Measurement And Standards Are Our Friends

So I learned that Metrology is the science of measurement. 


And measurement is the foundation of scientific research and creating standards. 


Scientific research and measurement are about exploration, discovery, and innovation.


Further, it is about finding the facts; it is objective; it is truth; it is essential to maintaining integrity. 


Standards also help to ensure dependability, because there is a common reference and you know what you are getting. 


A great true story that demonstrates the importance of measurements and standards is the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.


This was the third worst urban inferno in American history. 


It destroyed over 1,500 building across 140 acres. 


Fire engines responded from as far as New York and Virginia. 


But the problem was that they invariably could not help. 


Why?  


Because their fire hose couplings could not fit on the Baltimore fire hydrants–they were not standardized.


Without standards, we don’t have interoperability. 


We don’t have a reference that everyone can go by. 


It’s as if we’re all working on our own desert islands. 


This defeats the power in numbers that make us together greater than the sum of our individual parts. 


Science and technology help us advance beyond just ourselves and today. 


Measurement and standardization help us to build a better and stronger society. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

I Like That Technology

I Like That Technology

Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal makes the case for letting employees go rogue with IT purchases.

It’s cheaper, it’s faster, “every employee is a technologist,” and those organizations “concerned about the security issues of shadow IT are missing the point; the bigger risk is not embracing it in the first place.”

How very bold or stupid?

Let everyone buy whatever they want when they want–behavior akin to little children running wild in a candy store.

So I guess that means…

Enterprise architecture planning…not important.
Sound IT governance…hogwash.
A good business case…na, money’s no object.
Enterprise solutions…what for?
Technical standards…a joke.
Interoperability…who cares?
Security…ah, it just happens!

Well, Mims just got rids of decades of IT best practices, because he puts all his faith in the cloud.

It’s not that there isn’t a special place for cloud computing, BYOD, and end-user innovation, it’s just that creating enterprise IT chaos and security cockiness will most-assuredly backfire.

From my experience, a hybrid governance model works best–where the CIO provides for the IT infrastructure, enterprise solutions, and architecture and governance, while the business units identify their specific requirements on the front line and ensure these are met timely and flexibly.

The CIO can ensure a balance between disciplined IT decision-making with agility on day-to-day needs.

Yes, the heavens will not fall down when the business units and IT work together collaboratively.

While it may be chic to do what you want when you want with IT, there will come a time, when people like Mims will be crying for the CIO to come save them from their freewheeling, silly little indiscretions.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Electronic Health Records, Slow But Steady

Skeleton

The best article I have seen on the subject of Electronic Health Records (EHR) was in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (21 June 2012) called “This machine saves lives so why don’t more hospitals use it.”

What I liked about this article was how straightforward it explained the marketplace, the benefits, the resistance, and the trends.

Some basic statistics on the subject of EHR:

The healthcare industry is $2.7 trillion annually or ~18% of GDP.

Yet we continue to be quite inefficient with only about half of hospitals and doctors projected to be using EHR by end of 2012.

Annual spending on EHR is expected to reach $3.8 billion by 2015.

Basically, EHR is the digitization of our medical records and automation of medical services so that we can:

– Schedule medical appointments online
– Check medical records including lab and test results
– Communicate with our doctors by secure messaging/email
– Send prescriptions into the pharmacy electronically
– Automatically keep track of dosage and refills
– Get alerts as to side effects or interactions of medication
– Analyze symptoms and suggest diagnosis
– Receive prompts as to the latest medical treatments
– Recognize trends like flu outbreaks or epidemics
– File and speed claim processing

So why do many doctor’s seem to resist moving to EHR?

– Cost of conversion in terms of both money and time
– Concern that it can be used against them in medical malpractice suits
– Potential lose of patient privacy
– Lack of interoperability between existing systems (currently, “there are 551 certified medical information software companies in the U.S. selling 1,137 software programs”–the largest of which are from GE and Epic.)

The government is incentivizing the health care industry to make the conversion:

– Hitech Act (2009) “provides $27 billion in financial incentives” including $44K from Medicare and $63K from Medicaid over 5 years for outpatient physicians that can demonstrate “that they are using the technology to improve care.”
– Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010)–a.k.a. Obamacare–calls for “accountable care organizations” to receive extra money from Medicare and Medicaid for keeping patients healthy, rather than by procedure–“they are expected to do so using computers.”

The big loophole in EHR right now seems to be:

– The lack of standards for EHR systems from different vendors to be compatible, so they can “talk” to each other.
– Without interoperability, we risk having silos of physicians, hospitals, labs, and so on that cannot share patient and disease information.

So, we need to get standards or regulations in place in order to ensure that EHR is effective on a national, and then even a global level.

A number of months ago, I went to a specialist for something and saw him a few times; what he didn’t tell me when I started seeing him what that he was retiring within only a few months.

Aside from being annoyed at having to find another doctor and change over, I felt that the doctor was not too ethical in not disclosing his near-term intentions to close up shop and giving me the choice of whether I wanted to still see him.

