funding in previous years. It can also be worth your while to take a grant writing course to learn some of
      the ins and outs. Additionally, if you made friends with your grant coordinator
      you might get lucky enough to be able to work with a grant writer who can write
      the majority of the grant and let you fill in the technical parts.

      In any case, being able to bolster your funding via
      grants can go a long way in giving you the ability to meet the technology needs
      of your organization. Like anything worthwhile, there is an investment to make
      in order to get started, so forget about easy money. But know that your hard
      work can provide dividends for years to come.

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      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

    • #3049775

      Oracle HTML DB ? a best kept secret?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I don?t read a lot about Oracle HTML DB in trade magazines,
      nor do many of my colleagues know about it.
      But the ones that are using it think it?s the next best thing since
      sliced bread and are happily singing its praises.

      What
      is it? ?Oracle
      HTML DB is a web-based application development and deployment tool integrated with Oracle Database 10g. Oracle
      HTML DB enables anyone with only a web browser and limited programming
      experience to quickly create secure and scalable web applications that can be
      instantly deployed to tens, hundreds, or thousands of users. Oracle HTML DB is
      a standard feature of Oracle Database 10g, available in Standard One, Standard
      and Enterprise Editions at no additional charge.?

      Essentially it is a web based application
      development tool geared to those users who are creating the dozens of
      spreadsheet and small desktop database applications that one finds among end
      using departments. The colleagues that I
      speak to tell me that it is a fabulous tool that has enabled them to get rid of
      dozens of problematic spreadsheets and MS Access databases that have grown too
      large and complicated for the desktop.

      I haven?t had an opportunity to try it out myself yet,
      but they insist that this feature alone is enough to drive the upgrade to 10G
      from Oracle 8i or 9i. You might want to
      check it out yourself and see if you feel the same way. Just don?t tell them I told you their secret.

      Oracle HTML Product data sheet: http://www.oracle.com/technology/products/database/htmldb/pdf/Oracle_HTML_DB_2.0_Data_Sheet.pdf

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      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

    • #3066508

      Government uses for Wikis

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      A couple of months ago I wrote on the difference between Blogs and
      Wikis. (Blogs Vs Wikis)
      In the article I spoke of Wiki use by government primarily for internal use, in conjunction with an organization’s intranet.
      This article; (Wiki advocate sees government uses)
      discusses the use of external facing wikis for government use.
      I think it does a good job of showing how wikis can be used by government to carry on a conversation with the public.

      And for those of you that might be interested in trying out a wiki for
      either internal or external use and are committed to products that will
      run in a Microsoft environment, check out OPENWIKI.

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    • #3068545

      Is your IT department governed by shared values?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Every IT department usually has a mission statement. It is
      usually more verbose than necessary and drones on about how the IT department
      will support the mission and objectives of the organization. They (mission
      statements) are usually created because of the need to document the fact that
      you have one.

      Values are something different. The dictionary defines
      values as: beliefs of a person or
      social group in which they have an emotional
      investment
      . Your IT department is a social group. What does it believe
      as a group? Are these values expressed or are they just intrinsic to the group?
      Does your IT department even have shared values? Or is it just an amalgamation
      of people doing prescribed work from 8 to 5?

      I personally believe that values are hugely important in an
      organization. I think they are the heart and soul of the work group and are
      what drives us to excel. I believe they play a huge part in creating an
      environment where people like to come to work and a significant role in job
      satisfaction.

      Values/beliefs of a workgroup come from management. Not just
      in the form of words, but more importantly, through actions. Everyone can tell
      when beliefs are only hollow words, just as they can tell when they are full of
      conviction.

      I think it is an important and worthwhile exercise to put
      down the values of your unit on paper. Are they what you want them to be? Will
      these values guide your unit/workgroup towards excellence? Do they conflict
      with your organization’s mission? If you are not satisfied with the values,
      then you must work to change them. Discuss them with your staff. Talk about why
      they are important and how they are guidelines for how work is performed. Most
      importantly, manage in a way that is consistent with them and that showcases
      them.

      I recently came across a brochure from my old Government IT department
      that I directed. On it, we had listed our values for our customers to see and
      to judge us by. As I read these values again, several years after I had written
      them, I realize that they are just as relevant now as they were then. More
      importantly, I still believe them and
      am confident of the fact that my staff shared in them as well. We all had an
      emotional investment in them that drove us to excel.

      I thought I might share them with you in the hopes that they
      can help you as you develop the values for your own IT organization. Here is a
      section from our brochure:

      “We believe that we are different from your garden
      variety technology organization because of our values. Our values set the tone
      for everything we do and how we approach our work. These values are:

      1. We are
        a customer-focused, quality driven-organization.
      2. Flexibility,
        creativity, and initiative help set us apart from the ordinary.
      3. Teamwork:
        We value individuals ability to work together to achieve a common goal. We
        are able to compromise and learn from others. We promote cooperation and
        building consensus when working with others.
      4. Ethical
        behavior: We maintain a personal commitment to professionalism and
        integrity. We will bend over backwards to keep our promises.
      5. Leadership:
        We value those that lead by example. We encourage everyone to be a leader
        in his or her job.
      6. “Just
        do it:” We refuse to be mired in bureaucracy. We will seek to change
        established processes if they are ineffective or inefficient. We seek to
        avoid blaming processes and personnel as an excuse for delays or lack of
        progress.
      7. We
        take pride in our work and strive to raise the standards by which we are
        judged.
      8. We see
        change as an opportunity.”

      As you can tell, these are common themes that you have
      probably seen before. Individually they are ordinary statements of commitment.
      Taken as a group however, they form a strong foundation for providing excellent
      services to customers and the organization.

      These values were quite successful for us as a group and
      went a long way towards helping to create a unit that performed far greater
      than one would have expected given our numbers and our budget.

      The point of this essay is not to force my values on anyone,
      as they may not apply to your group or situation. Its purpose is to make you
      think about values for your organization. It is worthwhile to document them,
      not only because it makes you examine them in the context of your situation,
      but it helps to establish a road map towards goals you wish to obtain. Additionally, you might find that the beliefs
      of the group, while perfect for the organization, don?t fit your personal
      beliefs. That then becomes the subject for a lot of soul searching?and another
      essay.

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    • #3056376

      Linspire – “Uninspired” to me

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I had my first hands on with Linspire 5.0 over the weekend and I will
      have to say I am lukewarm over the product. Linspire (formerly
      known as Lindows) is a Linux distribution by Linspire Inc. that is
      touted as the “Worlds Easiest Desktop Linux”.

      Based on that description, I had my expectations set. I was
      prepared to have an install that went smooth and painless and which
      recognized all my hardware. So I pulled out my test machine that
      I put all my linux distributions on and started fresh by wiping the
      drive as part of the install. My test machine is a Pentium
      II 450mhz with 384 megs of RAM, a Nvidia Geforce II MX, an HP CD/RW, a
      floppy drive, an internal ZIP drive, a generic NIC, and a Sound Blaster
      sound card. Yes the platform is old, but it is a good test bed
      for linux and those distributions that are well done run like a champ
      on it.

      The install was smooth and required less input and hid more of the
      technical stuff that was going on than most other linux distros that I am
      familiar with. Once it was done however, I was disappointed to
      find that my sound card and my Zip drive were ignored during the
      setup. This was disconcerting since both Suse Linux, Red Hat, and
      Mandrake love this machine.

      Ignoring the hardware that didn’t work, I proceeded to use the OS to
      see how functional it was. The desktop is KDE, (Gnome is not a
      choice during setup) and is attractive. It is designed to mimic
      Windows as much as possible. It has just about everything you
      need to get going with Linux as your desktop. I have no issues
      with the installed base of software you get or the environment’s ease
      of use. My biggest gripe is its speed. Having had previous
      versions of linux on this same machine, I have come to expect a certain
      level of performance and this install just seemed sluggish.
      Bringing up the browser, switching applications, etc. just seemed to
      take longer. In fact, Windows XP on this same machine runs faster.

      My second gripe is the service that comes with Linspire 5.0 called CNR
      which is short for Click and Run. It is billed as “A software
      delivery service designed for Linspire users that makes it easy to
      install Linux software.” And in fact it does – however it is a
      subscription service for which you get charged for the convenience of
      having 1 click access to already free software. The CNR interface
      was just too out right “comercial” for me and just screamed “BUY BUY
      BUY” to me. A definite turn off for what could be a powerful tool.

      All in all, for home use Linspire 5.0 is ok. But if I was going to
      choose a linux desktop for the enterprise I would rather have Red Hat
      or Novell/SUSE. Obviously this wasn’t a scientific evaluation of
      the product but more of a gut reation based on experience – and as
      always, it is my personal opinion. I normally would suggest you try
      before you buy, but Linspire does not have an evaluation version as far
      as I can tell. And unless you have $50.00 to spend for the sake
      of curiosity, I would stay with one of the free linux distributions
      which you can obtain here.

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      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3055950

        Linspire –

        by mdevere ·

        In reply to Linspire – “Uninspired” to me

        I also tried Linspire and was disappoited at the lack of intuitivity: To add a language or change screen settings is not an easy thing at all. I had to drill down the different menus.

        Am I so locked on to Redmont? I did expect the imitator to do it better not harder!

        The Help is not helpful enough though the introductory filmstrips are nice but I don’t have patience to wait for it to get to the point I am looking for.

      • #3053936

        Linspire –

        by ctos ·

        In reply to Linspire – “Uninspired” to me

        I live in Canada and went to buy a machine installed with Linspire 5.0 from Toronto. I brought it home, turned it on and that was it. To be truthful, I have no knowledge of Linspire or RedHat or the others. I was hoping to be able to learn from use, since i am fairly good at DOS.

        It did not take me long to find that I could not connect to the CNR site as my internet would not function on this machine…it was designed for Windows 98 at the time. I tried to instal 98SE on here to remove the 5.0 but that would not work either. I tried to get answers for all the different issues from the person who sold it to me, but that was a total bust as well. As a last resort, I managed to contact a software geek I know in a nearby town and explained the situation. He was totally lost on Linspire, (every one that I asked had never even heard of it!) I would have to explain to them what it is! But he believed that if I was to put in the CD of XP upgrade and when it wants the disk for the previous system, stick in my 98 it should work. He was right, it did.

        I could not USE the Linspire, I could not get rid of it, I could not get any basic questions answered to continue my explorations, I could not download from CNR and I could not get out on my Internet. This machine is now an XP and it will remain so. I was very, very dissappointed in my purchase and Linspire. I too had my hopes up with the new 5.0, they make it sound easy enough for a Window/GUI user to just use!

         

      • #3053889

        Linspire –

        by itsecurityguy ·

        In reply to Linspire – “Uninspired” to me

        I
        don’t think Linspire is really trying to compete with Red Hat or Novell/SUSE in
        the enterprise.

         

        AFAIK,
        the home user is the intended market, and here is a posting from the
        Philadelphia Area Network Technology User Group, which demonstrates an ideal
        solution and a pleasant surprise. This probably wouldn’t have happened with Red
        Hat or SUSE.

         

        —–Original
        Message—–

        From:
        Troy Sorzano

        Sent:
        Saturday, July 02, 2005 1:46 PM

        To:
        ‘PANTUGGeneral@pantug.org’

        Subject:
        Linspire Experiment / The cheapest computer in the world

         

        My
        mother’s Win98 box died a little while ago. I needed to find a replacement for
        her as a birthday gift. I took a look at Dell and all the sales flyers in the
        Sunday paper. I could not really justify a $400 – $500 computer because she
        only uses it for Internet access. If the computer could work with hotmail,
        ebay, half.com, e-cards and open images of her grand-dogs she would be happy.

         

        Micro
        Center had an ad for a $99 Linspire box after rebate. The price was $249 and
        came with a $50 mail in rebate. Then if you signed up for a Micro Center credit
        card you could get another $100 rebate on any pc. So after all the hassle of
        signing up for a credit card and getting approved and mailing in two rebate forms
        the price of the pc is $99. Ok it’s a powerspec (1405) piece of crap but for
        $99 what do you expect? It comes with a scroll mouse, keyboard, CD-Rom drive,
        128meg ram, 40 gig HD and AMD Sempron 2200+ processor. The case is actually
        very nice and the interior was tidy. The motherboard is a BIOSTAR M7VIG 400Pro
        V.1 which costs about $45 online.

         

        I did
        a few upgrades to the box. I added 512meg PC2700 ram and then pulled the CD-RW
        and hard drive out of the old Win98box. I was surprised to see Win98 was automatically
        added to the Boot Menu. The only problem was Win98 would not boot, not that I
        really cared, because all the Win98 partitions and files were available from
        within Linspire. The CD-RW drive icon was added to the desktop like a Mac
        desktop.

         

        The
        real story here is not the hardware it is the software. Can Linspire replace
        the functionality of Win98 for a computer novice? It seemed to do very well
        with hardware detection finding the second hard drive and the second CD-RW
        drive. When Linspire starts for the first time it brings up some very well done
        training videos. The videos are all done in Flash 6 so we know we are ready to
        surf the web and have the full multimedia experience.

         

        I
        tested the Modzilla browser with hotmail, I had been a little concerned that
        Microsoft may have blocked non IE browsers. I was glad to see that everything
        appeared to work fine on hotmail. The pages opened fast even after I opened several
        browser windows with several tabs each. With the stock 128megs of RAM there
        were serious performance problems. The biggest problem was the Linspire CNR
        (click and run) agent. It was getting loaded during startup and taking about
        40megs of RAM. The CNR agent is the package manager for Linspire. It allows
        easy installation of software from a web interface. CNR is how Linspire plans
        to make money. They charge a yearly fee for a CNR subscription but they do
        allow a 15 day trial.

         

        This
        weekend will be the moment of truth. I delivered the computer on Monday and I
        will be visiting this weekend. I have not heard anything from my mother about
        the computer. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. <g>

         

        Later,

         

        P.S.
        (a week later)

         

        I saw
        my parents this weekend.  I asked my
        mother if she had a chance to use the computer? She replied “I’ve been
        using it all week, why?” Well I guess no news was good news. She did ask
        my sister to help setup her Epson Stylus 400 printer. The cool thing was my
        sister got the printer installed and working. She has never even heard of Linux
        and was able to get it working. I think Linspire is a great option for the user
        with limited computer experience that only needs to surf and print.

         

        Troy

      • #3053761

        Linspire –

        by supermodified ·

        In reply to Linspire – “Uninspired” to me

        Note that the minimum requirements fro Linspire are a 800 MHz processor and that is why is was slow on your machine.  Also there is a trial version available on the Linspire website.

    • #3056332

      NVD – Homeland Security Helping You

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      August 11th, 2005 was the debut of NVD (The National Vulnerablility
      Database) by the National Institution of Standards and Technology
      (NIST). Quoting directly from the NVD website “NVD is a
      comprehensive cyber security vulnerability database that integrates all
      publicly available U.S. Government vulnerability resources
      and provides references to industry resources. It is based on and
      synchronized with
      the
      CVE vulnerability naming standard.” The database is funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cyber Security Division.

      So what NIST has provided us in the form of NVD is a comprehensive one
      stop shop for locating information about vulnerabilities in products
      presented in an easy to use format. I spent a few minutes with
      the database, popping in the names of software vendors and you
      certainly will find tons of info, even on software packages that don’t
      pop into your mind when thinking about vulnerabilities – such as your
      back up software.

      This is certainly a site you want to bookmark and make visiting it a
      regular part of your security protocols. You can get to it by
      clicking here.

    • #3054656

      Why have a Desktop PC at all?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      The recent news reports
      that I have read regarding organizations, both public and private, who were
      impacted by the Zotob and Rbot worms is disconcerting. To the uninitiated,
      those who were affected did not practice good patch management.

      However, those in the
      trenches know that keeping up with patches, especially at the desktop level, is
      a daunting task. On top of that, patch management is just a small part of total
      desktop management. Application installation, software updates, hardware
      maintenance, training, security, and more are all part of desktop management.

      In 1996, Gartner Research announced
      the average Windows 95 desktop cost $10,000 a year to own. This includes,
      besides the activities mentioned above, the direct costs of user support, lost
      productivity, downtime, and administrative costs including depreciation, and
      finance charges.

      Some would argue even then
      that the total cost of ownership (TCO) computed by Gartner was either
      overinflated or underrepresented. Whatever the cost is today, (based on your
      own TCO) there is no arguing that managing the desktop takes up a significant
      amount of an IT department’s total resources.

      The workload to manage
      desktops is such that a whole market of desktop management tools have sprung up
      to help us “control” them. Novell Zenworks, Intel Landesk, Hewlett-
      Packard OpenView, IBM’s Tivoli TME10, or Microsoft’s Zero Administration Kit
      are just a few examples. And even with these tools, the TCO for a PC just seems
      to stay the same or is even increasing.

      So given all this, don’t
      you have to wonder if it’s worth it?

      I know I did a few years
      ago. I looked at my organization’s IT budget and the amount that was being used
      to purchase and support PCs and said “there has to be a better way”.

      That better way, after
      some significant research and testing was a hybrid solution consisting of thin
      client technology, Citrix, and Linux that would be phased in over time.

      In a nutshell, the plan
      was to provide a “desktop” to the end user via their browser and run
      all their applications either directly from a Web server or from a Citrix
      server. Their individual machines would have their OS replaced by a very thin
      build of Linux and all machines purchased (new or as replacements) would be
      Linux-based thin client machines.

      This desktop solution, in
      my opinion, was more secure and less susceptible to end user
      “intervention”, virus breakouts, and emergency patches; thin clients
      were easier to install and trouble shoot, and workers were no longer
      “tied” to their workstation since they could get their own tailored
      desktop from any machine in the organization.

      In order to succeed, we
      had to do two critical things. Get buy-in from the organization and
      make sure we had a solid network infrastructure that had a very low
      latency.

      The buy-in began with the IT
      governance committee. Fortunately, we had a very astute committee that, after
      seeing the research and the solution in action, quickly bought in to the idea. The
      next step was to eat our own dog food. The IT department made the move to this
      solution. From there, it was time to woo top management. We knew that if they didn’t
      understand what was going on, the plan would eventually fail. Again, at the
      time I attempted this plan (and probably why I was comfortable in doing it) we
      had an incredibly sharp and IT-friendly administration. From the CEO to the
      CFO, they were on board and active supporters.

      Meanwhile the
      infrastructure work was going on, and we were revamping and expanding what was a
      tired network to start with. So we began putting the solution into place,
      department by department, and you know what? It worked great! Yes, we initially
      had some kinks, but once they were worked out the network was greatly improved.

      Unfortunately, this story
      has an incomplete ending. While doing the project, our community voted to merge
      local governments. So when the time came for the merger, we were not quite
      finished. Overnight, the whole environment that had been primed and ready
      literally disappeared. That ended the solution.

      The point of this story
      though is that I know the solution works and you can be rid of a great deal of
      desktop headaches by ridding yourself of a fat client machine. I have seen the
      beginnings of it, I know what the TCO was turning out to be, and if I ever get
      the opportunity again I will seek to implement a similar solution.

      And yes I realize that
      this solution doesn’t fit 100% of the users but it works for the vast majority.
      And I would rather be managing a very small subset of needy fat client machines
      than an entire organization’s.

      It?s a bold move, switching from fat client
      machines to thin client and delivering an organization’s desktop through a Web
      browser. But with the proper planning and execution it can be done. Just make
      sure you start at the beginning of
      your CEO’s next term in office.

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      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3046943

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by emil.vincent ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Sounds very interesting, we have the same issue with desktop management. What was your plans for mobile notebook users under this setup, who also need to work off line at times?

         

      • #3046938

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by ktharbi.c ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        I am not fully agree with you!!! , I think that idea depend on your environment , and if the organization use the full facility of his operating system (like Windows), he can reduce his costs in managing the clients , and also if I go to your idea I think I must do a big investment on servers , networks and software (like CITRIX), and also I have the single fall point problem if that servers have any problem , and also I lose the power of the clients , this is what i think!!!

        Can you help me with more information.

      • #3046907

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Return of the Mainframe!  Having grown up in the days prior to networking where there were dumb terminals connected to a central computer, I can assure you there is a need for distributed processing that drove the migration away from the mainframe.

        As noted above, one of the prerequisites for a complete thin client approach is a large amount of network bandwidth.  Two more that are equally important are low latency and high availability.  Finally, the “network” needs to take on the responsibility for storage and processing power.

        Due to the combiniation of processing power and low latency available at a desktop, the computer user interface has grown up to be much more supportive of the user.  For example, most word processing packages now provide keystroke-by-keystroke spelling checks.  Some user interfaces are context sensitive, with areas of the screen enabled or disabled based on user data entry.  These types of functions are feasible because we can throw excess processing power at the problem without affecting user response times.

        For a reminder of the user cost of thin client technology and centralized processing, pay attention to the response times the next time you are at a gas station.  I am continually amazed at how long it takes the pump to realize that I have stopped pumping gas and returned the nozzle to the recepticle.  This is the same reaction users often feel when migrated to a Citrix or Web-based version of a familiar desktop application.

        Regarding support cost, the transition back to centralized processing and storage has lead a return to 24×7 support.  Even routine maintanence needs to be scheduled at off-hours.  Any sort of outage during standard working hours is a crisis affecting the entire company.

        I have touched on mostly the technical issues and I feel that true distributed processing is still in its infancy.  Current web browser software does not provide near the level of user interface support that people desire and need.  There is also the problem of inadequate funding and staffing for the underlying support professionals, but that is another topic.

         

      • #3046901

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Regarding Emil and Harbiks questions and Wayne’s comments. Emil, we put Windows and
        Office on their mobile PCs with the eventual plan that they would
        switch to Linux and StarOffice. However they were encouraged (and
        most did) to find a network connection in order to use a Citrix
        session. We employed the Citrix secure gateway as well as RSA
        SecureID Authenticators for anyone connecting outside our network.

        Harbik, I have to laugh because you bring up some of the same points
        people used to scoff at the idea when they first heard it. Yes
        you have to invest in servers, but that is offset by the cheaper
        desktops/thin clients and keeping them in service longer. As for
        single fail point, Citrix provides fail over and we also built
        redundancy in for those users that HAVE to be able to get on no matter
        what. Also, in 99% of network environments, if the power goes off
        – PEOPLE DONT WORK. Why? Because their files are on the
        network servers and they print via the network. Same as if the
        network goes down (which should not happen that often). So that
        is a false arguement. In fact, that exact thing happened in the
        environment that I work in yesterday. Power was lost to the
        building but generators brought enough power back on to run the lights
        at low level and power a PC. However, the switches in the closets
        on each floor had very small back up power supplies which did not last
        long and then guess what – everyone sat around looking at each other
        because of a lack of network connectivity – NO MATTER that
        everyone was using a fat client.

        Lastly, of course this solution depends on your environment – as do ALL
        IT solutions. If it fits use it, if it doesn’t don’t or tailor it
        for your environment. I think though that this solution is
        appropriate to more environments than people think. They just are
        too comfortable with the status quo.

        Wayne – Gonna have to disagree with your there. Response time was
        so good that most people did not realize they were in a Citrix
        session. My demonstration of the environment was to play PINBALL
        that comes with Windows with full color and sound. That always
        made a believer out of folks. If you are going to compare a gas
        station to your network, go ahead, but that was no comparison to
        ours. Fact was, response times were extraordinary. The
        whole thin client/Citrix solution is FAR from infancy.

        Thanks for reading!

        Ramon

      • #3046871

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by bobbypr ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi folks!

        Once I had to give advice to a client about the same matter.  Unfourtunately the advice was against the thins clients.  Maybe this could apply for you.  Check the problems that I found with the thin clients at this site:

        • Very slow connection to applications like: Word, Excel, and a Data Entry Windows App.
        • Sometimes Windows freezes
        • Data Entry App. sometimes took from 10 seconds to 3 mins (with timeout feature turned off) to bring a single record.  So basically they were getting a timeout screen often. 
        • Poor screen resolution.  Some Windows colors look sandy.
        • Option that you set on Word (like dictionaries, language, auto correct) are lost on each reboot.  This options vary between users, and offices.
        • Can’t bring work made at home in a floppy because theres wasn’t one drive on the thins. (lots of lawyers depend on this)
        • If network is down nobody can keep working offline.  (with desktops they can keep working and even print because theres always a printer that is connected directly to a PC to prevent this events)
        • The thins generated more network traffic.
        • It created an unexpected task for the networking department.  Users started to flow to their offices to upload  documents to the server.
        • On the maintenance side, there where not many vendor that could give hardware support to this equipment.  So they were under the mercyless hand ($$$) of only one vendor.  Desktops hardware is easier to find and troubleshoot.  More vendors = competions = low prices.

        Of course, the thins needed less maintenance, administration comes down to zero, security is a plus, the possibility of getting a virus via floppys or any other media is reduced, but with so many disadvantages…

        Roberto D?az

      • #3046869

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by mr l ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Ramon,

        Some details please (we can deep-dive offline if you prefer)…how many seats, application environment, how many customized/home grown apps, etc.  Not to minimize, at all, the project you undertook, but without knowing the scope it’s hard to judge.  I have better than 10,000 seats to worry about…3,000 of them at a corporate campus with a wide variety of apps, both shrink-wrap and home grown…and I’m uncomfortable at first pass even thnking about expecting Citrix to support them all. 

        I’m all for dumb terminals, I grew up with them, but my users have got to come first

      • #3046841

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Mr. L,
             We were at around 300 seats when we had to
        stop.  Putting 50 clients per server.  Saw no reason not to
        keep going – bandwith was looking good and we had built our
        infrastructure to handle the full amount of desktops in the
        organization – about 3500-4000.  Had a good mix of applications –
        Of course Office (which by the way did not display any of the negative
        tendencies that were mentioned above by Mr. Diaz.  We then had
        multiple home grown applications, some were delivered via a terminal
        emulator back to a mini computer (very old apps) some were in VB that
        ran against SQL Server, some were comercial (a large inmate tracking
        system) fat client against Oracle database, and web apps that had to be
        run via IE which we served up as well.  In short, we had a large
        variety of apps that covered the gamut.  Like any roll out, we had
        some niggling issues we worked through, but we made all the apps
        work.  Biggest problem was an app that assigned an ID based on the
        machine it was running on.  Can’t remember the exact problem, but
        the solution was to get the vendor to give us a fix where it derived
        the ID from the mac address of the NIC in the machine.

        Obviously in your situation you are talking about a much larger role
        out – but I am a believer that this solution scales so long as you have
        built your infrastructure out correctly.  The nice thing about it
        is that you can run both environments in parallel and they co exist
        nicely.  You can add more as you are able to – its not like you
        turn out the lights one night and bingo everyone is on a thin client
        running Citrix.

        As I said in the article, it is a bold move that takes alot of careful
        planning.  But it is a strategy.  It doesn’t have to be
        accomplished over night and can be done over a period of time. 
        There are many people who like to nay say about it without putting a
        lot of thought into it.  I spent a considerable amount of time
        looking into it before making the decision to go forward and never
        regretted it.  Unfortunately I ran out of time, otherwise I would
        be sitting here writing this with a much larger installed base than
        what we got to.  However, as I said before, given the opportunity
        I would do it again in a heart beat.  The rewards we were reaping
        were too nice to be ignored.  Supporting the Citrix clients was
        much easier than a traditional desktop and troubleshooting was a
        breeze.  Virus protection/security was easier and more centralized
        and I could go on and on.  But this whole concept leads to debates
        not unlike Linux vs Windows – it is religious and personal to
        some.  I personally look for soultions that work and can give me
        as much freedom to provide solutions to my organization that I can for
        the least cost.  I feel/felt that this is one of them.

        But don’t just take my word for it (not that you would).  If I
        picqued your interest just a little, try some more research.  Thin Planet is a good place to start as well as Brian Madden’s home page.

        Hope this proved informative to you.

      • #3046799

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by it makes sense ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Ramon: Do you have your business case and/or presentation justifying this project?  If so, can you share it with us?

      • #3046775

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by mr l ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Ramon,

        Thanks, that’s exactly what I was looking for, and I’ll be digging deeper.  I’ll keep you posted as I dive into this.

      • #3046761

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        IT Makes Sense,
             I’m afraid I no longer have access to my
        business case.  🙁   However, business cases are always
        organization specific and usually don’t apply across companies. 
        Just as Gartner numbers do not necessarily equate to numbers in your
        own org.  I certainly would enjoy doing one again though as both
        the hardware and software has changed (both in price and capability) in
        the 3.5 years since I wrote the last one.  Now to find an
        organization in Florida that is in search of a CIO/Director with a bold
        vision that will let me do one for them 😉

        Sorry I couldn’t be more help,

        Ramon

      • #3047163

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by michael.green ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi Ramon,

        As The Fates would have it, the discussion you prompted with “Why have a PC at all?” was a very timely arrival as our local government IT governance committee is deliberating a change to our desktop deployment strategy from fat clients to thin clients. The Citrix thin client model has worked exceedingly well for us in the areas of remote access, for smaller departments without the resources for replacing PCs, and to distribute our PeopleSoft applications enterprise-wide.

        I forwarded a copy of “Why have a PC at All?” to our governece committee leader and she asked 2 questions perhaps you can help me with.

        1.  

      • #3047161

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by michael.green ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi Ramon,

        As The Fates would have it, the discussion you prompted with “Why have a PC at all?” was a very timely arrival as our local government IT governance committee is deliberating a change to our desktop deployment strategy from fat clients to thin clients. The Citrix thin client model has worked exceedingly well for us in the areas of remote access, for smaller departments without the resources for replacing PCs, and to distribute our PeopleSoft applications enterprise-wide.

        I forwarded a copy of “Why have a PC at All?” to our governece committee leader and she asked 2 questions perhaps you can help me with.

        1.  

        Who

      • #3047162

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by michael.green ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi Ramon,

        As The Fates would have it, the discussion you prompted with “Why have a PC at all?” was a very timely arrival as our local government IT governance committee is deliberating a change to our desktop deployment strategy from fat clients to thin clients. The Citrix thin client model has worked exceedingly well for us in the areas of remote access, for smaller departments without the resources for replacing PCs, and to distribute our PeopleSoft applications enterprise-wide.

