FedSpace

FedSpace answers, more questions, recommendations

FedSpaceMove over White House Web team, there’s a new alpha gov in town.

The General Services Administration recently announced it will create FedSpace, a ‘new social intranet for federal employees and contractors.’ The project will be managed by the agency’s Office of Citizen Services and the initial version is expected to launch late summer.

GSA describes it as follows:

FedSpace is a secure intranet and collaboration workspace for Federal employees and contractors. Designed to be “for Feds by Feds”, FedSpace will enable government employees to work collaboratively across agencies, through the use of Web 2.0 technologies like file sharing, wikis, a government–wide employee directory, shared workspaces, blogs, and more.

Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio has interesting thoughts as to why it’s too late for FedSpace (with spirited and substantial comments). Whether you believe the federal government should create another social network or intranet is another discussion. I understand Andrea’s 30,000-foot assessment, but disagree, mostly because an officially-endorsed government network has huge potential to cut through the open Web clutter and protect the privacy of people who just want to get their jobs done.

FedSpace was inevitable and will survive the test of time, regardless of its success. Longer term (1-2 years), if effectively executed, it will have a huge impact on GovLoop, the largest unofficial social network for government employees. To his credit, GovLoop founder Steve Ressler shared his suggestions for FedSpace.

To learn more about FedSpace, there’s a great FAQ and overview page here.

This is a great opportunity for the federal government to do something creatively epic and have a major impact on the way government works. Below are some questions and recommendations.

Questions:

  • What is the budget?
  • What will it be developed in?
  • Will it be hosted on a government cloud?
  • How many people are on the development team?
  • What contractor firms are working on the project?
  • Who’s the project lead?
  • How will success be measured?

Recommendations:

  • Change the name. Government needs to stop mimicking dot-com social network branding and get creative. Use a naming contest as an opportunity build interest. While this may seem trivial, branding is a big deal.
  • Read Steve Blank’s customer development classic The Four Steps to the Epiphany. Joshua Porter’s Designing for the Social Web is a great reference for non-technical team members and will help others get more excited about the potential.
  • Leverage experts outside of the government tech bubble. Smart people are working internally on this project, but engage with in-the-trenches product and marketing development experts from popular commercial networks. Bring them in for brown-bag discussions or video-conference Q&As.
  • Start an open blog to chronicle your progress and solicit input. You’ll get free advice and feedback from all sectors, increase project visibility and create a resource for state governments looking to do the same.
  • Get serious about marketing it. Its usefulness will determine long-term success, but short-term, you’ll need to get very creative to get 2 million employees actively engaged.