Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Allergic to Change

"Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way." I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise."

- Adm Grace Hopper

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The National Debt

This hearing addresses one of the most significant challenges of our time. Worth the time invested to listen or watch.

See or listen to the hearing by clicking on this link.

What do you believe is the nation's way forward?

Veteran's Day

A friend wished me a "Happy Veteran's Day" at 1201 this morning. He was the first to send such a wish in my direction this year. A fellow veteran, I replied "Happy Veteran's Day" back, but somehow the word "Happy" just doesn't feel like it belongs.

Maybe it's the rain and clouds this morning. Maybe it's the recent bloody attack at Fort Hood, or my memory of the young man with the artificial leg that I walked past the other day on base, or the gradual change in personality I see in our troops - strong and sobering evidence of the burden our men and women in uniform must bear on behalf of this nation. For whatever reason, this Veteran's Day has more of a memorial feel to it for me. It is what it is.

We celebrate the brave men and women who have served this country in a special way. We celebrate the side of human nature that is willing to sacrifice everything - not just for a cause, but for the man or woman beside them or the memory of someone's love. We celebrate the courage that thousands of men and women have found in dark hours that has empowered the human race to stand against the most savage stuff this world can serve up - ourselves.

Every veteran has stood the watch. Read some good material on standing the watch: [Sailor, Soldier]

For me at least, the day is more personal than a casual "Happy Veteran's Day." It's a day to remember faces and moments. It's a day to remember routines; personal victories; hospital corners; the correct way to put toilet paper on a roll; dark nights thinking about sacrifice and wondering if I would have the courage and presence of mind to do what needed to be done when it was my turn; the neon buzz of lights coming on a 4AM; smells of Hoppe's #9, boot polish, and bleach; left foot first; and "DRESS RIGHT! HUH!"

I personally celebrate Veteran's Day every time I look in the mirror and check my gig line, when I'm shining my shoes, when I jingle the dog tags in my pocket, and even when I find it hard to fall asleep when I am super tired. I am both proud of the commitments I made and of the company I kept. And I regret that I didn't give more. As a veteran, I doubt I'm alone when I say it's hard to feel like I gave enough when I see so many who gave so much more.

This morning, just like last year, I raised the flag with my daughter - she ran to the front door hollering "Wait, Daddy! I want to help you!" We unfurled that flag and despite our civilian clothes, we both saluted.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Acquisition Professionals: VIP's on the Transformation Team

I podcasted on this subject about a year or so ago, but I believe it bears mentioning again: Without the Acquisition community's help, we're going to have a really difficult time with Defense Business Transformation.

I'm not just talking about the Acquisition policy makers. I'm talking about every person supporting the Acquisition process - from the one's who write the policy, to the COTR's and PM's who keep an eye on things. Everyone.

Groups of action level folks wearing titles such as KO (Contracting Officer), COR (Contracting Officer Representative), COTR (Contracting Officer Technical Representative), and TM (Task manager), all have significant contributions to make. These contributions are not limited to the absolutely necessary functions they already perform. I'm talking about saving the government a lot of money and wasted time. Minor changes to the way things are already being done will make a huge difference to Transformation efforts. We need to remember these folks and give them the training they need to be VIP members on the Transformation team.

First, these professionals need to be read in on the new application of the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA). Every KO, COR, COTR and TM knows well what an ADA is: a section, 1341 (a), of legislation that uses words like "jail," "fines," and mean relief of duty. Everyone in the acquisition business got a primer on it during initial training. In short, an ADA violation is something to be avoided at all costs.

Few know, however, that the ADA has been recently (October 2005) applied to business IT projects for not asserting compliance against the Enterprise Architecture. Few understand that the act of doing their own thing with business IT projects - irrespective of their contracting authority - can land them into a career ending ADA violation that maybe hasn't caught up with them yet.

Of those that do know (I personally trained more than 80 COR's in a 3 month period) few realize that a few small changes to a Statement of Work (SOW) can save thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars and many months of paperwork. By simply requiring contractors to submit their deliverables in DoDAF (DoD Architecture) format, the solutions architecture that is needed to assert compliance will not have to be created by a separate contract line item (CLIN, government employees, or a new contract.

Compliance assertion can happen throughout the lifecycle of the project on an annual basis. This assures both a finished project that is compliant with current and emerging DoD design specifications and constraints, AND a whole lot less time and aggravation that comes from having to re-create paperwork after the fact.

Talk about demonstrable cost savings? The average time for a certification project to get from my office (the first time I saw a project) to having certification in hand was 71 days. Most of those 71 days were spent chasing down accurate and complete paperwork, educating people along the way, and getting someone to submit the solution architecture for a project. If contractors had been asked to submit their design proposals in DoDAF format up front, we could have easily shaved weeks off the certification process and made the certification process a lot more about design and the business case and a lot less about getting the paperwork right.

How many KO's understand that a lack of obligation authority means that a project isn't legally going anywhere? I'm talking about at the time of initial certification and again at each an every annual review (not less than 12 months from initial or annual certification).

All KO's know that not timing the renewal of a contract correctly could be a deal killer, but not timing the initial certification or the annual re-certification could be just as bad. Dead is dead. Without both money in the checkbook and obligation authority, business IT modernization, development or enhancement is not allowed to proceed in the DoD without facing an ADA violation.

How many business IT projects are NOT about development, enhancement or modernization? Precious few are pure sustainment efforts. Oh I know people sometimes call modernization "sustainment" because they claim a project would die if it doesn't keep pace with the world. Believe me, I've heard it. that's a way of getting around the system.

But 10USC2222 was not enacted to create another byzantine paperwork drill that we should do our best to avoid. It was created to give us the leverage we need to force systems throughout the Department, on penalty of ADA, to become compliant with standards that enable interoperability, data exchange; and to empower leadership to force the sum total of the IT asset portfolio to support DoD priorities like visibility of personnel, finances and materiel, etc. instead of skunks works, cherry picked requirements building efforts, and pet projects.

We want these Transformation systems (investment review, enterprise architecture, annual review, etc.) to work in order to empower decision makers to make better informed decisions - to spend smarter - to create some continuity over time - to stop duplication and sub-optimized efforts in all Components - to gain some control over the spaghetti mess of IT spending across the Department and re-direct resources that are currently being wasted by poor or conflicting decisions to areas where resources are sorely needed - to enable the real mission of the DoD.

If you are a DoD acquisition professional or if you know one, get the documents into their hands. The documents explain the law and the implications pretty clearly.

Keeping out of trouble and moving the DoD towards interoperability, continuity, and data sharing isn't as difficult as some would have us believe. From an Acquisition professional's perspective, adding a paragraph or two to a SOW (e.g. A. Contractors shall prepare proposed solutions architecture models using DoDAF format B. solutions submitted for consideration will be compliant with X standards as expressed in the DoD Business Enterprise Architecture) and changing the wording on relevant deliverables tables from "Word" or "Excel" format to 'DoDAF" format are really a pretty simple maneuvers.

Adding the words "Certification" and "Annual Review" to a project calendar is pretty easy too. Backing up the proper amount of time from those calendar entries and setting a reminder or two in order to make sure there is sufficient time to conduct a solid "due diligence" review is good for the project and good for the DoD.

If we can get this word out to the Acquisition community and the Acquisition community makes a few simple changes, time and cost savings would be enormous. This would put the acquisition community one more time in the VIP seat on the Transformation team.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Everyone deserves to be a little frightened on Halloween day. A little government humor to do the trick (or treat). Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Your Turn to Be Heard!

I like Blogs for their ability to put information out, but they are pretty bad at getting information back in. Defense Business Transformation isn't about me or any single agency. It's about you.

Tell us about you and your ideas and suggestions for Defense Business Transformation. We really want to know. Simply click this link and post your suggestions or vote on other people's suggestions! It's easy!

Monday, October 26, 2009


"So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!"

I have come to believe that business transformation is like the Indian Elephant Story. Over the years, I've spoken with and listened to many different "customer" groups. Each group of customers I encountered seemed to carry similar perspectives or bias about the program. Perspective, I've found, really depends on what part of the Transformation elephant a person is standing next to. I've developed a sense for text I read and speeches I hear. I can usually tell which community wrote a piece or delivered a speech based on the language and assertions.

The acquisition community, the program management community, the leadership community, the architecture community, the financial community, the GAO, the Joint staff... each has their own slant. Some are more vocal than others. All are correct from their perspective.

Trying to present the whole elephant is difficult to do when the "ear" group is hollering at the "tail" group, who is hollering at the "trunk" group, etc. As one trying to understand the whole elephant, you may find that the hollering back and forth between the "ear" people, the "trunk" people and the "tail people, etc can get pretty loud and confusing.