        I forwarded a copy of “Why have a PC at All?” to our governece committee leader and she asked 2 questions perhaps you can help me with.

        1.  

        Whois

      • #3047160

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by michael.green ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi Ramon,

        As The Fates would have it, the discussion you prompted with “Why have a PC at all?” was a very timely arrival as our local government IT governance committee is deliberating a change to our desktop deployment strategy from fat clients to thin clients. The Citrix thin client model has worked exceedingly well for us in the areas of remote access, for smaller departments without the resources for replacing PCs, and to distribute our PeopleSoft applications enterprise-wide.

        I forwarded a copy of “Why have a PC at All?” to our governece committee leader and she asked 2 questions perhaps you can help me with.

        1.  

        WhoisRamon

      • #3047159

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by michael.green ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Hi Ramon,

        As The Fates would have it, the discussion you prompted with “Why have a PC at all?” was a very timely arrival as our local government IT governance committee is deliberating a change to our desktop deployment strategy from fat clients to thin clients. The Citrix thin client model has worked exceedingly well for us in the areas of remote access, for smaller departments without the resources for replacing PCs, and to distribute our PeopleSoft applications enterprise-wide.

        I forwarded a copy of “Why have a PC at All?” to our governece committee leader and she asked 2 questions perhaps you can help me with.

        1.  

        WhoisRamonPadilla

      • #3055402

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by lamparth ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Affordable desktop recipe

         

        Ingredients

        • Cheap Dell PC
        • Norton Ghost Corp Edition
        • Universal Image Utility
        • SUS or WUS
        • NAV
        • Books on Group Policy and Ghost

         

        First take a blank PC put all the software on it which 80% of your company uses, than make an image of it using Ghost and UIU/Sysprep. (UIU is a standard driver db, that allows you to use images on different PC Hardware).  Push out the image whatever way you want PXE, Client Install, CD etc? Use Sysprep to have the system add itself to the domain.

        Push out NAV and other needed applications using MSI or Automated Installation Files. Use SUS and NAV to keep the machine patched and roaming profile to synchronize the local user data with the server for backup purposes.

         

        Done?

         

      • #3064985

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by dpenrod ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        In the last year I have implemented a Citrix environment at our company, and it is working well. 

        I am the sole system administrator managing 100 desktops in 3 locations.   About 75 desktops at our corporate office.
        My cost justification was to free up more of my time from help desk support to doing more systems admin and planning.  Also to eliminate the need for PC upgrades. 

        I proposed the Citrix implementation when we decided to purchase a CRM package, that would have required the installation of a DB server at each of our 3 locations, and the Syncing of Databases between them.   Citrix allowed all desktops to be run on Citrix servers here,  using a single DB server for the CRM, eliminating the need for DB servers at our other 2 locations.

        I purchased 3 dual processor servers to host the apps.  THeye are set up identically.  if any server fails,  the others keep running providing very high availability.    I ended up dedicating one server for testing,  as 2 servers seem to handle our needs fine.

        We run the entire MS office suite,  CRM,  ERP, Outlook,  and a handful of other apps on the Citrix desktop.    Users run all their apps except autocad on the Citrix desktop,  we have removed the apps from their PC’s, reducing desktop complexity and admin costs.  

        Users love the fact that ALL of our apps are now web enabled via Citrix secure gateway.  They can access their apps from any web browser, at home or on the road. 

        My users on slower desktops (P-350s)  indicated their apps run MUCH faster on the server desktop.

        I can now roll out an application to all users in an hour by installing it on 2 servers instead of 100 desktops. 

        Our fat client apps (CRM, ERP) required desktop hardware upgrades with each major update.  Now we dont have to upgrade PC’s any longer.   And our network traffic has been greatly reduced, since all those desktops now only need about 24Kb bandwith to run the Citrix application,  instead of several hundred kb to query the DB servers.    Most of the network traffic is now between the citrix servers and the DB servers, which in network terms are close and fast to each other. 

        We had some intial latency issues with our remote offices over the WAN,  this was due to some Citrix version and config issues, which once worked out seemed to disappear.    Our remote office users have had to adjust to slower print times,  print jobs taking a minute or two to print instead of being nearly instantaneous.  (as all printing is generate from the Corporate office citrix servers,  instead of their local desktops)  In server based computing implementation,  pay special attention to planning for your printing needs.

        My users have trouble telling whether the app is running locally or via citrix,  they are identical.   This has caused problems on a few occasions.

        I have used Ghost images before,  and it didnt work out as well for me as we have purchased PC’s piecemeal over the years (weve never had the budget for wholesale standardization of desktops), and I never had enough desktops with the same software configuration to allow me to scale up the number of desktops per ghost image.   Now I have only a couple ghost images I can use for all Citrix client PCs,  as there is is only the OS and Citrix client on most desktops now.

        The majority of my help desk calls were software issue related, and those have all but disappeared on the desktops since Citrix. 

        I have only 6-7 laptop users.   They use both Citrix and local applications when they are traveling.   Once internet data access becomes Ubiquitous, (like cell phones are today),  I hope to move my laptop users to Citrix only.

        In reading the posts here,  ive found many of the cons to be wrong or mis-stated. 

        Its probbably unusual for a company our size to move to Server based computing,  most of the time it seems to be large companies who use it,  their economies of scale provide greater benefits for the hugh number of desktops that are affected.   Many of the Fortune 500 are using Citrix.  I know locally that Nationwide insurance is using Citrix on about 450 servers to service 50,000 client machines all over the world. 

        We were a long time Terminal service user for only 1 app.  Our ERP fat client app for remote offices.  I used to think of Citrix as Terminal services on Steroids,  just lots of extra bells and whistels that were nice,  but not necessary. 
        In the past few years Citrix has changed into a complete Solution that goes way beyond simple terminal services. 

        To summarize my experience,  server based computing,  especially the Citrix suite,  provides robust,  reliable,  secure, and manageable application access,  to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  And it does so with Lower TCO. 

      • #3084079

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by wtr ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        In 2004 – 2005 I instigated this type of configuration into a company using the Microsoft Terminal Server technology without a Citrix server, the results have been very positive and decreased the TCO extensively. The configuration has been in place now for almost 2 years and has been stable and secure.

        It also has allowed users to remote access with ease (where granted), it has also decreased the administrative time needed to manage the network and brought desktop management to a central location thus easing the burden of managing desktops over a large geographical area.

        Due to the success of this thin client architechure I am very much a supporter of this form of configuration, the only downside to this form of networking is the loneliness expierence due to the deacrease in administrative staff.

        Through effective policies and frontline security measures the network has not to date been effected by an external threat either viruses or spyware .

        Also with a storeroom full of once obsolete PC’s we can now re-commission these units to become active nodes on the network. (dumb terminals)

      • #3084003

        Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Why have a Desktop PC at all?

        Service,
             I am not surprised at your results.  Congratulations on an effective implementation!

        Ramon

    • #3047196

      Everyone must leave New Orleans

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Gov. Kathleen Blanco has stated that ?everyone needs to
      leave New Orleans
      due to flooding from Hurricane Katrina.? 
      What an overwhelming statement that is. 
      Even with all the coverage that we have had regarding the hurricane, it
      is still hard to grasp the enormity of this disaster.

      During times such as these, we often talk about business
      continuity and disaster recovery planning. 
      However few if any local governments are fully prepared for catastrophe
      of this magnitude.  While I am certain
      that some of the City of New Orleans
      plans are still viable and are being put into action (particularly regarding
      emergency services) many of their plans for continuity and recovery have been
      negated due to the sheer size of the event. 
      There is no doubt that in many areas the government as well as individual
      citizens will be starting over.

      It is times like these where State and Federal resources as
      well as non-profits come into play to help the citizens and the local government
      get back on its feet.  We are fortunate
      to live in a nation whose government and citizens are quick to respond and are
      technically and financially able to help out.

      On that note, rather than talk about the myriad of IT issues
      that are brought about due to disaster, (there will be plenty of time for that)
      I will just end with a couple of web links of significance:

      The American Red Cross
      Disaster Center – Comprehensive list of relief organizations.

    • #3055122

      Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Over the years I have had the opportunity to experience IT
      in the organization as it has transformed itself from the “glass
      house” through the PC “revolution;” client servers; web-centric
      computing; and now the amalgamation of all of these evolutions as IT strives to
      be a true “business partner”.

      Interestingly, I find that for those in several of the
      government organizations that I have come into contact with in the last couple
      of years, the concept of IT as a “business partner” is more of a
      figment of the imagination than a reality.

      If you asked people in the departments that IT was serving
      what the relationship between them and IT was like, they would say that their
      IT was a business partner in the same vein that the Soviet Union was a business
      partner to Poland, East Germany, or Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.

      One characteristic view that users in these organizations
      have about their IT department is that IT operations of any kind can not exist
      outside the IT department’s control. And should such “rogue”
      activities arise, they are to be squashed or consumed.

      Another common view of users was that IT departments were
      monolithic and unresponsive – filled to capacity with bureaucratic “goodness”
      to insure that each project progressed at glacial speeds.

      Of course, these two views led to a lot of user frustration.
      From their perspective, if the IT organization were nimble and responsive to
      customer needs, they wouldn’t need to engage in rogue activities; and to make
      matters worse, they felt that taking matters into their own hands was the only
      way to get around the bureaucratic bottleneck blocking progress on their
      various projects.

      The end result of these competing views is an angry customer
      base that is frustrated by IT’s lack of response and its attempts at squashing
      the users’ attempts at helping themselves.

      Why does this happen? I speculate that the above situation
      arises when IT remains stuck in its legacy as a “glass house”
      mainframe shop, or from IT’s reaction to a decentralized computing environment
      that seems to have gotten out of control.

      In either case, the end result is a heavy-handed,
      centralized IT shop that rules with an iron fist. This kind of IT department is
      likely to struggle in building a true partner relationship with its end-user
      departments.

      We all know the benefits of centralized IT units:
      Procurement of hardware and software is possible on the broadest scale within
      the organization and centralized operations generally produce substantial
      economies of scale. Additionally, a centralized staff eliminates redundant
      functions, and there is a greater adherence to standards and a unified vision.

      Conversely, in a highly centralized IT department, there are
      problems like the ones mentioned above. Some of these are: tendencies towards
      bureaucracy, lack of responsiveness, and decision-making in a vacuum.

      The alternative to this is a completely decentralized IT unit–agile and responsive, in tune with the needs
      of the business, and more tightly integrated with business goals and
      objectives.

      Yet purely decentralized IT structures also have drawbacks,
      such as duplication of effort, lack of standards across the organization,
      islands of excellence at the expense of other departments, higher total
      procurement and operational costs, lack of integration, etc.

      I have always been a big believer that a balance can be
      struck between completely centralized IT and completely decentralized
      IT–hopefully deriving the benefits of both.

      In my opinion this balanced IT structure has
      “enterprise” functions being performed by central IT such as: data
      center, network and infrastructure operations, e-mail, procurement, standards
      architecture, and cross-departmental application development.

      While department-level functions include help desk
      operations, departmental application development (up to a certain size), and IT
      strategy and planning for the department. All of these activities coinciding
      with standards which they help develop along with central IT and a strong governance
      committee.

      In order for this hybrid approach to work though, there has
      to be a strong sense of cooperative and collaborative management at the level
      of the CIO and with the departmental IT management. I like to view this
      approach as a representative government model where the departments actually
      have a say-so in their IT operations.

      Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to how IT
      should be structured in every organization. There are success stories for each
      model (which I am sure many readers of this blog will point out). And we have
      to take into consideration the influence of the culture and structure of the
      organization as a whole when determining the optimal IT configuration.

      Yet I am willing to bet that at the end of the day, those
      organizations which choose a model which is more democratic in its structure
      and processes are more likely to end up as true business partners to the
      organization.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3055044

        Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        Interestingly, here at CNET we are going thru a transition from a strongly centralized IT function to the kind of hybrid you talk about.  I don’t think TPTB have fully fleshed out the plan but it’s looking like things such as the data center (co-location facilities, etc.) will be a centralized IT function whereas application development (i.e., News.com and TechRepublic.com) will be dispersed into the respectice business units.

        We’ve swung the pendulum wildly here at CNET, going from highly dispersed to highly centralized and now to this hybrid model.  I think it remains to be seen whether this hybrid approach works any better.

      • #3065094

        Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        by kirk webber ·

        In reply to Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        I have been a Gov IT worker for about 11 years, and I have also seen and heard about problems with both centralized and de-centralized IT organizations.  It seems like in many organizations, the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other (centralized to de-centralized), with re-organizations every couple of years.  I believe a balanced approach is often the best (depending on a lot of organizational factors), but I admit, I haven’t been involved with one of these yet.

        I think one of the (if not THE) key to a successful organization is communication.  There must be free, open, bi-directional communication on a regular basis, no matter whether the IT organization is centralized or de-centralized.  If you have IT assigned to the business line departments, they must communicate both with their own department as well as central IT.  If you have centralized IT, they must be sure to have that close customer communication.  In order for IT to properly service the needs of the Agency, they must understand the needs of the Agency.  And they cannot get that understanding by hiding behind the walls of the IT Department.

      • #3064510

        Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Is the best IT model the centralized or decentralized approach?

        I would think the balance point will be closer to the fully decentralized model and certainly not at a “mid-point” especially in geographically disperse environments.

        I have noticed that the further one sits from the IT department, the worse the service gets.  Sit next to the IT department and things are great.  Sit on another floor in the same building and things are okay.  Sit in another building and you better practice your Solitaire skills.  Sit in another city or state and you will likely be doing your own “rogue” IT and hoping not to get caught.

        I would also question how well economy of scale holds up once you get outside of a single building or campus.  For hardware, I am not sure centralized purchasing saves money, if you add in the difficulties of issuing a purchase req, shipping between headquarters and the site, and potential travel time to configure systems.  Memory upgrades are very expensive when you have someone trying to explain to a user over the telephone how to open up the computer to see what memory is installed and the misorders as offices get the quantities and types wrong.

        I find the costs of centralized IT far hgher than that of decentralized and would prefer to err on the side of decentralized.

    • #3064087

      Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      In a statement on Monday, Peter Quinn, chief information
      officer for Massachusetts, said that the state will support the newly
      ratified Open Document Format for Office Applications, or OpenDocument,
      as the standard for its office documents and not proprietary formats
      such as Microsoft Office.  Whoa!  That is a gutsy statement
      indeed.  You can read more about it here.

      Since MS Office is such a large part of the MS Enterprise licensing
      agreement, I have a strong feeling that there will be more changing in
      the State of Massachusetts IT environment than MS Office.  If
      Novell isn’t camped out on the CIO’s doorstop, they should be.

      Personally I applaud this bold move.  What do you think?

      • #3065394

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by ironfist03 ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        Not knowing all of the details I would say it just does’nt make sense.  I am sure taxpayers who are to foot the bill would agree as well as the multitudes of state workers who now are going to be using applications that are new and uncomfortable to them.  I’m not bashing state workers but anything I.T. does to slow them down more is downright bone headed.  Peter may end up with a new applications platform however, the cost in lost productivity due to resistant and disgruntled end users over i’m sure is a vast network needs a second look, or a 3’d or 4th..  I’d roughly guess millions in multiples of ten.  And thats just the human side. Heres a quick ballpark guesstimate; take 1 hour of every users productivity every day for say 6 months (conservativily) and multiply it by their salaries, now take that and cascade it into what would that have held up for an hour and the other things that would have held up for an hour.  It grows exponentially to insane purportions in a very quick time frame.  Not to mention that new hardware infrastructure and applications costs.(open source is often the gift horse you “should” have looked in the mouth) In other words it is barely competetive, especially if your purchasing department is doing their job and getting the volume deals they should be getting from the redmond boys.  I did’nt even mention compatibility with other states documents, every moment you have to translate coming or going your’re burning time for someone that is cascading to someone else, etc.. Add up daily traffic and that alone is a significant block of time.  If Peter does not know time is money he’s in the wrong occupation. I myself have issues with the redmond boys, by paying attention to the looks of shock and horror and vocal protestations of the end users when I mentioned moving away from microsoft applications it became immediatly apparent that the human cost needed to be a major contributor in the decision.  I.T. has to be the enabler not the stumbling block.  A personal issue with the redmond boys which on the surface is what this decision appears to be should never be the overriding factor when making a sweeping change such as this.

      • #3065355

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by johnnysacks ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        Ouch!  I’m assuming the state has some pretty tight software license compliance controls so truckloads full of cold hard taxpayer cash have already been carted out to Redmond and poured into the Microsoft coffers.

        The cost benefit of performing this switch at this point in time based upon expected future software licensing expenditures needs to be considered.  Re-training of users is an issue that should not be ignored but I guess it’s hard to imagine that there are really people out there who are that untrainable vs. those who’s sole purpose is to perpetually whine about every change imposed upon them.

      • #3065340

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by debuggist ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        Wasn’t the Massachusetts’ AG (at the time) one of the strongest
        proponents in the Microsoft antitrust litigation a few years ago? If
        so, then this is not so surprising. However, it is bold. I wouldn’t be
        surprised though if this is a negotiation tactic to lower the state’s
        licensing costs. This only affects state offices. What about the local
        government offices? Will they switch, too? Or are they already part of
        the deal?

      • #3058491

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by ergodic ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        I have been using Word Perfect Office since since the days of DOS and
        still use it sporadically since we are mostly using Linux and of
        course  OpenOffice.org Writer which is uses the odt format (Open
        Document Format).
        We join you in applauding Massachusetts move.  Very interesting.

      • #3058378

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by andré2 ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        Anyone familiar with Microsoft office, the Wordperfect office suite,
        and Sun’s Openoffice.org and Staroffice, should be asking why did they
        stick with Microsoft for so long?
        First of all,  word processing and spreadsheets, the core of any
        office suite, have be around for a long time, and are all that most
        users need, and that at fairly basic levels.   Most users would do
        better to disable the more advanced features of most office
        suites.  At basic levels, word processors and spreadsheets are
        very similar to work with – learning to use one is learning them all.
        For the vast majority of users any advantage of Microsoft office is
        marginal at best.   Sure, they claim to provide better
        support.  But Massechusetts is big enough to provide the little
        support needed, very economically.   The Wordperfect suite
        provides a much better word processor, and is less
        expensive.   Openoffice is free and for the vast majority of
        users is more than adequate.  Openoffice and a number of other
        office suites are at least in beta with versions that already support
        the new standard.  Given the (reasonable) attitude of Massacusetts
        in the past toward the monopolistic behavior of Microsoft, it would be
        very surprising if Massachusetts DID NOT fully support this new
        standard.  I would expect Wordperfect to support this new
        standard, giving a full range of excellent software to choose from.
        This gives Microsoft the opportunity, perhaps, to target the softwood
        industry to continue their appetite for monopolistic practices. 
        (They’re in the right state, why not?  It’ll take a while before
        consumers wake up and challange that protectionism.)
        In sum, an excellent move by Massachusetts.

      • #3058316

        Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        by dosmaster ·

        In reply to Massachusetts plans on ousting Microsoft Office

        I too applaude this move.  It is a gutsy thing to walk outside the safety zone and try something new.  That’s probably why there are already a few “oh gosh, what if it doesn’t work?” posts already made.  I won’t worry about whether the sky will fall on Massachusetts IT for trying this.  Rather, I thank them for taking the risk (however big anyone else thinks it is) and initiative to try something new that could honestly be of menetary benefit to the sate taxpayers.  The success of this change will be a determining factor in how seriously I consider such a move.  And believe me, I AM considering such a move… 

    • #3063859

      Hot Site of the Week – Grants.gov

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I can’t believe I failed to mention this web site when I wrote about grant writing a few weeks ago.  Grants.gov
      is an excellent place to begin your search for grant
      opportunities.  Not only can you search for grant opportunities,
      you can download grant application packages and even apply for grants
      through Grants.gov.  Add this site to your list of important
      bookmarks and begin to expand your budget with the help of some grant
      dollars today.  

    • #3065631

      E-mail and Web Use Monitoring: Good or Bad?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Let?s open a can of worms and make this week interesting,
      shall we? Is e-mail and Web use monitoring good or bad in a government work
      place? I bring this topic up because I just read an article that quoted a recent
      survey in CSO magazine that said that 61% of survey respondents allow e-mail
      content monitoring while 75% allowed monitoring of Web use.

      This made me wonder about government use of employee
      monitoring. My guess is the percentages would vary depending on the
      organization’s mission and amount of regulation that they must work under. For
      instance, the Department of Defense and the CIA probably do more monitoring
      than a local government, for instance. But before we get into who is monitoring
      and why, let?s talk about the basics of monitoring.

      Monitoring can be defined as storage and review of employee e-mail, files, and computer
      activity. By default we engage in the first part of the definition through our
      normal IT activities. E-mail and files are regularly backed up for recovery
      purposes and network activities, such as login and logout times, are often part
      of log files kept by the network operating system. Our Web activity record is
      kept by default in the form of history files, cookies, cache, and logs on
      servers, as well as on the clients themselves.

      The key then to “do we monitor” is review. Do we allow the review of e-mail, files or Web
      use in our organization? I am willing to bet that most of you reading this will
      say yes to that question. In fact, I am pretty sure that there are extremely
      few government organizations that would disallow the examination of computer
      records and e-mail as part of an investigation into harassment, theft, or other
      conduct not permitted by the organization. Therefore, the majority of us
      participate in monitoring at the lowest level.

      But when most of us hear the term monitoring, we aren?t thinking about the passive, low-level
      monitoring described above. Most of us think about active monitoring tools and
      active/purposeful review of information collected by those tools.

      From keystroke loggers to e-mail and Web filtering/blocking,
      there is a tool made that we can employ to record/stop the activity. The
      question then becomes ? should we?

      Proponents of active monitoring usually give the following
      arguments for doing so:

      • Increases
        employee productivity.
      • Security
        ? protects confidential information.
      • Increases
        in network performance.
      • Aids
        in regulatory compliance.
      • Aids
        in network/capacity planning.

      Detractors of the practice usually give the following
      arguments:

      • Breeds
        contempt amongst the workforce.
      • Lowers
        productivity.
      • Opens
        the organization up to litigation.
      • Can
        create storage and retention issues.
      • Can
        decrease network/computer performance.

      First and foremost, the answer to “should we?” should
      not
      come from IT. This is strictly a management and HR decision and the
      decision to monitor or not and to what degree has to come from them. That?s not
      to say that IT should not play a leadership role in bringing the issue to
      management’s attention ? after all, the tools and capabilities do reside with
      IT.

      In fact, IT must play a strong role in making sure that
      those who will be making the decisions understand not only the capabilities
      regarding employee monitoring but also understand the drawbacks. It is with
      this information that management can weigh all the pros and cons associated
      with the issue and choose the course that is best for the organization.

      No matter what level of monitoring is used, (remember I
      argued earlier that we all participate in monitoring) the policy should be
      disclosed very clearly. Make sure your acceptable use policy defines what a
      violation is and what the consequences are of violating the policy.

      Personally, I have always been a big believer of blocking certain
      types of activities. I think it is in the best interest of the organization and
      its employees to protect the workers from themselves (to a certain degree.) For
      example, I would rather proactively block pornography and hate material rather
      than check up on people, or deal with the results of complaints that might
      arise from inappropriate use.

      Secondly, given open records laws, the more you retain
      regarding employee behavior, the more fodder there is for unwarranted ill will.
      For example; if you log Web site activity for the organization and you allow
      “casual surfing of the internet during lunch and breaks,” you will
      likely find that non-work related Internet activity comprises a large
      percentage of total Web activity. It won?t matter when and how the activity
      occurred to the citizenry when they read a headline screaming “Government
      Employees spend majority of time on eBay!” Think about that when factoring
      in the pros and cons of monitoring.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3065620

        E-mail and Web Use Monitoring: Good or Bad?

        by zlitocook ·

        In reply to E-mail and Web Use Monitoring: Good or Bad?

        I have been a contractor for three years and a employee of two companys. They all had an email policy and internet usage policy which was enforced buy three strikes your out. Or if you do one of the big nono’s like sending porn or ethnic email you were let go that day. People forget that you work for the company and you use thier equipment and network bandwith. Most companies state that any work, ideas or other things done on company time is the company property .

          I dont like the governmemt spying on me at home but that is not the same thing. I am paying for a service and with paying for it the service provider works for me. So I should be able to say what should be done and who should see what I am doing.

        The company I am now contracted to has a free wireless conection in the lunch room, but it has it’s own useage policy. You sign a contract/waver stating that you know it is an open connection and the company provides no protection.

        I do not care if any one looks at what I do on company time! I have enough problems to worry about with in the company and do not have time to play around. Think about what you do at work and the amount of time others waste just playing around. Would you want the person who is suppost to give you the big report so you can give it to your boss to be surfing for a new pair of shoes? And now your report is late and the boss is looking for a new person!

        I was a slacker once, now I more interested in getting the job done and done right so I can get on to other things. Playing around at work is fun until you get caught. Or get some one else in trouble, you start looking like the bad guy.

         Yes, a work computer should be monitored and you should know this, a useage policy should be in place. And employees should know that they are Responsible for what they do on the companys computer. I expect to be hit hard for saying this but there has been too many things that have happened because of people not thinking before doing.

    • #3056676

      Does your Intranet need CPR?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Companies often talk about how they want their Intranet to
      reflect the heartbeat of their organization, but if the Intranets I have seen
      in the last few years are any indication, then many of them are dead.

      Why is that?  I think
      the main reason is that any web site is a living document and organizations
      often forget about the care and feeding that goes along with that living
      document.  You have seen this before and
      you know the drill.  A great big noise is
      made about the Intranet for its launch, and then over time it goes quiet.  Not much of an investment is made in it
      because it is ?DONE?.  The people
      assigned to update its contents have ?real? jobs that keep them busy, and
      Department Execs are busy shepherding their units, concerned about budgets and
      priorities, not whether their department?s info is up to date.

      Go ahead; take a look at your Intranet or even your
      organization?s Internet presence.  How
      much of that material is material from the launch?  How much of it is more than a year old, 3
      months old, a month old?

      I have always felt that the Intranet needs to have people
      dedicated to it full time whose responsibility it is to keep the content fresh
      and relevant to the employees.  Where
      these people come from and where they exist in the organization is entirely
      flexible, but they need to exist.

      What do you think? 
      Has your Intranet straight-lined? 
       If so, what do you think is wrong
      and how would you improve it?  If not,
      tell us how and why you manage to keep yours fresh.  Your peers I am sure would be eager to know!

      • #3079853

        Does your Intranet need CPR?

        by issa.clarke ·

        In reply to Does your Intranet need CPR?

        I agree with having people dedicatd to the Intranet.  But I am biased being a member of an Intranet  team myself.  What I am curious about is what proportion of firms staff might be appropriate to designate to the Intranet.

    • #3056668

      Hot Site of the Week – Laws and Legislation

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Need a State Statute or Legislation but just don?t know
      where to go to get it?  Then I have just
      the place for you.  Just click here for a
      page full of hot links to the information you are looking for.  State Constitutions, codes and even some
      municipal laws and regulations can be found. 
      And if you are wondering where I found this link ? The Library of
      Congress.  Check it out here.

    • #3058874

      Cha-cha-changes?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I have recently been involved with a community of users who
      experienced a drastic change in one of their applications overnight. Even
      though they had been warned of the impending changes, and some of the users
      actually had input into the process, the change has been overwhelming to many
      of them.

      As to be expected, there has been much wailing and gnashing
      of teeth and cries for things to go back to the way they were. While some have resigned
      themselves to learning the new system (grudgingly), others swear they will never
      use it and some have embraced it for all the reasons that initiated the changes
      in the first place. So, was this a good roll out, a failed roll out, or
      something in between?

      Before we answer that question, let’s talk about change in
      general. Everyone tends to believe that people hate change. And while hate may
      be a strong word, people often tend to look upon change with a less than
      favorable attitude.

      Why is that? There are dozens of reasons, but here are some
      of the leading candidates:

      Fear of the unknown, loss of control, fear of being made to
      look “stupid”, loss of knowledge/feeling worthless because what you
      knew is no longer relevant, change in your routine, forced learning, bad past
      experiences with change, rigid thinking/lack of flexibility.

      Given the reasons above, you have to wonder why we attempt
      change at all. With all the negativity surrounding change, isn’t any major
      change destined to fail? The answer to that is not necessarily. The better way to phrase the question is “isn’t
      any major change subject to failure?” And that answer is a resounding yes!

      As IT professionals, we must always be cognizant of the fact
      that no matter what you are doing, change is a risk factor that must be
      accounted for and managed. Even if the changes are completely and positively
      for the better, they will be resisted, often quite vocally. And even the
      smallest modification can cause a maelstrom of discontent far exceeding the
      magnitude of the change, if it isn’t handled right.

      So how do we manage this change? To answer this, we must
      look back at our reasons why people dislike change. One theme is fear of the
      unknown and a loss of knowledge. You combat this with information. Unless you
      have a VERY strong reason for surprising people with change (those situations
      do exist) you should precede change with lots of information.

      Inform those to be affected why changes are being made, what
      they are, and how things will work differently. Don’t be stingy with your
      information either. While there should always be executive summaries available of
      what you are planning to communicate, you should be ready with more verbose
      explanations of the change. One behavior that people engage in to calm their
      fears is to garner as much information as possible about it. Don’t let people
      starve for this kind of information. The more you can provide, the better the
      outcome.

      Besides providing information, you need to control your
      change schedule. Even people who are more accepting of change often dislike sudden change. If at all possible, make people
      aware of the schedule, and make it as gradual as possible. Shock and awe might
      work in a military campaign, but it is usually bad for change management.

      Include change-affected users as much as possible in the
      planning stages. Not all change fits this category, but if you can get active
      participation in the development, you will have allies in the audience that can
      share their knowledge with their coworkers and thus buffer the response to
      change.

      Lastly, communicate during the change process. Listen to and
      respond to comments, both good and bad. Even if you provided tons of
      information prior to the changes, keep information flowing and show that you
      are listening–even if it is just to say that you understand their concerns and
      you will try to help them through any issues the best way you can.

