Month: April 2016

Government ‘Originals’

Originals“Originals are people who take the initiative and make their visions a reality,” writes Adam Grant in “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.”

Grant cites two government originals, Central Intelligence Agency analyst Carmen Medina and U.S. Navy lieutenant Josh Steinman, who both worked to change traditional thinking within two large bureaucracies.

Steinman, using a Trojan horse approach to change, played a key role in getting the Defense Department to open an innovation hub in Silicon Valley, and today it has DIUx Silicon Valley.

Medina’s anecdote gets much more focus, chronicling the lifecycle of her (initially unsuccessful) attempts to establish better cross-agency intelligence communications. Medina finally succeeded after ascending into a leadership role with authority, enabling the creation of Intellipedia, an internal collaboration tool for the intelligence community, as well as blogging within the agency, inspiring others to follow suit and, over time, quietly building a “network of rebels.”

There’s more to Grant’s “Originals” than these two anecdotes, but it’s refreshing to see case studies on how change can be made from within.

Watch Grant’s TED Talk, listen to a terrific interview he did with a16z’s Sonal Chokshi, buy “Originals” and make your government vision a reality.

Free webinar: ‘Agile for the Government Project Manager’

AGL AcademyAgile Government Leadership has created AGL Academy to help public sector professionals (and their supporting vendors) learn more about agile development practices in the context of government.

The first course, “Agile for the Government Project Manager,” is self-guided, but AGL Working Group members are offering a free webinar to walk through the components of each lesson.

Learn more about the project manager course and register.

For questions, contact AGL.

Substantive feedback on White House open source policy as comment period extended


The White House extended the Federal Source Code Policy comment period to April 18 and, to date, there are 147 comments with much of the discussion centered around licensing and security.

Open culture organizations, enterprise software providers, key open source advocates and federal agencies have contributed to the discussion, including Sunlight Foundation, Free Software Foundation, Mozilla, Creative Commons, GitHub, Electronic Frontier Foundation, U.S. Air Force, Department of Homeland Security, Open Source Health Record Alliance, Red Hat, Open Tech Strategies.

Favorite quote:

Requiring software to be open source by default builds a culture that supports and amplifies the benefits of open source. When it’s the default approach, developing in the open becomes second nature, rather than a separate process to follow for an arbitrary amount of projects. Measuring the amount of code released into the open as required by the 20% policy adds unnecessary overhead and burden to the process of developing open source software, and inhibits an open source-based workflow from becoming more widely adopted.

Submit your comments.

California seeks chief data officer

California State Capitol Building (Photo: Jeff Turner)

California State Capitol Building (Photo: Jeff Turner)

The state of California is looking for a chief data officer to “promote the availability and use of data in state government.”

The position resides within California Government Operations Agency and will report directly to GovOps Secretary Marybel Batjer.

From GovOps:

This is a Governor’s appointment and review and assessment of applicants will be handled by the Governor’s appointments office. All questions should be referred to the appointments office.

How to apply:

The actual process of applying involves going to the appointments page at, and at the bottom of the window, clicking on the “Begin Application” button. At Question #3, “Positions Sought,” scroll to the Gov Ops Agency section, where the position is listed at Gov Ops Agency, Chief Data Officer.

Position description:

Reporting to the Agency Secretary, the Chief Data Officer will have statewide responsibility for three key initiatives based on data collected in the normal course of state business to improve transparency, efficiency and accountability in state operations.

These initiatives are:

  • Developing the statewide open data portal and related governance and policy on standards, storage and privacy, as well as a statewide open data strategic plan and programs to promote civic engagement and innovation.
  • Fostering and promoting a culture of data use by enabling and encouraging departments to share data to collaborate on common issues and related programs.
  • Employing and analyzing operational data to improve program performance.

The Chief Data Officer is the primary steward of the data portal for the state’s public data, which enables public access to data in a variety of formats. The CDO also is responsible for working with state boards, departments and offices to ensure that state data is accessible through the portal. The CDO oversees development of the standards and structure to support these efforts, as well as incorporation of the state’s geo-portal, in consultation with the Department of Technology, into the statewide open data portal. The Chief Data Officer will maintain and expand the state’s data inventory and establish procedures for adding new data sets and regularly updating existing data sets.

The Chief Data Officer will promote opportunities to demonstrate the value of data in decision making; support and encourage events to encourage public use of open data for innovation, and support and encourage activities to enhance collaboration among departments and agencies through shared data.

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • Well-versed in the principles of open data, open government and Government 2.0.
  • Understanding of state government processes and practices (legislative process, budget process, etc.).
  • Technically knowledgeable, with some familiarity with using and building software applications that employ open data.
  • Strong communicator with internal and external stakeholders on deeper technical issues.
  • Understanding of different of open data formats and the pros & cons of different data formats.
  • Understanding of APIs, GIS systems and mapping concepts.
  • Familiarity with different options for open data portals (both commercial & open source).
  • Understanding of process reengineering.
  • Understanding and experience in change management, organizational performance measurement and organizational performance management.
  • Understanding of big data analysis techniques and their application in government setting.
  • Experience in quantitative analysis.