The subject is important enough to read about, but I advise the researcher to read from a variety of sources and look for the problem and the root cause of the problem that we are trying to solve. Consider that every published work - including my own, is a perspective.

Look at what the IBM group wrote about Business Transformation here.

See some of the other stories I've posted from GAO reports, congressional testimony, etc here.

You have this Blog to browse through. And I encourage you to take a look at another piece of the Business Transformation elephant as well - the one from the Army's perspective.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mashups, SOA and Cloud Computing

It's almost impossible to be around technology people for very long before one of them uses the words "Mashup," "SOA" or "Cloud Computing." When this happens to me, I usually smile and spend at least some of the time wondering why the audio portion of my brain disconnected again. Maybe it's distracted by my visual cortex which almost immediately starts flashing a little neon sign that alternates between "get to the bottom line," "is this for real this time?" and "can this do something for the business?"

I work around a lot of technologists, so I get a lot of technology buzz words hurled at me. I've gotten pretty good at reading between the lines to what they are really trying to say to me, but I have to admit that as I get older, my patience declines.

Today, I'm writing this both as a way to thank those technology weenies - in truth, we'd be suffering without them, and to lead into what I believe is an indication that technology is finally about to deliver on its promise.

I've embedded two videos below. Taken together, I think they summarize the technical portions of where the weenies are today.

I'm excited by this for a number of really good reasons: 1. We spend WAY too much on big central programs today that no longer have to exist in their Byzantine state - sucking resources from other needed programs and making us all feel guilty for pouring good money after bad. 2. entrepreneurial technology savvy problem solvers can now mix and match technical "building blocks" in ways that allow them to solve real problems in real time without breaking the bank or setting off security bombs. For them, agility is finally within reach.

Video # 1 is mostly about mashups, but the folks at JackBe do a great job explaining what these are and what SOA is about. With a little imagination, I was able to see at least a dozen ways that I could put these to work in an enterprise - and I bet if I did the math, that I could see hundreds of millions (I am not exaggerating) worth of tax payer savings as a result of employing this technology in lieu of the Byzantine central systems we have deployed (or have been trying to deploy) today.

I could see, for example, being able to make financial data available in a mashup from legacy data sources to business leaders and decision makers throughout the DoD relatively easily. I could see sharing medical data (with the proper security service at work) with doctors between the VA and the DoD - with the DoD and managed care (civilian) providers. What possibilities do you see?

This second video talks more about "Cloud Computing." This version of the cloud computing discussion might be useful in thinking of new ways to budget for IT services in the future. Presuming we are capable of making the transition to mashups and a cloud computing model, how much might we save? You decide.

I'm not suggesting that we got it all wrong and need to throw away all that we've done in past years. I am suggesting that technology is evolving faster that we are. By the time we get some Byzantine system deployed, technology guru's will be looking back at us, shaking their heads and maybe feeling sorry for us. We should be stacking these lighter, more efficient design models against our battleship design models and see what happens. The ingredients to do this already exist. We can only win for trying.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The concept of leverage is one of the most useful tools in our collective tool boxes. It's a term that is used by both commercial business enterprise and by Feds, and it's one of a few such concepts that seems to translate pretty well between the two.

People usually conjure an image of guy with a long pole moving a huge rock. The guy sticks one end of the stick under the huge rock, levers it against some kind of fulcrum near the rock, then uses the added leverage of the long pole to use his relatively tiny weight to move the big rock.

The Department of Defense is HUGE rock. If we are to move that rock, we will need to become experts on the concepts of leverage and teamwork.

Merriam Webster defines Leverage as:
1 : the action of a lever or the mechanical advantage gained by it
2 : power, effectiveness
3 : the use of credit to enhance one's speculative capacity

I like to think of leverage as a force multiplier. Leverage involves using tools and systems around us to ensure the absolute highest and best use of our time and resources.

Investopedia says Leverage is 1. The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.

Try to make a program like Defense business Transformation work in the DoD and you will quickly find yourself feeling like a very small fish in a very big sea.

"Transform the DoD?! A world-wide organization so full of honorable tradition, power pockets, strong personalities and about 7 miles of bureaucratic forms to wade through?!"

To the Transformation minded, this task will at times seem like a hellish version of Mission Impossible. A key to making it work is leverage.

Investopedia explains Leverage
1. Leverage can be created through options, futures, margin and other financial instruments. For example, say you have $1,000 to invest. This amount could be invested in 10 shares of Microsoft stock, but to increase leverage, you could invest the $1,000 in five options contracts. You would then control 500 shares instead of just 10.

The right leverage is important. In the Business Transformation game, the best kinds of leverage often come from other people. Don't try to make everything happen yourself. Good government is a team sport. Going about this alone is like taking on the Green Bay Packers by yourself. You'll be dead before the end of the first quarter.

Don't reinvent the wheel. It's smart to find examples of Transformation going well elsewhere in the Department, then to pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Often you'll find lots of work that's already been done that you can leverage to make your own program successful faster. Leveraging work that's already been done is a smart way to get past the basics and get working on the things that are specific to your situation - like local leadership priorities and challenges.

Next, create assets that work for you while you sleep. If you have a choice to spend your budget (or convince someone to spend their budget) on doing more work (like conducting investment reviews) or creating a system to teach others how to do the work - chose the latter. Once you create a system and commit that system to paper, a CD, a DVD, a Web site or some other distributable media, you can work on getting that media into the hands of your target markets and empowering them to be successful. My former Web site is full of examples of these kinds of "build once, use many" assets. Let them do the work of Transformation!

This approach provides you with a secondary benefit: Everyone who "buys" or adopts your system will be starting with roughly the same foundation. This means some level of standardization will be occurring across organizations. Organizations that start in the same place will at least share a common vocabulary, even if the execution of the system in different organizations eventually becomes a variation of the original.

When I was responsible for Defense Business Transformation within the Military Health System, I had a small $2.4 million budget, three sub organizations: Army Medicine, Navy Medicine and Air Force Medicine to serve, and $1.4 billion worth of identified annual investments to review (or disqualify from review).

This was an impossible task for my small team to do alone. However, by reaching out to Transformation agents within each of the three Service Medical Departments and empowering them to "franchise" our DBT office into their organizations, the effective man hours applied to the task was multiplied four fold. We used our Web site, weekly meetings, guide books, evaluation frameworks, CD's, brochures, and other materials to get them the information they needed to be successful.

There will also be people who really don't like having transformation zealots around. So put them to work too! By leveraging the environment around us (and a little basic human nature), we hung little bits of one-ups-man-ship out there as motivation. We either goaded these kinds of people into trying to outperform us, or we let it "slip" into the grape vine that we had something cool going on (whether we did or not) - which in turn "made" them do whatever we said we were doing even better! All the while, we had a strategic plan with the desired outcomes clearly described.

Policies and signatures are also great leverage tools. If you can craft a policy, revise a policy revision and/or get a signature on a policy or a guidance document, you can appeal to a whole new class of leadership and Transformation Agents. There are some people who only respond when they see a signature. There are some people who only respond to what they consider the "right" signature.

Note: I find the signature and policy method to be my least favorite method of leverage. It's not that I don't like policy or signed guidance - I'd love it! If you follow DOTMLPF, policy (Doctrine) change is first in line and is supposed to be the least expensive solution. In a perfect world, signing out a well crafted policy is the best way to go. In reality, "winning" a signature means running a gauntlet filled with political agendas, compromise, ego induced red ink, and inevitable ring kissing. When you get the signature, you will sometimes find that the people you most want to influence don't recognize the signature you got. Bad blood between two signature authorities can send your entire project spinning back to "start" like getting a bad card in Candyland. Tip: Don't get into the signature chasing game unless you're prepared to settle in for a while. It's a full time job and you will never get all the signatures that everybody wants.

My point is this: find ways to put the environment around you to work. Find things that you can do that cost you a little, but gain you great benefits. Use the talent of people who have come before you or share similar interests in transforming their environment. Spend a little time to commit your ideas or systems to some kind of sharable media. Find a way to influence a policy that you think needs a change. By doing a few strategically intelligent things and leveraging the resources around you, you will have a tremendous impact on the environment around you!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Waking up is hard to do!

A shout out to my medical friends with a little medical humor! Many thanks to the Laryngospasms! It is impossible not to laugh at this if you've got a medical background.