      As a government IT professional, you must be prepared to
      deal with an enormous amount of change. From your role as a change agent in the
      organization, to the fact that wholesale changes are often thrust upon you due
      to politics and differences in administrations, you have to be prepared to
      manage change to achieve successful outcomes.

      As far as the example given to start this article, the
      jury is still out. It sometimes takes a while to judge the results of changes,
      but my gut tells me this is going to be one of those in-between roll outs.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3054368

        Cha-cha-changes?

        by dmiller ·

        In reply to Cha-cha-changes?

        I work for a Public Housing Authority that was poorly managed for 20 years.  When the current management staff came in we began to promote change as a way of life for the agency.  For the past six years we have said in every way we can:  “There is a better way!  The search is worth the effort!”  We also have drawn our entire staff into the environment of change by asking them to bring ideas for improving the way we do things.  There was considerable resistance during the first couple of years after this change-over but the last four years have been wonderful as the motivation for change has come from the bottom up as much as from the top down.  Don Miller – Topeka Housing Authority.

      • #3054284

        Cha-cha-changes?

        by leoofmars ·

        In reply to Cha-cha-changes?

        I work for a public sanitation agency and we are experiencing some of the symptoms of change resistance mentioned by Ramon, and we’re just in the “gather the specifications for the new system” stage.  “Loss of Control” and “loss of knowledge” fears have already surfaced.  I discussed this with the application development/support team that I lead.  I asked them to be tolerant of users who appear to be resistant and understand what may be bothering them.  As for me and the team, we like to learn new things…really, we don’t care that the 15 years of knowledge we gathered about the old system is out the door.  Really.

        You might want to check out the blog I’m doing on this process, A New ERP.

    • #3062031

      Overblown

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      As I sit here and write this column, I have been using the
      new OpenOffice beta 2.0 (Windows Version) for about a week now. I downloaded
      it, ran the install, and began using it immediately. I did not peruse the help
      files, check out the read me, or anything of the sort. I just started working. Since
      then, I haven’t had one difficulty arise that prevented me from composing or
      editing a document in OpenOffice Writer or creating a spreadsheet.

      I call this success. Not just on the part of OpenOffice.org
      but also for the whole concept of the Windows GUI. I am old enough to remember
      the splash Apple made with the Mac and all the convincing Microsoft had to do
      to make people switch from DOS and our command-line comfort to Windows.

      One of the compelling arguments of the day was that because
      of the consistency of the Windows GUI interface, particularly in the area of
      the menu system, we would become better computer users because we could go from
      program to program with familiarity, thus reducing the learning curve.

      And you know what? They were right. Fast forward to 2005,
      and the majority of our users have been using Windows for at least five years. They
      also have been using an office suite for that same amount of time and are
      pretty familiar with what a word processor does, and to a lesser degree, a
      spreadsheet and a presentation package such as Power Point.

      So I am a little alarmed when I see articles or remarks
      espousing how costly and difficult it would be to switch to an open source
      office suite such as OpenOffice or a commercial package such as StarOffice, or
      even Corel Word Perfect Office, or Lotus SmartSuite.

      I will be the first to admit that there will be some costs
      involved, particularly for the power users who actually use the more detailed
      features of Microsoft Office. And there will be some conversion headaches with
      some documents for sure, but as far as word processors and spreadsheets go, for
      the majority of users, the transition would be far less traumatic than many
      make it out to be. Those spouting off about how difficult it will be do not
      give the general user base credit for the basic windows skills I mentioned
      above.

      And if your argument against it is that people would grumble
      because you switched out their office suite, just remember that these are the
      same folks that grumble over a switch between versions of the same software. So grumbling is a poor
      indicator of satisfaction/dissatisfaction.

      The reason I mention all this is partly because of the
      polarizing comments I have been reading in the trade press over the State of
      Massachusetts’ decision to switch workers away from Word and Excel (http://news.com.com/2100-1012_3-5845451.html).
      If this were biblical times, I believe someone would have stoned CIO Peter
      Quinn for his decision. Others, on the other hand, have praised the decision as
      if it came down chiseled on a stone tablet.

      I personally believe that many of those that have vilified
      Mr. Quinn have never tried OpenOffice for fear that they would find that they
      can function just fine in its environment.

      To those who have never tried OpenOffice, I encourage you to
      download it and give it a whirl for a week. I think you will find that as a
      package it does some things better than MS Office and some things worse than MS
      Office and some things different than MS Office. But as a whole, does a
      more-than-adequate job–particularly when you compare the price.

      As technology professionals, we are supposed to be able to
      weigh the pros and cons of technology, independent of emotion or allegiance to
      a particular vendor or manufacturer. Zealotry is not in your job description (http://techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5706440.html).
      A decision such as switching office suites can only be made after careful
      consideration in your own particular environment and based on fact not on hype
      or hysteria.

      I am willing to bet that Mr. Quinn’s decision to make this
      switch was not a knee-jerk reaction and that he spent a considerable amount of
      time considering it. It will be interesting to see how it turns out in his
      environment. However it does, it will not be an indication that it can or can’t
      work for you in your own environment. Only that it succeeded or failed in his.

      In the meantime, his decision has given some attention to a
      product that normally would not cross people’s mind during their day to day
      activities. This, I applaud him for. We too often create a standard and stick
      with it mindlessly from year to year just because it was the right decision at
      that time. When was the last time you actually re-evaluated your standards? I
      bet that for many, the last time any consideration was made over which office
      suite to use was when there was some real competition between the vendors. Since
      then, most places have been on auto-pilot, switching versions only when told
      to.

      OpenOffice has matured considerably since its inception and
      now just might be the right time to take a look at the state of things in the
      office suite world. You have nothing to lose by trying it and might be
      surprised at what you find.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

    • #3071953

      Hot Site of the Week – US Postal Service

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      While the USPS gets its share of grief from consumers regarding in
      person customer service, someone is getting things right in regards to
      its web presence.  The USPS is the 2005 winner of WebAwards
      Best Government Website Annual competition.  While the WebAwards
      judges specifically singled out the USPS postage rate calculator, the
      entire USPS web site is
      extremely well done.  Attractive, informative, and easy to
      navigate with plenty of handy tools, you could do worse than using it
      as a model for your own site.

    • #3071940

      Your technology budget – how did you fare this year?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      With most states and local governments now 2 months into their new
      fiscal years, and the federal fiscal year about to begin, I would like
      to know how your IT budget fared this year?  Did you get an
      increase, decrease or continuation?  Did your budget remain
      constant but you have a bunch of money set aside for capital
      projects?  If so, what kind?  ERP, infrastructure, security
      or maybe something else?  You don’t have to give your name or even
      what organization you are with.  Just say local, state, or federal
      or non profit and give a sense of size of your organization – small,
      medium or big.  This is not a scientific query, but just something
      to give everyone else reading a sense of how things are with their
      government kin.  So don’t be shy – go ahead and post a comment and
      let us know how you are doing.

    • #3073575

      Encouraging Security Practices

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I just read the following story regarding IT security:

      “The weakest security link: Users.”
      INS
      issued the results of a survey that found–you guessed it-end-users,
      and “their unwillingness to follow good security practices is the
      primary barrier to improving protection against malicious code.”
      (http://weblog.infoworld.com/techwatch/archives/004141.html)

      Clearly this news comes as no surprise to most of
      you that are practicing IT professionals. The biggest question
      surrounding this issue is not that users are the weakest link, but how
      to deal with it. Definitely a tough issue to deal with or we would have
      solved it already right?

      Like many complex problems, the solution is
      multifaceted and includes technological and nontechnological
      components. Our first steps in combating user unwillingness to follow
      security practices fall in the nontech side and involve
      changing/shaping behavior.

      I. Rules and Regulations:
      In order to move noncompliance from just an organizational social
      phenomenon to one of actual consequence, we have to have our security
      practices codified in the form of “official policy and
      procedure”–preferably in the organizational policies and procedure,
      not just departmental rules and regulations.

      By doing so, we hopefully are conveying to the
      organization that we are serious about security and that violations do
      have consequences. However, this is easier said than done. It involves
      convincing senior management that information systems security is
      important enough to discipline employees over and more importantly,
      that the rules are important enough to enforce. It’s possible to write
      volumes on just this aspect, but let it suffice to say that this step
      is not the place to skimp on research and details and the more well
      thought out and articulated the policies the better. Also, your
      governance body can play a huge role in the formulation of policy.

      II. Training: It is not enough to get the rules on paper; they must be articulated in such a fashion as to let employees know why security
      practices are important as well as the consequences to both them AND
      the organization of not following them. A great place to start is by
      catching the employee as they enter the organization. They have yet to
      be indoctrinated into bad habits by coworkers and tend to be more open
      to organizational messages than they are later on. So have someone from
      IT be part of new employee orientation or make sure that whoever is
      charged with the orientation can deliver your message in an effective
      way.

      We can?t forget current employees in our training.
      We need to find ways to train existing users on the importance of good
      security practices. Whether this is through HR-sponsored internal
      training, brown bag lunch and learns, or some other method, the
      training needs to be made available frequently and the content kept
      fresh.

      III. Communication:
      This is your propaganda campaign. You are running one aren’t you? Just
      like in WWII with “Loose Lips, Sink Ships,” you need to get the message
      out in a variety of ways. Come up with a slogan and plaster it wherever
      and whenever you can. Start up messages, e-mails, on the company
      intranet, e-mail signature lines, posters, mouse pads, contests, the
      limit is your imagination. Keep the messages regarding good security
      practices in front of employees as much as possible. It will begin to
      sink in and soon peer pressure among employees will aid in policing
      your policies.

      One idea is to publicize compliance by having a
      very visible scorecard on the intranet that shows violations by
      department or by showing how many days have passed since a violation in
      a particular area ? such as: “HR has been 128 days without a security
      violation.” Of course this has to be coupled with random audits by
      staff who can use minor infractions as learning episodes by issuing
      “warnings” and of course, keeping records. This can be done in a way
      that you are taken seriously without getting the reputation of the
      Gestapo.

      IV. Enforcement:
      Assuming you have clear rules, regulations and consequences created as
      part of step I, you must be proactive and consistent with enforcement.
      In many organizations this means having those difficult battles with
      other managers that get escalated to senior management because they
      (the other manager/s) have a “star” performer who feels they can ignore
      rules and regs that inconvenience them. You must be prepared to invest
      the time in these seemingly “minor” infractions because of the
      precedent they set, and the message they convey. Major violations are
      usually a breeze and few managers will protest the enforcement of those
      rules and regulations on any employee. For example, it’s hard to defend
      anyone for viewing porn in the office, and it’s usually a one-way
      ticket out of the organization.

      As mentioned above, there is an ever increasing
      array of technology-based tools that aid in enforcing–or better
      yet–taking most of the security practices out of the users’ hands.
      From firewalls, antivirus software, Web filtering and tracking, to
      keystroke logging, spam filters, and routing rules, there are seemingly
      dozens of new tools being created everyday. I have written about some
      of these in previous blogs and articles, and you will find that, in
      general, I prefer tools that prevent infractions rather than just
      report infractions.

      None of the components listed above can work alone
      to solve the problem of users who are unwilling to follow security
      practices. Together though, they can go a long way in reducing security
      vulnerability due to our users.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that
      uniquely affect public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT
      newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

    • #3069924

      Hot Site of the Week – Web Accessibility Resources

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      One of the challenges faced by governments is to create web sites that
      have the same appeal as the flashy feature rich web sites of commercial
      enterprises while at the same time keeping their sites accessible to
      the disabled.  This is no small task, yet one that must be
      undertaken, particulary for those government web sites that are in some
      part funded by the federal government.

      The Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C is an excellent place to
      start when looking for resources to help make sure your web site/s is
      up to snuff regarding accessibility.  You can reach their site by
      clicking here.

    • #3069918

      Identity Management Shootout

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I love it when magazines take best in class solutions and put them
      through the wringer, don’t you?  Infoworld did just that with
      Identity Management Solutions and you can find the interesting results
      of their showdown right here.

    • #3060536

      Podcasting and RSS ? Is Government ready for it?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I sat down to begin this blog feeling pretty good about myself. Humph, I thought, I?ll write about podcasting and RSS feeds ? I bet many governments haven?t even thought about utilizing them yet. Then, to test my theory, I surfed on over to http://www.firstgov.gov and lo and behold, the Federal Government is already doing it! Whoa! Perhaps I underestimated government.

      So I started looking for some state and local government sites that might be using them and found none. Please note, my search was not intensive, so there may be some out there, but I hit about ten random sites and came up empty. So perhaps the topic hasn?t caught on at the state and local government level yet.

      Just in case you might be scratching your head right now regarding Podcasting and RSS, let me shed some light on these terms for you.

      I found the following definition of Podcasting on Wikipedia which gives a pretty good explanation of what it is:

      Podcasting is a method of publishing audio programs via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files (usually MP3s). It became popular in late 2004, largely due to automatic downloading of audio onto portable players or personal computers.

      Podcasting is distinct from other types of online media delivery because of its subscription model, which uses a feed (such as RSS or Atom) to deliver an enclosed file. Podcasting enables independent producers to create self-published, syndicated “radio shows,” and gives broadcast radio programs a new distribution method. Listeners may subscribe to feeds using “podcatching” software (a type of aggregator), which periodically checks for and downloads new content automatically.

      Most podcatching software enables the user to copy podcasts to portable music players. Any digital audio player or computer with audio-playing software can play podcasts. From the earliest RSS-enclosure tests, feeds have been used to deliver video files as well as audio. By 2005 some aggregators and mobile devices could receive and play video, but the “podcast” name remained most associated with audio.”

      For RSS, I will again turn to Wikipedia for a clear and concise description:

      “RSS is a family of XML file formats for web syndication used by (amongst other things) news websites and weblogs. The abbreviation is used to refer to the following standards:

      The technology behind RSS allows internet users to subscribe to websites that have provided RSS feeds; these are typically sites that change or add content regularly. To use this technology, users are required to download an aggregation service, which presents new articles in a list, giving a line or two of each article and a link to the full article or post. Unlike subscriptions to pulp-based newspapers and magazines, RSS subscriptions are free.”

      Now that we know what they are, let?s talk about how they can be used and whether it is worthwhile to make the effort. First, podcasting. We can assume that the target audience for podcasting is below 30 correct? Well, maybe not. In fact, while many of the early adopters were indeed quite young, the demographic for portable music players is increasingly getting older. So I think it is safe to say that a growing number of government constituents are using or will be using a device that can listen to a podcast as time passes ? thus making podcasting even more worthwhile than it is today.

      Given that you indeed have an audience, what kind of material do you have that can be made available? The answer ? basically anything that you have as recorded audio. This can be meetings, addresses, public service announcements, press releases, instructional audio, the weather, radio programs and more. The more you have available, the richer your service can be.

      As for the question already on your lips ? how much is this going to cost me to be able to provide this service? Not that much. Other than coordinating the creation of MP3 files from your audio sources, creating an RSS feed, and the organization of the whole process by your web admin/s, this is something you can take on without great expense.

      RSS is basically the process of providing your web content in the form of an XML file format. As noted above, it is best used for portions of your website that have actively changing content. The federal government uses it for transmitting information on recalls and public safety, data and statistics, changes in rules and regulations, press releases, and science and technology to name a few.

      I can also imagine the use of RSS to transmit street closures, traffic updates, “Amber alerts” public service announcements, event reminders, findings, legislative changes, proceedings ? the list could go on and on.

      As with podcasting, the effort it would take to implement this technology is negligible and easily can fall into the realm of normal web site maintenance and enhancement.

      In short, both of these tools provide a way for government agencies of any size to extend their web services to reach an even greater number of constituents for little cost while at the same time doing something that is deemed “cutting edge”. By doing so, you increase the ability for government to communicate with its customer and at the same time possibly building a little “credibility” with the younger crowd. Neither is a bad thing.

    • #3060198

      Just do the job!

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I?m on a bit of a rant today, so forgive me if I come off a bit angry. Everywhere
      you turn these days it seems that we are being bombarded with messages
      regarding the product or service or process that will take our business
      to the next level or into the future.

      Forget the next level; I just want people to do their job today! To do what is required. No more, no less. I
      am not asking for superhuman feats or for someone to employ space age
      technology ? just deliver on whatever product or service you are to
      provide me. That?s all.

      I?m tired of
      having to check, double check and check again because if I don?t follow
      up, nothing gets done or it isn?t done correctly. Whether it is in the
      drive through and finding out once again that my order is incorrect or
      partially missing, or having a government organization lose an
      important original document, or finding out four days later that my
      computer order made online was lost due to a server crash, it seems
      that everywhere I turn no one is capable of performing the basic
      service they are there to provide.

      In fact,
      this malady is getting to be so ubiquitous that any more I am shocked
      and awed when people actually do what they are supposed to. What has happened? Why is every transaction with another person for a good or service such a SNAFU?

      Perhaps it?s me and my perspective is all wrong. It might be possible that my expectations are too high. Then again, maybe not. My personal theory ? I blame management, or the lack of it for most of these problems.

      Whenever I
      look at a person or unit or organization that is not performing, I
      usually spy management not doing one or more of the following:

      Holding people accountable. ? Whose accountable anymore? Missed meetings, deadlines missed, products not delivered, promises not kept. Plenty of blame gets spread around, but so what? No one ever does anything about it. Without accountability, where is the incentive to perform? Insuring that people are doing their jobs is what management is about, yet one of the most avoided tasks of a manager. Why?
      Because if people aren?t performing, dealing with them can be an
      unpleasant and time consuming task. However not dealing with it and
      showing that there are no consequences to poor performance sets a very
      bad example that is very contagious. People learn quickly what they can get away with.

      Planning. Is it me or are many organizations seemingly flying by the seat of their pants? Often
      when I go into meetings I ask questions regarding projects or efforts
      such as ?What is the goal or objective of this effort? Who is responsible for the deliverables? When will it be finished and what processes have been put into place to insure it will get done?

      I often just get blank stares as a response. Apparently proactive management is alien to many of today?s managers?

      Being realistic rather than asking the impossible. In
      this day and age of doing more with less there are individuals or units
      who simply cannot do anymore than they are doing because there are
      limits to how much they can perform. Yet management continues to pile
      on without the realization that something has to give ? and that
      something is usually quality of product or service.

      Being Active Managers. I remember having management defined for me as Planning, Organizing, Commanding, Controlling, and Coordinating. The last time I checked, these were action verbs. Too
      many managers these days manage from behind a desk and their only form
      of communication is email. And/or they are so wrapped up in meetings
      that they have no time or energy for dealing with day to day activities. Management has to make time to be visible and to see what is going on first hand. No one likes to be managed by the ghost that is rarely seen and communicates infrequently. If you want employees to work hard, you need to build a rapport and earn respect. Hard to do when you never enter the trenches yourself.

      Remembering that the customer is what it is all about. Well at least that?s what I think it should be. Others might think it is profits or return on investments or such. Apparently I am in the minority on this subject because if I wasn?t I wouldn?t be getting such poor quality service.

      Being
      that IT is first and foremost a service provider we need to insure that
      we are providing the best possible service we can for the level of
      technology that we have/can afford. Your IT shop doesn?t have to resemble a space station to provide excellent service. It comes from proper processes and management involvement. While my examples earlier were not IT related it is easy to come up with those as well.

      Have
      you experienced any projects going nowhere because you are waiting for
      a sign off from an authority that never seems to have the time to give
      it? How long does it take for a problem to be resolved by your unit once it is discovered? How many reams of paper does it take to fill out a request to fix something that will take under an hour to fix? How
      often does nothing get done on an issue because the ONLY person who can
      do something about it is sick or on vacation or too busy?

      If any of
      these sound familiar with your unit, perhaps it might be worth stepping
      back and seeing if you are practicing all of the above. If not, it might be worthwhile to think about them. In
      the meantime, I?m going to ponder how to fill out a web based help
      ticket from a PC without a network connection because no one will
      answer the phone at the help desk.

      • #3060178

        Just do the job!

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Just do the job!

        Hold Management / Company Accountable – Not the People! – I have rarely seen problems that are due to the people doing the work.  Often the people at the bottom are the ones doing their very best to get things right, but they have been given an impossible task to complete accurately and reliably.  As I read the remainder of the items in this blog, I note they are all management tasks, but the only item that assigns responsibility points the finger at the staff.

        If there is no planning, is the person trying to do the work responsible for the poor outcomes?  If requests are unrealistic, is the person trying to meet them responsible?  If the person directing the work is no where to be seen, is the undirected worker responsible for the results of his ad hoc attempts?  Is it the person who is face-to-face with the customer the one who is more concerned about profit or return on investment?  In general, it is the staff level are doing there best.  In my experience, staff members who are screw ups are far and few between.  If the people you are dealing with directly continually fall in this category, then management has sever problems in its hiring policy.  If, instead, the people are doing their best and continue to fail, then management has created a situation that breeds unreliability and has failed to take action to correct the issue.

        It is easy for a manager to point at someone and say “If only he had done his job better …”  Unless this is an isolated occurrence, the manager would do better to point at himself and ask, “What should I do to ensure that dedicated people can do their jobs better?”

         

      • #3060130

        Just do the job!

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Just do the job!

        Wayne,
             Perhaps I wasn’t clear but the whole piece was
        about management taking responsibility for these problems.  In
        fact, I quote from one of the above paragraphs “I blame management, or
        the lack of it for most of these problems.”   Sorry if that didn’t
        come across to you.

        Ramon

    • #3060186

      Open Source Success Story

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I love a good open source success story, don’t you?  Especially when it is done on a large scale as in this story in CIO magazine regarding Cendant’s switch from a mainframe to 144 linux servers.  Just the kind of story to combat naysayers who say that open source is not enterprise ready.

    • #3068708

      ITIL in a Nutshell

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you do a
      quick search on IT best practice frameworks, you will find no shortage of
      foundations/architectures on which to build your IT organization. COBIT
      (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology), ISO9000 (International
      Standards Organization set of quality standards), CMM (The Capability Maturity
      Model), and Six Sigma are just a few. Another framework which is gaining
      interest in the United States is ITIL.

      ITIL
      stands for IT Information Library and it is a framework developed in Britain in
      the 1980s that addresses service delivery and support of IT services. Widely
      accepted internationally, it is just beginning to make significant inroads in
      the US. Privately, IBM, EDS, HP, Mead, and GM have adopted the framework. In
      the public sector, the states of Virginia and Wisconsin and Oklahoma City,
      among others have embraced the framework.

      Why ITIL?

      So
      what makes ITIL so special? Combing the literature, it appears that the
      consensus opinion on ITIL is that it is unique because of its strict focus on
      service delivery and IT operations as opposed to general techniques involving
      quality management or the implementation of standards. To many that have become
      involved with ITIL they see it becoming the de facto standard for all IT shops
      in the US as it has become so internationally. I have read in one source that
      the US and Canadian Governments will soon require IT contractors to use ITIL,
      but I have not been able to confirm that through any other sources at this
      time.

      Specifically what is ITIL
      and how do I access the library?

      ITIL
      as mentioned above is a collection of best practices that has been developed
      into a series of 8 books that run about $114 dollars each. They are:


      Service Support:
      Covers the basic processes
      involved with support to the enterprise such as Service Desk, Incident
      Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management, Change Management and
      Release Management.

      Service Delivery: This book focuses on the
      planning and delivery of services and includes topics such as Capacity
      Management, Financial Management for IT Services, Availability Management,
      Service Level Management, and IT Service Continuity Management.

      Planning to Implement
      Service Management:
      “This book answers the question ?Where do I start with ITIL?’. It
      explains the steps necessary to identify how an organization might expect to
      benefit from ITIL and how to set about reaping those benefits.”

      Infrastructure Management: As the title infers, this
      book covers everything about managing your telecommunications infrastructure
      including Design and Planning, Deployment, Operations, and Technical Support.

      Application Management: Covers the management of
      applications from inception to retirement and everything in between.

      Software Asset Management: Seeks to explain what
      software asset management is, why it is important and how to manage them.

      Security Management: ?This guide focuses on
      the process of implementing security requirements identified in the IT Service
      Level Agreement, rather than considering business issues of security policy.?

      The Business Perspective: “This book is
      concerned with helping business managers to understand IT service provision. Issues
      covered include Business Relationship Management, Partnerships and Outsourcing,
      and continuous improvement and exploitation of Information, Communication and
      Technology (ICT) for business advantage.”

      You
      can obtain these books here: http://www.itil.co.uk/publications.htm
      or via http://www.amazon.com

      Do you need another
      framework?

      I have to be
      honest with you, every time I read about another framework my first reaction is
      to roll my eyes. I have been around long enough to experience many “better
      than sliced bread” phenomenon that–if only implemented–will make my
      organization a superstar. And, of course, there are always an army of
      consultants to be hired and classes that need to be taken and certifications to
      achieve in order to “realize the potential” of the framework.

      And
      in that sense ITIL is no different. You can invest the time and resources in
      understanding the framework to build up expertise in order to implement it
      (which several organizations have) or you can hire someone to help you along.

      Additionally,
      like many of the frameworks that have come into vogue before it, integrating
      the processes involved with ITIL takes time–usually measured in years.

      However,
      with all that said, frameworks can prove beneficial. I think there are very few
      if any IT organizations in existence that can claim to be perfect and have no
      need for improvement. Most can stand some enhancements to their operations. The
      tough questions are: where can we improve and how do we go about doing it?
      That’s where frameworks are beneficial.

      Personally,
      this framework intrigues me–partly, I guess, because it was originally written
      by government workers, and I intend to research it further. If you are
      similarly intrigued, here are some places, besides the books, that you can get
      information to see if ITIL is right for you and your organization:

      ITLPEOPLE.com
      http://www.itilpeople.com

      The
      ITL Community Forum http://www.itilcommunity.com/index.php

      The
      IT Service Management Forum http://www.itsmf.com/index.asp

      • #3072479

        ITIL in a Nutshell

        by lucas rodriguez cervera ·

        In reply to ITIL in a Nutshell

        Hi Ram?n,

        I find the article very intersting. I would like to comment on this:


        You can invest the time and resources in
        understanding the framework to build up expertise in order to implement it
        (which several organizations have) or you can hire someone to help you along.

        I believe ITIL can be implemented by a company on
        its own successfully at a reasonable effort. They must have a realistic
        scope and implement it incrementally. A valuable resource for companies
        embracing this approach is the
        FITS (Framework for ICT Technical Support), an ITSM methodology based on ITIL developed by the BECTA.

        Lucas Rodriguez Cervera
        Nevant

      • #3072298

        ITIL in a Nutshell

        by teldata ·

        In reply to ITIL in a Nutshell

        First of all, remark that ITIL stands for IT Infrastructure Library (otherwise we would have the word Information twice), but that’s a little detail (although with 16 years of experience one should know better).

        I want to notify that the way you describe it, it souds  as a method for large companies only. But because it’s a set of best practices every company, large or small can benefit from using parts of the ITIL framework.

      • #3070915

        ITIL in a Nutshell

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to ITIL in a Nutshell

        Teldata,
        DOH!  Good catch.  <sigh> Unfortunately all the amount of experience doesn’t always catch typos 🙁

        Ramon

      • #3145519

        ITIL in a Nutshell

        by twohills ·

        In reply to ITIL in a Nutshell

        To get the full picture on ITIL, I like this site for the balancing view http://www.itilskeptic.org  Not everyone will agree with such a skeptical view but it is nice to hear boths sides of any story 🙂

    • #3045381

      AJAX, more than a cleanser.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you happen to overhear conversations regarding the need to develop
      applications that are network efficient and offer a zero footprint
      deployment in conjunction with the phrase AJAX, don’t look too
      perplexed. Asynchronous JavaScript and XML, or Ajax, is a web development architecture using:”

      • HTML (or XHTML) and CSS for presenting information
      • The Document Object Model manipulated through JavaScript to dynamically display and interact with the information presented
      • The XMLHttpRequest object to exchange data asynchronously with the web server. (XML is commonly used, although any format will work, including preformatted HTML, plain text, JSON and even EBML)

      Like DHTML, LAMP, or SPA,
      Ajax is not a technology in itself, but a term that refers to the use
      of a group of technologies together. In fact, derivative/composite
      technologies based substantially upon Ajax, such as AFLAX, are already appearing.”

      While somewhat complicated, AJAX is being used more and more by
      organizations to create web applications that operate and feel like fat
      client apps.

      If this intrigues you and you want to learn more about AJAX, here are some resources to get started:

      AJAX programming

      Dynamic Web Apps and AJAX

      Putting AJAX to work.

      Demystifying AJAX

      • #3114870

        AJAX, more than a cleanser.

        by polinastya-techrepublic ·

        In reply to AJAX, more than a cleanser.

        Here is another link to an AJAX-related resource:

        SWF (Simple Web Framework) https://swf.dev.java.net/
        has just been released in its initial version.  From their press
        release, “The Simple Web Framework (SWF) is an event based framework
        … The SWF event model supports XmlHttpRequest (as well as
        form/submit) based event posting, similar to VB.NET or JSF, with In
        place Page Updating (IPU) rather than page reloading.”  See the
        overview here.

    • #3045368

      Hot Site of the week – IBM explains AJAX

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      This week’s hot site ranks intermediate in the geek factor.  If
      you consider yourself a budding web programmer than you should take a
      gander at this site.   Besides being well written, the article includes source code as well.  What are you waiting for!

    • #3046004

      Technology of Inclusion

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I took a trip this weekend which involved air travel. As I stood in line to wait my turn at the “mandatory” self service kiosk to check in, I observed an elderly couple struggling with the process. I say “mandatory” because the two employees behind the kiosks (who were not employees of the airline we were trying to check in to) offered no other help to anyone other than suggesting what they might be doing wrong regarding the self service terminal.

      Meanwhile, the elderly couple worked unsuccessfully at trying to check in. Before I had a chance to do so, another passenger stepped forward and worked the display terminal for them so that they could finally get checked in. The couple was clearly distraught at the whole process and was grateful for having had a person finally help them out of their torture of dealing with this particular technology.

