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Are Government Records Management Practices in Peril?

By Frank Konkel // May 26, 2015

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In government, records management is a real problem.

Almost four years after a series of executive orders by the Obama administration designed to reshape the way federal agencies manage the massive number of records they keep, it appears little progress has been made toward true modernization.

The evidence of the lack of progress in records management – the government collects data on everything from American citizens to incoming cargo shipments – continues to mount. Two weeks ago, the Government Accountability Office found serious flaws in agencies’ plans to automate data archival based on official data collected and compiled by GAO.

The GAO audit coincides with a new report that suggests federal employees themselves aren’t confident in their agencies’ records management practices. The report, conducted by market research company Market Connections and storage management company Iron Mountain, found 85 percent of 150 records management professionals in government “are not fully convinced” current records management practices are meeting agency needs.

Whoa.

If the role of a federal records management professional were played by Tom Hanks circa "Apollo 13," he’d be saying, “Houston, we have a records management problem.”

“The National Archives and Records Administration and Office of Management and Budget have made ...

Bolstering CX in Government Makes 'Fundamental Business Sense'

By Frank Konkel // May 22, 2015

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In the ultra-competitive private sector, where a single tweet or Yelp review can make or break a business’ bottom line, customer experience has always played an important strategic role. And lately, the government has been paying more attention to its customers. 

New digital offices like the U.S. Digital Services and 18F, housed within the General Services Administration, are helping agencies revamp projects in user-centric fashion, and the White House created a cross-agency customer service working group to scour and share across government best practices in customer experience.

Recent research from companies like Forrester suggests most of government has nowhere to go but up in terms of providing customer service on par with top private sector organizations. Yet, glimmers of hope in the bureaucratic clouds are beginning to shine through.

“It just makes fundamental business sense to improve your customer experience,” said Stephanie Thum, vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

Thum spoke on a customer experience panel at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit on Thursday, alongside IRS product development director, Andrew Hughey, and David Simeon, branch chief at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Thum said it was important for government agencies ...

Inside the USAJobs Revamp and Other Digital Summit Highlights

By Frank Konkel // May 21, 2015

Government technology projects usually get headlines when things go wrong or get expensive.

Examples abound: The botched initial rollout of HealthCare.gov or the Department of Veterans Affairs' disability claims backlog.

On the contrary, programs that function well tend to get little recognition, though they deserve it.

Held Thursday, the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit showcased a few of those programs. I’ll highlight a few of the cool ones below, but it was clear that successful programs tended to come at problems from a user-centric point of view. In other words, if your users or customers -- whether they be internal or external stakeholders -- aren’t happy, you’re losing the battle.

The Antithesis of HealthCare.gov?

Perhaps the most promising example of the government’s newfound approach to technology programs was highlighted by Stephanie Wade, director of the Office of Personnel Management’s Innovation Lab.  

The lab is helping relaunch the USAJobs website, which served 187 million people last year who conducted some 1 billion job searches. As OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in January, changes to the site are “a long time coming,” so the re-launch on its own is not surprising. What is though is the agile scrum ...

If You Aren’t Using Your Data, It’s Just Taking Up Space

By Frank Konkel // May 18, 2015

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The government collects a lot of data.

Tax records, financial transactions, census information, demographic intelligence and a myriad of other data sets on millions of American citizens make the federal government the largest data collector on the planet.

Yet that data does little more than take up space in agencies if it’s not being analyzed to change leadership decision-making or to improve the experience of users and customers. That’s according to Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a consultancy and research firm.

The big question is: “How will the rise of the Internet of Things and growth of data change the way we approach decision-making and leadership?” Walsh said, speaking at the Management of Change conference May 18. “In the era where we not only have data but also have it in real time, how will we change our applications, how will that data empower leaders in organizations to make better decisions?”

The use of real-time data to rapidly alter decision-making is poised to help agencies reinvent themselves, Walsh said. That’s already happening in arenas like emergency response, where a single tweet can spring the Federal Emergency Management Agency into action as it responds to disasters.

At the ...

What the Intelligence Community Can Teach the Rest of Government about Cloud

By Frank Konkel // May 13, 2015

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The intelligence community, composed of 17 agencies with various missions relating to national security, is not traditionally known for sharing their secrets and methods.

At least, not on purpose.

Yet, the folks at the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have been pretty straightforward discussing how they bypassed or beat down bureaucracy to achieve more than a modicum of success in technologies like cloud computing.

Indeed, agencies within the IC have been making use of the Amazon Web Services-built C2S cloud for almost a year, introducing new features along the way and making good on the agency’s promise to pipe innovation from the private sector to behind its walls.

Similarly, NSA’s move to store and process data in its GovCloud – open-source software stacked on commodity hardware – will alleviate major challenges the agency has faced as it collects an ever-growing amount of data from various surveillance efforts.

Building the GovCloud from the ground up, as NSA officials note, also allows it to “Snowden-proof” its data and better prevent future threats from its own.

Both these efforts truly run in tandem – agencies within the IC can make use of the clouds for various purposes, including provisioning computing, analytics ...