Friday, September 11, 2009

A Salute to the Victims and Heroes of 9/11

May the hatred in the hearts of the terrorists always be dwarfed by the love of good men and women. May freedom always be stronger than fear. May we always rise from the ashes and darkness of adversity to enjoy the warmth of a new sunrise.

Tonight I remember many people, both living and dead, for whom battles with fear and hatred are very real. To them I say: Because you keep choosing life, love and freedom, Thank You.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


The subject of telecommuting is nothing new to the Department of Defense; but with increases in technological capabilities, the threat of swine or bird flu looming somewhere over the horizon, the new anti-terrorism federal building requirements, and a tech savvy workforce; the pressure to talk about telecommuting is growing. So let's talk about telecommuting for a few minutes.

I've personally experienced the telework issue from many perspectives during my career and have had about 12 good years to read and think about it. I'll describe for you some of the issues I encountered as a non-eligible worker-bee, a supervisor, a mid-level manager, a senior level manager, and from where I am today.

As a reader of my blog, you already know that I wore a Navy uniform during my first few years with the Department of Defense. Active duty soldiers, sailors and airmen are taught from the very beginning the importance of being at your post - at the appointed time, awake, alert and without complaint. Falling asleep while your on watch or leaving your post is a very serious offense. During wartime, not being at your post has resulted in more than one courts marshal.

People's lives are literally depending on the watch being where he or she is supposed to be. In my case, I provided hands on medical support to sick and injured people. From a telework perspective, I was not a good candidate during those years.

It is very clear to me that telework under certain circumstances is not a good idea. I know many people - ex-military - who come to the telework discussion from having stood the watch themselves - many people with that kind of background approach the issue with a wary eye. I was one of them.

Others I might put in the "should-not-telework" category would be people who are hired specifically to greet people (secretaries, concierge, appointment clerks (unless by phone), etc). If those people weren't physically where they are supposed to be, the job wouldn't get done. Jobs that require handling classified materials on a regular basis might not be well suited for telework. I would also not want to see any of the contact professions work from home - doctors, medical support staff, airplane mechanics, Navy SEALS, surgeons, etc. Although in some cases I would love to see doctors make house calls again.

When I left the Navy in 1997, I went to work for a federal contractor. During those years, I spent a lot of time on the client site, worked long hours, and rose up the middle management ranks quickly. When I managed small groups of direct reports and had products or services to deliver, telework wasn't much of an issue. In those years, telework was used as a way to conserve leave and keep employees productive during the occasional sickness or acute injury. It was frankly a pretty hands-off affair since employees weren't gone too long or too often. It required some minor documentation and a return-to-work meeting with employees who were hopefully carrying some deliverable in the form of a report, a proposal, or something similar.

I continued to climb the ladder, and in a few short years, I found myself with 11 managerial direct reports - each of them had staffs and departments of their own and products and or services to produce. They were geographically spread out from Kansas to Puerto Rico. My focus shifted from producing anything or supervising production to pure management of people, moral, issues and outcomes. I no longer had the luxury of knowing all of my employees by name and face (except for my 11 task and project managers).

Insight was provided to me in the form of reports: budgets, burn rates, G&A, ODC's vs labor, etc. From that perspective, the economics of teleworking look pretty good. Since I didn't have office space to support for telework employees, overhead was lower. That meant that the company could introduce a lower multiple for labor hours, move excess money into reserves, use excess money for quality improvements, or apply excess to the bottom line. It also gave us flexibility with hiring. We had one employee who did nothing but proposals for us. I never saw him. He did all his work from home. The bottom line was that embracing telework made my company more competitive.

My next job was as the CIO for Navy Medical Logistics. I was dual hatted as the Information Systems Security Manager (ISSM). In these roles, I got to know the technical, security and policy side of telework. At first, it was scary. I had Information Assurance Vulnerability Alerts (IAVA) to contend with. This was a 100% visibility and a no-fail exercise. There were people assigned to make sure that my command was compliant and it was my butt on the line if a roaming laptop came back, plugged in and infected my network.

There were questions about who pays for the home computers and home phone lines, how do we protect government information in an environment where we don't have direct control, and more. Even something as simple as fixing a locked out or forgotten user password was stimulus for a major discussion. At that time, there was little precedent, virtually no policy, and no guru's out there who had set up the systems to guide us.

I had VPN capacity issues and property (mostly computers) tracking issues. I had, in my mind, a major control problem. The computers that people took home with them were no longer surrounded by the safety and protection of my envelope. At the command, I had firewalls, virus protection, remote monitoring, intrusion detection systems, and more. At home, these computers were left at the mercy of whatever user borrowed it. Judging from the volume and quality of my help desk tickets, that was a scary prospect.

Yet, somehow, we survived. We wrote new policy, created new ways to keep our networks safe, and adjusted our personal paradigms. We had to remind ourselves that productivity was the real objective - not security for security sake. Automation is a workforce enabler, and from the big picture perspective, telework gave us a more productive workforce. Specifically, we had a large number of contracting officers (KO's) and their support staffs who, when contract season rolled through (or as they might say: rolled over us), they could work from home and on weekends. This small enhancement in flexibility made a big difference to them and to our customers.

When I accepted the job as Chief for Defense Business Transformation for the Military Health System (MHS), I had a significant outcome to deliver. My staff and the extended support I needed from other departments were spread out as they were in an earlier time in my career. My small contracted team worked from a second building on the same campus, from a third building in another city, and from their homes. The Army Medical Transformation capability was in Texas, the Navy Medical Transformation capability was in DC and Bethesda, and the Air Force medical Transformation support were... well, I never really figured out where they were. They showed up for the meetings and called me on the phone.

The bottom line focus was on outcomes. I didn't much care where everyone was physically located. I was very concerned with our objectives, our obstacles, the strengths and weaknesses of my combined resources, communication abilities, and reach. I was hired to establish a new program - Defense Business Transformation for the Military Health System. I would often only see my staff members once per week - if at all. But I always knew where we (the MHS) were in terms of outcomes, team strengths, and obstacles.

With the help of telework and a remote working arrangement, a program was born where no program existed previously. It had well documented process, a strong virtual presence - and people literally around the world, in three different Services (Army Medicine, Navy Medicine, and Air Force Medical Services) had come together around the notion of good due diligence and better investment decisions.

Due in part to our need to reach out to and empower people around the world that we knew we would never physically meet, we did a lot of work in the virtual space. We embraced asynchronous communication and became comfortable with the notion that we don't need to see one another in order to communicate. Policy, process diagrams, Web sites, podcasts, CD's, brochures - all acted like breadcrumbs that we scattered in strategic places - deliberately leading those who stumbled across them to the same place and the same behavior patterns.

Our footprint was so large, that when it came time to divide up what I had built into smaller parts and distribute those parts into the organization (to "institutionalize" them), there were some lively arguments. Some departments who were inheriting pieces of my program wanted resources too. When they found out how few resources I actually had, they were in disbelief. They thought I had an army of people. The fact that my little platoon made themselves largely virtual and spread out had affected people's perception. We gave the illusion that we were many of us because of outcome was so profound.

Today, I telework myself. Do do this effectively, I had to involve my family. They understand that when I'm in my home office, I'm not available. I work hard to separate the hours I work from the hours I spend with my family or doing other things. Do I leave occasionally and run to the post office or the dry cleaners, you bet I do. But I also keep track of the time I put in and ensure that my employer gets full value from the time they pay for.

My office has two computers, a fax machine, a separate phone line (though I use a government issues phone for most calls), large monitors, Web cams and a USB microphone (for DCO teleconferences), two printers, a big leather chair, and a book shelf of reference materials. It has become my "head space" where I can think about issues and create with minimal interruption, and write in support of many initiatives going on back in the group office space.

Telework is not for everyone. Some people don't like the idea of telework and /or don't have a suitable work site setup to do telework if they wanted to. Thank goodness for them! Most organizations do need some physical presence, and the strengths of working together in the same physical space should never be diminished.

For those who do consider telework, here are some additional issues that deserve some thought:

- Safety: I suspect we will discover that working from an alternative work site does not diminish an employer's responsibility for doing everything they can to provide a safe environment for its employees. The agency I work for has a safety checklist that must be signed by both the employee and the employer. On it are things to look for like wires, lighting, and environmental controls. I think this is an excellent idea & it should be accompanied by some training - perhaps a DVD that employees can take home and watch in the comfort of their home environment.