      As I stood there, I wondered if the airline really intended (or cared) for the process to work the way it does. Do they really intend for the process to be as difficult as it is for the elderly, or sight-impaired, or reading-challenged? I am sure that the self-service kiosks were meant to reduce personnel needed at the ticket counter, therefore saving the airline money, but I hope they had better intentions for the usability of the technology.

      This got me to thinking about technology in government use and how we need to ensure that the solutions we put into place are not exclusionary to a portion of our customer base.

      Some would say that the increased use of technology for self-service types of transactions is exclusionary by nature. I disagree. I believe it is how the technology is employed that determines its inclusiveness/exclusiveness. Let?s take Web-based services for example. For every function that we can offer as self-service via the Web, we will have two groups of people ? those that will make use of the opportunity for self service and those who can’t or won’t. Unlike the airlines, who see the incorporation of self-service technology as a way to reduce personnel costs, government should first see that the time gains for personnel is a way to provide better/more personal service to those who do not take advantage of the technology. In this light, the use of technology for self-service is a win-win for both sets of consumers.

      While it is important for all businesses and industry to think about their customer when employing technology to service them, it is crucial for government to do so. This consideration should be integral to every decision that is made where there is a possibility of customer interaction. Consider the decision to “only support IE version 6 or higher” for your Web site. I know more than one organization that has made this its policy regarding Web content. While a seemingly innocent business decision at first blush, this is a prime example of employing an exclusionary technology. Don?t think this is a big deal? Ask FEMA what they think!

      According to the Washington Watch section in the October 15th, 2005 CIO magazine, FEMA had adopted this policy in regards to the ability to complete/access digital forms for applying for assistance if you were a victim of hurricane Katrina. Because its phone lines were swamped, it was extremely difficult to access FEMA with anything other than a computer. However, much to their dismay, Mac and Linux users found themselves unable to complete the forms online. While this may be a small percentage of computer users, the point is that by choosing the exclusionary technology not only did FEMA frustrate some of its customers during a time of crisis, but it gave itself a public black eye at a time when it could least afford it.

      The same precautions apply regarding our own agencies’ Web sites and their accessibility to the disabled. While we want our Web sites to have the same flashiness and sex appeal as commercial Web sites, we do need to keep in mind that we should (or in some cases must) be accessible to the disabled. This can be an extreme challenge at times and should always be a point in any Web design specification. The decisions involving accessibility can be numerous and can involve creating alternate content or deciding not to use particular Web technologies. Although I have mentioned it before, a good starting place for Web site accessibility decisions is the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C whose Web site you can reach at http://www.w3.org/WAI/Resources.

      In summary, while it is important for government to employ technology to make interaction with it faster and easier, every technology introduction must take into consideration those who are unwilling or unable to take advantage of it. For those customers, alternate equitable means need to be part of the plan in order to accommodate their needs.

       

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3046373

        Technology of Inclusion

        by j alley ·

        In reply to Technology of Inclusion

        It is all about the business case

        While I couldn’t agree more with Ramon’s position that we need to remember who we serve, this is a complex issue and there are a couple of other considerations.

        First, adding a web channel for service rarely means that we can remove the existing channels. While it can reduce the effort to support traditional channels, by adding a web channel we almost always increase cost. Attempting to generate a payback on a web-based initiative is difficult and in many cases should not be part of the business case. The argument for web channels is to provide enhanced access to service.

        Second, if there are savings by adding a web channel, it is important to consider where those savings should be applied. They could be applied to reduce taxes, to improve this service, or even to add new services. Again, this is a decision that is made through the business case for any initiative.

    • #3115430

      Isn’t everyone using VOIP?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I have a friend who is dealing with an issue that I had to deal with a
      few years back. Seems that a salesperson has convinced influental
      members of a legislative body that their organization is backwards
      because they are not using VOIP instead of paying the local telephone
      company for dial tone. So a “study” is being commissioned to
      investigate why the organization is so backwards.

      I feel for my
      friend because it was not long ago that I faced the same issue.
      It’s not that we have anything against VOIP, it’s that the majority of
      buildings that house/d our organizations are OLD – as in
      historic. And while they have so much of the old quad wiring in
      them that you can put a standard telephone in almost every square inch,
      there is not enough CAT 5 or 6 wire to accomodate the needed PC
      connections.

      Needless to say, wiring the old buildings isn’t cheap
      but no one ever wants to pony up the dollars for infrastructure.
      So countless hours will be spent and meetings will be held to once
      again prove that just because a fortune 500 company can put technology
      to use, it is not always economical to do so in a government
      environment.

      • #3136737

        Isn’t everyone using VOIP?

        by lesko ·

        In reply to Isn’t everyone using VOIP?

        you can always look at wireless voice … there are some cool products
        out there some of which can work with both 802.11 and CDMA or GSM all
        in one device.

    • #3115427

      Web Site of the Week – Best Practices in Enterprise Portals.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I have been researching enterprise portals this week and came across
      the following web site that contains some useful information when
      considering portal technology. While many of the articles are
      authored by portal vendors, there are some gold nuggets to be found. Check it out here:

    • #3116063

      CIO challenges: Public vs. Private

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I just read an article reporting that the GAO finds that the
      responsibilities of government CIOs largely resemble those of their non
      government counterparts. (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1869922,00.asp)
      The article says that the major difference between the two is in the challenges
      that they face: private sector CIOs struggle to align themselves with business
      goals, while public sector CIOs must overcome organizational obstacles and find
      enough money to keep the lights on.

      We needed a GAO study to tell us this? It is no great secret
      that government faces the same IT hurdles as the private sector, plus the
      additional challenges of: more regulation, fewer funds, constantly changing
      executive leadership, frequent changes in mission and priorities, conflicting
      missions and priorities due to having to be responsible to multiple masters
      (administrations, legislatures, and the public), less flexibility, and greater
      exposure/public oversight.

      Given all that, you have to wonder sometimes how IT in
      government functions at all? But despite these hardships/obstacles, government
      IT shops perform — and some of them quite
      well. To all of you working in the government IT realm, my hat is off to you.

      However, even those that feel they are performing well know
      deep down that they are lacking substantially in some areas and are doing the
      best they can. Why? Generally, because of a lack of resources. And why the lack
      of resources? Three main reasons: (a) a limited pool of funds, (b) competition
      for those funds, (c) the reactionary nature of government.

      The limited pool of funds refers to the fact that government’s
      primary source of income are taxes. Besides the fact that no one likes to pay
      large amounts of taxes and thus the flow of incoming funds is regulated by how
      little one can tax and still provide all the necessary services, the pool is
      also regulated by how well the economy is doing. Economy is depressed = tax
      revenues depressed = fewer funds to cover all the services the public expects
      to receive.

      The competition for funds refers to the intense battle over that limited pool of funds by all the
      departments/agencies that provide services ? either to the public or to keep
      government running. It is in this area that IT tends to get short shrift as
      they do not provide direct services to the public. It is those public-facing
      units that tend to get the lions’ share of funding. While IT in budget hearings
      can generally talk about how decreases in funding will affect performance of
      systems, etc., it usually isn’t as jaw dropping as a Police Chief claiming that
      without proper funding the streets will be rife with criminals. In fact, I once
      knew a Chief of EMS who would answer requests for budget decreases with the
      statement, “No problem commissioner, which district should I let people
      start to die in?” That was usually pretty effective in stopping that line
      of conversation.

      The reactionary nature of government refers to the fact that
      government — as reflected by elected officials — tends to mirror what is hot at
      the moment with the public. This being the case, government tends to be
      reactive rather than proactive.

      All of the above combine to create a situation in which it
      is almost impossible for IT to get the necessary funding to excel in all areas,
      or in some cases — operate adequately.

      Two of the major areas where government IT shops are often severely
      lacking because of the above are security and disaster prevention/recovery.
      Why? Because they are expensive, they are insurance, and they are behind the
      scenes. Face it, systems will run
      without proper security, backup, and recovery capabilities. And for some of
      those that provide IT funding, that is enough. We all know it is not wise to
      operate that way, but for many it is a calculated gamble: Will it blow up on my
      watch? And even if it does, the funders are never usually the scapegoat.

      Thus, it is up to government IT shops to do the best that
      they can with the limited funds provided. It’s a pity the GAO didn’t provide
      any answers on how to solve this dilemma — because their survey only proved
      what we knew all along.

      However, the GAO did point something out that we should take
      note of. Public sector CIO’s generally are charged with more operational
      responsibility than private sector CIOs, such as architecture and strategic
      planning. Thus, they (public sector CIOs) tend to spend more time tending to
      the machinery rather than greasing the wheels. Find a way to reverse that
      balance. Greasing the wheels will get you more in the long run.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that
      uniquely affect public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT
      newsletter, delivered each Tuesday.
      Automatically sign up today!

      • #3116527

        CIO challenges: Public vs. Private

        by nostaff ·

        In reply to CIO challenges: Public vs. Private

        So true, but Public Sector CIOs are also far more likely to have to deal with taking on the responsibilities of other Departments. Haven’t you all had to deal with the computerization of a function and then the expectation that IT is responsible for monitor effective use of resources! After all, the staff are not all computer gurus!

        Battling this from happening is then viewed as IT being obstructionist or not customer service oriented.

        I do believe that Goverment CIOs/Execs need to foster regional/collaborative services, perhaps hosted service from another government entity. That’s a long shot though.

      • #3116479

        CIO challenges: Public vs. Private

        by pmoleski ·

        In reply to CIO challenges: Public vs. Private

        I work as a CIO in the public sector.  In general I agree with your comment about greasing the wheels but will make the observation that it has to be backed up by process to generate the required budgets.   To overcome the budget issues talked about we have gone through two iterations of planning for IT since I have been in my current position.

        In the first iteration we became visible (greasing the wheels) and developed an IT plan based on input gained from conversations between the CIO and the leaders of the business areas.  This successfully identified what needed to be done.  It was not successful in addressing the budget issue as IT still requested a block of money each year and projects had to be done within that.

        In the second iteration, which we are using now and works quite successfully to address both content and budget, we did things a bit differently.

        We separated the base budget, which includes the money to keep the lights on and enough to maintain (with small enhancements) the current applications, from the large IT projects.  The large IT projects are brought forward by the business areas they will support, as business cases, when the yearly budget is first proposed.  The business cases include the dollars that will be needed in both the business area and the IT area budgets.  If the business case survives the budget process then the initiative proceeds.  If it does not then the unit can try again the next year.  As for infrastructure issues they are self funding.  The cost of infrastructure seems to be going down as quickly as demands for infrastructure go up so a flat budget base is meeting our year to year needs.  If a large one time project was needed for infrastructure beyond the base I would have to bring it forward in the budget process, representing my own branch.

        The key thing we have done is integrated the IT budget planning into the overall budget planning for the organization.  It all starts with the key relationships and conversations with the branches in the organization buts ends with a single business/budget planning exercise for the organization into which IT is fully integrated.

        The above produces a yearly base and project budget that is automatically aligned with the key initiatives of the business and funded with the same priority as the key initiatives as it is integrated into the rest of the planning and budgeting.

        At this point I am repeating, but the key is there is not a separate process for IT.  It is fully integrated into the rest of the business planning and budgeting process.

        It is working very well since we made the switch.  The fact I can make this claim when I work for the Health Department in a province in Canada where health is publicly funded and I complete against nurses and doctors salaries for priority speaks to the robustness of the approach.

        Phil

         

         

         

    • #3135941

      Comments not only welcome but needed

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I just wanted to let everyone know that while I may not be able to
      respond to every comment that is made regarding a blog posting, I read
      every single one of them. Not only do I enjoy your feedback but
      it allows me to be in better touch with what is important to you.
      So please, don’t be shy. Let me know what’s on your mind, what
      you want to hear about, and whether or not you agree or disagree.

      Thanks again for reading, especially those that take time out to comment!

      Ramon

    • #3135939

      They have stirred up a hornet’s nest.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      The FCC has stirred up a hornet’s nest with its latest decision
      to decree that any VOIP provider must insure that their network is
      wiretap ready.  Besides the obvious providers, they are
      insinuating that colleges and universities must do the same.  Talk
      about an unfunded mandate!  There are tons of details to this and
      certainly more reserach to be done on my part before I write at length
      about it.  In the mean time, check out CNETs coverage here.

    • #3136381

      Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that I know of two fictional
      IT project managers. Both have many years of experience. The first is a certified
      Project Manager (PM) who is absolutely dynamite when it comes to PMBOK
      knowledge. He knows project management processes and procedures up, down, left,
      right, and backwards.

      On top of that, he is brilliant with Microsoft Project. He
      keeps up with the trade, stays on top of his game and on paper looks to be the
      ultimate PM. You know what’s coming next right? I wouldn’t choose him to manage
      his way out of a paper bag.

      How can someone so knowledgeable–and certified to boot–be
      so bad at actually taking a project to completion? The answer is: attitude and
      people skills. This person unfortunately does not exude confidence to anyone he
      comes into contact with. His personality is as dry as the Sahara and his ability
      to get people to follow him is virtually non-existent.

      Worse, he believes that he doesn’t need to understand the
      client’s business nor the particular subject matter of the project other than
      at a cursory level. To him, project management is the act of strictly following
      a defined methodology and making sure that all Ts are crossed and i’s are
      dotted. If that is done, then the project should succeed.

      If the project doesn’t
      succeed, he believes that he has been successful for not allowing the client to
      waste any more resources on an effort that never had a chance in the first
      place. Needless to say, he doesn’t have a long list of projects completed on
      time, within budget, and with a happy customer.

      Conversely, I know of an individual PM that is not
      certified, uses PMBOK and other methodologies loosely, is logical, quick on the
      uptake, and has a laser-like ability to get to the root cause of an issue and
      then determine how to fix it.

      More importantly, she is an active listener, a participatory
      manager, and always takes the time to understand the client’s business ? even
      if this means adding time up front on a project in order to do so. Ultimately
      because of her style, the client comes to know and trust this PM. This trust
      allows the client and the PM to travel the project road together and encounter
      whatever slips and slides await them. But if they do encounter the inevitable
      problem, there is no finger pointing or wringing of hands, just a quick
      reaction on how the “team” (client and PM) can deal with the issue.

      This trust also allows the PM greater flexibility in her
      project management because the client trusts that the PM is working in their
      best interest. This PM truly becomes a leader in the project, rather than a
      dictator of processes and procedures.

      Needless to say, this PM has a very good record of
      delivering projects and satisfying the customer.

      Now some will say that both PMs are very good and that the
      first PM just happened to end up in the wrong environment. The environment he
      is best suited for is one where clients are exceptionally skilled at what they
      do; they just need some organization wrapped around their work.

      Conversely, one could argue that the second PM just happened
      to end up in environments where the clients know they want something done, may
      even know what the solution to their ailments are, but they just don’t know how
      to get there. In this environment, the second PM really shines.

      I happen to think there is something to be said for both the
      above arguments, and there really is a best match of client to PM. However,
      when hiring a PM based on a resume and an interview and a few references, it is
      still hard to determine which one you are going to get, PM #1 or PM #2 or maybe
      a mix of both.

      Personally, I always hope for #2. I think their style
      is more adaptable to either environment and they can adjust to whatever
      methodologies are required and the degree of rigorousness that must be
      followed. What do you think?

      • #3120528

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by lfhowell1 ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        Schizophrenia of Organizations Today: To PMP or Not

        This is a terrific discussion and timely.  It underscores an
        important and growing
        dilemma about what a client (for consultants) or enterprise (for
        internals) really want versus what they need regarding the successful
        execution of a project.  As many of the readers know, there is a
        growing debate for PMP certification in job requirements or the
        infamous “preferred” catch-phrase that follows this expectation. 
        A nice analysis of this is at the link:
        https://www.gantthead.com/article.cfm?ID=226852

        Unfortunately, however, the #2 person described in your post exposes
        the weakness of the hiring and interview process for many client
        organizations. Behavioral interviewing techniques and situational
        discussions can uncover the tendencies to ascertain the traits an
        organization desires that would identify person #2.  The challenge:
        who has time for this?  The irony, however, is that hiring right
        the first time, creates tremendous value for the enterprise–at least
        that is what common sense tells us.  Sadly, many organizations
        believe that  the PMP certification requirements will help in the
        decision-making process to validate the “final call.”  To be sure,
        I am a fan of PMBOK–know it well, and apply some of it and
        begrudingly on the road to certification.  But, “right-brain”
        skills and competencies–those creative tendencies, the ability to
        think and collaborative when unusual circumstances occur or the
        political heat is turned up a notch, often begs for non-PMP skills and traits. 

        The schizophrenia of enterprises today highlights the dichotomy between
        person #1 and person #2; a company or government agency would love to
        hire person #2, but feel it is “safer” to hire person #1–depending on
        the culture or the project and sponsorship.  From participating on
        both ends of hiring and delivering PM services, the back and forth that
        takes place during the hiring process usually protracts making a
        decision.  What’s more, it makes you wonder if the project is
        really that important to begin or how does an organization truly define
        success?  Is it the process or the outcome?

      • #3118887

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        IFHOWELL1,
            Excellent comment,  Could not have said it better myself.

        Ramon

      • #3118219

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by catfish182 ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        this was great to read. I was just made a project manager and i want to do whats best for the clients i have been assigned. Great read . I hope i can become project manager #2. I try to put myself in the shoes of hte client and understand what they are going though or need. I also like to have PM #2 also if im on a project. Makes life easy.

      • #3131396

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by micheles ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        Excellent summary! As an avowed #2, I am somewhat biased; however, in my experience more companies need salvage experts than PMBOK experts. There is a lot of room for creativity in most companies, both because few projects are adequately planned or funded at the outset and because most operational areas lack long-term vision.  I see more and more companies where middle management has little or no idea of a five-month plan, let along a five-year plan!  These are the folks who need the creative, flexible PM the most.

      • #3130590

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by chgragg ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        Good article.  In my expereince, Project Managers who have too technical a background become focused on micr-managing their strong suite and lose the overall bigger picture.  While some type of certification and method knowledge is highly desirable, practical knowledge normally provides a better return.  It’s the difference between “text book” Project Management and “real world” Project Management.

      • #3130564

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by lellis17 ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        Although I believe experience and certification help a project manager, I agree that soft skills and communication differentiate a great project manager from a bump on a log.  A PM that isn’t “in the trenches” with their team and client will often not be told when there is an issue. Really caring about your team and client and what they are trying to accomplish goes a long way toward building the trust that breeds successful projects.

      • #3131943

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by larryjg ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        Trust is definetly one of, if not the most important elements that must be developed between the project manager and all stakeholders – agreed. However, I have a concern with the idea promoted in this article that splits the PMBOK into the “hard” and “soft” disciplines. I think the reason most people divide the PMBOK in this hard/soft way is the presentation of the information which is very technical in delivery. Readers of the PMBOK will gravitate towards what they are more comfortable with. If you are of the #1 background you will see and adopt the structure, if you are of the #2 persuasion, you will read the importance of the people skills, and most importantly if you have a well-rounded background of experiences you will capture both. I view the PMBOK and the PMI way of project management as promoting and supporting both. Within the PMBOK there is Code of Professional Conduct, the Communications Chapter and the HR chapter, all promoting and suggesting the importance of people skills. I believe the most important item to consider and accept is that project management and the role of the project manager requires flexibility and a readiness to always learn.

      • #3131892

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by chenig ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        The bottom line is this – project management is an art not a science.

        I’ve been at this for a while and yes, I do have a PMP. (If you are serious about being a PM, get the certification. Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire career explaining why you didn’t.) I have worked w/ PMs who think that project management is a matter of applying the right structure and measuring tools and making the project fit the norm. I watch them fail all the time w/ this one size fits all approach.

        I come out of software development (another discipline based on art and not science). I want to know the business need driving the project into being. Why is the application being replaced? Who is going to use the data warehouse? What’s the rationale of the web site? Sometimes I work for the organisation and I already know the political landscape (and land mines). If I come from the outside, I’m going to ask a million questions and make it my business to understand your business.

        The PMBOK is a good structure (except for the discussion of how to manage people which is enough to get you fired in some places). I’d add a security aspect to a project because so many clients are so security conscious. The principles of structured project management methodology are required. But if you come from the formulaic approach, as our mythical PM #1, you may think that’s all you need to do. PM #2, who really should get her PMP, should apply the same methodology once she understands the project context, organisational goal and the team she’s working among. No question that winging it is not a successful approach. You have to do the basics.

        But I’ll take #2 every time.

        Heck, I’ve BEEN #2, until I wised up and took the exam.

      • #3121808

        Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        by rzimmerman ·

        In reply to Trust: One of the primary keys to project management

        There are of course no wrong answers to whom you would hire. Skillset # 1 would be suitable for PM Office support/governance/audit role, with no direct interaction with client. Skillset # 2 is a client facing role who would draw on the skillset of # 1. This assumes a fairly large organization that can absorb a PMO. I’ve worked with both types of individuals, and it is more difficult to find the client facing management type due to the nature of our technical backgrounds tendency to be introverted. I think in the real world, most of us PM types are a blend of the two skillsets.

    • #3118886

      Interesting Website

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Network admins, perhaps you may not know thine enemies, but you should
      be aware of some of their tools.  Check out
      http://www.insecure.org/ to get the scoop on some of their tools and the thoughts from a self professed “good guy” hacker.

    • #3118884

      Web Site of the Week – All things SOA

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you are just getting your feet wet with SOA, or just want to know what the acronym stands for, then this website is a good starting place to garne that information. 

    • #3119543

      Communication crucial to service providers

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Society is more communication crazy than ever, and our technology is responsible for this, of course. We live in a culture in which everyone seems to talking on a cellphone; checking and responding to e-mail on their Blackberry, laptop or phone; listening to tunes on an IPOD; or interacting with one or more of the seemingly billion devices that are used to keep us in constant contact. 

      This leads me to my point, which is that as consumers of services, we desire (perhaps demand) to be kept informed of the status of the service being provided to us. We want to know when the service is going to be performed, how long it’s going to take, how much it costs, what’s being done about problems with the service, and so on.

      When we don’t get the answers to these questions in a timely fashion, we become frustrated. The harder we work to obtain answers or–if the answers are not satisfactory–the more angry and frustrated we become–to the point that even if the service has been successfully provided, its value is greatly diminished–it might even be considered a failure.

      There is a lesson to be learned here. If we are service providers, the more we communicate about the service–before, during, and after its delivery–the more positively the service will be received. This even works if you are failing in some capacity to provide the service in the expected way. It is better to own up to a failure and say what is being done to rectify it than it is to stay quiet about it. In other words, you can get away with less than 100% stellar performance so long as you keep the lines of communication open. People will generally cut you some slack so long as you are open and honest with them.

      However, failing to communicate, especially when you are not performing well, magnifies your issues and can completely blow them out of proportion.

      Obviously there is a limit to everyone’s patience when it comes to poor performance, no matter how much you communicate, particularly if poor performance is the norm, but you might be amazed at how far the limits can be stretched.

      How does this translate to IT? We unfortunately tend to try to be the strong, silent type when it comes to our work when, in fact; we need to be exactly the opposite. We should be masters at communicating during all facets of our service provision, from inception to delivery of our service and them some!

      There should be no doubts by the customer regarding our service. We should be clear and communicate what we know, even if that means communicating that we do not know anything.

      While the personal touch is always best, the form of communication can vary so long as it is truly informative. Voice messages, e-mail, system prompts, even paper is acceptable so long as it communicates something meaningful. You really do want to avoid having your customer say, ?No S%#t Sherlock, tell me something I don’t already know.?

      While I won’t go into numerous examples of how you should communicate, if you stop and think about it, you will probably come up with dozens upon dozens of ways in which you should be communicating better.

      And if you are still stuck after pondering for awhile, ask your customers; I’m sure they wont be shy in letting you know exactly how they feel.

      • #3131091

        Communication crucial to service providers

        by pmoleski ·

        In reply to Communication crucial to service providers

        In general I agree with your comments.  Communications, often as simple as good manners will carry the day in almost every tough situation.  I also agree that at a certain point a problem has to be fixed.  Relationships and good manners have to be backed up with delivered service.

        There is in my experience a point in time where over communicating, in particular at a technical level, with executive level management is damaging to credibility and leaves an impression of things not being under control.

        During a crisis it is important to keep line management informed what is going on.  It may even be important enough to let the executive suite know there is a problem if it could end up in their being asked questions by the media or shareholders etc.  For the most part it is important to let the technical people do their work and the biggest challenge for the CIO is not to spread inaccurate information.  While solving the issues there may be many theories and ideas floating around.  At any point in time the view of the situation can change rapidly as the technical folks work through the issue.  Executive level management wants to know if there is any customer affecting impacts, are the right people involved to resolve the issue, and were appropriate technical and process pieces in place for the business process involved.  What I have learned not to do is to give them the blow-by-blow updates of working through the technical issues.  Because things change so quickly, even if I get the facts right, by the time things are resolved I may give people several different stories.  At a certain point the communications becomes counter productive if it is to detailed and leaves an impression that the IT organization does not know what it is doing.  If the executive suite needs to be involved because of large business impacts or authorizations of emergency funds to resolve an issue then the discussion is at the level of business impacts and dollars, which is the language of the executive suite.

        I have found that the same holds true with project work.  On any given day and issue, the project may be struggling to come up with solutions to keep things moving.  If the communications to the executive suite is too detailed then their view of IT will be less then it should be, as it will go up and down on a daily basis as the project goes.

        In summary, I agree that communications is a key element of success.  However, I would qualify that with a note to target the content, and frequency of communication to be appropriate to the audience, in particular to the executive level.  Appropriate communications is one of the more fun aspects of senior level IT management.  When asked I often describe my job as that of translator between the technical and business world.  I have to speak both languages fluently and translate between them as appropriate on the fly.

        Phil

         

      • #3130815

        Communication crucial to service providers

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Communication crucial to service providers

        Excellent comment Phil.  I do agree, less can be more, and the
        communication should be context and audience sensitive. 
        Unfortunately I keep seeing the trend towards less communication/no
        communication rather than over communication.  While no one wants
        to be deluged with information that is constantly changing, at times
        anymore I would welcome that as an alternative to silence.  But
        your point is well taken and on the mark.  Thanks for the comments.

    • #3130818

      Sample RFP for Anti-Spyware

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Found a nifty starter for a RFP for antispyware solution.  While
      it could be beefier, it sure is a good start regarding the technical
      questions.  Check it out here.

    • #3130817

      Been following Sony’s Rootkit Debacle?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Me neither.  Been an incredibly busy 2 weeks for me and this one
      slipped right past me.  For shame!  Did it happen to you
      too?  Want to catch up?  Here is a great place to start.

    • #3117259

      Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      One of the hottest forum topics you will find on the TechRepublic boards is one that deals with age. The topic starter is usually something in the ballpark of “I think technology is for young people”.

      Then the comments come flooding in. I know, because I have been tempted myself to jump on those threads because I am so outraged. But for the most part, I believe I have resisted putting down my angry comments and let a cooler head prevail.

      Now I thought I would take a few moments and deal with the topic in a more levelheaded fashion.

      Age is an interesting characteristic in the work place. There are many preconceptions associated with it. Let’s start with the tried and true: If you are too young, then you must not have much experience; therefore, you aren’t qualified to do the job.

      Conversely, there is the old adage that if you are over 50, you are old and slow and set in your ways. There are dozens of stereotypes that one can come up with regarding age and work that seem to be even more intensified these days due to technology.

      Technology in some ways has both leveled the playing field and tilted it at the same time. The youth of the world have technology thrust upon them at an early age. Even my 2-year-old nephew carries a fake PDA and Cell Phone. Is it any surprise then that his generation and those who come after will be completely comfortable and possibly extremely proficient with technology when they enter the work place?

      Couple that with the enthusiasm (brashness?) of youth, and I am not surprised when I read comments like “the old just need to get out of the way”.

      Considering the rapid pace at which technology changes, and the fact that older people are more encumbered with family and other responsibilities, it does become more of a challenge to keep up with the latest technology.

      However, for any bit of truth you may find in those statements, you need to throw them out the window. Let me say it very clearly now so there is no confusion on this: There is no place for discrimination/stereotyping in the workplace, whether it is based on age, sex, race, religion, or any other characteristic.

      Not only is it illegal, it is just plain wrong. No one likes to be typecast, one way or the other, based solely on age. Frankly, if you are doing that, you are doing yourself a great disservice ? because you are prejudging a worker’s ability on something that more than likely has no affect on his or her skills.

      I obtained my first IT management position when I was 24 years old. At the time, I had employees who reported directly to me that spanned the range from 18 to 50. As a newly minted manager, using age as a criterion, who would I expect to be my best employee –the 18-year-old or the 50-year-old? Before you answer that, why would I even consider making that determination based on anything but performance? Do you see how ludicrous that is? When I sat in management meetings with my peers who were decades older than me, were my comments worthless or more valuable because of my age?

      Similarly with hiring; when I look for qualified candidates I am looking for self-starters who can follow through and think for themselves. I don’t care if they are young, old, green or blue or come from another solar system. The bottom line is; can they do the job in the manner that I need them to? Hey, I am smart enough to realize that a manager that surrounds himself or herself with stars shines just as brightly as they do.

      I won’t sit here and tell you that age doesn’t come along with advantages and disadvantages. It is how a person deals with age that shapes them as an individual. I am certainly a different person today than when I was 24. I believe I am better at some things, and worse at others. But as a whole, I feel that I am better overall, as my goal is to always improve myself.

      Yet at the same time, I feel that I fit no particular stereotype for my age. So don’t you dare discriminate against me because of a number. Judge me based on my skills and abilities and my performance. Leave the rest in the trash heap ? where it belongs.

      • #3123723

        Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        by mgelman ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        The real problem is that there isn’t much of an upward path for
        engineers beyond 5-10 years experience except management. 
        Management is fine except (1) there aren’t enough slots for everyone to
        be a manager and (2) many engineers don’t make good managers.

