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Much has been written about the continuing growth in the use of Smartphone devices like RIM’s BlackBerry and Apple’s iPhone in corporations and governmental agencies. That growth (predicted by analysts to continue in 2009 to grow 10-40% over 2008) is continuing despite the economic slowdown, because the organizational benefits of Smartphone usage are assumed without question, and the increasing use of improved applications is adding to their organizational benefits with anytime/anywhere work processes.
This smartphone growth is powered by the confluence of better devices, much better applications, better wireless network coverage, and the recent ability of most devices to use both traditional wireless networks and WIFI networks. The growth is also supported by the fact that in some industries and for some functional roles, it is no longer a given that one must travel with a laptop computer, and smartphones can provide sufficient function for many professionals while out of their office. One can access documents, act on real time information and circumstance changes, initiate and conclude transactions, print documents, and make presentations from these devices, and each day brings better application-driven use of the vast array of device functional enhancements.
It is now conventional wisdom that these devices are extremely beneficial for executives, knowledge workers, and other professionals to use and exploit these devices, and therefore, former mobile phone users now are transitioning to a smartphone as a primary business tool. For existing smartphone users, mobile e-mail was enough, but now much better, purpose-built applications are becoming available and “expected.” So the combined impact of transition from mobile phones to smartphones and the transition from simple mobile e-mail/phone-based usage to application exploitation is begging the question - do these devices and their contemporary use fit within the processes and tools for IT management and support that are in use today?
It may be obvious, but for many organizations these devices have been treated from a management systems/process standpoint as phones, while the devices themselves have morphed to become a mobile computing platform. The fact that they are extremely portable, tend to be tethered to the employee when he/she changes assignments much more so than their work computer, have short lifecycles, and are now subject to all the joys of application and system software lifecycle support issues collectively means that these devices need to be managed as if they are a computing device, not a phone.
Most enterprise and asset management tools in place only address the issues of device management, security management, software management, etc. to a limited extent. The additional challenges of the portability of the devices, the network cost/bandwidth issues, the need for care in application use, installation, upgrading and co-requisite issues, etc. all demand management tools that are specialized. The good news is that there is emerging class of management tools that address the costs of device and application support costs and exposures, beyond the obvious costs of device acquisition and telcom costs. And the best of those tools allow the use of IT policies for control of these wireless devices in a similar fashion to the way it is addressed for the “wired enterprise.”
Particularly problematic is the management of applications. There are not only challenges for all devices imposed by the increasing complexity and size of new wireless applications and the beginning of much shorter average lifecycle of a version of an application, but the emergence of the notion of “app stores” which imposes challenges on organizations who would like to “enable” their organization end-users to take advantage of the incredible variety of new applications available, while at the same time controlling the security exposures, costs, and device usage. The most sophisticated organizations are creating policy groupings for various level and functional groups and using those policy groups as a “rules” based approach to application management and use, based on needs balanced with organizational rules. However to attempt to use IT policies without the use of automated processes is exceedingly difficult.
One would like to have a system which monitors the “rules sources,” including Active Directory/ Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) and other sources of employee and organization dynamics, paired with a policy driven by function, level, geography, and whatever other discriminators there might be in the way that the organization actually functions, and then let the management system monitor and apply the policies automatically and assure that the correct access, application, and use policies are applied to a user based on his/her work assignments. Once established such a system can respond automatically to changes in organization, normal and adhoc assignments, and employee status that occur frequently in most organizations.
In addition, it is increasingly evident that while organizations may have a preferred device type, like BlackBerry, many organizations are allowing users to experiment with new devices, like the iPhone. Other attractive new devices are, in fact, becoming heterogeneous with respect to wireless device types. Supporting multiple device types greatly complicates the management of processes and the use and application of IT policies to control device use, application use, and manage costs, since basic device management functions, infrastructure, and applications all differ. The choice many organizations face is to either tolerate the additional costs and potential exposures of supporting different device types or “lock down” their enterprise with respect to device choices.
Like an ocean wave at sea whose size is not appreciated until it reaches shore, the great hidden secret is the subtly increasing organizational total cost of supporting these devices and applications. Gartner Group has estimated that the total cost of supporting a typical smartphone with a single Line of Business application (like CRM) is approximately $6,500 per user per year. So whether IT leadership is motivated by enabling the right kind of device and application use within an organization or whether the motivation is managing and reducing average costs of use/ownership, there is increasingly critical requirement for automated mobility management tools. For more information visit www.lifecyclemobility.com
About the Author
L. Scott Perry is currently Chief Executive Officer of GPXS Software, a wireless management software company, and President and a board member of GPXS Holdings Ltd., an Amsterdam-based wireless services company which provides managed, professional, and hosted services for wireless devices and applications.
The federal government has an underutilized program that, if used properly, could help to stimulate the technology sector of the economy.
The program is the Information Technology Exchange Program. Authorized by the eGov Act of 2002 the program is intended to send the highest caliber federal employees (GS-11 and higher) to the private sector for details ranging from three to 12 months. The company will send a similar employee to the government to work and gain insight into how the government operates from the inside. The company continues to pay the salary and benefits of the individual they sent to the government and the government continues to pay the salary and benefits for the fed working in the industry. This is a win-win situation for the government and the company, as well as the employees who have been exchanged. Everyone gains knowledge and experience from exposure to the other side.
Approaching the program in the traditional sense does not really offer any real stimulus. However the program can also operate in a one-way exchange. For example, a federal employee can work for a company for up to a year, with the possibility of extending for up to an additional year. The company is not required to send an employee to the government to make an even exchange. When looking at the program from this angle it is easy to see how it could be construed as having a stimulative affect. The company receives a highly skilled worker and the government picks up the tab.