- Penalties: As more and more people and organizations embrace telework, we need to keep an eye on penalties.
- On the one hand, there are penalties applied against teleworkers by those who don't believe in the program. Either supervisors or fellow employees make it difficult to apply, set up physical meetings on known telework days, or otherwise make life difficult for the teleworker.
- On the other hand, someone WILL abuse the system. Human nature is what it is. If one can surf pornography on computers, someone will surf pornography on computers in the workspace. If someone can be a slacker at home, then someone will be a slacker at home.
The questions we need to ask is what are we going to do about penalties? Answer this question before engaging in a telework program - or risk a blow up later. The most likely scenario would be an uprising from the telework nay-sayers who hold the slacker up as an example of why telework can't work. They irritate the senior decision maker enough where the senior decision maker calls for a halt to the program.

- Education:
- Employees have to understand how to manage their time, set boundaries, keep good records, care for their home office environment, and communicate in new ways.
- Supervisors have to learn how to expand their virtual reach. The basics of empowering and motivating employees, rewarding, delegating, holding accountable, coordinating, etc don't change in a telework situation. The methods we use to make those things happen change.

- The Business Case:
From the employer perspective, productive hours generally go up as employees spend more time working and less time commuting. Overhead will go down, but only if adjustments are made to accommodate the telework model. For example, double book offices and cubes - getting twice the amount of people in the same square footage.

From a pure time perspective, my commute is 47 miles and averages 90 minutes each way in DC traffic (it's taken me as much as four hours one way, and I've done it in as little as 1 hour with no traffic). By contrast, it takes me 30 seconds to get from my bedroom to my office downstairs, 2 minutes 58 seconds to boot up my HP Windows computer, insert my CAC card, log in, and click through all the automated routines that my IT department set up for me, and 42 seconds to connect the VPN - for a grand total of 4 minutes and 10 seconds. I will subtract the 4 minutes and 10 seconds (my telework commuting time) from my on-site commute time to be fair.

If I were precise about my minutes, which I'm not, I would say that my employer gets an extra 175 minutes and 40 seconds out of my day, every day that I telework. I will instead round up to 180 minutes or 3 hours. So the total additional working time my employer gets for every day I telework looks like this:

Telework 1 day per week = +150 hrs / yr (3hrs x 50 weeks (assuming 2 week vacation))
Telework 2 days per week = +300 hrs / yr
Telework 3 days per week = +450 hrs / yr
Telework 4 days per week = +600 hrs / yr
Telework 5 days per week = +750 hrs / yr

The quality of my work reflects this. Whereas when I do go to the office (which I do every week), I spend most of my time making human connections and nurturing relationships - the sort of thing we do best in person.

Note: There is also an insidious effect in that employees who live and work in the same space tend to blur the two over time. When I first started teleworking, I would find myself working well into the night and early hours of the morning. I would think "I'll just do this one more thing..." and the time would slip away. I admit that I still do this from time to time, but not as often as I used to.

From the employee perspective, consider the following two scenarios (these are my real numbers taken at the time I typed this):

1. Assuming two week vacation, a car that averages 25 mpg, $2.55 / gallon of gas, a 47 mile commute, an $18 parking ticket, and a $10 lunch as the high end costs.

2. Assume the same vacation, car and gas price with a 7.7 mile commute to the Metro. A $4.50 train ticket (each way), a bag lunch from home, a $4 cup of coffee, and a $4.75 parking ticket on the lower end.

In the first scenario, daily cost =
$4.75 trip cost (47 miles / 25mpg x $2.55 gal)
+$18.00 parking
+$10.00 lunch
$32.79 per day

In the second scenario, daily cost =
$0.79 trip cost (7.7 miles / 25mpg x $2.55 gal)
+$4.75 parking
+$13.00 ($9 train + $4 coffee)
$18.54 per day

This means an annual, after tax cost savings between $963.84 - $1,705.29 for each one day per week that the employee teleworks. Using the assumptions above, an employee could realize annual after tax savings in according to the table below:

Telework 1 day per week = $963.84 - $1705.29 annual after tax savings
Telework 2 days per week = $1,927.68 - $3,410.58 annual after tax cost savings
Telework 3 days per week = $2,891.52 - $5,115.86 annual after tax cost savings
Telework 4 days per week = $3,855.56 - $6,821.15 annual after tax cost savings
Telework 5 days per week = $4,819.20 - $8,526.44 annual after tax cost savings

In summary, I would offer the following:

- Telework is not for everyone, but where it makes sense to apply telework, it can benefit both the employer and the employee
- Telework can lead to reduction of corporate cost, especially if the work structure is adapted to accomodate it.
- Telework can increase flexibility in schedules through asynchronous communication
- Telework can result in after tax savings for employees
- Telework can make companies more competitive and make jobs with those companies more attractive
- Telework will be abused, so be prepared for that
- Telework requires additional support beyond the obvious: technology, policy, risk mitigation, training and education, and commitment

Keep these things in mind and hopefully you too will have a positive telework experience!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Changing of the Guard

Technology is changing the world. It's bringing us closer together: phone, satellite, transportation and internet. Technology enables communication on a scale and in formats that people only a decade or two ago would have thought impossible. It's a force multiplier. The number of ways to mix and match technology to produce results is limited only by human imagination - which, as we know has few limits. If we can dream it, chances are good, that we can do it - or soon will be able to do it. Evolution is increasing it's speed exponentially. Moore's law can barely keep up.

All of this change and added capability is exposing the human condition and busting paradigms at light speeds. Anyone who thinks that technology is not actually changing the people who use it need only look a little harder.

David Weinberger
addressed a government crowd a couple of weeks ago with an interesting story about the relationship between our old paper based system and authority. I had the good fortune of listening to him amuse the crowd (he is a very funny guy). He held up the idea of a paper based world as a world of absolute authority, where a seeker of knowledge stops dead once he or she reaches the final authority on a subject - perhaps a piece of paper with a signature on the bottom of it. After all, he told the crowd, that paper with the signature is the authority!

In today's world of internet and hyperlinks, one could wander about looking for "the" answer to a question forever and never find it. There are an endless supply of answers to just about every question - most of them only a series of clicks away. And it's not the bad information that we have to worry about. We know what to do with bad information. It's the good information - the overwhelming supply of good information that have a hard time dealing with. People no longer have the luxury of coming to a single piece of paper and stopping - they "Google" - an endeavor that could keep someone up all night long flowing from interesting bit of information to interesting bit of information. Today, it's left up to the individual to say when enough is enough - when they ultimately decide that they have enough knowledge to make a good informed decision.

My friend added some new thoughts to my consciousness: We are witnessing the death of power hording and absolute authority. In today's world, there is a growing shift from concentrated power to distributed power. Large media outlets are being out maneuvered by individuals with personal camcorders. Blogging and podcasting are taking over the news. Social media is flattening hierarchical structures everywhere. Data warehouses and system access requests are becoming a thing of the past. Individual systems don't matter when we can get to any data anywhere through the use of Web logic, mash-ups and an internet service bus.

Technology systems used to be reflections of human systems. Today, human systems are beginning to reflect advancements in technology systems. It won't be too long, predicts my very smart friend, that we will see all of these old systems approaches (and the governance bodies who support and defend them) completely buried by a new generation of Web logic and mash-up gurus. Elaborate multi-billion dollar systems will be replaced by a few thousand dollars worth of techie Joe's time.

I invite you to browse a few hyperlinks and judge for yourself where you think we're going. Just don't stay up all night searching!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Presentations and Podcasts on Transformation

I've delivered a great many presentations on the subject of Defense Business Transformation during the four years I was the Chief for Defense Business Transformation for the Military Health System. I delivered these presentations in a medical community context, but the Defense Business Transformation content easily translates to any DoD environment.

Follow this link to take your pick of 45 months of weekly presentations:

These were delivered to a core community of just under 300 people from 7 different organizations each week. They were never all in the same room at the same time, but they rotated in and out and always got the briefing by mail.

I also prepared a number of ten minute podcasts on the subject of Defense Business Transformation. Each is delivered with music and stories to make the subject more interesting.

Follow this link to my podcasts:

My favorite ones are the last three. It took me a while to get used to the format, the studio, etc.

It's all free for the taking, so if you have an interest in the subject of Transformation in the Department of Defense, help yourself!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Measuring Relationships from Social Media

I had an opportunity to meet Katie D Paine this afternoon at an Open Government and Innovation conference in DC. Katie specializes in public relations and measuring their effectiveness. Her commanding presence underscored her depth of knowledge, and her open and friendly demeanor in a one-on-one situation proved to me that she practices what she preaches with respect to building relationships of her own.

I bought Katie's book on the spot. Six hours later I have already found a good many nuggets of information that I believe will be useful for Transformation Agents in the DoD.