      • #3123680

        Don

        by cdjones ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        good stuff

      • #3123586

        Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        by rzimmerman ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        As one who is way over 50, I can tell you with certainty that age discrimination is alive and well in corporate America, but not so much in local government where I now work. Government has a more more open hiring process which was refreshing when I was applying for jobs. At the height of the dot.com meltdown, I must have applied to hundreds of corporations, and received not one response. For all of the government openings, they at least aknowledged that I sent them a resume and that it was looked at. I got one interview and from that got accepted for my first job in government after a career in private industry. Of course the salaries aren’t near as attractive in government but the benefits are better by far, and they are open to hiring older persons because they want the best person they can find irrespective of age. Maybe governments have a better appreciation for the older worker or maybe it is because they will work for less money if they have other financial security. Or it could be corporations are focused more on a certain “image” they want in their workforce. The other big problem with older workers is they earn too much, and that is a real negative with employers who want the cheapest hire possible even if the salary structure would accomodate paying a higher salary. This wasn’t the case when I first came into industry; we would kill to find the more experienced candidates even though it meant paying higher salaries. But in those days, there weren’t as many people in the field. Now there seems to be a glut of technical people, and companies are being very choosy. None of this bodes well for the older worker. The old adage about people networking is still valid – Most people get their jobs based on knowing someone in the company they are applying to. Bottom line is government is less discriminatory than private industry.

      • #3123519

        Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        by blueknight ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        Excellent comments Ramon.  I too was hired as an IT Manager at an early age – 20.  After I was hired, I found out that I had been selected over my former manager which was a great surprise.  I was curious why such a young person such as myself had been selected over someone with many more years of experience.  I was told that I had been hired because, given former manager’s years of experience, he should have progressed beyond the point where he was in his career.  The hiring manager noted that I was bright, I learned very quickly, was able to make good decisions and had the people/customer relations skills that were needed for the job.

        Age really has little bearing on performance, in life or work.  When I was in the Reserve Peace Officer Academy (at age 45, and oldest in class by 10+ years) I was second fastest in the class (behind a 19 year old) in a timed shotgun course.  The time limit was 50 seconds and the average was 43 seconds.  The 19 year old did it in 20 seconds… I came in at 22 seconds despite a ruptured calf muscle.  The point?  If you’re serious about what you do, are determined to succeed and rely on your training you will succeed no matter your age.  If you lack training or commitment, then you have a problem.

        My love of the IT field has never diminished despite having experienced age discrimination in job hunting when my position was eliminated at age 47.  Most of the hiring managers were 10-15 years my junior and I suspect that even though I don’t look my age, they made it the primary criteria for selection never taking into consideration my wide variety of experience.  I eventually was hired by a manager who recognized above all, that my experience in virtually every area of the IT field was very valuable and would make me an asset to the organization; age was never a concern.

        Having just turned 57, many pretty much think I should retire. But since I still feel 40 something, am in in good physical condition and love my work, I have no intention of retiring anytime soon and I see no reason why I should.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to learn new technologies and to contribute as much as I can to the success of my organization.

        Your last paragraph pretty much sums up my sentiments exactly.

         

      • #3121766

        Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        by raelayne ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        I’m 55.  I’ve been working in software engineering since my early
        20s, mostly to support a ridiculous education habit.  Every five
        years or so I get sick of what I’m doing and move on to something
        new.  I like to think I keep my skills up to date as well. 
        My boss is 25 years younger than I.  I’ve never had a problem
        changing jobs, but I am beginning to feel the pressure — how easy is
        it going to be next time?  And what am I thinking, never staying
        long enough to build up a good retirement plan?  But fact is, I
        love this field because things change so darned fast, and I find that
        really fun and invigorating. 

        What I want to do — in my heart of hearts — is work for Google or
        Ideo or eBay.  I miss the energy of a bunch of smart people
        kicking ass.  Somehow I think it’s unlikely that I’ll get that
        kind of job.  Is there anyone older than 40 at Google?  You
        think anyone cares what my GRE scores were now?   I could work in
        government (ZZZZZZ), I could stick with my current company and ride
        things out till I retire.  I could start my own company (way too
        much trouble).   So here it is, youngsters:  it’s very
        sad getting old, when the action is all somewhere else.   I’m
        no less smart, I’m no less motivated; the whole picture just shifts
        somehow once you’re 50.   And I’m not blaming anyone else —
        it must be hard-wired.  Although I recently hired a 70-year-old
        genius technologist, I generally prefer to hire youngsters (you might
        call them recent college grads) myself.  It’s a condundrum!

      • #3122058

        Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        by swgoldwire2546 ·

        In reply to Don’t Ask, Don’t Care

        Kill all stereotypical hype!!!!!

        I agree with you wholeheartedly.  That is discrimination of the elderly over 40 years old.  DIE, AGE STEREOTYPE, DIE!!!!!

        Companies and organisations should focus on SKILLS and PERFORMANCE.

        -swg

    • #3122663

      House Bill opinion

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      HR 4127 known as the Data Accountability and Trust Act is more than
      likely to become law.  Some feel that rather than strengthen data
      accountability, it actually weakens it.  Check out Roger Grime’s take on the law and find out why this should concern us.

    • #3122653

      Web Site of the Week – Weather Underground.com

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Everyone knows about WeatherUnderground don’t they?  Apparently
      not, because I often get strange looks when I mention it.  Want to
      add a weather link to your government web site?  WeatherUnderground is one of the best.

    • #3043817

      Government IT Boring? Not!

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I was reading a comment the other day on one of my blogs
      when I noticed someone mentioned ?boring government work?. This struck a cord with me because I have
      never found government IT work to be boring at all. I don?t think I am some weirdo or glutton for punishment
      regarding the workplace, so there must be something regarding government IT
      that makes me feel that way. Actually
      there are several things that make government IT quite exciting and I thought I
      would share them with you.

      The first is variety in the nature of the business
      itself. Depending on the size of
      government you work for, your customers business can include Police, Fire, EMS,
      Health and Human Services, Public Works, Public Safety, Education, Animal
      Control, Armed Services, Defense and many others besides your typical Finance
      and Administration type of work. This
      makes for an interesting and challenging range of customers to satisfy and work
      for. To me, one of the most interesting
      parts of IT is learning the business of your customers. With so many that fall under the umbrella of
      government, there is always something new to learn.

      The second is size.
      Governments span the gamut from itty-bitty to huge and monolithic. The smaller governments tend to be local
      government, while the larger tend to be state and federal. So there are organization sizes to meet
      everyone?s tastes.

      Related to size is span of control and interaction, but it
      is not just size dependent. In
      government, your position tends to be less specialized than in the private
      sector and you tend to wear more hats than your typical private sector
      counterpart. This is partly due to size
      and partly due to budget. There are
      usually not enough IT positions to go around in government and therefore each
      position has to do more and be more involved in different areas. That?s not to say that as the organization
      gets larger your position won?t be more specialized, but even in the largest
      state governments and at the federal level, you will find areas where IT staff
      are generalists as opposed to purists.

      Also related to size somewhat but again not completely
      dependent, is the ability to make a difference. If you have the initiative you usually can find a way to make a
      real impact in your organization and to the community/constituency the
      government supports.

      Third is meaningfulness.
      Not taking anything away from the private sector, because I as much as
      anyone else appreciates the goods and services I can purchase, but I get a
      sense of satisfaction knowing that I work for the ?people?. The work I do and have done in the past does
      and has made a difference to the community that I live in or even state or
      nation wide.

      Fourth is forced creativity. Most government IT shops do not have the resources that can be
      brought to bear on a problem or opportunity that a private sector organization
      can. That being said, the good IT
      practitioners in government find ways to get things done that are often times
      extremely innovative and clever. Always
      having to do more with less can make you a much sharper individual than always
      having the tool at hand to do the job.

      Fifth is opportunity.
      Because government IT jobs tend to pay less than in the private sector
      they are more willing to give you the chance to prove yourself than perhaps
      your private sector counterpart. Having
      been on the hiring side of the table for many years, I know that there were
      qualified candidates that I could only dream of acquiring due to salary
      restrictions and I therefore had to go with someone with less experience or
      expertise and let them grow in the position.

      Speaking of growing in positions, it is not uncommon to find
      senior management that started at the lowest level position in the organization
      and worked their way up. This often
      corresponds with the organization investing in the employee through training
      and/or letting them learn on the fly.
      You get more chances to experiment and make mistakes in government than
      you do in the private sector.

      Lastly, for everything I have said here, EVERY job in any organization can be boring or have
      its boring moments. Much of it has to
      do with your own personal initiative, the management of your organization, and
      your workplace and organizational culture.
      I know people who hate their government jobs and I know people who hate
      their private sector jobs. I have
      worked in the most wonderful environments and I have worked in miserable
      environments. Obviously one makes a choice
      what to do in those situations, and the choice is a personal one. However, there is nothing inherently boring about government
      IT. It is a reputation that is largely
      undeserved.

      I encourage anyone looking for a new opportunity to
      consider government work. You just may
      find that all those horror stories that you have heard or read are just
      exaggerations of common workplace ills.
      I know I have never regretted my decision to come to work for government
      many years ago and I am still with government.
      Just in a different place and with a different mission than before –
      More new stuff to learn and more opportunities to make a difference. Boring?
      Not a chance.

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that
      uniquely affect public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT
      newsletter, delivered each Tuesday.
      Automatically sign up today!

      • #3121860

        Government IT Boring? Not!

        by chewybass ·

        In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

        Ramon, you are right.  I wouldn’t trade my job for anything else.  Interestingly enough I find I’m more on the bleeding edge of new technology than most of my friends in the public sector.  My work is exciting, never dull, and as you stated, has offered me the opportunity to recieve training that I wouldn’t normally be able to obtain.  Sure, I’m not compensated as gloriously as those in the public sector, but I haven’t been without a job for the past 15 years.  Working in government is a great opportunity with many rewards.  Try it, you may like it.

         

        A. B.

        Florida

      • #3121849

        Government IT Boring? Not!

        by allaroundit ·

        In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

        Having recently come from the private sector working for some rather large companies in both IT and manufacturing; I find government IT very slow and behind the 8 ball. Innovation and employee drive are lacking due to the reward system (everyone gets a standard COL [cost of living] increase; there are not really any performance increases or bonuses/incentives).  Therefore, everyone is treated the same regardless of how they perform – which promotes a “work avoidance” attitude.  Reprimanding employees is difficult due to unions – so once they are in, you can’t get the bad apples out. (Not so in the private industry since most people are “at will” employees.  If you perform, you are rewarded – if not, you are let go.)

        This could be due to the lack of accountability in gov’t.  We are “supposed” to be fiscally responsible – however decisions are made at random since “bottom line” does not really matter.  After all, as they say, we don’t make anything and don’t worry about the bottom-line.  (I disagree with this thought, however this has been vocalized from management.  Needless to say, we should all be fiscally responsible and shouldn’t be doing IT just for the sake of IT.) 

        Furthermore, I do not agree with the hiring selections I see happen that further exasperate the issues.  (An IT Operations manager with no prior IT experience, and a CIO who was previously a helpdesk manager.)  This is less likely in private industry as generally you need a proven track record of success.  (I have actually been told here that I need to adjust to the “slowness” and realize things just take 5 times longer than anywhere else to materialize.) 

        The place I am at is at least 5 years behind the industry.  (I’ve attended many conferences and have heard the same things repeated, and the same complaints – so I know I’m not alone here.)

        That being said, I’m glad to hear it is going well for at least 2 people who have posted – but from my experiences I believe you may be in the minority.

        • #3123463

          Government IT Boring? Not!

          by allaroundit ·

          In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

          Having recently come from the private sector working for some rather large companies in both IT and manufacturing; I find government IT very slow and behind the 8 ball.

          Innovation and employee drive are lacking due to the reward system (everyone gest a standard COL [cost of living] increase; there are not really any performance increases or bonuses/incentives).  Therefore, everyone is treated the same regardless of how they perform – which promotes a “work avoidance” attitude.  Reprimanding employees is difficult due to unions – so once they are in, you can’t get the bad apples out. (Not so in the private industry since most people are “at will” employees.  If you perform, you are rewarded – if not, you are let go.)

          This could be due to the lack of accountability in gov’t.  We are “supposed” to be fiscally responsible – however decisions are made at random since “bottom line” does not really matter.  After all, as they say, we don’t make anything and don’t worry about the bottom-line.  (I disagree with this thought, however this has been vocalized from management.  Needless to say, we should all be fiscally responsible and shouldn’t be doing IT just for the sake of IT.) 

          Furthermore, I do not agree with the hiring selections I see happen that further exasperate the issues.  (An IT Operations manager with no prior IT experience, and a CIO who was previously a helpdesk manager.)  This is less likely in private industry as generally you need a proven track record of success.  (I have actually been told here that I need to adjust to the “slowness” and realize things just take 5 times longer than anywhere else to materialize.) 

          The place I am at is at least 5 years behind the industry.  (I’ve attended many conferences and have heard the same things repeated, and the same complaints – so I know I’m not alone here.)

          That being said, I’m glad to hear it is going well for at least 2 people who have posted – but from my experiences I believe you may be in the minority.

      • #3123462

        Government IT Boring? Not!

        by allaroundit ·

        In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

         I disagree.

      • #3123439

        Government IT Boring? Not!

        by pmoleski ·

        In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

        I have worked in both a for profit organization and now in government for many years.  To me there is not that much difference in the role of an IT shop in either environment.  We enable the rest of the business to do their work and stay ahead of the technology curve.  By the time the business needs something we should have the technology services at least researched if not already available as a service.  In many cases we are bringing forward the new services as our own initiatives selling the business on the benefits to them to gain the budget approval and buy in.  If we are proactive and understand what the business needs now and into the future my experience is that the budget dollars will flow because the technology has value.

         

        In both cases if the business is struggling or the government is in cutback mode then there are valid projects with value that end up waiting because the environment to proceed is not their.  The key is to be ready for the opportunity.  Have the strategic plans for technology infrastructure and business supporting applications in place.  Do what is possible in the current fiscal environment and when the opportunity comes have the business case sitting waiting.  Use the down times to research and perfect the visions, communicate the vision and have it integrated into the rest of the plans for the business.  Then when things shift your plans will move forward along with the rest of your organization.

         

        I believe that this advice holds true for any level position in the IT field whether private or public.  However, there are sometimes issues that can make patience and a longer-term perspective important within the government field.  Government tends to operate on a yearly expense basis for budgeting that means everything is tied to the yearly budget cycle.  This is because funds have to be publicly approved in most cases by elected officials.  That means that plans have to be tied into that cycle if they expect to be funded.  The other thing that happens is that depending who is in power their views on what are good programs for government to pursue will change.  This means that an idea that makes sense to IT folks may never be done if it is at odds with the current government and or public view on an issue.  The elected officials are our owners every bit as much as stockholders are in the private arena.  This means in the government world to make an idea fly may mean getting a consensus to proceed that includes the business areas of the organization, the political owners, the public, and stakeholders who have an interest in the topic.  When all of that is in place there may also be a series of Regulations and Laws that may need to be created or changed to allow an initiative to proceed.  Finally it may take many years for a program to be fully rolled out and accepted within a large jurisdictional arena.

         

        So if anyone working in a government IT job is bored because things seem to take along time to get a decision before proceeding I would suggest they become more involved in the above process.  In government, in particular at the approval level understanding the business, understanding the political and regulatory environment, and building a shared vision or consensus can make the technical issues seem almost trivial.  To conclude I would say that well I am never bored because I fill my time with all of the above I have learned to have patience and a long term perspective in pursuing long term IT goals within government.   The reward is that when all the above is done well I have been able to seize the opportunities and as Ramon said enjoy the fruits of IT work that affects a great many people and has a lasting positive affect on society.

        Phil

      • #3124629

        Government IT Boring? Not!

        by hadg ·

        In reply to Government IT Boring? Not!

        Ramon,

        As an IT director for a county government, I fully agree with your comments on
        government IT.  I enjoy my job thoroughly for the same reasons you
        commented.  One moment I am working with emergency operations, then with
        the prosecutors, or with public safety, etc.  I get to know the roles that
        everyone plays in government and their specific needs.  This has also
        provided me with a greater appreciation for government work.  Public
        servants are easy targets for criticism, public sentiments of not deserving
        raises, lazy or uncaring workers are common.  However, my experience has
        been the opposite.  I have found hard working dedicated people working in
        government.

        From an IT perspective, I am given more range to implement projects and new
        technology.  As for the comment of not caring for the bottom line – they
        have not been involved in the budget process.  I watch my budget like a
        hawk, as I have to make that money last all year. I have to balance training
        with equipment with upcoming needs and/or regulations.

         

        I think that IT can be boring anywhere, just as you stated.  It depends on who?s pulling the strings.  I am lucky to work for a manager who is
        interested in moving my department forward and growing it.  We are implementing technology such as EDMS to
        tie into our GIS.  As well as working towards
        a wireless coverage of our county.  As a
        manager myself I try to allow my staff the freedom to work independently.  I try to implement new technology whenever I
        can.

    • #3128014

      Site of the week – Educause

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Looking for a website/organization that promotes technology in higher
      education?  Look no further than Educause. “EDUCAUSE
      is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher
      education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.”

    • #3128013

      Open Source Wiki Comparisons

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      An article that compares the pros and cons of open source wikis. 
      You know I’m all over it!  You should be too 🙂  Check it
      out here.

    • #3128011

      Starting late in IT

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I received an email recently in response to my blog on
      ageism asking how one might break into the IT field at a late age, with minimal
      experience, and an older IT skill set. Hmm? What could I suggest?

      I could say, “Go back to school, get/finish that 4-year
      degree in IT, and make sure you do plenty of work study to get some IT
      experience.” But that?s not really a satisfactory answer. Most folks in
      their later years don?t have the time to get that 4-year degree part-time, and
      full-time is usually out of the question. Additionally, they need money now, not tomorrow.

      There is a variation of the above strategy that can work
      though–certification. Get a
      certification in an IT specialty, and you can often get doors opened for you,
      even without experience. IT certifications can be completed in anywhere from a
      few months to a couple of years depending on the certification you are trying
      to receive, how hard you study, and your aptitude for the content.

      On top of that, there are many different ways to prepare for
      certifications: from boot camps, to self study, to online classes, to corporate
      training, or a combination of all of these. Depending on the route you take,
      you can spend very little or quite a bit, depending on your style and learning
      needs.

      The next question would be, “What certification/s to go
      for?” Without even debating which ones are better than others, the obvious
      answer is ? the hottest ones in the job market, if they meet your interest.

      This is where some soul-searching has to come in to play. Are
      you willing to make the commitment to learn the material to pass the tests, and
      are you willing to go where the jobs are? Because you can be the hottest IT
      commodity in town, but if there is no need for that specialization in your town,
      you are out of luck.

      Given that your answer is yes to both the above questions,
      here are my suggestions. Now, not everyone may agree with my rationale for the
      following, but I think that these will give you the best chances to get your
      foot in the door without having a ton of experience.

      1. Open
        Source Software Certifications. Choose a field; networking/OS, or database
        and then choose a vendor and get started. Why open source software
        certification over the more numerous and popular ones? To make you more of
        a rare commodity. If I have to choose from 50 MCSEs and one is freshly
        minted and the other 49 are experienced, where do you think I am going to
        look first? Exactly. You need to stand out from the crowd. Since the use
        of open source tools is growing, climb on board the train earlier rather
        than later. You might find yourself one of a handful of certified open
        source professionals in your town. The less competition, the better.
      2. Within
        the OS category, I would have to recommend Red Hat Certification.
        It is the top dog in corporate Linux right now, and you could get some
        traction with the certification. If not Red Hat, my second choice is Novell Certified Linux
        Engineer
        . I believe Novell is an up and comer again in the corporate
        and government markets and is a good bet.
      3. Within
        the open source database arena, my choice is MySQL certification.
        MySQL is a leader in the area, and there is a demand for the certified
        MySQL dba. My second choice would be PostgreSQL certification, now that
        Sun has thrown its weight behind it.

      Then there are the more traditional and more popular certifications
      from the major vendors of hardware and software. Obviously there is nothing
      wrong with pursuing these certifications. However, older, out-of-the-workforce
      individuals with dated IT skills who are joining the larger pool of IT
      professionals (with the same certifications) are going to be at a disadvantage
      due to experience and sheer numbers, thus, the emphasis is on open source.

      Now, why is this discussion being held in a government
      technology newsletter? Easy. Governments will be the prime employment targets
      for these folks. Governments (which includes education) were/are early adopters
      of open source tools, and they tend to have smaller budgets which means they
      tend to pay less. Therefore, they are more willing than the private sector to
      take a chance on a freshly-minted certification-holder.

      Lastly, the above advice holds true for anyone, not just the
      older worker. It can be a good way to switch careers in midstream or start one
      in lieu of college. However, I will always recommend getting a formal four-year
      degree if at all possible.

      So if you are that person trying to break into the field
      again, or tired of your current position, you might give my suggestions a try.
      There are no guarantees that come with it. Although, investing in new knowledge
      is never a waste of time in my opinion.

      Good luck!

      • #3127812

        Starting late in IT

        by zlitocook ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        Or you could take a two year tech. degree from a good collage and use your life Experience and know how to get into the field. I started late at 39 and have had great jobs. Most were contracts but I have had three full time jobs, I have mentored alot of people just out of school. And most were expecting to get high pay and a great job right out of school. There are alot of jobs out there you just need to look for them and keep trying! Take a help desk position just to get your foot in to the door. Just remember you are what you think you are not what the employer is looking for! I mean be better then what they are looking for, if you go for a help desk position. Be happy and say you enjoy talking with people, but if you can not talk to people tell them so. Just be your self .

      • #3129590

        Starting late in IT

        by mattdull ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        A foot in the door is the way to go, I started in IT changing print toners for a Fortune 500 company with only an A+ and MCP certification, since then I have moved on to a Sr. Tech Consultant at nearly 6 times the salary with another company in less than 3 years.  Start at the bottom and shine your way up.  People skills are a must, you have to network once you get in.

      • #3129560

        Starting late in IT

        by mikencove ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        I entered IT at age 37, with a good bit of life experience, but no IT degree.  A guy I didn’t even know took a chance on me, so I got my foot in the door with a major IT company. I “paid him back” by putting in the time to get professional certifications to back up my skills. I was in software QA, so my certs were the American Society for Quality certs in this area. Having a 4-year degree already, I was eventually able to get a MS-IS via evening courses.

        For general IT certifications, I’d recommend A+ and MCSE. After that, find an area (CISCO, for example) and concentrate in that.

      • #3129507

        Starting late in IT

        by pmoleski ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        There are many career paths in IT, often beyond the pure technical.  Below are a few examples.  There are almost endless other combinations depending on your starting background.

        Entry network tech, goes to senior tech, goes to network administrator, goes to IT project leader, goes to project manager or goes to IT manager

        Entry data analyst, goes to entry programmer, goes to senior programmer, goes to systems analyst, goes to IT project leader, goes to project manager or goes to IT manager

        Entry data analyst, goes to entry programmer, goes to senior programmer, goes junior database analyst, goes to senior database analyst, goes to IT project leader, goes to project manager or goes to IT manager

        Business user, goes to business IT tester, goes to business requirements definer, goes to business project leader or process change leader (alternatively called a business analyst), goes to project manager or business manager or sometimes IT manager

        There are similar paths starting with the helpdesk or computer room operations and leading through to change control and finally operations management.  Operations disciplines such as ITIL are a field onto themselves.  These are often available in larger companies or organizations. Related fields include security policy, systems development methodology, IT organization and governance.  Consider researching things like CoBIT (may have this one wrong as it is relatively new to me. It is related mostly to IT governance I think), and CMM to get started.  Often just acknowledging that you know what CMM stands for can almost be enough as many technical people find this branch of IT to be to dry for their tastes.

        Once at the level of project manager or IT manager then things can open up to the senior IT management ranks.  For myself I moved around through many different IT management jobs before moving up later in my career.

        The point I am making is that the IT field is broad and can include many well paying disciplines beyond the pure IT technology jobs that often are highlighted in the Blogs and discussion threads.  I agree with Ramon?s comment that it is often easier to break into IT through the less popular/common route.  Hopefully some of the above will give you an idea.

         

         

      • #3129454

        Starting late in IT

        by mvarela ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        I entered the IT field at age 36. I took an administrative assistant position to get into the IT department and then took some basic programming, Windows and hardware classes.  I was able to get an entry level IT position managing a project management enterprise software suite which gave me some server administration experience. After taking some graphic classes, HTML and JavaScript I took a webmaster position in another agency and have since followed up with accessibility, usability, design, and content management classes. 

        I have been taking technology related classes while working full time for 8 years now.  The field changes so fast I expect to take classes for the rest of my career just to stay ahead of the curve anyway.

        I agree with finding an area to specialize in, technology is getting so complex that finding one area to excel in is more feasible than trying to know everything.

        To add an ironical twist to getting into technology at a late age, I’m starting to teach classes in web design to Jr high students at a private school. Kids of course who have never known a world without advanced technology.

      • #3126729

        Starting late in IT

        by blueknight ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

        After a very quick read of comments, I thought I’d suggest something I didn’t see… if starting IT late in life you could gain experience doing volunteer work for a non-profit, or if you are able, try doing an internship.  Both would give you more knowledge and work experience.  That experience can become part of your resume and the organization(s) you work for will be good references to get you in the door of a company you’d really like to work for.  Working as an intern while working a regular job could be difficult, but you may be able to find a part-time internship position that  works with your schedule.  That’s the hard part; fortunately, it’s temporary and the benefit is great.

        We have one partiular fellow working in our Network Services group (includes desktop/LAN support and communications) who began working here as an intern.  At that time, he was about 42 years of age.  He had been an iron worker but an industrial accident ended that career.  He trained for a new career in IT and worked here for 6 months or so as an intern.  Today (about 7 years later), I’d place him as one of the top 2 to 3 technicians in his group.  You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

        Jim

        An Old Dog IT lifer – 39 years and counting)
      • #3126664

        Starting late in IT

        by jwxt ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        It is never to late…. Diversify your background with certifications, and education.  One good way to get some resume pad is work for free.  A way to do this is send your resume to the emails/HR contact on sites like Monster and Dice.  Let them know you are willing to work for free during the hiring imterim.  I was able to work on a Cisco project, and a network migration in this route.  You can choose not to accept the positions in this way also.  Very much a win win

        Joey Hernandez

        http://www.joeyhernandez.net

      • #3124553

        Starting late in IT

        by btljooz ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        Thank you, Ramon, for such an informative answer to the email that you mentioned. It does give some extremely intriguing ideas…as do the posts commenting on and adding to what you said. 🙂

        However, I did notice that the posters were mostly ‘thirty-somethings’ when they were able to break in to the IT field. Can I conclude by this that Forty-? is a bit ‘old’ to be trying to make a fresh start in this particular field? I’m going on 48 in January! Is it too late for me? Just curious……

      • #3124551

        Starting late in IT

        by btljooz ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        Thank you, Ramon, for such an informative answer email that you mentioned. It does give some extremely intriguing ideas… as do the posts commenting and adding to what you said, for that matter.

        However, I did notice that the posters were mostly ‘thirty-somethings’ when they were able to break in to the IT field. Can I conclude by this that Forty-? is a bit ‘old’ to be trying to make a fresh start in this particular field? I’m going on 48 in January! Is it too late for me? Just curious……

      • #3130472

        Starting late in IT

        by bg6638 ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        I qualify as one of the older out of workforce individuals, since I have 30+ years of COBOL & Foxpro DOS programming experience.  However, I also have worked with Msoft technologies from DOS 1.x-6.0, NT 3.5, NT 4.0, Win2K, Win2K3, SQL, Exchange, ISA server, etc, as a System Administrator.  I am working on an MCSE 2K3 and CCNP, but completion is at least a year away.  Unfortunately, I only have an Associate’s degree, which no accredited college will accept any transfer credits from.  My employer went bankrupt over a year ago, and in nearly two years time I have had only 3 interviews!  I have worked with recruiters and also have sent numerous “blind” resumes to no avail, and yes, I am placing emphasis on System Administration, NOT programming!  I know that I need to keep trying, but I am really beginning to wonder.   

      • #3124437

        Starting late in IT

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Starting late in IT

        BTLjooz,
             Don’t worry about your age.  Choose a
        path, whether it is to get a cert or a degree and excel at it. 
        Good work shows through.  Again, I still push an open source cert
        so you stand out.  And btw, too add some experience, volunteer
        your new found expertise with a Not For Profit.  They would
        absolutely LOVE to have a certified person do some work for them for
        free.  It’s a win win for both of you.

        Ramon

    • #3121062

      Soft Skills in a Hard World

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      For anyone working in technology with dreams of becoming
      senior management, you might be surprised to find that while your hard
      technical skills will get you so far, it will be your softer skills that will
      take you the rest of the way.

      By soft skills, I mean those skills that are part of day to
      day life as a senior manager: Writing a
      clear and concise memorandum, listening, communicating, public speaking,
      running a meeting, conducting interviews, and managing people and resources to
      accomplish objectives.

      These skills are not found in your study guide for your MCSE
      or your Oracle Database handbook. They
      are acquired by some if they are lucky through formal education, while others
      have had to pick them up over time by modeling others. Often times, it is a combination of both.

      I was most fortunate to have a class while pursuing my
      MBA at the University of Louisville that was called ?Leadership?. It was taught by the Executive in Residence
      at the time, T. Ballard Morton. It was
      and remains the most important class I ever had in a university setting and the
      one class whose content I use every single day of my work life. I want to publicly thank Mr. Morton for
      coming up with such a class in the first place and for making such an impact in
      my life. You can read his thoughts here
      on the class and how he came up with it as well as what he stressed to us
      budding managers.

      For those of you who do not have a T. Ballard Morton in your
      life, I wanted to share a few of the golden nuggets with you that he provided
      to me during that wonderful semester under his tutelage.

      The first nugget is this book: The Elements of Style. If you
      don?t have it, go get it. If you do, reacquaint yourself with
      it. What is this book? I quote Wikipedia ?The Elements of Style (“the
      little book” ? 1918,
      “Strunk & White”) is an American
      English
      writing
      style
      guide
      originally detailing eight elementary rules of usage, ten elementary
      principles of composition, “a few matters of form” and a list of
      words or expressions described by its prescriptivist
      authors as being commonly misused. Updated editions of the
      paperback book are often required reading for American high school and college
      composition classes.? It is
      invaluable. I had lost my copy after a
      few moves and just recently reacquired it.
      It is not just must reading,
      you need to try to commit as much of it to memory as possible.

