federal IT

One of the many benefits of being the director of research at GTRA is that it offers the opportunity to speak candidly and off the record with countless executives from Defense, Intelligence and Civilian agencies who share what they really care about, not what mandates and initiatives tell them to focus on.

The result is a real-time snapshot of the most frequently made comments by federal IT executives, some of which may come as a surprise. Among the most frequently uttered comments I’ve received over the past few months, which may or may-not come as a surprise: Keep reading →

COMMENTARY: Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel says in his recent White House Blog: “Through reporting of new operational metrics, the updated IT Dashboard provides unprecedented insight into the performance of each major IT investment in the federal government in order to ensure that each IT dollar is being spent most effectively.”

So why not make this one of the state-of-the-art shared services VanRoekel is trying to achieve? Why not put all the data in memory in dashboards so it can be in motion and give immediate insights?

I did this elsewhere. There was no need to download the data sets, open them in Excel, and sort, filter and graph them to gain insights into government IT investment performance. It can all be done automatically when the data is in memory, live in the dashboard and can be readily updated as the agencies update their input data.

Since I recently wrote about the discussion draft for Federal Information Technology (IT) Shared Services Strategy “Shared First” issued by VanRoekel in December, I followed the design principles it contains and noted what I did specifically for an improved Federal IT Dashboard:


  • Standardization: “Shared service providers must leverage consistent standards that streamline functions across the Federal Government. This enables communication, data sharing and function use across all agencies. It eliminates the use of decentralized and inconsistent resources to create new, unique solutions throughout agencies in response to a single set of federal requirements. (author’s note: The shared data service supports the Sitemap and Schema Protocols and a Web Oriented Architecture.)
  • Visibility: “A government-wide shared services catalog helps agencies discover the wide array of available services. This enhances the potential for service integration as some agencies will develop shared services for those functions not already being provided. (author’s note: This is a government wide catalog of IT investments that helps agencies discover existing services.)
  • Reusability: “Shared services harness a way to support duplicated agency functions throughout the mission areas. This reduces the potential for development and maintenance costs by using repeatable services.” (author’s note: This is a government wide catalog of IT investments that helps agencies avoid duplication of services.)
  • Platform independence: “Agencies no longer need to worry about integrating with their current platforms in-house. Shared services providers ensure a stable infrastructure and can manage systems changes and updates within a controlled environment.” (author’s note: This platform imports many different data formats and makes data services that export the data in standard formats for reuse.)
  • Extensibility: “The basic shared services of a provider can be used as building blocks for other services that consumer agencies need. Services can be scaled up or down, based on demand.” (author’s note: The Amazon Cloud is elastic and so are the applications I used that are hosted there.)
  • Location transparency: “Users of shared services access the services from anywhere within the shared service network. This increases availability and end user access to strengthen SLAs between the provider and the services consumer.” (author’s note: This is noted in the Amazon Cloud with SLAs.)
  • Reliability: “Services provided are robust and stable with service continuity capabilities to minimize critical system outages to levels established by SLAs.” (author’s note: This is hosted in the Amazon Cloud with SLAs.)

  • Component #1: Requirements. This includes the strategic and tactical requirements for the type(s) of functionality that the service has to provide to consumers. The number and type of functional requirements depends on the type of service area, number and diversity of participating agencies, sensitivity of information and data being exchanged. (author’s note: I reproduced the requirements and functionality of the new Federal IT Dashboard.)
  • Component #2: Workflow. These are the business processes that function through the shared service. The design of the process must be such that the functional requirements from Component #1 are supported. (author’s note: I made the business process of the new Federal IT Dashboard more complete by putting all the data in memory and the metadata in linked open data format.)
  • Component #3: Data Exchange. This is the part of the business process in Component #2 that involves the creation, exchange, manipulation, storage, or deletion of data and information. (author’s note: The application supports the data business processes needed.)
  • Component #4: Applications. This includes the software and hardware that provide the functionality and data exchange capabilities that are identified in Components #2 and #3. (author’s note: The software and hardware provide more functionality and data exchange than the new Federal IT Dashboard.)
  • Component #5: Hosting. This is the infrastructure that the application(s) are hosted in. This includes cloud-based, client-server hosting solutions. (author’s note: This is hosted in the Amazon Cloud with SLAs.)
  • Component #6: Security and Privacy. These are the various types of logical, physical, process, and personnel controls that achieve required levels of protection and risk mitigation for the shared service. (author’s note: The applications used have received security certifications and this is hosted in the Amazon Cloud with SLAs that provide for security and privacy protections.)
The IT Dashboard team says:

“We are always looking for ways to improve analytical capabilities and user experience. Some additional features the public should expect to see in the coming months include: visualizations for operational performance and activities, additional improvements in search capabilities, Treemap enhancements, etc. User feedback is always appreciated and can be submitted via the Feedback link at the top of each page.”

Keep reading →

In honor of Women’s History Month, Breaking Gov highlights women’s relatively recent breakthrough in the growing and increasingly crucial world of federal IT. This is the second of a three-part series on women in federal IT that reveals who these leaders are and how they’re making a difference.

With 26 years of government experience, Kim Nelson moved to the private sector six years ago, taking her vast public sector knowledge to Microsoft. Keep reading →