Apps–The World At Your Fingertips

I came across this great video by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP)
The video demonstrates a vision for connecting people with applications and using these “to communicate, educate, and engage–beyond the gates of every embassy on the planet.”
I like the way they detailed out specific use cases for the apps, where “Applications can be anything from trivia to media kits, visa procedures and event management to English language tutorials.”
The video describes how everyone from a consular officer to a public affairs specialist and a college student to a journalist can take advantage of these. 
I can see that one of the principles behind Apps@State is to maximize the sharing and re-use of content through an apps catalogue and the ability to customize the apps to local and individual needs. 
The mobile and webs apps content will be made available through SMS, smartphones, and social networks.  
This framework for a cloud computing platform can bring efficiency and effectiveness to foreign service officers and audiences world-wide that depend on and can benefit from these programs.
This is very much user-centric design in action, and I believe very much on target with the “25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal IT Management.”
Other agencies are also developing significant apps catalogues, such as GSA with the Apps.Gov website, which now has more than fifty free social media applications for federal agencies in everything from analytics and search to blogs, contests, document sharing, video and photo sharing, idea generation, social media, wikis, and more. 
Perhaps it is not too early to say that the Federal government is on a roll and that it will only get better with time. 
(Note: All opinions my own)

>Industry Architecture—What’s in a Name?


ComputerWorld, 22 June 2009 has an opinion piece, called “The Benefits of Working Together,” about developing an “Industry Architecture (IA)”—in this particular case for the hotel industry.

It takes the concept of a company or organizational architecture and applies it across an entire industry.

“In difficult economic times, every company seeks cost reductions and process improvements. But now an entire industry has banded together to help its constituents maximize their IT-based assets.”

I can see how from a private sector approach, IA is a way for companies to work together and benefit their overall industry through:

  • Improved IT products—“a clear architectural roadmap allows suppliers to focus efforts on the capabilities most important to customers.”
  • Lower IT product costs—standardized products from suppliers are generally less costly to produce than customized one (but they are also less differentiated and may be less exciting and inviting to customers). The IA also facilitates component reuse, standardized interfaces, and so forth.
  • Lower training costs—IA could reduce training costs, since there are standard processes and products spanning the entire industry meaning that employees can move more seamlessly between companies and not have to learn a whole new way of doing things.
  • Improved agility—industry standards allow for faster deployments and configurations of IT.
  • Increased buyer confidence—industry architectures could provide for a “product certification program”, so buyers can have confidence that IT products meet guidelines and are interoperable with other IA certified products.
  • Improved security—IA can incorporate IT security standards, resulting in companies being more secure than if they had “conflicting security approaches.”

From a public sector perspective, the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) is similar to Industry Architecture in the private sector. Ideally, the FEA looks across all the federal departments (like an IA looks across the various companies in an industry) and creates a roadmap, standards, certification programs, interopability, component reuse, umbrella security, and more resulting in lower IT costs, more agility, and improved service to the citizen.

In terms of naming conventions, we can come up with all types of architectures from company architectures to industry architectures, from solution architectures (for meeting specific requirements) to segment architectures (for specific lines of business). We can develop horizontal architectures (across entities in the same stage of production or service provision) or vertical architectures (in entities that span different stages of production or service provision). We can create national architectures (like it looks like we may end up doing the financial services sector now) or perhaps even global architectures (such as through environmental, economic, or military agreements and treaties).

Whatever we call the various levels of architecture, they are all enterprise architectures (just with the “enterprise” representing different types or levels of entities). In other words, an enterprise can be a company or industry, an agency or a department in the federal government. Some enterprise architectures are bigger than others. Some are more complex. But what all these enterprise architectures have in common is that they seek to provide improved IT planning and governance resulting in cost savings, cost avoidance, and performance improvement for the enterprise in question.

So, we must at all levels continue to plan, develop and implement our enterprise architectures so that we realize the benefits – from the micro to the macro environment – of both private and public sector best practices.