      The second gem is public speaking. You don?t need a book here per se (although there are some good
      ones out there) ? you need practice.
      How to get it? I had the luxury
      of doing a great deal of it in class before having to do it in a work setting,
      but if you can?t find a class, Toastmasters International is a great way to get it.

      The third gem: ?How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less? by Milo Frank. It is an oldie but a goody. I also recommend his ?How to Run a Successful Meeting in Half the
      Time?. Both books will aid in your
      effective communication with those around you.

      The fourth gem
      unfortunately is out of print but I have found a very effective replacement in
      ?Listening: The Forgotten Skill: A Self-Teaching Guide?
      by Madelyn
      Burley-Allen.

      The fifth gem is MANAGEMENT & MACHIAVELLI : A Prescription for Success in Your
      Business
      (Paperback) by Antony
      Jay
      . This book will give you some insight into
      corporate politics and is a great book for reflection on your own organization.

      The sixth gem didn?t come from his class but I
      have found it very valuable when having to run meetings using parliamentary
      procedure. ?Roberts Rules in Plain
      English? by Doris P. Zimmerman.

      Lastly, try and find a mentor. If you are fortunate, you have one working
      with you everyday; you just haven?t taken advantage of it yet. They don?t have to be in the same department
      as you or even organization. Here is an
      excellent article on finding mentors.

      I hope that by pointing out some of the tools that were
      placed in my toolbox early on in my career you too can benefit as you climb
      your way up your career ladder.

      Good luck!

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect
      public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter,
      delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3081011

        Soft Skills in a Hard World

        by genat ·

        In reply to Soft Skills in a Hard World

        Excellent article, could not agree more!
        Over and over again I have run across this problem in many
        organizations – brilliant, talented tech people just can not get their
        point across…

        Thanks for this article!

      • #3080916

        Soft Skills in a Hard World

        by gmuscle ·

        In reply to Soft Skills in a Hard World

        Very good points, I’ve found that Interpersonal Skills are key. 

      • #3094574

        Soft Skills in a Hard World

        by jackinthebox ·

        In reply to Soft Skills in a Hard World

        Nice advice for everyone.
        It points out the both skills are important for career development.

      • #3094532

        Soft Skills in a Hard World

        by skicat ·

        In reply to Soft Skills in a Hard World

        All very true. There are often discussions regarding the Education versus Experience debate or the Degree versus Certification. I believe college is not for everyone and not everyone is “management material”. On that note, I have read several of the books there and they are a big help for anyone who does have aspirations beyond the trenches. The two biggest skills I see are verbal skills and social skills. If you cannot communicate your issue clearly, you will lose your audience. If all you can talk about is what your PC/server/router did that day, you need to read something other than the tech magazines and device manuals (half serious, half in jest).

    • #3121059

      Open Source and Commercial Software

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      An article on open source software and commercial software mixing
      well?  You know I’m all over it being the open source proponent
      that I am.  Check it out here.

    • #3121057

      Data Security Bill Approved

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

        A week or so ago I pointed out that a house bill on data security was
      likely to get approved. Not sure if this one co-opted it but
      check out this brief on senate bill S. 1789.

    • #3197197

      Self Destructing Text Messages

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      This article
      on text messages that self destruct begs a lot of questions for use in
      both the public and private arenas in areas where all communications
      are to be saved.  Now conversations can be had in which there is
      no record of the occurence except tell tale software that does the
      deleting.  Would even having the software on a mobile device that
      is used for conversations intended to be public/and or of record be
      considered unethical or a violation of statute?  Things that make
      you go hmmmm.

    • #3197186

      Virginia Governor invests in technology

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Proposing a 27 million dollar budget package that boosts technology in
      Virginia Universities, particularly in the area of modeling and
      simulation has Virginia’s Governor Warner in the news and the Virginia
      Universities bubbling with excitement over the possibilities.  Read more about it here:

    • #3120700

      Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I have been involved in some vigorous and refreshing discussions the last couple of days regarding the mission and purpose of IT within government, and I have settled upon a couple of ideas that are neither new or earth shaking but have some new relevance to me as a deliverer of IT services because of the stimulating discussion.

      • In government, it’s all about how the dollars are distributed.
      • If your IT department can aid someone (division, department, agency, system, etc.) in gaining more dollars you will:
      • Make them very happy.
      • Do it enough times, you will gain an excellent reputation.
      • You will get what you need in order to continue to help out.

      This thought plays out in a number of ways, including how you deliver your services, infrastructure, customer focus, etc. But one of the most important ways it plays out is in how you collect data and how you can slice it and dice it. Most importantly, are you collecting data that is both meaningful to the organization AND the legislative bodies that make appropriations, and are you able to present that data broken down by political district? Because, as someone once said, ?All politics is local?.

      So how does this translate to data collection and dissemination? Simply put, this means being able to take your data and make it meaningful to a commissioner, legislator, board member, or the like. Often times this means breaking down data collected by some sort of meaningful boundary ? whether it is region, state, county, city, census tract, or political district ? or perhaps all of the above depending on the scope and size of your organization.

      Often times, when creating data structures to meet the needs of the organization, one often forgets, not only to capture data elements that make sense regarding the target audience of the application, but also to insure that there are data elements in place that can allow you to tie the data back to one of the boundaries mentioned above. Here is an example:

      An organization collecting water quality samples will obviously be concerned about collecting the precise Geographic Information Systems (GIS) coordinates of where the sample was taken. While this is well and good, for we now know where in the stream or lake or river the sample was taken, it is important to take the next step. That step is to make sure that we can tie those locations back to a boundary that can be used to make the data relevant to those that control purse strings. The more granular the boundary, the better. If you can take your data and say, “Well commissioner, our data indicates that the water quality in your district is three times as bad as those in your neighboring districts,” you can perk up a politician’s ears long enough for him or her to perhaps ask why and also how much and what do we need to do to fix that?

      Like I said, this is neither new nor earth shattering, but sometimes it is lost among all the other noise regarding the need for data collection. Because for most government agencies, no matter how important their mission, if they can’t communicate their need for funds in a way that is relevant and motivating to someone who controls or influences the purse strings, then they will be left with nothing more than continuation budgets ? or worse ? having to make do with less.

      I may have mentioned this before, but I once worked with an EMS Director who was a master of manipulating his data in accordance with commissioner districts. Because of this, he was a force to be reckoned with when it came to budget hearings. He had all of his stats broken down in meaningful ways to the commissioners and could almost always combat an attempt to curb his budget. Usually with a comment like, “Certainly commissioner, we can accommodate the cuts you are recommending. Which of the 300 anticipated calls that we get from your district based on last year’s statistics should we let die first because we cannot respond in a timely fashion?” Powerful stuff there.

      Obviously this kind of data manipulation often involves GIS capabilities, using tools from ESRI, or now even Google. So if you aren’t using these tools in your organization, you should be including them in your strategic plan. Other useful tools or data can be gotten from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Postal Service.

      For IT departments, this concept is significant. The more you can do to educate and drive the organizations you support to provide information in this way, the better you will do at garnering the funds you need to operate. So, make sure you develop the capabilities in your shop and become evangelists for this way of thinking. It will not only serve your customers better, it will also help you in the long run.

       

      Keep up with the issues and challenges that uniquely affect public-sector IT with TechRepublic’s free Government IT newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically sign up today!

      • #3125154

        Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        by j alley ·

        In reply to Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        While I agree with the need to gather sufficient data and provide facilities to analyze data in a large number of ways I found myself feeling insulted at the narrow parochial view promoted here. There are two strong reasons to avoid the approach to seeking funding that Ramon presents here.

        1. If you do this within your organization for each of your clients, you promote a practice of increased competition within your organization in a zero sum game. Your clients see you ‘aiding the enemy’ to get the information and see you as the traitor. In the long term, you are percieved as a necessary service and the value of slicing and dicing data is diminished.
        2. Looking beyond your organization to the larger public sector, this kind of competition is even worse. It builds silos and fosters the inefficient duplication of services that makes government look bad. It leads people to forget that all governments serve the same taxpayers and have a duty to achieve the best overall balance of services for a given budget – even if that means that your particular service needs to be down-sized.

        Far better to use this valuable information to show the benefits of collaboration and shared services across departments and organizations. Better to free up funds for higher purposes, and to deliver integrated services to the taxpayer. Better to use the information to allow decision-makers to understand all the implications as they make difficult choices among the services to be provided and the bite to take out of taxpayers. It serves no-one’s interest to provide unbalanced information that may tilt decisions in your way to the detriment of the public we serve.

         

      • #3125152

        Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        by madtechgirl ·

        In reply to Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        Good point.  We are starting a huge business intelligence and data mining project.  We’re starting with current state discovery so we can give the executives a realistic gap analysis when they tell us what they want.  It will be intrigueing to see if anyone in the agency connects to the funding issue.

      • #3196798

        Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Slice and dice your data to make it relevant to government

        John,
             Perhaps I am missing your point, but I do not see how this is parochial nor fostering competition between an organization’s units.  The fact of the matter is that all departments in an organization whose funds are given by an elected body are in competition – pure and simple – there is NEVER enough money to fully fund what is needed.  Giving the departments the tools and the awareness that in order to effectively garner the funds they need in order to effectively communicate with the keepers of the purse is somehow bad?
          On the contrary, it does them a great diservice if they are always left with crumbs while their more agile, vocal, or politically savvy or important departments swallow up the whole pie becasue they cannot make an effective case to compete.  The competition among departments and agencies for limited funds will always be there.  If IT can help ALL those participants communicate to their legislative bodies and the public better through a more intelligent display of the data they collect, or by collecting data that is more meaningful to the general public, there might actually be MORE pie for everyone.

        Ramon

    • #3196664

      New Bill introduced that would increase technology funding

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      The National Innovation Act of 2005 would nearly double the National Science Foundation’s research funding level by 2011, increase grants for R&D and significantly increase federal support for graduate fellowship and traineeship programs in science, math and engineering fields.  Check out the article here:

      • #3198801

        New Bill introduced that would increase technology funding

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to New Bill introduced that would increase technology funding

        Hello future funding for Greenbranch 😉 

        Actually, I’m quite excited and would love to see this happen.  Excellent!  I hope that the US also gets on the ball and starts teaching science and math to our kids in K-12!!!  Jeez….

        Note to the US public schools: Please teach the 3 R’s.  There is no reason to teach ID if students can’t even spell it or define it.  Also, why teach bother teaching science if students don’t know the difference between a hypothesis and theory.  Oh and math is a pretty good skill too…considering that many students can’t do simple multiplication or division in their head!!!

    • #3196662

      Is your municipality considering providing wireless broadband?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Not if your state legislature has anything to say about it – at least in some states.  Check out this article on municiple broadband bills coming under fire.  Especially if you live in Colorado!

    • #3198597

      Non-technical consequences of technology deployment

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      For an IT service provider, it’s often easy to forget that
      there is a human/social aspect of our work. Often, the reactions of people to
      our technological deployments can surprise us, because we are so focused on the
      technical side and “helping business to work harder/smarter.” An
      interesting consequence of this fact was brought to my attention today, and it
      made me have one of those “aha!” moments.

      A colleague of mine happened to have the foresight to offer
      up a Wiki-like tool to a group of individuals who often work together to form a
      political agenda. Prior to this Wiki experiment, the group of individuals
      worked on their agenda via e-mails and meetings, not unlike many of us do on a
      day-to-day basis. However, it was decided that it would be an efficient and
      effective use of technology to stop the e-mail carousel and the numerous
      meetings to work on the agenda via a Wiki tool. Makes sense doesn’t it?

      All the conversations are recorded in one place and everyone
      has the opportunity to comment. Furthermore, there would be greatly reduced
      travel (if any) and people could comment/collaborate at anytime, day or night. What
      a technology tour de force!

      Proud as mother hens, the technology was rolled out to the
      group of users with fanfare and high hopes. After all, this was the perfect
      application of technology to aid in a process. Why would anyone disagree?

      Whoa! In our zeal to provide the whole “work smarter”
      shtick, we ignored the fact that we were in fact changing a complex social dynamic.
      Think about it. If the normal process for hammering out any sort of outcome is
      to meet face to face and exchange e-mails, there is a great deal of room to
      practice the use of power. You know that in any sort of meeting, it is easy for
      one, two, or a just a handful of people to control the conversation. Some
      people will get their points across while others may never be heard from.

      Taking things from a face-to-face process to a virtual one
      means that some people who are adept at controlling meetings suddenly find
      themselves with less power to influence, while those that might not have ever
      had their voices heard, suddenly have a voice. In a Wiki, everyone?s voice is
      the same volume.

      Needless to say, as the process moved forward, we found
      those that loved the idea and those who had some disdain for it. Bet you can
      guess which camps they probably were members of.

      Now, those that are more tech-savvy know that even in the
      online world, there are ways to get your voice heard above the din, but it is
      harder to do so and harder to squelch voices than in our normal conversational
      activities. My guess is that as the experiment proceeds, some will become
      experts at the process, but overall, I think it is a healthy exercise that will
      lead to better outcomes.

      But to take a moment to pause and think about how our
      activities actually can and do change the social dynamics of an organization is
      actually both daunting and breathtaking at the same time. We deal on a daily
      basis with the basic processes of our organizations–shaping them, enhancing
      them, or unfortunately, sometimes detracting from them. There are few other
      functions, other than IT, that can cut across an organization and introduce
      change like we can.

      As someone said before, “With great power, comes great
      responsibility,” and we need to be cognizant of the fact that what may
      seem to be a change for the better when we introduce new technologies, may in
      fact have some nontechnical disadvantages that we did not anticipate. This insight
      is especially important to analysts, architects, and developers.

      So heading into 2006 and anticipating the rush of new
      technologies appearing on what sometimes seems a per-second basis, it is
      important to take a step back and remember that we work in organizations made
      up of humans. Our work does have consequences–some intended and some not– and
      it is worthwhile to have a step in our planning processes to consider what
      those consequences might be. Call them part of your risk management plan, if
      you need a place to put that kind of thinking, but take the time to do it. It
      will prove worthwhile in the long-run.

      • #3080918

        Non-technical consequences of technology deployment

        by madtechgirl ·

        In reply to Non-technical consequences of technology deployment

        I agree, it is paramount to consider social and political ramifications.  We technical types tend to see the logical benefit and we often don’t understand why we come up against roadblocks.  Many times it is due to power plays being undermined.  A straight forward way to communicate thwarts those who rely on their personality, voice and presentation dynamics.  A great tool that saves time and money often makes someone’s job obsolete.  There are many social and political aspects that IT should be aware of before starting a project.  Then it is the leader’s responsibility to know how to “market” the idea to get around those roadblocks.

    • #3083584

      Deeply Saddened – Mass. CIO resigns

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Responsible for declaring that his state would adhere to the Open Document Standard, CIO Peter Quinn has resigned over the controversy that the announcement stirred up.  I for one lauded his efforts, and it only goes to show that publicly declaring an anti-Microsoft plan or policy in the public sector can quickly land you in hot water – especially if the stakes for MS are high.  Apparently Mr. Quinn was not quite prepared for the public attacks against his person that one exposes himself to when leading that far out in front – at least according to this article.

      Truly a shame.  Makes you wonder who inspired the Boston Globe to do an article on Mr. Quinn implying some sort of improper influence related to his conference travel.  In any case, cheers to you Mr. Quinn!  May 2006 bring you much success.

    • #3083574

      MySQL 5.0 gets InfoWorld Review

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      7.7 Not too shabby for an open source database. MySQL is making up time quickly in regards to its comercial competitors. Check the review out here.

    • #3083572

      MySQL 5.0 gets InfoWorld Review

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      7.7  Not too shabby for an open source database.  MySQL is making up time quickly in regards to its comercial competitors.  Check the review out here.

    • #3081763

      Your 2006 reading list

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      What’s on your reading list for 2006. Besides some of the gems I mentioned in my blog post titled “Soft Skills in a Hard World” (which I hope you read) here is what I am reading now or have queued up for the next few months:

      Phantom by Terry Goodkind (When it is released later this year). Oh how I love his series the Sword of Truth. If you have not read this series you are missing out on some GREAT fiction. You cant start with the first book “Wizards First Rule”. You won’t regret it.

      Happy New Year!

    • #3096279

      Anatomy of a Break In

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Here
      is a fascinating article detailing a security audit and a team of
      security experts as thy performed a vulnerability
      assessment–simulating an attack on a Fortune 500 company.  Check
      it out!

      • #3095241

        Anatomy of a Break In

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Anatomy of a Break In

        Thanks!  Very interesting read and a good starting point for seeing how to Red Team!

    • #3096276

      Compliance Pipeline

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Looking for a place to check on the latest information regarding
      compliance with Federal and State regulations?  Well besides
      TechRepublic, which is always an excellent source of information, check
      out Compliance Pipeline.  I think you will find it useful.

    • #3095184

      Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      By the time you read this it will be 2006. Depending on what predictions you have read and when you have read them, the world should have ended by now, Big Brother should be running our lives, or we should be some kind of race of Cyborgs.

       

      Personally, I am mostly disappointed that we don’t have beds that can make themselves by now. Seriously though, as I was making my short commute (thank goodness!) to work today, I thought about telecommuting.

       

      For many years I drove over an hour to work each day and spent the better part of 4 hours on the average in traffic of some sort. In the mid to late 90’s, telecommuting was born, and it was going to be the wave of the future. What happened?

       

      Now that we have widely available broadband capability, laptops, PDAs, cell phones, Instant Messaging, Blackberrys, email, distance learning, video conferencing, collaboration tools, VPN, and terminal services, why the heck are we coming into the office?

       

      I ask this question because, clearly, it is not technology that is keeping us from staying home. There is more to it than that. You would think that given all the purported benefits, employers would be glad to have you work at home. Let’s take a look at some of them:

       

      • Increased worker satisfaction.
      • Increased worker productivity.
      • Increased worker retention.
      • Reduced costs for the employer ? due to less need for space, utilities etc.
      • Disaster continuity.
      • Not to mention the societal benefits of reduced energy costs, less pollution, and more.

       

      Sounds pretty good to me, so why the reluctance? Oh, you will hear about issues regarding insurance coverage in the home office, safety in the home office, and information security, but all these can be worked around. So there has to be something else.

       

      The something else is the belief that if you are not sitting at your desk in your office, you can’t possibly be working. It’s an old-fashioned notion that if you are out of sight, you must be loafing. Many managers feel this way ? and I am willing to bet that much of the general public feels this way too. Additionally, many managers do not manage by objectives/productivity, so the only way they know how to manage you is by being able to walk up and see you “working” at your desk.

       

      This is a shame because a large amount of government work could be done from the home, saving the government considerable amounts of tax-payer money. But in order to do so, leadership/management has to have the mindset that telework (the new word for telecommuting) is a good thing, and they have to be willing to work to put the processes and capabilities in place to allow it to happen. This can involve infrastructure issues, employee and management training, some process re-engineering, etc. But the effort can be well worth it.

       

      Also, keep in mind that telework does not necessarily mean disowning the office completely. In fact, many teleworkers do come into the office 2 to 3 days a week. After all, there is value to face-to-face work as well. But the “office” can mean shared work spaces in a smaller building using less equipment and, more importantly, costing less to own and operate.

       

      Yes, I understand that some jobs are more suited to this style of work than others, and you can’t make someone a hamburger via a broadband connection. However, there are more jobs that suit telework than you think. Contemplate this: How many of your workers sit in an office or cube all day and their only interaction with people is via the phone or PC except when someone pokes their head into their space or they have to attend a meeting? Hmm, more than you expected isn’t it?

       

      I realize that to many senior managers, I am speaking heresy, and that embracing telework would mean the end of their organization as they know it. However, those that are a little more forward thinking might come to realize that this may be one way for government to keep their best and brightest for longer periods of time, in addition to reaping the benefits mentioned above.

       

      Obviously, this concept is not beyond some government officials because Arizona, (http://www.teleworkarizona.com/) California, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Oregon require state agencies to implement teleworking programs.

       

      I suggest that you browse some of the above mentioned states’ Web sites as well as these resources: The Telework Collaborative (http://www.teleworkcollaborative.com/) The Telework Coalition (http://www.telcoa.org/), and The Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management (http://www.telework.gov/documents/tw_rpt03/status-toc.asp) and see if telework can make sense in your organization.

       

      Perhaps by 2010 we will have a bed that can make itself, in the meantime, let’s try to utilize the freedom that comes with all this great technology at our disposal.

    • #3095183

      Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      By the time you read this it will be 2006. Depending on what predictions you have read and when you have read them, the world should have ended by now, Big Brother should be running our lives, or we should be some kind of race of Cyborgs.

      Personally, I am mostly disappointed that we don’t have beds that can make themselves by now. Seriously though, as I was making my short commute (thank goodness!) to work today, I thought about telecommuting.

      For many years I drove over an hour to work each day and spent the better part of 4 hours on the average in traffic of some sort. In the mid to late 90’s, telecommuting was born, and it was going to be the wave of the future. What happened?

      Now that we have widely available broadband capability, laptops, PDAs, cell phones, Instant Messaging, Blackberrys, email, distance learning, video conferencing, collaboration tools, VPN, and terminal services, why the heck are we coming into the office?

      I ask this question because, clearly, it is not technology that is keeping us from staying home. There is more to it than that. You would think that given all the purported benefits, employers would be glad to have you work at home. Let’s take a look at some of them:

      • Increased worker satisfaction.
      • Increased worker productivity.
      • Increased worker retention.
      • Reduced costs for the employer ? due to less need for space, utilities etc.
      • Disaster continuity.
      • Not to mention the societal benefits of reduced energy costs, less pollution, and more.

      Sounds pretty good to me, so why the reluctance? Oh, you will hear about issues regarding insurance coverage in the home office, safety in the home office, and information security, but all these can be worked around. So there has to be something else.

      The something else is the belief that if you are not sitting at your desk in your office, you can’t possibly be working. It’s an old-fashioned notion that if you are out of sight, you must be loafing. Many managers feel this way ? and I am willing to bet that much of the general public feels this way too. Additionally, many managers do not manage by objectives/productivity, so the only way they know how to manage you is by being able to walk up and see you “working” at your desk.

      This is a shame because a large amount of government work could be done from the home, saving the government considerable amounts of tax-payer money. But in order to do so, leadership/management has to have the mindset that telework (the new word for telecommuting) is a good thing, and they have to be willing to work to put the processes and capabilities in place to allow it to happen. This can involve infrastructure issues, employee and management training, some process re-engineering, etc. But the effort can be well worth it.

      Also, keep in mind that telework does not necessarily mean disowning the office completely. In fact, many teleworkers do come into the office 2 to 3 days a week. After all, there is value to face-to-face work as well. But the “office” can mean shared work spaces in a smaller building using less equipment and, more importantly, costing less to own and operate.

      Yes, I understand that some jobs are more suited to this style of work than others, and you can’t make someone a hamburger via a broadband connection. However, there are more jobs that suit telework than you think. Contemplate this: How many of your workers sit in an office or cube all day and their only interaction with people is via the phone or PC except when someone pokes their head into their space or they have to attend a meeting? Hmm, more than you expected isn’t it?

      I realize that to many senior managers, I am speaking heresy, and that embracing telework would mean the end of their organization as they know it. However, those that are a little more forward thinking might come to realize that this may be one way for government to keep their best and brightest for longer periods of time, in addition to reaping the benefits mentioned above.

      Obviously, this concept is not beyond some government officials because Arizona, (http://www.teleworkarizona.com/) California, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Oregon require state agencies to implement teleworking programs.

      I suggest that you browse some of the above mentioned states’ Web sites as well as these resources: The Telework Collaborative (http://www.teleworkcollaborative.com/) The Telework Coalition (http://www.telcoa.org/), and The Federal Government’s Office of Personnel Management (http://www.telework.gov/documents/tw_rpt03/status-toc.asp) and see if telework can make sense in your organization.

      Perhaps by 2010 we will have a bed that can make itself, in the meantime, let’s try to utilize the freedom that comes with all this great technology at our disposal.

      • #3096650

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by whistl3r ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        As it may sound like a good idea, it has it’s downfalls.

        Most ALL productive and working organizations believe that personal contact (physical appearance, eye to eye) resolves issues and motivates individuals than speaking to someone remotely.

      • #3080539

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        I can’t believe that there is a second voice on TR extolling the virtues of telecommuting. Your focus is on the public sector, but in the private sector the potential benefits of telecommuting are just as rich and the objections to it are just as refutable.

        The STATED objections fall into two categories:

        Managers: “I can’t tell if you’re working if I can’t spy on you physically.” The people who say this should have tattoos on their foreheads so we can herd them into places where they do the least damage. In one sentence they’ve conveniently told us that they have no management skills whatsoever. They don’t understand the fallacy of Authority by Measurement: You get more of what you measure. If you measure output, you get more output. If you simply measure attendance, all you get is more attendance; you don’t necessarily get more work. For two or three generations, American office workers have been trained to LOOK like they’re working. Computers have made this even easier.

        Employees: “I need the social interaction of the workplace.” This may be true, but all I can say to you is that an entire generation of younger workers is growing up with IM, cell phones, BBSs, e-mail, and chat rooms. These kids have been living with virtual companionship. If you can’t adapt to their world, then you had better just step out of their way.

        Notwithstanding all of this, telecommuting experiments were widespread and fabulously successful–in the early 1990s, back before we even had broadband, webcams, and NetMeeting. Both managers and employees overcame the then-substantial problems of working at home. It seemed a safe prediction that by 2005 most office workers would have moved away from urban areas–relieving the traffic, pollution, crowding, and real estate inflation problems of both the workers and the urban areas.

        What went wrong? It started shortly after the 2000 elections. In corporation after corporation, employees received terse e-mails stating simply that as of a certain date the telecommuting program would be suspended, without explanation. Inquiries received the simple answer that “it wasn’t working out,” despite the fact that everyone throughout the company knew that it was.

        Gosh, what could be wrong with telecommuting that would cause corporate leaders to squelch it and government not to use its heavy hand to reconstruct them? Higher productivity, lower turnover, lower error/defect rate, reduced absenteeism, no onsite gyms, cafeterias, and daycare centers to manage. And the social benefits: families spending more time together, children being raised by their parents, more home-cooked meals, more time for exercise, church, and education.

        Vastly reduced consumption of gasoline…

        Uh oh. I just answered my own question. For a moment I forgot who’s running the country.

      • #3078064

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by laura taylor ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        It is a matter of trust. Many companies think that if they let you work from home, you’ll be sitting around watching re-runs of Happy Days instead of actually working on their behalf. Personally, I tend to think this is often the case. Trusted individuals often get to work from home, but usually you have to prove that you are trustworthy first.

      • #3078967

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by madtechgirl ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Telecommuting is not for everyone even if their job is such that they could perform the work at home.  Many people do not have the self discipline to work at home.  Home is a place to relax and unwind with many distractions.  Many times the worker has the discipline but the family does not.  Sometimes it is very difficult to train the family that “mommy or daddy is working, do not interrupt”, sometimes it’s the spouse – roommate or significant other that can’t keep themselves from interrupting work.  Then again there are some workers who would simply rather keep the office separate from the home.

      • #3079424

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by nees ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        I support telework. I’m co-leader of a virtual private charitable group which meets once a week and telecommutes the rest of the time. Requests are transmitted instantly. Feedback to those responding to needs is flash-fast and the best part is instantly virtually seeing the scope of our influence. It’s fun, and we’re all continuously connected. We work faster and more effectively with each other. We have complete confidence that our own needs will be met when we need it. It has speeded up our ability to be a cohesive group. With the popularity of homeschooling to avoid long daily commutes to/from a school building, telework is the way to go for families. It’s the ultimate time and resource management.

         

      • #3080309

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Everyone keeps harping back to the same red herring: If I let them work at home they may slack off.

        I’ve already stated my response to that one. If their performance drops off and doesn’t return to benchmark after a reasonable time to adapt to the change, then do something about it. There are a lot of people out there who would be delighted to have the slacker’s job and who would delight you with their performance.

        You all seem to believe that managers can’t tell whether their employees are working if they can’t see them. COMPETENT managers can do that. Apparently none of you have spent a lot of time working for competent managers.

        Competent managers rate their employees on how much work they get done, not how much time they spend doing it. I’ve got news for the incompetent managers: Your employees are slacking off at their desks. Why, right this very minute they may be reading a blog on TR instead of working. Can you tell the difference?

      • #3080209

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by msm ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Everyone knows that not all jobs, nor are all workers, suited for telecommuting. In my personal experience, the killer was management who coudln’t come to grips with not being able to physically “manage” a person. I worked for a couple of years as a successful telecommuter and then manager of telecommuting workers for a small but very successful consulting firm. Our workload ranged from Business Intelligence training (for which we had to show up) to web site development to Internet business strategy. Almost everyone within the company was under 30 years of age but me. I had no problem with virtual work – I typically worked MORE hours per day than I would when going into an office. The guys under me were given timelines for their projects (sure, more work for me but they needed deadlines), and we had set up a reporting structure so that all interested parties could easily keep up with what was going on with any projects.

        Then the company hired in a general business manager (who was over me and all my telecommuters), who got his BA in business in 1964. He could never come to terms with the fact that we did not all go into a central office every day. He began literally harassing us all through email and by telephone, then calling “meetings” in person – we normally used NetMeeting or VoIP conference calls outside of our one-meeting-a-week, and the end result was that our productivity halved because of the drain this manager’s style of “managing” put on our time – being constantly made to email or phone what we were doing every 45 minutes, made to submit daily reports of every single thing we touched during a day (even showing when we took lunch?!), and made to show up in person at an office at 3 in the afternoon for randomly called meetings killed us… two of my best programmers worked at night. I personally worked from about 6am to 3pm so I could be “done” with work when school was out, but about 70% of the time, I’d be back in my home office after dinner to “tidy things up.” I averaged 10-12 hrs a day of literal work when I was working from home without interferrence generated by an old school manager. When new management took hold, instead of meeting in person once a week with the president of the company for updates, I was forced to show up at an office three or four times a week to be asked to “explain my email” or some other such idiocy. The new manager even rented a satellite office for all the telcommuters to meet.