Gaining trust, building relationships, and communication with a purpose are things that many people instinctively understand are an important part of a change management program. But until now, I didn't know anyone who had a well documented methodology for measuring success (or failure) in these areas.

For anyone engaging social media as a means to an end: Katie's talk today was about how to measure the quality of relationships created through social media vs measuring the number of hits a social media site gets. The crowd laughed as she described her personal definition of "Hits" as
"How Idiots Track Success."
She made a good case for why measuring the number of hits a Web site gets is insufficient. Relationships matter more.

If you haven't already heard the question, I expect it will be a common for people holding the purse strings in the DoD to ask: what is the effectiveness of this media? We will need to be able to step up to that question with evidence.

Her book is titled Measuring Public Relationships: The Data-Driven Communicator's Guide to Success, and can be found on

Katie also has a PR Measurement blog at

I recommend this book for anyone wanting to inject some science into an area traditionally thought of as "mushy" or unmeasurable: relationships.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Veterans Business Transformation?

It appears as though the Veteran's Administration (VA) is following in the Department of Defense Transformation footsteps. Though I haven't seen a Title 5 statute modification to force the Transformation VA-wide, it does appear that there is support at the highest levels of the VA for the kinds of behavior modification that the Defense Business Transformation program was established to encourage.

See the following press release from 17JUL09:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Solving Real World Problems With Enterprise Architecture

The concept of Enterprise Architecture isn't really difficult to understand. Creating an Enterprise Architecture (EA) is simply a matter of using a standard notation to describe the people, tools and rules of an enterprise. Describing an enterprise is theoretically useful to decision makers because it allows them to see the relationships between things.

Using a standard notation is also theoretically useful to decision makers and personnel from different organizations because it creates a "common currency" for exchanging ideas and communicating with one another. The thought being - if you understand the notation, you can find your way around anyone's model in a short amount of time. Why do we need to do that?

It is not uncommon for decision makers to wonder, "If I make X decision..:"

- Who might be affected?
- What systems might be affected?
- What resources might be affected?
- Would we break something?
- What would give me the biggest bang for my buck?
- What information is available in the Enterprise to help me measure progress against a particular goal or objective?

In theory, the enterprise architecture model was designed to help answer these questions. It can be a useful tool when used in a large enterprise like the Department of Defense, or in one of the sub-components of the Department of Defense like the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, etc.

Title 10 of the United States Code § 2222 requires that all Department of Defense business IT investments (modernizations, enhancements or development efforts) assert "compliance" with the Enterprise Architecture (EA). Without "compliance," there will be no authority given to spend money on an investment. If there is no "obligation authority" granted by the Defense Business Systems Management Committee (as defined by 10USC§186), then someone is eventually going to jail, paying a fine, or getting relived of duty.

The actual language states:

"(a) CONDITIONS FOR OBLIGATION OF FUNDS FOR DEFENSE BUSINESS SYSTEM MODERNIZATION. — Effective October 1, 2005, funds appropriated to the Department of Defense may not be obligated for a defense business system modernization that will have a total cost in excess of $1,000,000 unless—
"(1) the approval authority designated for the defense business system certifies to the Defense Business Systems Management Committee established by section 186 of this title that the defense business system modernization—
"(A) is in compliance with the enterprise architecture developed under subsection (c);

This notion of "compliance" with the architecture has been the subject of many debates since the law went into effect. People wonder what they have to be compliant with: the model? the content? the need to draw diagrams?

We get a clue from language later in the same statute. It tells us what content needs to be in the Enterprise Architecture:

"(d) COMPOSITION OF ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE. — The defense business enterprise architecture developed under subsection (c)(1) shall include the following:
"(1) An information infrastructure that, at a minimum, would enable the Department of Defense to—
"(A) comply with all Federal accounting, financial management, and reporting requirements;
"(B) routinely produce timely, accurate, and reliable financial information for management purposes;
"(C) integrate budget, accounting, and program information and systems; and
"(D) provide for the systematic measurement of performance, including the ability to produce timely, relevant, and reliable cost information.
"(2) Policies, procedures, data standards, and system interface requirements that are to apply uniformly throughout the Department of Defense."

Based on my personal experience, having conducted due diligence on more than $1 Billion of these investments, this is 1. apparently not clear enough and 2. not translating into direct benefits to the Department.

Most of the letters that I've seen assert "compliance" with the architecture are representing little more than the fact that that there is a diagram of the investment being reviewed (often referred to as solutions architecture) drawn, and that this diagram somehow has the same or similar words on it as can be found in the diagram of the Enterprise Architecture. The fact that an investment is or is not documented as compliant with the architecture has had little or no effect on business as usual. It mostly means that the file folder of paperwork on that investment just got a little heavier (due to the weight of the added diagrams and a piece of paper that says the diagrams are there). That's it.

It's not useful to anyone to spend the number of hours (and dollars) one must spend on creating a diagram as detailed as a solutions architecture - only to have it visually and semantically mapped to another diagram and make a file folder heavier. I've witnessed intelligent people spending days just changing the color scheme of boxes so that one model looks like the other. Then, when the colors are matched and the right box is in the middle of the paper, step forward and proudly proclaim "We're compliant with the architecture!"

What they really mean is they are compliant with the methodology described in the Department of Defense Architecture Framework and have found a way to make the words between the two models look the same.

What we need is a healthy dose of reality. If we can find a way to inject reality into these models, they can be extremely useful.

By way of example, let's assume that something bad happens somewhere in a theater of operations. As a former combat medic, I'll use a medical situation to illustrate my point.

A soldier is severely wounded by a road side bomb. He receives shrapnel wounds to his neck and, because there is a short window of time to treat this soldier, he is air lifted to a local NATO alliance facility. The doctors there examine him, rush him up to the operating room, repair his wound and 10 minutes later, the soldier is dead.

The medical teams are initially confused because although the wounds were serious, they were immediately controlled and the soldier appeared otherwise strong. By all accounts, this soldier should have survived. An investigation is started.

After the investigation is complete, it is determined that the soldier died from an allergic reaction to the anesthesia administered in the operating room. The NATO team did not have access to the soldier's medical records, his past medical history, or a record of what he was allergic to. The severe blood loss made this soldier much less capable of handling the allergic reaction. He died.

The report gets filed in a lesson's learned database, and is recovered by a team of proactive architects a year or two later. They read through the case with great interest. It seems to them that they have found a data sharing problem that can be solved.

They contact some military doctors, share what they've found and get their feedback. The doctors tell them that in order to prevent this kind of tragedy in the future, all NATO and field hospital medical teams need to have 9 data fields: patient demographics, past medical history and allergy information. If they can get that info in a timely manner, many lives could be saved.

The architects are excited. They take what they have learned and translate it into specific data and system requirements. Then they take their new package of requirements to leadership, explain the situation, gain approval, and express that information in the DoD Enterprise Architecture. From that point forward, the 9 data field requirement sits in the model in a place where the affected data exchange between DoD electronic medical records and NATO and field hospital units is represented.

Staff can come and go. Everybody in the investment review process may know nothing about what happened to our unfortunate fallen soldier. It doesn't matter! From this point forward, every relevant business IT investment that comes through the investment review process will be subjected to a requirement to carry those 9 data fields. Every affected business IT system will, from that point forward, be forever altered to make sure that those 9 data fields are available for the medical teams who need them. The problem that caused a soldier to die is eliminated!

Back to our legal language: by doing this, we just satisfied section (d) (2) by inserting "Policies, procedures, data standards, and system interface requirements that are to apply uniformly throughout the Department of Defense."

If we treat compliance in this way, Enterprise Architecture compliance becomes compliance with Policies, procedures, data standards, and system interface requirements that are to apply uniformly throughout the Department of Defense. We will deliberately eliminate real world problems - one investment at a time.

Isn't this a better compliance standard to live up to than compliance with a model?

To listen to a 10 minute audio podcast I made on this subject a couple of years ago, click the following link:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Be a Trend Setter

Starting something meaningful isn't easy when you're the first person in a crowd to stand up and take action. Be the first anyway, and make Transformation happen.

Check out the dude in this video. Unstoppable.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Transform?

Why do we need to Transform the way we do business in the DoD?

Any Questions?

Many thanks to amybethhale for producing this video on YouTube.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New Media

I recently attended a gathering of Enterprise Architects from several different Federal agencies and commercial vendors. The discussion was pretty typical in my judgment: punctuated with praise for Architecture models and methodology and frustrations about why few people are using them. One thing in particular stood out, however: a discussion about new media.