Ideal qualities:

  • Awareness of and experience with open data tools, such as those available through GitHub, and a variety of different data storage technologies.
  • Understanding of specific areas of state activity that are data intensive – such as energy and water regulation, health, public safety, etc.
  • Excellent writing and public speaking skills.

Government (software) as a service

Photo: White House

Photo: White House

Originally published on Engaging Local Government Leaders

Like government, software-as-a-service is ubiquitous.

The operating systems that run our phones are frequently issued updates to provide better functionality or security protections. Other services, such as Google Apps, NetFlix, Amazon and every social media platform, also follow true SaaS development models: release updates often to everyone.

As consumers, we appreciate this frequency. It makes us safer and the user experience is more enjoyable. By paying a nominal monthly fee, we constantly experience a better product, and numerous consumer surveys show satisfaction rates for these services is consistently high.

Imagine if today you were forced to use Google, the iPhone or Facebook from five years ago, with less privacy, security and general user experience elegance. Unfortunately, most residents, businesses and tourists visiting a city website experience a five year-old iPhone.

Currently, the model for government technology solutions is a stand-alone offering: A technology vendor — sometimes advertising itself as SaaS — will set up a single instance of its product and only update it if you renew or upgrade your license.

The other model is a services-based approach, where cities pay someone to manage custom software updates. Typically, this model works when cities are fortunate to have one or both of the following:

  • A large budget for third-party development services
  • An internal team of developers, designers, product owners and IT project managers

Given the budget constraints of most cities, coupled with challenges in recruiting technology talent, these two options are still relatively unattainable or unsustainable for local governments.

Most cities today purchase web services through an outdated process, developing a highly-detailed request for proposal that calls for overly-customized and unnecessary requirements. The timeline from beginning to end could be 12 months, with the delivered end product being outdated immediately on the day it launches.

Meanwhile, the SaaS alternative has been improved exponentially over that same period, and never truly expires (For example, ProudCity follows a two-week release cycle, and all users immediately realize the benefits without incurring additional charges.)

With SaaS, the business model is scaling one product and constantly making it better, taking an economies of scale approach to resources.

Email SaaS provider MailChimp has a great explanation on why it is more important for them to focus on scale:

It allows us to keep our overall pricing down while maintaining a feature-rich application and continuing to provide great support. We want MailChimp to be accessible and affordable for all of our customers.

And, with respect to the impact of software, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen famously quipped, “software is eating the world”:

More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. Many of the winners are Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurial technology companies that are invading and overturning established industry structures. Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not.

Andreessen said this in 2011, so we’re halfway there. Even his venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is beginning to invest in the government technology industry. Other firms such as GovTech Fund are fully focused in this area, so the market is ripening for technology disruption that will only benefit government leaders.

As more and more of us begin to rely on the web to interact with government, the relationship between great online experience and government satisfaction is increasingly interconnected. According to the Accenture report, when citizens were asked “Which of the following would change positively if government improved digital services?,” they responded:

  • “My belief that government is forward looking” (73%)
  • “My overall satisfaction with government” (72%)
  • “My willingness to engage with government” (72%)
  • “My belief that government is efficient and effective” (70%)
  • “My confidence and trust in government” (62%)

As part of our first ProudCity Pilot Program, we worked with the city of West Carrollton, Ohio, to prove the SaaS model works incredibly well and defies traditional thinking on how government web services can be managed. West Carrollton’s previous website was eight years old, and they moved the entire site, and a number of functions offered by legacy vendors, to the ProudCity platform in 60 days.

“To be honest, when we started the project, I didn’t think that would be possible,” West Carrollton Public Relations Coordinator Erika Mattingly told Government Computer News.

Not only was West Carrollton able to move quickly with SaaS, they’ve also quickly started to migrate services from legacy vendors to ProudCity — services we didn’t offer four weeks ago. Because of this, they have already started to re-evaluate and streamline internal processes using these new tools.

Fortunately, cities are beginning to realize the benefits of true SaaS with companies like ProudCity, SeeClickFix,NextRequest, Romulus, OpenGov and a growing wave of other modern, civic-focused technology providers who are helping reset government expectations when it comes to digital solutions.

As more and more government leaders start thinking with a software mindset, making their digital operations easier to use and ever-evolving, they will scale public service and offer amazing civic experiences to those they serve at costs significantly lower than before.

Those that don’t will continue to serve with a five year-old iPhone.

Given the ubiquity of both government and software-as-a-service in our lives, it’s only natural they are starting to work more closely with one another.