        Resentment over the drastic changes in practice, policy, and work attitude crumbled our corporate morale. One of my programmers was fired after he “missed” 10 days in a single month for chronic kidneystones, a condition we all knew he had – he never missed a deadline that I was aware of but he was “unavailable” to answer the phone or attend meetings because he couldn’t drive when he was on the pain medication he was prescribed. My graphic artist was laid off because we were “taking so long to turn projects around” that suddenly cash was an issue and her work was the easiest thing to outsource or sub-contract – I bet renting that extra office had nothing to do with the cash crunch. My other programmer quit shortly thereafter, disgusted with his now 40-minute one-way office drive, three days a week. I hung around until the new manager himself, left, and the company folded. I inherited all their web hosting and web dev customers (who I still provide service for) and I’ve yet to ever meet any of these clients face to face. This was in June of 2001. My clients never had an issue with telecommuting and the original founder of the business never did, but boy, the middle manager literally wrecked the train.

        Until the generational age of upper management shifts a little more, I think widespread telecommuting is still far, far, on the horizon, but it does work, and it works well when you have the right business model and the right people.

      • #3079821

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Benefits of Informal Communication

        Having gone over to the dark side (from software development to management), I recognize the benefits of informal communication that arise from having people physically colocated.

        Most organizations, however, seem to put up as many roadblocks as possible to prevent informal communication.  Software development staff is usually separated from the operations staff who will use the software, often times in different buildings, cities, or states.  Discussions must follow the organizational hierarchy with the appropriate management levels at least involved, if not actively forwarding communications back and forth.  All actions must be based on a formal, written artifact; forget about doing the obvious based on a 2-minute discussion.  In environments such as this, the benefits of informal communication have been so effectively neutralized, that telecommuting appears beneficial.

        Physical colocation of workers is really needed for effective software development.  Unfortunately, most corporations do everything possible to ensure effective communication does not occur.

         

      • #3079777

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Some of us don’t have the self-discipline to work at home.  Too many distractions, unable to get in a work mindset in a home environment, etc.  If we had that kind of self-discipline, we’d probably be self-employed.

      • #3109910

        Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to Telecommuting, Telecomputing, Telework ? why are you AT work today?

        Well fine. Then you should continue to look for work that needs to be done on site. A whole generation of Americans is growing up into the workforce who are accustomed to virtual everything. You’d better get out of their way.

    • #3077357

      Regulation or Advocacy?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      In this world of worms, viruses, security vulnerabilities,
      hardware and software non-interoperability, and just plain old malfunction, it’s
      a wonder sometimes that IT organizations can remember that they are service
      providers.

      Instead, because of the constant bombardment of threats and
      malfunctions mentioned above, IT finds itself, almost by design, as IT
      regulators rather than enablers, finding ways to tell the end user NO rather
      than helping them find solutions to their business problems.

      Stop and think about it. How many articles have you come
      across recently (particularly regarding security) in which the end user is
      described as a threat or a risk and measures need to be put into place to guard
      against them/protect them from themselves?

      This is not to say that any of what I mentioned above is
      wrong, but there comes a point–when in the pursuit of a bullet-proof
      system/network–that a mentality of regulator takes over the IT organization,
      and it becomes more about what the user can’t do rather than how we can help
      the user to do something.

      This then begins to permeate the culture of the organization,
      and you end up with an oppressive IT organization that seems more like an
      overlord than an enabler. Then the IT organization wonders why they aren’t
      being considered a strategic business partner! The fact of the matter is, no
      one is going to want to partner with you when they hate your guts.

      On the flip side, we know that securing the computing
      environment and having well thought out policies and procedures is crucial to
      running an effective and efficient IT organization. Please note that I said “well
      thought out,” and not knee-jerk or reactionary policies and procedures, which
      is often the case, particularly when an IT shop is struggling to do more with
      less and barely managing to keep the wheels on things. Then it is easier to
      make wide-ranging, blanket policies that shut down many things for the sake of
      security or operations.

      The key word for this discussion is balance. By balance one
      means “to be in or come into equilibrium.” In that sense, it isn’t
      regulation or advocacy; it is the healthy balance of both.

      So when setting a policy, a thoughtful process should take
      place as to what the impact of the policy will be in regards to processes and
      procedures and employees’ work lives. I will give you an example: Many IT
      organizations these days have made the blanket policy to block an employee’s
      access to personal e-mail via a Web browser. Therefore, access to Hotmail,
      Earthlink, or Yahoo accounts is made impossible. This is done for the sake of
      security.

      Now I ask you, is this going too far for the sake of
      security? In my opinion, the answer is yes, and I will give you my reason why.

      Most governmental organizations treat the use of Web
      browsing and e-mail like the telephone. Some personal use is permitted, but it
      is not to be abused. Government employees surf the Web during lunch and breaks
      and communicate personal business via e-mail on a fairly regular basis.

      Now I personally, as a government CIO who knows that all
      communications are accessible via open record laws, would prefer my
      organization’s employees to do their personal communications via their home ISP
      using Web mail. This keeps organizational mail strictly for business while
      giving the employee the legitimate ability to address personal issues via e-mail
      just as they do with the telephone. With this, you have a nice clean separation
      between work and personal e-mail and you can work to strictly enforce the no-personal-use
      of company e-mail.

      The majority of the large ISPs already employ virus scanning
      within their Web mail interface and most IT organizations are employing
      anti-virus software at the desktop, so the actual risk is that there is a hole
      in which IT cannot control 100% of the content going into and out of the
      organizational network.

      Is that worth taking away the ability to use personal Web
      mail and forcing personal traffic onto the corporate network? This is where
      balance comes into play. If my organization is the CIA, I might feel very
      justified in doing so. In fact, in their case, their corporate network and the
      outside world probably meet in a very, very restricted way.

      However, most of us aren’t working for the CIA and keeping
      state secrets from leaving the organization is not priority #1. For many of us,
      balance would mean allowing access for the reason explained above.

      This is only one example of probably dozens of policy
      decisions that are made each year with a regulatory frame of mind, rather than
      one where the needs of the end user are thoroughly considered.

      Again, I am not trying to paint IT as a bad guy, but more
      importantly, trying to point out that in our zeal to protect ourselves and our
      organizations, one can go too far in one direction and tip the scales so far
      that you create an environment that is difficult to work in. This is where IT governance
      committees can play a huge part in helping to review policy to insure that all
      aspects are considered before policies are put into place.

      Lastly, remember that policies are not chiseled in
      stone. They need to be reviewed at least
      on a yearly basis
      to see if they are still relevant and if there have been
      any new developments technologically that–if put into place–can invalidate
      them.

      • #3097404

        Regulation or Advocacy?

        by pmoleski ·

        In reply to Regulation or Advocacy?

        Customer service is what it is all about.  Our job is to provide the services needed to allow the employees to be productive in their jobs and get the work of government done.

        Setting HR policy is not what our jobs are about.  Technical support for the implementing that policy is.  However, we do not get away totally free on this point.  In our organization we work in partnership with the HR branch that issues the policies for appropriate use of time and government resources.  These guidelines apply as equally to a telephone as they do to computing resources.  The policies take into account what the technology can and cannot do.  I fully agree that the trick is to find the balance between implementing security and allowing a work home life balance.  We have set up the policies with three categories equating roughly to okay, iffy, and not appropriate.  The incidental use of government time, for things like personal email, is similar to use of the telephone for personal calls.  It has to be reasonable and not in conflict of interest with your job.  All of this falls into the middle category of what I call iffy or others call the grey area.

        When it comes down to it I will err of the side of security at work because people have the option of using a phone or doing work from home on a computer.  It is a nice to have, not a must have for them to use the company infrastructure for personal business.  I personally think that the slope from incidental use to inappropriate use is a short one.  If employees know that everything they do using email of any kind at work is a government record then they probably should not be using it for personal business.  Before we had email no one would have used government property to send letters for personal business.  Just because the electronic world makes it easier the principles of appropriate use are not any less.

        Having said all the above I will come off my soapbox.  Times change and so do the ways we communicate.  It is not possible or I think desirable to try to ignore the Internet if we want to be a work place that is attractive to the new generation that is growing up talking to ten people at a time using instant messaging.  Forget email that is for us old folks! 

        We allow people to access web based email. We do not allow the use of instant messaging.   A great deal of emphasis is on the security appliance that does the deep packet scanning/virus/firewall/spam/spyware and everything else including the kitchen sink, to protect the front door and on the processes for keeping the desktops tops up to date with security, patches, etc as the second line of defence.

        Without getting into an in-depth technical discussion of which I will for sure get things wrong beyond a high level, I do think it is possible to keep good relations with the end clients by keeping the policy ownership where it should be with the HR branch and then providing top notch technical implementation support for that policy.  I fully agree that if the IT folks are viewed as setting the policy then we become the bad guys and risk becoming the negative organization you mention.  I view it as a positive technical challenge for our IT security staff to find ways to stay ahead of (at least keep up with?) the bad guys but also support the work life balance mandated in our appropriate use policies.

        Phil

         

         

      • #3097149

        Regulation or Advocacy?

        by saintgeorge ·

        In reply to Regulation or Advocacy?

        Imagine that after 9/11, to ensure air safety, people were by default
        forbidden to fly, that to do so they had to get a special permits, some
        kind of passport signed by the appropriate authorities, after careful
        consideration by the intervining commities, that anyone and anything
        close to an airport was considered suspicious and dragged in for
        interrogation.
        Sounds familar? I’m not talking about the Soviet Union, but about some
        of the companies and organizations to which I provide outsourced IT
        services. Of course, there is something to be said about boundaries for
        employees who would otherwise spend half of their working hours
        chatting, playing online casino or downloading mp3s and porn. But that
        has nothing to do with surrounding the area with virtual razor wire,
        steel armor and machine-gun nests to kill everything that move trying
        to get in or out, killing business flexibility and response time, just
        to avoid the unavoidable virus or spyware…
        efectively killing the business to save it.

    • #3098724

      Sweet tool for Outlook

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If your looking for a sweet tool that really enhances Outlook’s search
      capabilities, you need to grab LookOut for Outlook for free while you
      can before it is integrated into the MSN toolbar.  You can get it
      right here and it works with: Version 1.3 is the stable, released version
      of Lookout. Works with Outlook 2000,
      Outlook XP and Outlook 2003, running
      on Windows 2000 or later. Requires
      the Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1.

      Enjoy!

    • #3098723

      Secure IM for your organziation

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you don’t provide a secure alternative, employees will try nearly
      everything that pops on the market in order to IM, both within and
      outside your corporate firewall. Give them what they are
      clamoring for while providing the security and auditability that your
      organization needs by using Novell’s IM client. Read more about
      it here:

    • #3098721

      Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you were born between 1946 and 1964 you are part of the “baby
      boom” generation. Data from the 2000 U.S. Census estimates that the group
      that holds the “boomer” moniker is made up of at least 82,826,479
      individuals. I sometimes feel that 82 million of them work in government.

      Beginning in 2011, a shift in the labor force is going to
      occur because the front edge of the boomer generation is going to turn 65. While
      many are concerned about a potential labor shortage, I am mostly concerned
      about a sudden and continuous brain drain from our organizations.

      All around me are workers who are at or nearing retirement
      depending on when they actually started working for government. Many of these
      are middle and senior managers who carry with them a great deal of
      institutional knowledge. I know of whole sections and departments that will be
      retiring at the same time or following each other out the door continuously for
      several years. If this doesn’t bother you, it should. Why? Mainly because
      government usually does a horrible job of cross-training and making sure that
      there is more than one person responsible for a function.

      It’s not that government workers don’t like to share
      knowledge (I’m being kind here) but that government organizations typically are
      not staffed with a lot of redundancy in positions, and the workers in these
      positions generally wear many hats. Which means two things: One, that there is
      a great breadth of knowledge contained in a single individual and two, that
      person is usually too busy to document their knowledge or take the time to
      share it with someone who can step in and fill their shoes. So when they go, so
      does their knowledge.

      As I look around organizations that I’m familiar with, I see
      this as a real potential problem. It’s not good to have all your “old”
      hands leaving at or near the same time. But at the same time, we can’t prevent
      it. So in order to prevent the potential problem, we need to prepare for it.
      Kind of like the Y2K problem. Proper preparation led to a potential disaster
      being hardly a flash in the pan.

      So what can we do to prepare? Well there are a number of
      things that we can do if our organizations can wrap themselves around the fact
      that there is change coming, whether they like it or not. Here are some
      suggestions in no particular order:

      • Forestall
        the inevitable. No, this does not mean encouraging your older workers to
        take on increasingly large amounts of debt so they cannot afford to
        retire. It is documented that a significant portion of the baby boom generation
        desires to work past 65. Help them to do so. How? By creating incentives
        that make it more enticing to stay at work such as: working from home,
        part-time work, job sharing, phased retirement, job swapping, and a host
        of other HR and Finance policy and procedure changes that can effect a
        change of mind in the older worker to stick around.
      • As you
        know, forestalling the inevitable is not a solution in itself. It is just
        a means of buying yourself a little more time to prepare for a worker’s
        departure. The real answer lies in putting processes and procedures into
        place that allow for an orderly transition of knowledge to others in the
        organization. This can be done through mentoring programs, fast track
        programs, business process documentation and reengineering, cross-training,
        and the creation of “knowledge bases” and expert systems, as
        well as probably a dozen other things I haven’t mentioned.
      • Of
        course, being IT oriented, you can also look upon this as a way to
        introduce new technologies and ways of thinking into your organization.
        Our current methods of storing knowledge and communicating in our
        organizations (via e-mail with attached documents or files in a shared
        folder) are horribly inefficient ways of knowledge management. It is time
        to shift towards Wiki’s and Blogs and searchable databases as a way of
        communicating internally and externally in our organizations. 3000 e-mails
        in someone’s inbox is not a good way to pass on knowledge to the replacement
        worker. A central store of knowledge is what is needed. The closer you can
        come to that, the better off you are.

      Personally, I have to deal with this issue now. I plan on
      tackling it through mentoring, cross-training, and retraining, as well as
      trying to establish a new way of doing business through tools such as Wikis and
      Blogs. The point is, many of us will have to start dealing with this as time
      draws nearer to 2011. Yes, it is only 2006, but time flies when you are getting
      old 😉 So start preparing now.

      • #3259792

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by xuriwan ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        I was born in 1949.

        In 1945, Dr V Bush wrote: “There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.”

        From what you have written, I believe, you too are concerned such trail blazers failed to materialise in any numbers and with no scaffolding erected the ‘enormous mass of the common record’ remains just that, but more massive and more difficult to analyse and transfer.

        I have been trying for many years to persuade people – academics, professionals, government officers and so on – to consider another Bush insight he called associative indexing. My interpretation is that old lags like me convert their experience into something reusable. Learning from computer programming techniques, the idea is to identify physical things that are important to a particular activity and arrange them by hierarchical association (rather than alphabetically, for example).

        Immediate results are molecular structures of ‘cells’, to each of which can be added explanations, advice and so on. I have been trying this out on http://www.xuriwan.net and it seems it can work. My experience is in the building industry, but as buildings lead onto many other human endeavours and concerns, I think there is ample scope at least for further discussion.

         

         

      • #3258473

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by mckinnej ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        Disaster, or Opportunity?

        While some may see the pending “changing of the guard” as a bad thing, I’m more inclined to see it as a chance for the Government to get an infusion of some much-needed fresh blood. To be polite, let’s just say some government workers are resistant to change. (How many times have you heard this one: :We’ve done it this way for 30 years…”) Old processes and technologies that the private sector has left behind years ago are still abundant in the Government. The thinning of the resistance to change may enable the Government to move forward at an unprecedented rate.

      • #3259406

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by osumiller ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        I have worked in IT for the military, and that brings a whole new host
        of problems to the “brain drain” scenario.  Recently, my
        organization experienced this problem when one of the most proficient
        radio maintainers I have ever seen retired.  With him went
        knowledge that you just can’t train in a school, and people don’t learn
        without having a lot of experience.  The voice and data
        communications via radio is one sector of government communications
        that is facing some of the greatest challenges with these
        changes.  The younger generation can make a computer work all day
        long, but making radio systems work (especially the newer ones with all
        the extras) is sometimes a really huge task if you don’t already have a
        really good idea about HOW radio communications work.  With the
        older generation, the knowledge is leaving, and the younger generation
        just isn’t learning it unless they are really special people, or they
        have studied a lot of physics.

        Where are these types of specialized segments going to find replacement
        people/technology?  There are a lot of vast and disturbing changes
        coming.

      • #3259331

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by bloggr44 ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        I was born in 1955.

        After years of being the new guy, or told how smart I was for my age, I suddenly find myself less than 5 years from CSRS minimum retirement age. And, as you pointed out, I’m certainly not alone. I manage an IT department for a large Governmental organization. With a permanent staff of 4 (including myself), we manage 4,000 users and 1,500 computers located across 7500 square miles. Here’s the more important information: I’m the youngest person in my department. That means we’re all ready to go.

        Does this worry our employer? Maybe or maybe not.

        For about a dozen years, I’ve watched my organization manage staffing by natural selection. Positions in IS are routinely absorbed back into the collective whenever someone retires or dies. Those positions are then often reborn elsewhere (usually at headquarters or reporting to headquarters, and usually at a higher level, and usually filled by a contractor). So we get kind of a double-whammy. Not only do we lose the experience of the person who’s gone. We lose the position that was, at some point in the past, approved as necessary to operations. And there are other downsides to this uncontrolled grab. We lose our career ladders, for example.

        Yet the bosses decry the aging workforce at every meeting. Something has to be done, they say. But, leading by example, they fill new positions with people outside of the company, usually former contractors with single skill sets and no comprehensive idea of our environment. They come in a top grade level to be competitive with the rest of the public sector, so they’re resented by others who leave them to flounder their way around.

        For this aging boomer, the answers are obvious. Just as it’s been done since I got into IS 20 years ago, IS will have to adapt to the realities of today’s business. There is no apprentice program in corporate America today. There are few mentors. New young folks will have to come in and reinvent the wheel, taking advantage of new technologies to hopefully create a working wheel quickly – maybe even better wheels. With luck, they’ll gain a little inside experience as contractors before they get hired off the street.

        Could the angst have been decreased and productivity improved through a better succession plan? Yes. Will anyone see that and make substantial changes at the corporate level to support that change. I doubt it. They’re way too busy feathering their own nests.

        Actually, the cruelest irony of all is that many of my cohorts have been retiring and getting hired back as contractors. In some way, that seems like the way to insure a complete breakdown of the system. Not only have we destroyed our internal career paths, now we’re taking away the learning opportunities for outside contractors. Who will we hire to do these jobs when even the contractor workforce is filled with boomers?

      • #3259288

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by realme ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        I was born in 1954.  I have worked in government since 1993 and in an IT position since 1996.  My experience with government tells me that one of the biggest barriers to cross-training in government is that we are not allowed to have any “overlap” with a departing employee.  In other words, you can not hire until someone is actually physically gone.  So, there frequently is no training, or, minimally, the “knowledge” that the departing employee has/had is not passed directly to the replacement worker.  It gets there through an intermediary that has been “appointed” (on top of their regular duties) to make sure the new hire knows what he/she needs to know to get the job done.  The intermediary knows just enough to get the job done but has no real experience doing it, so the wheel gets re-invented and something gets left out usually.  Occassionally, someone from the organization gets the vacant position which can be a real boon to the organization, but not always, and generally it’s someone from the outside that comes in.  Even when the position is filled by an existing employee, there is frequently no cross-training before the old employee leaves, because they can’t hire until the other person is gone.  So, yes, I’m concerned about what will happen when all these “boomers” retire, myself included.  Even documenting everything does not take into account the “exceptions to the rules,” and something always gets left out. 

      • #3259268

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by bobbypr ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        I?m a consultant for the IT industry and work a lot with government accounts.  I see this very often at my clients and it is a situation management should pay more attention. 

        At first hand management should make an in depth analysis on the retiree?s tasks before he or she leaves.  While there are some tasks that may look simple, you will be surprise of the many sub-tasks that some requires.

        For example, I got to know an employee that for everybody her only work was doing forms data entry.  While doing an analysis of her tasks, she had to evaluate each form and classify each in categories and for each category the data entry changed.  The criteria she used, was something she learn from experience of her many years in the position.  There was no document on how to do it.  All the knowledge was on her mind.

        There are other cases where a workplace has a documented workflow for a particular task, but an employee found a shortcut and it was never documented.

        By making tasks analysis, and knowing how the information flows to and from that employee, and how that employee manages information, there?s a big chance to salvage that knowledge.  This will be very helpful if you are planning to do a process reengineering.

        Mentoring, as stated above, is also a good way of saving that knowledge, but you should be aware that:

        • it will only work for the live of that ?new employee? in the job
        • that you are depending that the ?new employee? understood what the retiree taught him (assuming the retiree was a good teacher).
        • that maybe you will have to justify the expense of having 2 people working on the same thing.
      • #3109919

        Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to Knowledge walking out the door: The baby boom “brain drain” in government

        “That government is best which governs least,” said Founding Father Thomas Paine, and the past couple of decades of too-big-for-its-britches government have shown that this is still true.

        The Boomer generation believed that government could solve all problems, and as a result we now have a deficit with twelve zeros, U.S. troops claiming to bring democracy to places that don’t even have hospitals, virtually the entire world fed up with America, assets seized without due process, senior citizens removing their shoes in airports, and judges paid to prosecute people for merely annoying one another.

        If the retirement of this generation brings government to a standstill, it may not be as universally lamented as the writer seems to fear. The IRS has been gridlocked for years, is anyone complaining?

    • #3110169

      ChoicePoint to pay 15M for data breach

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Remember the little data breach that occured nearly a year ago that
      possibly compromised the personal information of 163,000
      Americans?  Well ChoicePoint settled with the FTC for a 15 million
      dollar fine.  A drop in the bucket to ChoicePoint but the largest
      fine in FTC history.  Read the details here:

    • #3110166

      I want to get my hands on this: Portege 400M

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      It’s supposed to be out in February and I really really want to take a
      serious look at this tablet/notebook. I think it will be just what the
      doctor ordered for the government road warrior. Read more here:

    • #3108567

      Surviving dysfunctional ‘families’: Getting caught between the legislative and executive branches

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague the
      other day who works in a position nearly identical to mine and for an
      organization that is very much like the one I work for. We spoke for nearly an
      hour and after hanging up, I realized that although we shared very similar
      hopes, expectations, goals and objectives, our strategies for achieving them were
      going to be very different. Why? Because of our “parents.”

      Not our biological parents, in this case, but the often
      dysfunctional branches of government that we lovingly refer to as the
      legislative and executive branches of government. You can call one dad and the other mom (it doesn’t matter which), but no matter what size your governmental
      organization, you are a product of mom
      and dad.

      When mom and dad get along, and we happen to be one of their
      favorite offspring, we can be showered with goodness, whether it’s free-flowing
      funding or loose oversight. To be one of the favored children is to be in
      heaven!

      However, when they don’t get along, heaven help us. We can
      get caught in a tug-of-war between the two branches in which the children have
      to fend for themselves. Woe to you if you are one of the unfavored, left to
      scramble for the crumbs available after the preferred children have received
      their blessings.

      The fact of the matter is, no matter how good you are or how
      hard you try, much of what you can or can’t do is a byproduct of the
      interaction of these branches of government and the political winds that are
      blowing at the time.

      I know that many of the things that my colleague has
      accomplished would be nothing short of a miracle if I could pull them off in my
      environment, just because the political climates in which we operate are so
      very different.

      I say this not to be negative, but rather to remind you to
      put your situation in perspective when making comparisons with similar
      government organizations in other cities, counties, or states.

      People like to make comparisons of cities or counties that
      are “comparable”. But comparable is a relative term. The fact of the
      matter is, you might be part of the best darned IT shop in the nation for your
      agencies relative size, except for the small matter that you have a staff of
      only three and your funding is nearly non-existent. You can’t compare your
      situation with a “comparable” agency that has twice the employees and
      plenty of funding for new initiatives.

      Despite this reality, there are those (possibly including
      yourself) who won’t look at the particular circumstances and will fail to give
      you the credit you deserve for your efforts. Therefore, we must be careful when
      judging ourselves and looking at benchmarks. It can be too easy to criticize
      yourself and jump to the wrong conclusions. The important thing to remember is
      to do the best that you can with what you’ve got and try to effect the change
      necessary to make things better.

      Fortunately for us, our system of government ensures that
      change does come every so often (sometimes too often), and the situation that we
      find ourselves in now may not be the same situation months or years down the
      road. If you become the favored child for awhile, be ready to step up and make
      the most of the opportunity–for those times can be short lived.

      So although I can’t effect the same kinds of change my
      colleague can at the moment, I can do my best to move my organization in the
      right direction and plan for the time when the winds of political change are
      more favorable–then, I will be ready.

    • #3107917

      Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      It still amazes me that while the powers that control the
      funding for IT in government want it to operate like a utility (always on, no
      glitches or downtime, already there when you walk into a room), they want to
      fund IT projects as one-time expenditures. As you and I know, IT is not a
      one-time expenditure, but a continuous investment in resources to keep it
      operating like the utility everyone expects.

      So how do you go about acquiring the funds to keep
      yourself operating? I have observed others’ methods and tried several different
      ways myself, and I thought I would throw them out to you for consideration and
      possible use. There are pros and cons associated with all of them, and I will
      try to mention a few for each.

      The first method is what I call grab it while you
      can
      . This method employs building everything–plus the kitchen sink and
      a waste can or two–into your budget request for a particular item/project
      (including the cost to operate it for several years). This is accomplished by
      over buying or buying ahead for maintenance and services (like buying blocks of
      hours that the vendor will carry over multiple years) or disguising operating
      costs as part of the cost of a piece of equipment or software.

      I personally don’t care for this method and like to be up
      front with my budgeting, but I have had my detailed budgets for projects
      “massaged” by CFOs and budget officers to better enable them to get
      funded. They knew that the time was right for a particular purchase and that
      the opportunity to get funding for that type of project probably wouldn’t come
      around again any time soon. Y2K is a good example; the impacts of major
      disasters like 9-11 or Katrina also influence project funding, as well as a
      change in administration or leadership. These budget officers also knew that
      there would be more flexibility in capital costs/funding that particular year
      than in general revenue.

      Grant funding is another way of grabbing
      operating funds at the inception of a project. Obviously, getting grant funding
      for a particular project can help offset current costs (especially if the
      current project is already budgeted and approved) but often grants do allow for
      administrative overhead in their funding. This administrative overhead can be
      defined quite differently from grant to grant, as well as from one budget
      office to the next, when interpreting the grant.

      However, both of these methods leave you with the
      eventuality of having to go back to the well to keep the IT department running.
      So how do we acquire the funds to keep the wheels on? Some shops have gone to a
      charge-back system–where they charge users of technology (in
      other departments) a fee for service. I have seen this work through measured
      services and aggregated costs that are passed on as charges. The problem with
      the former is that you better be darn good at measuring–and some IT work is
      hard to quantify as a charge. It also means you need to run a billing system of
      some kind. An example of the latter would be a per-phone or data jack cost or
      an FTE cost in which all the costs of your operation are aggregated and then
      averaged out on a per unit basis. The problem with this method is that users
      can end up paying for services they do not use and if you try and break those
      out, it can get pretty messy, particularly when trying to justify the per-unit
      charge.

      One method that has been used in higher education is to
      charge a technology fee. This fee is either a flat, one time-fee
      per semester, year, or credit hour. Note that this is different than an
      aggregated charge as described above because it is not designed to charge back
      all the operations of IT. The fee is an acknowledgement that it takes dollars
      to operate and improve IT operations, and the users are going to pick up part
      of the tab. The national average per credit hour is somewhere between 5 and 10
      dollars for those universities that charge a fee.

      I have not seen this method employed in non-education
      circles yet (if you have, please let me know and give details–I’m interested),
      but it could have some merit in general government IT administration. I can
      imagine a scenario where IT departments could charge a per-user fee that is
      adjusted yearly with inflation to help offset the costs of continued
      operations. This fee could be set at an amount–say $50 dollars per user–and
      would be added to the budget of the IT department. These dollars would then be
      added to the IT department’s budget as additional funds— not as
      replacement funds for general revenue funds that they would already receive.

      Yes, I realize that in the long run that there is one
      pot of money and that these are all accounting games and none of this should
      matter. However, the pot has to be divided and there is never enough money for
      everything. How you go about making your budget requests can make a significant
      difference in what you get from year to year. It is an ART not a science, and
      logic plays very little into the final equation. Because IT is so often
      overlooked or considered a necessary evil, it is important to ensure that we do
      the best job possible come budget time. While my suggestions may or may not be
      what you need to do in your environment, hopefully, they will plant some seeds
      that will lend you some flexibility and creativity when approaching yours.

      • #3093230

        Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        by eric.baene@customerselects.com ·

        In reply to Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        I’ve been running IT projects in the government for almost 18 years now
        – and have directly experienced both of the first two funding
        methods.  In my particular case, what has worked best for me has
        been a variation on the second method.  In my experience, in the
        government there is a cyclical swinging from centralized to
        decentralized IT and back – and like it or not, there is often a fair
        amount of empire building.  When trying to get funding for a
        centralized or pseudo centralized IT group – I’ve found that one fairly
        effective method is to work fee for service but at the sub-organization
        or project level.  Start by figuring out what it would cost a part
        of the organization (dept, division, branch, etc.) or a separate
        project to provide the level of services your group provides – then
        because of economies of scale, you offer those services to the
        organization or project at some fraction of what it would cost them to
        procure those services and resources themselves.  Essentially, you
        act like an outside agency or company selling its services.  Each
        branch, division, project, etc. kicks in funding depending on the level
        of services and resources desired.  Being an engineer and project
        manager – sales were never my strongest area – but it has become
        necessary.  When improvements to the infrastructure are necessary
        or desired you have to present the cost benefit analysis to each group
        and let them know how those improvements will save them money, save
        them time, make them more efficient, or make them more productive.