By new media, I mean Web 2.0 technologies like Blogs, internal collaboration forums, twitter, etc. What stood out for me was the general perspective that people in that room (mostly between 40 and 60 and Architects by profession) seemed to have about the value of new media. I was surprised to find that "architecture types" in the room didn't seem to value it as much as I would have thought.

My boss, who was one of the primary speakers in this forum, introduced the concept and people in the room started discussing. When the comments really started flying, he opened an opportunity for me to jump in with "One of the reasons we hired..." comment an a nod in my direction, but the tempo of the discussion, the hour on the clock, and the questions being asked gave me pause as I formulated my thoughts on the subject.

One woman, whom I recognize to be articulate, intelligent and thoughtful, said "I don't have time to blog. If the people I want to reach are in email, then that's where I'll be."

My immediate thoughts were 180 degrees out. I don't have time NOT to blog. It's to this point, I'd like to offer a perspective.

When I was given the job of standing up the Defense Business Transformation program for the Military Health System, it came with a relatively small budget. There are 365,000 people internal to the Military Health System who are delivering care to 9.2 million patients through a global health care delivery system consisting of 70 major hospitals, 411 medical clinics, 413 dental clinics and 190,000 networked (non-military) providers.

Anti-deficiency Act violations I supposed, based on my experience as a medical CIO in the medical logistics domain, could be anywhere in this system. I had to find a way to reach across the globe, across all time zones, and under a variety of network availability conditions to reach my target audience. I had to do it fast, and the message I needed to deliver had to be consistent.

When I physically flew to new areas and gave speeches about Business Transformation, I often spoke to mixed crowds. Some people in the crowd were affected more directly by Transformation than others. I knew these people needed more information than I could deliver in an hour from behind a microphone.

Some people needed to get someone else in their chain of command or in their work spaces fired up. Some people needed to clarify definitions. Some people needed a step-by-step guide for navigating the due diligence process we established. Some of those people couldn't have cared less about Transformation in the Department, and others were just "groupies" with an interest in keeping up with what's going on in the Department.

There is also a special group of people that I wanted to reach that were often not in the rooms that I spoke in. These are future Transformation Agents who I figure are probably in the E3-E6 and O3-O5 ranks. These people are solid enough in their understanding of the military to be heads up and looking around. They are not so enmeshed in the status-quo system as to be bound to the old way of doing business. They are probably taking classes, asking questions, wondering "how is the other services doing" this or that, etc.

This special new crop of Transformation Agents are comfortable with new media. They hang out in Facebook, and Twitter, LinkedIn and others. They text one another all the time, use acronyms that most older people can hardly decipher, and get their news from blogs more than they do from traditional news outlets like print newspapers. These people elected Barak Obama - largely due to his effective use of new media to reach people.

I saw New Media as a force multiplier. I saw it as an tool to extend reach and reduce workload. I saw it as a way to be more consistent with what I thought people needed to hear.

I can't over-emphasize how much mileage I've gotten out of 60 minute studio sessions with a microphone. I point people to my podcasts all the time. They appreciate the greater depth of message, and I appreciate being able to work on other things.

Investors understand the value of creating assets that work for you while you sleep. New media provides a low cost, easily accessible tool for creating assets that do just that.

Check out the free audio program below regarding New Media from Struggling Entrepreneur.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cycle Times

"The Perfect is the enemy of of the good."

"Staff work takes too long. I need to make a decision now."

"If they had all of the information, they would make better decisions."

"If I don't decide soon, I will be viewed as indecisive."

"There are implications of making a decision without having all the facts."

"We don't have time for that. Just use the best information we have and make a decision."

"We have to get context and content into the board room."

"Why does this have to be so complicated?"

If the statements above look familiar, then you've probably been exposed to the decision making challenge I call "Cycle Times." If timing is everything, then lack of timing is something that we should look at.

Fortunately, technology is allowing us to bridge the timing gap in some pretty spectacular ways, but before I talk about that, let's take a look at the cycle time problem in graphic format:
Everybody is right. Staff work (i.e. creating Enterprise Architecture models, analyzing them, combining them with other data sources like our budget system data, our technology repository data, business case information, etc) and producing a solid staff recommendation takes too long.

It is equally true that the current system we allow for making decisions has not evolved to allow for the kind of analysis necessary to ensure that decision makers are appropriately informed with respect to certain types of decisions. The complexity involved with managing a technology enterprise the size of the Department of Defense, and the method with which information information technology solutions have been deployed over the past 25-30 years make it nearly impossible for leadership to get the full picture without some degree of pre-meeting analysis.

The question is: how much analysis is enough analysis, and when is it time to just draw the line, make the decision and move on to the next problem?

The exact answer can be debated, but the evidence suggests that some degree of analysis - more than what we have now - is needed, and the time it takes to conduct a thorough analysis is too long. We are still struggling with most basic problems of visibility, interoperability and agility. Time to market is abysmal, and the GAO continually "encourages" the DoD to do things differently. We can move the lines.

The red swim lane above represents the as-is environment in many areas of the DoD. Decisions are made on relatively short cycles - say 30 days. An analysis team of engineers and/or architects, once notified they have a problem to analyze (which is usually after the leadership team knows about it), takes considerably longer than 30 days to produce models and scrub through available information to produce a meaningful recommendation.

The yellow swim lane represents what things might look like if we we to shorten the analysis time (perhaps through standardizing the due diligence process and establishing a core competency in this), and lengthening the time we allow for certain types of decisions. It still presumes that analysis starts to late and that the time to finish is still too long, but at least in this scenario, some usable (albeit incomplete) information is making it into the board room.

The green swim lane represents the ideal scenario. The analysis team is alerted in time to start preparing for a decision meeting. And the time it takes to get to necessary information is shortened. The end result is relevant, quality information available to decision makers at the point of decision making.


There are "authoritative" systems all over the DoD. The Defense Information Technology Repository (DITPR), the Select and Native Data Input System for Information Technology (SNAP-IT), and the Enterprise Architecture repositories are just a few. To my knowledge, the DoD doesn't have any consistent due diligence methodology for scrubbing all of these data sources and producing staff recommendations.

Any staff work done is usually done "off line" from the decision making meeting. Trusted agents who are close to the leadership summarize and advise their leaders before - and sometimes during the decision making meeting. Good "staffers" learn to anticipate questions or discussions that might come up and they hope to have as many answers as possible before the meeting begins.

Dashboards made, text is word-smithed, messages are "clarified," data is interpreted, visualizations of information are crafted - all with the intended purpose of getting relevant information into the board room when it is needed in order to make the best decision possible. For information technology investment decisions, this is not enough.

On the "soft" cultural side, Transformation agents need to work on expanding decision maker's expectation of what constitutes a good decision making cycle time. In some, but not all cases, a decision does not have to be made right away. Sometimes, the impact of making a decision right away is more costly than waiting for the analysis.

Transformation agents also need to work on the analysis end. Conducting an exhaustive analysis that is out of proportion for the decision that needs to be made must be unacceptable. Fit the analysis to the problem, then use technology to speed the answers into the board room.

On the "hard" or systems side, we have to ask ourselves if there is anything in our existing capability tool set that would allow us to hit all of our available "authoritative" data sources with just a few mouse clicks. Do we have anything in our tool box that would allow us to "mash" all of that authoritative information together and give us a view of the world in near-real time? We need that kind of speed and power to bring our analysis cycles in line with decision cycles.

I have personally witnessed technology delivering on its original promise. The Business Transformation Agency has figured out how to use technology (through Web Services) to tap dozens of "authoritative" data sources, mash the data together, and spit out reports in near-real-time. I have seen DITPR (Defense Information Technology Portfolio Repository) data laid up against SNAP-IT budget data, investment review dashboards, Enterprise Architecture, reports, and business case information with a few clicks of a mouse. Imagine the power an investment review board or an analysis team would have with that kind of information at their fingertips - exactly when they need it.

This information is available through the BTA to any DoD government employee with a Common Access Card (CAC). Smaller investment review boards throughout the Department of Defense can pull information from other areas in the Department of Defense for their review board or PfM projects. Someone sitting in an Army command can look at what's going on across the Department in the Navy or Air Force (and vice versa). High level boards and low level boards can pull from the same source and see what the others see. This is a PfM enabler on steroids.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Portfolio Management

I've recently been given a good reason to consider the Portfolio Management (PfM) component of Defense Business Transformation (DBT). A number of briefing requests coming from interested Flag officers - both from the recent past and in the near future - have led me into many discussions about this subject. What surprises me about some of these discussions is that several people, who are considered pretty smart about Business Transformation, have not readily seen the connection between the suite of DBT tools and PfM.

