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.