        Also – in the government – project funding – particularly when the
        project is funded by an outside organization or another part of the
        government, is often one of the best sources of funding – but you have
        to work with them early – to sell your groups services and resources
        and get them to incorporate those funding requirements into their
        project’s budget early.  An organizations budget is often tight
        and moderately well defined – often times there is not much wiggle room
        to reallocate funding to IT and the organization may be reluctant to do
        so because it takes away from something else they want to do — but
        outside funded projects’ budgets tend to be more fluid and flexible and
        the funding sources may have deeper pockets.

      • #3093218

        Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        by rourkejj ·

        In reply to Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        First of all, I have to confess that I have a very supportive senior management team in Schenectady County.  We have taken an approach of charging back to departments based on our work order tracking system (can be combersome, however it allows me to build overhead and fringe costs into the billing rate). 

        What is more frustrating to me is the need for staffing resources.  We continue to deliver new technologies to the 39 individual departments that we support, but have not been able to add any additional resources in 3 years.  I’m still looking for the argument to add resources that works.

      • #3132936

        Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to Getting your fair share: Financing government IT operations

        Two excellent comments above.  Regarding Roarkejj asking how to justify staffing, my first inclination is for you to take a moment and put down in writing what you aren’t doing because you don’t have the staff in place to do it.  Historically in an IT department, the things you probably aren’t doing are: Documentation, staying up to date and proactive on all the latest updates for your equipment, monitoring for problems before they occur rather than reacting, thorough planning and testing, your response times could probably be better, etc.  Want a real reality check on your gaps – do a survey of the people you are supporting and let them tell you what you can do better.  I guarantee this will give you information to support a request for increased staff.

        Ramon

    • #3092657

      CALEA – Excellent article by the Washington Post

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you haven’t been paying attention to the FCC’s plan to expand the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994, you should be.  Even if you have, things have been changing on that front over the last several weeks.  Take a look at this article from the Washington Post for a well written update.

    • #3092648

      LaserMonks – Office Supplies at Lower Prices and Prayers to Boot!

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      What do you do when you are bored and sitting on an aircraft for over 2 hours – Read the in flight magazine!  This weekend I came across an article about a unique group of monks that sell office supplies on the cheap.  Check them out here.
      You may get your office supplies at a reduced rate and get a warm fuzzy feeling all at the same time.

    • #3093180

      Programmers get a shortcut – source code search engine.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Good programmers hate to reinvent the wheel every time they
      are working on a project, therefore wouldn’t a search engine designed specifically
      for programmers to find code be a neat idea? 
      If your answer to this question is yes, you have a treat coming soon:
      KRUGLE.  Go join the beta now or wait for it to go live in March!

      • #3101276

        Programmers get a shortcut – source code search engine.

        by vaspersthegrate ·

        In reply to Programmers get a shortcut – source code search engine.

        Yes. I need to repost about this, and add prominent link to it on my blogs sidebar, up high, near my intro text.

        It also is supposed to be answers, definitions, syntax, etc., not just code.

      • #3268454

        Programmers get a shortcut – source code search engine.

        by vaspersthegrate ·

        In reply to Programmers get a shortcut – source code search engine.

        this is a revolutionary new tool for developers, bloggers, webmasters, content managers, IT departments, and others who need code, definitions, templates, and other building blocks of web objects. it is important to know that it is not a simple code generator, but an actual full-blown programmer’s search engine that strives to be so astonishingly relevant in search results, the web dev community will wonder how they clunked and chunked along without it.

        DISCLAIMER: I am a friend and colleague of RB who is doing something clever I’m sure with Krugle marketing storms.

    • #3132950

      Peter Quinn Unplugged

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      If you didn’t catch this C/NET article where former Mass. CIO Peter Quinn gives his side of the story regarding the uproar over ODF and his subsequent resignation, you owe it to yourself to read it.  Check it out here:

    • #3132941

      Computer Chips on your Driver’s License – coming to a DMV near you?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      The Department of Homeland Defense is deciding on when and how to implement identification on driver’s licenses either through magnetic strips or RFID chips.  Don’t like either choice?  Read more here:

      • #3101790

        Computer Chips on your Driver’s License – coming to a DMV near you?

        by btljooz ·

        In reply to Computer Chips on your Driver’s License – coming to a DMV near you?

        Drivers Licenses already have magnetic strips on them. Remember back in the 80s when it was the LAW you HAD to have your SS# on your DL especially if it was a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)???? THAT is when the National Database was formed. All this hoopla about Driver’s Licenses is only to divert attention away from the REAL threat: IMPLANTED RFID chips into humans. They’ve already been doing this to pets for over 15 years. Now it’s been done to the dead of Katrina. Inmates are next…THEN guess who??? 😉

    • #3133807

      Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      The whole story surrounding Massachusetts former CIO Peter Quinn and
      his decision to step down as CIO after his controversial decision to
      adopt the Open Document Standard (ODF) for the state government really
      bothers me. Not because I am surprised by the outcome, but because of
      the precedent it sets and the chilling effect it will probably have on
      decision-makers who might think about an alternative to Microsoft.

      While I will freely admit I do not know all the grisly details involved
      in the decision regarding the choice of ODF for the state, my research
      tells me that some people felt the decision was made without enough
      input from others, which resulted in a lack of buy-in among the
      relevant parties.

      Whether this is true or not, it will be hard to ever know the complete
      truth. Personally, I’m not sure you can get 100-percent buy-in on
      anything, particularly in an organization as complicated as state
      government. And I’m not sure that 100-percent buy-in would have solved
      Quinn’s problems, because the decision he made was going to cost a
      certain company a lot of money or was going have to change its software
      to support a standard it didn’t create or want to support.

      Anytime you make public decisions that are not only costly for a major
      statewide vendor, but also can be viewed as an act of defiance, you are
      looking for trouble. No company, (monopoly or not) is going to take
      that one sitting down, and they are going to go down fighting or take
      you down first.

      While I thought that Mr. Quinn’s decision was bold and inspiring to
      many open source proponents, it was in fact a declaration of war. Quinn
      is a casualty of that war and it’s quite possible that Massachusetts’
      ODF standard will become another casualty, even though the state says
      it will implement it as planned.

      So what is the lesson from this saga? That any attempt to implement
      open standards in government is political suicide? The answer is maybe;
      but it depends on how you go about it.

      My personal philosophy on this one is that if you are going to go up
      against such a powerful force, you either need bring an equally
      powerful force with you, or you prepare to fight a guerrilla war.

      For instance, had Mr. Quinn said that the state is going to become an
      all-Oracle state, from backend to desktop; the tale might have ended
      differently because you would have money fighting money.

      On the other hand, if you aren’t about to swap out one huge major
      software vendor for another, then in my opinion, you need to take a far
      subtler approach. The first thing you do not do is blow your own horn
      with a huge announcement. You need to keep quiet about it, and win the
      hearts and minds of the populace without them even realizing you have
      done it. The way to do it is not from the desktop, but from the back
      office. Start with things the end user doesn’t see or care about: DNS
      servers, Web servers, and the e-mail servers. They (the end users)
      continue to use the same front ends–desktop and e-mail clients that
      they are used to–while you start to exchange the plumbing out from
      under them. Done correctly, this can happen without anyone noticing.
      And if you do it during a period in which you have paid for a volume
      license of the back end stuff, no one is the wiser (particularly the
      software vendor whose tools you are replacing); you will reap your
      savings later when you choose not to renew.

      Later, you can turn your attention to replacing the file systems and
      the database servers (if you choose to go whole hog). This is a bit
      trickier because applications can depend on them, but it can be done.
      Mind you, this process doesn’t happen overnight, but takes time and
      careful planning.

      Once you have liberated the back office, then the desktop is ripe for
      the taking. By then you can document successful implementation and
      usage over a period of time and also show the cost savings. Now, you
      have ammunition and probably some fellow believers because you have
      been working the steering committee all along–haven’t you?

      As open source continues to make headway and increase awareness through
      its adoption in private sector companies, it will become easier to
      stick one’s neck out and make those far-reaching decisions. In the
      meantime, it will take death by a thousand cuts rather than a frontal
      assault should you wish to avoid political suicide and actually stick
      around to see your plans come to fruition.

      • #3133745

        Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        by brandon.aiken ·

        In reply to Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        I think you’re assuming there’s a conspiracy where there isn’t.

        Mr. Quinn left for a few reasons. First, insubstantiated comments in the Boston Globe on the behavior of Mr. Quinn led to an investigation which exonerated him. It was later discovered that Microsoft (surprise, surprise) had given this information to the Globe. Mr. Quinn did not like the mudslinging, so he stepped down.

        Next, Mr. Quinn also stated he left because we did not want the decision to use ODF to seem politically motivated or that there was some ulterior motive. Quinn knew that if he continued to press for ODF against MS that it woul look like two uncompromising people fighting, when that’s not the issue at all. The issue is that the State of Massachusetts has elected a new file format. MS is absolutely free to use this format if they wish to have the business of the State of Massachusetts. They are choosing not to and instead trying to pressure their customers to continue to be locked in to them with half-open document standards.

        Nobody is buying it because Mr. Quinn stepped down.

        Mr. Quinn was exonerated, stepped down, was replaced by someone who was still named CIO for the state of Massachusetts (there was some debate if the position’s power to decide policy would be affected — it wasn’t) and then both the new CIO and the Governor’s Office (I think) stated their intention to continue with the plan to use ODF. Overall, this makes MS look like a bunch of bullies.

        I don’t think MS can win in Mass. anymore. They failed to convince the State IT Office that their open document standard was better than ODF. They failed to sully the reputation and name of the former CIO. They failed to get the authority to dictate state IT policy changed to the hands of the state senate, which they *could* buy with “donations” and by snowing the senators with flashy technobabble.

        Mass. is the first domino in the end of viability for proprietary document formats, and that means the beginning of the end for vendor lock-in. MS knows this. And I don’t think they can stop it. They need a demonstrably better product (that is, a better file format) to do that, and they don’t have one.

      • #3254434

        Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        by bishaw ·

        In reply to Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        Your process is sound up to a point.  Training for the staff from the IT Support to the end users is not covered which could make or break the deal too.  If the products are easy to use then the transition can run smooth but if the products are difficult to do the same functions that staff use on a constant bases then it is an up hill battle.  Also on the desktop end, can the new software support archived documents saved in prior versions of MS since that is what they used in the past?  I work for a state agency and the agency I came from loves to challenge vendors to try to open existing documents created by MS products.  So far, all challengers have failed but they would like to find one that can provide the same functions that they are use to using with MS.  I tried some evaluations from a number of vendors for desktop software and none could compare to what we used with MS.  In addition, people forget what happen in Huston, Texas

        when they tried going down this road and Microsoft did an audit for licensing violations or stay with their products. 

      • #3080822

        Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        1. The Consipracy. It looks like the “conspiracy theory” was true: the “conspiracy” actually existed. The state just lucked out in that Quinn was savvy enough to outmaneuver it, in part by being essentially forced to step down to remove himself as an easy target for Microsoft FUD and mudslinging.

        2. Guerilla Migration. There’s a relatively easy way to greatly reduce the bogieman of “training costs” and avoid angering the 900 pound gorilla when switching out desktop software: start out by making it voluntary. Once you’ve swapped out the back-end software (like trading in MS Exchange Server for Open-Xchange Server), you are now no longer dependent on the Microsoft applications that require that back-end functionality (like Outlook). Rather than making a company-wide migration mandate from Outlook (for instance) to something else, though, you can now just say that everyone in the company is free to use one of a set of other alternatives as well. Microsoft will find it difficult to target you for saying “I don’t care whether you use a free alternative to a Microsoft appliction,” even though it would be easy for Microsoft to target you for mandating a migration to non-Microsoft applications. As time goes on, you can encourage alternatives more and more, until finally you get to a thorough enough saturation by alternative applications that you can just fail to renew licenses for MS products. What’ll they do then, attack you for ceasing to be a customer? Another approach is to mandate the use of alternative technologies alongside the Microsoft technologies, rather than as a replacement to the Microsoft applications. This option is a bit more difficult to employ universally, though it might be useful in a couple of individual cases of specific applications.

      • #3252453

        Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        by juleslt ·

        In reply to Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        It depends if your aim is ‘open source’ or ‘open standards’.
        I don’t think the aim here was an end game of ‘Linux on the desktop’. After
        all, you could switch to Open Source and keep using Word document format.

        However, while companies are free to support what they like,
        I can wholly understand the argument that governments should NOT lend support
        to a particular vendor?s format (particularly where that format is closed). It?s
        a completely different issue from using a particular vendor?s software, which
        is acceptable. Unfortunately, the dominance of the MS ecosystem means that many
        people can?t even see the difference between software and data format.

        European countries have slowly got more hardline on this
        (after all, they have more to gain by hurting a US business), passing laws on
        accessibility standards that mandate data to be available in open standard
        formats  – W3C compliant HTML and plain
        text primarily, although PDF is also widely acceptable due to the fact that it
        is a documented standard that can be freely implemented (i.e. you can easily
        write a PDF Braille reader).

        It?s acceptable for a company to decide to make it?s website
        IE only because it doesn?t want to cater to the tiny percentage of Firefox, Mac
        and Linux users, because that?s a commercial decision. It?s not acceptable for government
        to do the same. You might say ?come on, it?s a waste of tax dollars spending
        money making cross-platform sites for losers than get what they deserve for
        buying a minority machine? but you?re still missing the point. The question is
        whether governments should be supporting commercially determined ?standards?
        aka winners, or properly defined standards (in the sense of ISO, ECMA, etc).

        I think the issue, perhaps, WAS in promoting a standard that
        is equally associated with a product (OpenOffice). Maybe a better strategy
        would have been in promoting that State documents should be saved in ?The
        simplest possible format?. I can never understand why people send plain
        unformatted text in Word files. RTF would also suffice in 80% of cases. For
        Read-Only documents, PDF is almost certainly a better choice. Word is only
        really useful if you want to send a document for someone else to modify and
        return.

        If you really HAD to pick a single format, I?d go for
        PDF as it allows maximum choice of tools to produce documents (even including
        MS tools that don?t write out in Word format like Publisher). I can?t think of
        many situations where agencies want to send editable documents. (Of course that still leaves the issue of what format your INTERNAL documents are kept in).

      • #3101280

        Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Open Source Software = Political Suicide?

        The Open Document Standard isn’t an Open Office format. It’s a document format that was developed separately and has been implemented by a number of word processor developers. The problem Microsoft has with it being adopted as a state governmental standard isn’t that OpenOffice.org implements it (nor that any other particular word processor implements it), but that it’s something Microsoft doesn’t control and for which MS Word doesn’t have any support (due to Microsoft decision-makers making a conscious choice to ignore open standards in favor of its own closed formats).

        In other words, it’s not that the Open Document Standard is associated with any particular product (it’s not, except in the minds of some underinformed people who don’t know better) — it’s that it is not associated with a particular product, namely Microsoft Word.

    • #3091568

      Getting thrown in the deep end

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I just finished sitting in on a conference call of a board meeting of
      about 25 members where the main topic was regarding a politically
      contentious document and how the members were going to form a strategy
      to deal with the document. While the discussion proved interesting,
      what was most fascinating to me was the style in which the chairperson
      (who called the meeting) managed the process. Smooth, articulate and
      consensus building, the chair had the meeting wrapped up in 30 minutes
      with a general agreement from the group to act as one as the process
      was worked out and assignments were made–pretty slick in a politically
      charged environment.

      This got me to thinking, where do most managers get taught this stuff?
      And the answer for most is nowhere. For the most part, most of us have
      had to pick it up on the fly, by observing others and by being thrust
      into a position to run a meeting. As I am sure you will agree, based on
      some of the awful meetings I have attended (hopefully not the ones I
      ran!) some people learn the art better than others.

      I say art as opposed to science because, although there is a method
      involved, you can follow all the rules and still run a lousy meeting.
      Running successful meetings comes from feeling comfortable with public
      speaking and being able to think on your feet. These are skills that
      many IT people struggle with.

      Another part of the art is being politically savvy. You must understand
      the power equations–who has it, who doesn?t, how to wield it, and how
      to be sensitive to it. This is another one of those things that isn’t
      taught in school.

      So if our process of learning how to run meetings is by observation or
      being thrown in the deep end and asked to swim, is it any wonder that
      so many do it so poorly?

      Interestingly enough, while the art of running a good meeting is a
      difficult skill to acquire, it is more easily acquired if you know the
      science behind meetings. By this I mean that if you are less worried
      about knowing the “mechanics” of how to run a meeting, you can
      concentrate on developing more of the “art.”

      Fortunately, there are plenty of guides on how to run a meeting, both
      public and private, formal and informal. Here are just a few:

      Roberts Rules

      Managing Meetings

      Chairing Public Meetings

      There are dozens if not hundreds more from where these came from, and
      they all say pretty much the same thing. I recommend reading a few to
      make sure you understand the ground rules.

      The next step is to put them into practice. Practice does indeed help
      you get to the next level. The more you lead or participate (not sleep
      through) meetings, the more comfortable you get with the procedure. Be
      critical of meetings (in your mind) and evaluate those you attend,
      based on what you know (in regards to process), and also the style in
      which they are run. You shouldn?t have too much trouble identifying
      good meetings from bad ? it’s usually pretty self evident.

      Now for the “art” part: Some people are naturally better communicators
      than others. For reasons too many to enumerate, some people have a
      built-in command of language, are sharp observers of their environment,
      and are attuned to the feelings and emotions of their listeners.

      However, even if you are not a natural communicator, there are
      resources to help you hone your talents just a Google search away or in
      the self-help section of your local book store. My suggestion, besides
      reading, is to get a mentor to gently critique you. It?s easy to be too
      hard on yourself, but videotaping can be extremely helpful, along with
      coaching from a pro.

      As for power and politics, here are a couple of good reads:
      Managing with Power:

      Management and Machiavelli:

      While reading on the subject is good, I certainly recommend paying
      attention to the power and politics in your own organization. Ask
      questions and learn more about who wields power, how they do it, and
      why.

      Finally, “style” is hard to quantify or learn from a book. My
      suggestion is to find someone that you admire and try to incorporate
      some of the things that they do best into your own style.

      With the right attitude, you can improve your ability to manage a
      meeting. This is hugely important, since your effectiveness in meetings
      determines a great deal of things in the workplace ? from funding to
      project management success. So for those of you who are “old” pros at
      managing meetings, you might want to take a step back and make sure you
      are as good as you think ? there is always room for improvement. And
      for those who haven?t had much experience yet, I hope I have provided
      something for you to work with. Call it a life preserver ? its probably
      more than most of us got to start with 😉

      • #3273722

        Getting thrown in the deep end

        by raelayne ·

        In reply to Getting thrown in the deep end

        I’m busy.  So busy I can barely see straight.  Busy enough to
        appreciate — more than I can express — a well-run meeting.  I
        think most people feel the same way, because we are all busy. 
        Here are a few things I appreciate:
        1.  An objective — terse, specific, and important.  An agenda is optional, but an objective is essential.
        2.  The right people – the subject matter experts and the decision makers, and no one else
        3.  A structured statement of the issues and elicitation of points of view
        4.  Terse summary by the leader of what he has heard (assumes he’s listening, not just talking) – all points of view
        5.  Preparation (stop and re-schedule the meeting if critical participants aren’t ready)
        6.  On-time start and finish
        7.  Determination to stick dispassionately to the issues or questions at hand
        8.  Follow-up:  skip the minutes; what you’ve done is make
        decisions, identify action items (with responsibility and timeframe),
        and new issues.  Make sure they’re all recorded wherever you
        record such things and that those action items really are completed.

    • #3100671

      MySQL gets a slap in the face

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Interesting article on a pre-emptive strike by Oracle on what it sees as up and coming competition.  Check it out:

    • #3100664

      Changes in H1B Visas may hit you where it hurts

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      This article talks about the recent federal rule changes to H1B Visas that essentially make it more costly to hire foreign workers.  While the author says this promotes offshoring, which it may in private companies, it will also make consulting fees go up which is where it will hit most government organizations.  Read more here:

    • #3100658

      Warms my heart.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Several articles here regarding the federal government warming up to open source. It warms my heart and puts a skip in my step. Check them out here:

    • #3100653

      No new funding without a framework in place.

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Some legislatures are begining to force government IT shops to adopt and practice an IT framework in order to get any apporval for funding.  Are you sensing this in your environment?  Here are some to take a look at:

      ITIL
      ISO
      COBIT

    • #3100649

      Website of the Week

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      I love this site as a starting point for project planning.  I had lost the URL and the synapses in my brain were misfiring and I couldn’t remember the name.  But I just had my aha moment for the day so here it is for your benefit:

    • #3271670

      Why incorporate IT managment frameworks?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Recently, I attended the kick-off
      meeting of a local interest group (LIG) of the ITSMFUSA. The acronym
      stands for IT Service Management Forum USA and it is a group
      dedicated to fostering the delivery of IT services via ITIL. ITIL,
      which I covered in an earlier post, stands for IT Information
      Library, and it is a methodology developed by the British Government
      for best practices in the delivery of IT services. It is popular
      internationally and is just catching on in the USA. It is another
      management methodology such as CobiT, ISO, Six Sigma, etc., except it
      tells you what to do in the ways of best practices, not how to do
      them.

      In any case, I was talking to a
      colleague of mine before the meeting about why companies need (and
      will pay for) what are essentially common-sense guidelines for
      managing. We were discussing this as I was flipping through a book on
      IT alignment with business strategy when I came across a paragraph
      (and I wish I could remember it to quote it) but it read something
      like: Regarding database backups, they should occur on a regularly
      recurring schedule, which is made known to the customer and any
      deviation from said schedule should be made known right away
      .

      No kidding! What a brilliant bit of
      insight! Another concept in the same vein (but not part of ITIL) is
      Root Cause Analysis. Root Cause Analysis refers to finding the
      real cause of the problem and dealing with it rather than simply
      continuing to deal with the symptoms
      . Okay, when was the last
      time you set out to just remedy the symptoms of your problems?

      See my point? Most of this stuff,
      especially to those who have been in the field for a long time, is
      pure common sense. Yet, I am going to argue that, in fact, these
      methodologies are very important.

      I concluded that the reason we pay for
      common sense is because of size. When organizations are small, they
      tend to communicate well. There are less people involved in all
      processes; each person is usually responsible for multiple processes
      and the atmosphere is usually very collegial. Thus, there is little
      need for lots of communication and the communication that does occur
      is direct and usually unhindered by multiple layers of management.

      When organizations get larger they
      start to lose the ability to communicate effectively (for a variety
      of reasons). Additionally, as the organization grows, the work
      typically gets more complex because you have more to do, even if it
      is the same stuff you’ve been doing for years. It?s like growing
      from a two-person IT shop that supports 50 users to a 50 person shop
      that supports 5000 users.

      So you put these things together and
      suddenly, all the things that we used to do that made sense get lost
      in the magnitude of the work and the breakdown in communication. As
      the organization grows larger, there is a tendency to over
      communicate, which increases the chances that the important messages
      get lost in the deluge of e-mail, memos, forms, phone calls, etc.

      Thus, we turn to methodologies to help
      us return to the times when we did a better job of managing by
      formalizing the structure. This helps us ensure that the basics get
      taken care of as they should.

      ITIL, and the other methods mentioned
      above are excellent examples of how best practices and their skillful
      implementation can lead to outstanding results for your organization.
      I do suggest you check them out ? particularly ITIL as it is being
      touted as the coming wave of IT service delivery management.

      You might be thinking, “Oh, so
      ITIL and other frameworks are just for the big guys”. And my
      answer to that my Padawan (Jedi learner) is no, it is for the little
      guys too. In fact, it can be just as important for the small- and
      medium-size organizations as the big ones. Whoa! How can this be?
      Simply because good habits and processes learned early and practiced
      regularly will stay with the organization as it gets bigger, if it is
      part of the culture. Even as personnel turn over, if the processes
      are firmly in place, they have a tendency to stick around. So
      starting out early with one of these frameworks can pay huge benefits
      down the road when your organization is MEGA-GOV.

      So my suggestion is to get familiar
      with one or more of these methodologies and decide which you might
      want to try on for size depending on the culture of your
      organization. Keep in mind though, that the implementation of any
      kind of framework is a BIG DEAL and requires work, work, and then
      more work. Also, it needs to start from the top. If management
      doesn?t buy in, it will be doubly hard to implement and succeed.

      Start slow, research, and join groups
      such as ITSMFUSA
      in order to have a support system around you as you begin to plan
      your journey into an IT management framework. And remember, this
      stuff doesn?t happen over night. But by joining a group, you will
      have folks to lean on and be able to pick their brains and learn from
      their mistakes ? and besides, the cookies were really good at the
      meeting Best of luck in your
      endeavors!

      • #3088127

        Why incorporate IT managment frameworks?

        by chip.mitchell ·

        In reply to Why incorporate IT managment frameworks?

        Ramon,

        That’s sounds great if you are a new organization with a clean slate to develop policies and procedures.  What about if, as in 90% of the cases, you have well-entrenched people and ways of doing things (or not doing things)?  It seems like you really need both a GREAT tasting carrot and a BIG stick to bring about the behavior modification that will be required, especially in the beginning when all the naysayers, BTDT (been there done that), and WEBE’s (we be here when you came and we will be here when you leave) mumble, grumble and drag their feet. 🙂  That’s where it seems like that critical element of Leadership becomes really essential.  The road is littered with managers who got bogged down in otherwise worthy re-engineering campaigns because they went about it the wrong way with their staff.:(

        Bubba

      • #3088043

        Why incorporate IT managment frameworks?

        by madtechgirl ·

        In reply to Why incorporate IT managment frameworks?

        For the past ten years I’ve been telling clients, in-house and conference attendees alike:  It doesn’t matter which framework you choose, just pick one and implement it.  Just do it.  It doesn’t matter if you are a new company and can start from scratch or if you are a solid corporation that’s been around for years.  It doesn’t matter if you’re private sector or public.  If you’re in a large organization that has continually flown by the seat of their pants learn how to become a change agent.  Document how much time is lost due to reinventing the wheel over and over, how much time is lost testing on the backend because requirements weren’t clear in the first place, documentation was never written, misunderstandings continual arose, etc. then equate that to $$$$.  Management will listen.  It never ceases to amaze me how many companies, including solid corporations are not using any kind of standards, methodologies or quality framework of any kind.

    • #3085132

      You better understand the 3rd R

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Although it is not a saying you hear much anymore, success
      in school used to be qualified by making sure you understood and were
      proficient at the three R?s — “readin’, ritin’, and rithmatic.” And
      while it isn?t politically correct to reference them in that way today, the
      individuals who spouted that phrase were actually on to something —
      particularly when it comes to IT management.

      You are probably going “huh?” about now, so let me
      explain. The first 2 R?s when it comes to IT management are about
      communication. I have written often on the importance of communicating well and
      often with all those that are consumers of your services. So I won?t beat a
      dead horse on this issue (although I am sure I will come back to it again in
      the future — it?s that critical).

      However, neglecting the third R is what can get you into
      real trouble. In terms of IT management, that third R means budgeting and
      knowing the numbers for your operations inside and out. This can make or break
      you as an IT management professional.

      Once upon a time, IT was mysterious and magical — the
      proverbial black box. Flawlessly running operations with little or no downtime
      was both an art and a science. And as long as you did just that, most people
      were pretty satisfied with your performance.

      Times have changed, however, and people (your customers and
      management) have come to expect IT services to be just like a utility — always on. Of course, the difference
      between your IT department and a utility is that you are not a monopoly; there are not a million suppliers of
      electricity and water out there knocking on doors and offering to sell them
      cheaper and with the same level of service ? but there are for IT services.
      There is always someone telling your management that they can provide the same
      services as you better AND cheaper.

      To make matters worse, your customer?s budgets are getting
      squeezed ever so tightly and, guess what, you are just an expense, my friend.
      No matter that you provide the best service possible — it?s just business, and
      Frank here says he can do better than you.

      So?with that set of expectations, you had better be good at
      “rithmatic.” What does that mean? Management expects three things
      from your numbers concerning your operations: Transparency, Clarity, and
      Consistency. They want to be able to see how you arrive at your numbers, they
      want to understand the methodology you used to arrive at those figures, and
      they want your numbers to be consistent over time — meaning that you are not constantly
      changing your methodology and accounting practices.

      Management may not always agree on how you arrive at your
      numbers, nor your methodology for calculating costs — but those are things
      that can be argued and defended.

      What gets you into hot water is when your numbers don?t meet
      the TCC test (transparency, clarity and consistency). Failing the TCC test
      creates doubt — doubt in your ability to manage the operations, in what you
      are charging them, and doubt regarding whether there is any dishonesty
      involved. If people think your figures are fishy, you have a problem.

      So what does all this mean to a typical IT organization?
      That bookkeeping and performance metrics are critical to your operation — not
      from the stand point of how well your operation performs (although they play a
      part), but in how your operation is funded and, just as importantly, how your
      own performance is judged.

      So as a manager, what does this mean for you? If this is a
      weakness of yours, you need to get up to speed or find people to help you who
      are well-versed in budgeting and accountability — preferably both.

      What you should not do is bury your head in the sand or be
      too “busy” running the operation to take care of these things
      because, buddy, not knowing your third R will come back to bite you and HARD.

      Here are a few resources to give you a start while you scour
      the Internet, your peers, and mentors for help.

      Performance Dashboards:

      Measuring IT Costs and Value:

      IT Metrics Planning Pack:

    • #3085130

      Blackberry situation just like Y2K

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Did you really think RIM wasn’t going to pay up once the rulings went against them?  Just in case you missed it, here is the scoop on the settlement:

    • #3085129

      Will we never learn?

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Government Technology

      Oops, another 93000 SSNs loose because of lack of security?  Say it isn’t so!  But aye, it is true…read for yourself:

    • #3266596