There are several components of Business Transformation that lend themselves to PfM in the Defense Department, but they are only effective when they are used together. If the DBT program is implemented in a piece meal fashion (i.e. investment review without architecture compliance, or architecture compliance without connection to a transition plan, or any of the above not connected to an annual review), the result is a lot of extra paperwork without much effect. I've seen at least one implementation like this that started off with all the Transformation tools together, but the program was fragmented over time. Soon after, the individual pieces turned into check-the-box exercises - with no one really understanding why.

When working together, each of the tools of Transformation amplify and enhance one another. Think of them as serious bolt-on enhancements to the Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC) process. An investment review, for example, that is informed by a careful scrub of both the solution architecture (the series of diagrams and supporting materials that describe the potential solution to a problem) and the Enterprise Architecture (the series of diagrams and supporting materials that describe the overall enterprise) will reveal to the investment review board where there are overlaps between investments, where standards are being met (or not met), the extent to which an investment aligns with leadership priorities that are described in the Enterprise Architecture, and where some operational activities (sometimes activities deemed critical by leadership) are unsupported or ignored.

Doing all of this kind of analysis often creates additional burden (usually unfunded) on program offices if, for example, Enterprise standards are not being met by the initial design. Without an Enterprise Architecture Compliance plan (required by law in cases where investments are not compliant with the Enterprise Architecture), leaders would be in an uncomfortable position of either allowing an investment to go on as planned and ignore the Enterprise Standards or kill a potentially good investment for the sake of preserving a standard. Neither course of action is optimal.

With an Enterprise Architecture Compliance Plan, necessary modification can be identified during the investment review and then deferred via the plan until they are appropriately planned and budgeted for. Investments are monitored not less than every twelve months via the Annual Review requirement. If proper documentation is maintained and the Annual Review is coupled with the Plan and EA compliance, each investment can be moved by controlled and manageable degrees to compliance with standards that create transparency, interoperability, etc.

A scrub of the solutions architecture against the Enterprise Architecture also reveals where there are overlaps, duplication, or differences in implementation of the same capability. Where these overlaps, duplications or differences are found, the investment review boards are empowered to bring programs together to work out their differences. The results of these program meetings can be expressed in both the EA compliance plan and in the Enterprise or Component Transition Plan as appropriate.

I've heard a good argument that the Investment Review associated with the Defense Business Transformation program occurs too late in the life cycle of a new capability. The law says that anyone spending money to modernize, enhance or develop an business IT system must obtain obligation authority before obligating funds. So... people do what they usually do. They put "get obligation authority" on the checklist somewhere near the end of the list of things to do, then wait until the last possible moment to start the process.

One of the reasons for this is because the government doesn't always know what it's actually going to do - with enough detail to pass a review board. There is so many options to chose from and so many ways to implement any modernization that the details of that modernization are not done until the contract is cut and contractors are put to work. Sometimes, the contractors themselves figure out what the implementation is going to look like - AFTER the contract was awarded.

The law forcing due diligence, EA compliance, and EA compliance planning before obligation authority is granted, really cramps those who come to the table unprepared. Paperwork becomes a mad dash and a "just tell me what to submit" exercise instead of a thoughtful portfolio management application. The law makes no apology for this. The DoD should take this as a sign to start the process earlier.

If implemented correctly, supported by technology, and embraced by leadership, Defense Business Transformation can be one of the greatest (possibly the only) PfM tool available to the entire Department and backed by the law. All it takes is a few creative and energetic people to pull it all together. The raw materials are there for the asking.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It Takes a Village...

This quote traditionally goes on to talk about raising children, but I’m hijacking it for a minute to make a point. Our ideas or concepts, I would argue, are precious to us in much the same way that our children are. We birth them, nurture and mature them, and over time, we can grow very attached to them. How many times does a conflict between ideas lead to a conflict between people? Enough said.

Despite our love of one concept or another, it really takes many from the DoD “village” to raise that concept to a fully mature capability. Most concepts die before ever reaching full maturity, but that doesn’t stop us from hatching another one.

What a rush it is for us to see a concept we’ve invested in make it through the trials of the maturation process and emerge as a fully operational capability! When that happens, everyone knows it’s out there doing good for the world! The “mother” or “father” of that capability can move on to another duty station and forever wear the proud badge of capability parenthood. So many obstacles overcome… so many people being helped… self mastery… bureaucratic system mastery… a promotion…

All right, back to reality. The truth is nobody moves a concept to capability in the Department alone today.

We used to hatch concepts and grow them into capabilities with a small band of innovative and motivated heroes, remember? We celebrated them throughout history: Jimmy Doolittle, Jasper Maskelyne, and others. But what the history books forgot about are the vast number of creative, resourceful people who tried something, got funding, ran at a problem and either missed the mark, hit some other mark, or fell short of the finish line and ran out of money.

Over time and after many expensive lessons – after we seemed to hemorrhage money at these failed attempts - the DoD established guardrails and training wheels for us. Now, we have 5000 and JCIDS controls. We have documentation and reviews, IIPT’s and OIPT’s and budget calls, review boards, risk assessments, security checks, designated approval authorities, milestone decision authorities, UFR’s, milestone checks, and all manner of hawkish, intelligent people who “keep and eye” on fledgling concepts as they mature. This morass of oversight and “aid” serves to keep a project on the straight and narrow. It has the added benefit of strengthening the arms, knees and lips of Program Managers who now need to flap, duck, dodge, cajole, beg, plead, run around, and otherwise break through the gauntlet in order to ensure that the capability they’ve been entrusted with survives.

Business Transformation is about hitting the reset button and modernizing our “help” structure. As we examine the way we do business, we ask ourselves a few questions: Is the entire village helping or is all of their pulling and tugging really drawing and quartering these fledgling capabilities? Is all of this “help” actually preventing us rolling capabilities out the door fast enough to keep up with today’s pace of technology advancement? What if we took the best of the “help” and concentrated it in a single governance structure – so the questions asked are answered once and for all, instead of 8 to 15 times? Can we use today’s technology to finally draw information we’ve been collecting all of these years, without buying or building another system, and mash it up into a single picture that can be presented in real time to leadership sitting around the single governance table in real time so they can make informed decisions? Are we leveraging the power of technology and advancements in our modeling knowledge to provide much needed continuity that survives administration changes? Have we utilized the full flexibility in law and policy to lighten the administrative load on some commodities as we run them through the acquisition process?

What is currently known as the Business Capability Lifecycle “BCL” is the label we given to reference the eco-system that Business Transformation Agents are working in. It is the process, the laws and policies, the technologies, the org structures, the workflows, the communication, and the cultural factors – the entire village that we’re acting on.

Transformation will happen because it must happen. We must find better ways to organize our village to make sure that concepts grow into capabilities faster. We must find more efficient ways to organize the genetic material of the capabilities themselves so we don’t wind up with twins, triplets, or worse: parasites. We must find a way to allow PMO’s to be more successful faster, and not burn them out by making them act like one armed paper hangers as they earnestly try to manage their projects. We must find ways to orchestrate the madness and ensure that what gets produced is what’s needed, and that it is delivered in a way that most efficiently uses taxpayer dollars. And we must ensure that the wisdom of the age is applied to every capability so that maximum re-use and recombination is possible to meet the changing needs of the country.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Revolution has Started

Considering the fact that you are here reading this blog, I don't need to tell you that the rush to Web 2.0 technology and new media is having an impact. What surprises me though, is the speed and power with which this new application of technology has seemingly taken root in major sectors - to include government, almost overnight.

I just returned from Montgomery, Alabama Tuesday night. I was there as part of a presentation team commissioned to talk about Business Transformation with a group of about 700 like-minded interested and interesting people. I came away impressed by the fact that we weren't the only ones talking about transforming business operations in the Department of Defense, or about the role that these new Web 2.0 technologies are playing in transformation efforts everywhere.

It used to take a herculean effort to reach people. Senior leadership got on planes and flew to different places around the world to get a message in front of a crowd. We would pick up a microphone, address 700 or 800 people, waive the flag, talk about our agenda, close strong (hopefully), and go get coffee. On the plane on the way home, we'd mull over what we said, how the crowd reacted, and hope we reached people. We'd ask for feedback in any way we could get it, but it was usually months or sometimes even years before we knew if there was any real impact. By then, we'd forgotten about the presentation and moved on. I can't tell you how many times someone has caught me and said "You might not remember me, but I remember when you spoke at..." Whew... feedback loop closed.

Somehow, this last trip felt closer. I don't know how to describe the concept of "closer," but not knowing how to do something has rarely stopped me from trying. I'll give it a shot.