The government still stands to receive a benefit in this example because the returning employee will likely have a broadened skill set and specialized experience that can be applied immediately. The employee will be better equipped to play a critical role in evolving situations and have contacts that will help to foster public-private partnerships in the future.
There are many opportunities in which this type of partnership could succeed today. For example, could someone in IT Security benefit from the type of experience working in security at AOL? Could a good database administrator (DBA) apply skills and learn something from Marriott International? Could we learn about the supply chain and radio-frequency identification (RFID) from Wal-Mart? And don’t get me started on Google.
The types of opportunities are as unique as the people who seek them. For me, I love to develop grants management systems. (It’s what I do.) But I bet that there could even be something for me out there. In fact, I bet the Gates Foundation has a pretty good grants management system operating behind the scenes. I could help to further develop it, learn from people who look at the space differently, and apply what I’ve learned when I come back to the government. While doing this I would be helping the Gates Foundation, myself, and my agency.
Beware; there is a potential dark side to this program as well. A shady company could abuse this program by releasing a number of employees and then try to backfill them with federal employees. As such the only way this program could work is if any company that participates agrees that it will not layoff, or release anyone (because of the economy) prior to or during the time when a guest worker is with them. This actually provides an incentive to slow the unemployment trend.
Additionally, federal workers would have to be careful, especially if they are involved with any acquisitions or procurement. Those workers should be required to disclose the organization that hosted them and they would be required to recuse themselves from any panels reviewing proposals from that organization.
Obviously if the employee works at a company for a year and does not return to his or her agency, the employee will be required to repay the costs the government incurred during the detail. Failure to reimburse the government may result in penalties against the employee. But this program isn’t intended for people who are likely to leave the government. It is for people who know that other people are dealing with the same challenges we feds face, and the act of walking in someone else’s shoes for a while may hold the key to solving them.
About the Author
Tim McCrosson has been a Project Manager at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) since September 2007. As a founding member of the FNS Project Management Office (PMO) he focuses on development projects to support the Special Nutrition Programs like Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and School Lunch Programs.
Tags: Open Source
Much has been said in recent weeks about the need for change transparency and accountability at all levels of government. During his first full day in office, President Barack Obama set forth his expectations regarding government transparency in two important memorandums fueling commentary that President Obama is the first open source president.
In the first, a memorandum addressed to the heads of executive departments and agencies on Transparency and Open Government, President Obama declares, “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency public participation and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” He states clearly that government should be transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and vows to coordinate the development of an Open Government Directive to be issued by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum.
In his second memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, President Obama succinctly notes that, “A democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency.” Only open source meets the expectation of transparency and accountability President Obama has set forth. While most closely associated with software development where the source code is freely shared, open source transcends technology. Successful examples of collaboration and openness are not difficult to come by across disciplines.
Take the Human Genome Project and Wikipedia as two examples. The Human Genome Project was an international 13-year research effort coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the location of the genes that it contains. The information generated by the Human Genome Project has allowed researchers to begin to understand the human blueprint and remains as the source book for biomedical science in the 21st century. As researchers learn more about the functions of genes and proteins this knowledge will be of immense benefit to the fields of medicine and biotechnology and will be used to understand and treat many of the more than 4,000 genetic diseases that afflict mankind.
James Kent, the then graduate student responsible for writing the human genome assembly program, completed the 10,000-line program in less than a month because of his concern that the genome would be locked up by commercial patents if an assembled sequence was not made publicly available for all scientists to work on. Quite simply, Kent's work to ensure that the Human Genome Project remained open has enabled better science faster.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia built by an active community of participants, takes an open source approach to information. Open source information repositories such as Wikipedia have forever changed the way knowledge is captured and the collaborative nature of the wiki platform has resulted in more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 260 languages. Through an open source model, Wikipedia provides better information faster. As pointed out by Douglas Raymond, a former U.S. Army captain, former member of the 66th Military Intelligence Group, and current member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Paula Broadwell, a PhD student in counterterrorism policy studies at Harvard University and the deputy director of the Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at Tufts University's Fletcher School, the U.S. intelligence community would be wise to further adopt a Wikipedia-like approach to collaborative information sharing. U.S. intelligence agencies must adopt this collaborative spirit and become more adept at incorporating the increasingly valuable analysis produced in the public domain with their internal efforts.
In other areas of government this type of collaboration is already underway. Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) was originally released under the General Public License (GPL) in late 2000 by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Office of Information Assurance. Since then it has been developed by the open source community in collaboration with the NSA. Here open source is being used to create better security policies and enhancements faster.
As we work to fund initiatives, including the Economic Stimulus Plan, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and the continued global war against terrorism, government executives must find other areas where we can become more efficient while ensuring they meet their missions. Open source is stable, trustworthy, and safe and is being used across government agencies to create efficiencies and avoid vendor lock-in. As government agencies strive for accountability and to comply with OMB's forthcoming Open Government Directive, only open source solutions meet President Obama’s requirements for a transparent, participatory, and collaborative government.
At the end of the day adopting open source - both through our approach to government and technology - will enable us to deliver better government faster.
About the author:
Paul Smith is Vice President of Government Sales Operations at Red Hat. Mr. Smith joined Red Hat in November 2004 and leads the Red Hat Government business unit with responsibility for sales, marketing, consulting, channels, and strategic planning. The business unit is responsible for the U.S. federal government worldwide and the U.S. State, Local, and Education marketplace nationally.