By "closer," I mean a few things. I felt that the messages coming across by the presenting teams were more closely aligned. Everyone speaking (and asking questions) seemed to have more similarities in vocabulary than differences. The concepts presented by each presenter were almost interchangeable. It was as if we'd all been reading the same book and describing the same chapter to the crowd. More than once, I sat taller in my chair and said "yes!' secretly to myself (cause it's embarrassing to utter things like that when other people can hear you).

Part of this can be attributed to a talented coordinating team on the ground in Montgomery, and part of it can be attributed to thoughtful speakers, but I suspect that some of it was the result of the speakers common experiences on the Web. We're all reading the same stuff, and the "stuff" is evolving in real time while we are reading.

I also felt that the conference was not confined to the time and dates specified in the agenda. When we arrived, our very gracious host handed us a bottle of water and struck up a surprisingly relevant conversation with us. it was as if she already knew quite a bit about us - and she did! She admitted to reading our biographies, Googling us on the Web, and reading my LinkedIn profile. She knew about us before we even landed. ...closer.

I felt that once the seminar was over, there wasn't a clean break. In other words, people have the opportunity to experience the fire that conferences like that tend to start and then keep it stoked long after we're gone by plugging in to our blogs and other collaborative tools. There seems to be more persistence as a result of the new media revolution. People get and stay closer to one another longer.

So here's the take away: the world is flattening even more than Thomas Friedman predicted. Today, we have an unprecedented power, as a result of these Web 2.0 technologies, to reach out, to plug in, and to otherwise connect with other human beings. If, as many have said for a long time, that trust and clear communication are critical to organizational health and growth potential, then perhaps we really are uniquely capable to make Transformation happen in the Department of Defense. Perhaps the time is now and, with the help of Web 2.0, we're witnessing real success in the making. I, for one, am eager to embrace these technologies and find out.

Same Genre Reading

I have not posted in this forum for a few weeks now. You might say I've been otherwise engaged. Many of the forums I post to are in inaccessible areas - available only to DoD employees with a Common Access Card (CAC).

I want you to have access to good content though. The subject of Transforming Department of Defense business operations is important.

Check out this Blog: If you appreciate what you're reading in my forum, I think you'll also find the material on this BCLBlog interesting. If and when I find additional Blogs on the subject, I'll let you know here. If you find something, please post a comment here so the rest of us can follow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Transformation Fire

The United States Defense Department is not the most formidable Defense Department on the planet by accident. Sure, the US has resources and the American economy backing it, but it is not the material things that really make the Department of Defense great. It's the people in uniform who make the American Defense Department great.

The Defense Department is home to some of the most creative, energetic, and resourceful people in the world. They have to be. We send them into foreign lands and ask them to perform in environments where the rules are unknown, cultures and languages have to be interpreted, and mission objectives frequently change. They not only have to perform, but they must perform better than an enemy that already knows the environment; and all while the potential for mortal dangerous lies around every corner. These people are a special breed.

There's an aspect of the American service member that I believe is particularly relevant to Transformation. In spite of weaponry, the precision of training and drill, the uniform polish on boots, or the straight up and down of a well adjusted gig line, there is something extra that stirs in the hearts of some. When the chips are down, the trouble makers come out to play.

America has a long proud history of trouble makers. I'm not talking about undisciplined delinquents, but creative, energetic, resourceful and committed people who are completely willing to challenge the impossible or take on establishments in order to get the job done.

Our history books are full of these people. When Japan hit America in 1941 at Pearl Harbor, a trouble maker by the name of Doolittle took a rag-tag bunch of other trouble makers and some overhauled hardware and struck the heart of Japan. Many thought the mission - as it was originally planned - was impossible, but it was made even more difficult when the convoy was discovered and the men had to launch more than 100 miles sooner than they anticipated. Any fellow pilots reading this understand that 100 miles can mean the difference between life or death. Run out of fuel - gravity works. They went anyway - and they changed the tide of the war.

These are men and women who can't sit still when they know they have the power to do something about a problem. They are consistently tapping into their environment and figuring out what they can use to to their advantage to make their world better.

Some traditional tools of this brand of trouble maker have been duct tape, rubber bands, bailing wire, paper clips - whatever it takes to get the job done. One might hear them muttering "don't ask" or "you don't want to know" in response to a question from a superior about how they managed to get something working.

These people are Tom Sawyer-ish in their approach to life and living. By hook or by crook, they will make sure the mission is a success. They take pride in their handiwork, listen to Commander's intent and keep a weather eye on the outcome. Look hard enough and you're bound to spot these people. If you spot one, say thank you. They are very often tide-turners and battle winners.

The modern day Tom Sawyer is pretty sophisticated. Their resourcefulness keeps them on the bleeding edge and usually leaning far forward. They realize, for example, the Web 2.0 is a world and organization flattening phenomenon. They recognize that they have a powerful new tool in their tool box for side stepping bureaucracy, acting as a force multiplier, reaching farther, and for getting things done.

These people are the transformation agents of the future.

Transformation is very much a local phenomenon. We have a core set of beliefs or principles (transparency, continuity, agility, accountability, interoperability) which help us to determine good Transformation from chaos wrapped in a Transformation flag, but Transformation in an organization like Defense Finance and Accounting Service may not be immediately relevant to the Commanding Officer of a military hospital. That Commanding Officer may have a local priority that they need to get addressed.

Business Transformation needs local transformation agents to be empowered with the tools of Transformation - to be plugged in to authoritative information about things like the Enterprise plans for the Department. Business Transformation needs to listen to the transformation agents in the field to make sure that the direction the Business Transformation effort takes remains relevant.

Transformation needs the fire in the bellies of these modern day Tom Sawyers to be well fed, and for these creative and resourceful transformation agents to be empowered. The success of the Transformation mission depends on it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

There's a Place for Intolerance in Good Government

Just yesterday, I was listening to a senior government official talk about the fact that he has never been able to understand the rush to spend money that every government official is accustomed to each fall. He asked, with a shrewd look, how many corporations in America live by the "Spend everything!" credo? He reminded us all of an issue that's been bugging me for years.

The Department of Defense prepares a budget, submits it to Congress, and then is doled out money in small increments (usually 1 to 3 years worth) to accomplish the mission. Money "expires" according to a prescribed time table - money for some purposes has a longer "shelf life" than money for other purposes. If the money doesn't all get spent by the end of the fiscal year in which it "expires," the unspent portion goes back into the Treasury.

That could be a good thing, except for the fact that when it comes time for the next budget review, the government officials who saved money - the ones who would otherwise have given back to the tax payers - who some might think did a GOOD job by accomplishing their mission under budget, are actually criticized for not being able to accurately predict their funding needs. Their new budget gets cut by whatever amount they returned to the Treasury. After all, someone says, they obviously did not need that much.

Interesting, no? Instead of rewarding government leaders for managing money well and contributing to lowering the national deficit, the net effect is that good stewards are punished by having their spending power reduced. Under this system, the behavior that emerges is a mad rush to spend everything before September of each year. Spend on what, you might ask? Who cares! Just spent it fast! We're almost out of time!

The government has gotten a bad reputation (perhaps earned) for spending to much. Remember the old $30,000 hammer / $20,000 toilet seat jokes? But the truth about the cause of this problem isn't as simple as "wasteful government bureaucrats." Every organization has a system that it must work within. Often, very good people go to work in a bad system and get bad juice all over them.

Now, I hope you don't consider me unpatriotic or hypocritical for being critical of my government or the system it operates in. I'm proud of who we are and of what we do. I'm also a believer that it is our responsibility to be critical. This is how we get better together.

I was at an awesome conference three years ago. Lot's of big names were there and it was a limited audience of fairly senior government people. We listened to one speaker run through a list of characteristics, asking each time if we thought the characteristic was an example of good government.

He said "Collaboration!" and all hands went up. He said "Accountability!" and all hands went up. He said "Intolerant!" and maybe one or two overly enthusiastic hands went up - no doubt caught up in the spirit of the moment. He questioned us on that one. Why, he asked, should we be tolerant of things we should not be tolerant of? We're not asked to check our brains at the door when we report to work. In fact, there are some who believe that service to the country is a responsibility worth taking seriously.

Surely, the government is tolerant in the context of race, sex, age and other basic human characteristics, and that's a good thing! And we all like to get along and be good neighbors. But there are things that every responsible government employee should be intolerant of. Inefficiencies, redundant efforts, lethargy, silly spending of tax payer money... many things that we ought to be challenging "the system" on. It will only change if we are accountable for our own actions. Defense Business Transformation is about being accountable, and in some cases, intolerant.