But what made matters worse is that I got a letter in mail with the notification–not even in person–along with a form to fill out to request a copy of my medical records at a cost per page, so that I could transfer them–hardcopy–elsewhere.

Of course, this was also the doctor who hand wrote prescriptions still and wasn’t able to get test results online.

To me, seeing someone with a great amount of experience was really important, but the flip side was that in terms of organization, he was still in the “dark ages” when it came to technology.

I look forward to the day when we can have both–senior medical professionals who also have the latest technology tools at their disposal for serving the patients.

In the meantime, the medical profession still seems to have some serious catching up to do with the times technologically.

Let’s hope we get there soon so that we not only have the conveniences of modern technology, but also the diagnostic benefits and safeguards.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Work Off Of Standards, But Stay Flexible to Change

Modelt

Interesting book review in the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2012) on Standards: Recipes for Reality by Lawrence Busch.

Standards are a fundamental principle of enterprise architecture, and they can mean many things to different people–they can imply what is normal or expected and even what is considered ethical.

Reading and thinking about this book review helped me to summarize in my own mind, the numerous benefits of standards:

Predictability–You get whatever the standard says you get.

Quality–By removing the deviation and defects, you produce a consistently higher quality.

Speed–Taking the decision-making out of the routine production of standardized parts (i.e. we don’t have to “reinvent the wheel each time”), helps us to move the production process along that much faster.

Economy–Standardizing facilitates mass production and economies of scale lowering the cost of goods produced and sold.

Interoperability–Creating standards enables parts from different suppliers to inter-operate and work seamlessly and this has allowed for greater trade and globalization.

Differentiation–Through the standardization of the routine elements, we are able to focus on differentiating other value-add areas for the consumer to appeal to various tastes, styles, and genuine improvements.

While the benefits of standards are many, there are some concerns or risks:

Boring–This is the fear of the Ford Model-T that came in only one color, black–if we standardize too much, then we understate the importance of differentiation and as they say “variety is the spice of life.”

Stagnation–If we over-standardize, then we run the risk of stifling innovation and creativity, because everything has to be just “one way.”

Rigidity–By standardizing and requiring things like 3rd-party certification, we risk becoming so rigid in what we do and produce that we may become inflexible in addressing specific needs or meeting new requirements.

The key then when applying standards is to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks.

This requires maintaining a state of vigilance as to what consumers are looking for and the corollary of what is not important to them or what they are not keen on changing. Moreover, it necessitates using consumer feedback to continuously research and develop improvements to products and services.  Finally, it is important to always be open to introducing changes when you are reasonably confident that the benefits will outweigh the costs of moving away from the accepted standard(s).

While it’s important to work off of a standard, it is critical not to become inflexible to change.

(Source Photo: here)

>Is Free Worth the Price?

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In the computer world, free is often the architecture and economic model of choice or is it?

We have various operating systems like Linux, Chrome, Android and more now costing nothing. Information is free on the Internet. Online news at no cost to the reader is causing shock waves in the print news world. There are thousands of free downloads available online for applications, games, music, and more.

What type of business model is free—where is the revenue generation and profit margin?

Yes, we know you can use giveaways to cross sell other things which is what Google does so well making a boat load of money (billions) from its free search engine by selling ads. Others are trying to copy this model but less successfully.

Also, sometimes, companies give product away (or undercharge) in order to undermine their competitive challengers, steal market share, and perhaps even put their rivals out of business.

For example, some have accused Google of providing Google Apps suite for free as a competitive challenge to Microsoft dominant and highly profitable Office Suite in order to shake one of Microsoft’s key product lines and get them off-balance to deflect the other market fighting going on in Search between Google and Microsoft’s new Bing “decision engine.”

So companies have reasons for providing something for free and usually it is not pure altruism, per se.

But from the consumers perspective, free is not always really free and is not worth the trouble.

Fast Company has an interesting article (October 2009) called “The High Cost of Free.”

“The strategy of giving everything away often creates as many hassles as it solves.”

Linux is a free operating system, yet “netbooks running Windows outsell their Linux counterparts by a margin of nine to one.”

“Why? Because free costs too much weighted down with hassles that you’ll happily pay a little to do without.”

For example, when you need technical support, what are the chances you’ll get the answers and help you need on a no-cost product?

That why “customers willingly pay for nominally free products, because they understand that only when money changes hands does the seller become reliably responsive to the buyer.”

And honestly, think about how often–even when you do pay–that trying to get good customer service is more an anomaly than the rule. So what can you really reasonably expect for nothing?

“Some companies have been at the vanguard of making a paying business of “free.” IBM, HP and other tech giants generate significant revenue selling consulting services and support for Linux and other free software to business.”

Also, when you decide to go with free products, you may not be getting everything you bargained for either in the base product or in terms of all the “bells and whistles” compared with what a paid-for-product offers. It’s reminiscent of the popular adages that “you get what you pay for” and “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Sure, occasionally there is a great deal out there—like when we find a treasure at a garage or estate sale or even something that someone else discarded perhaps because they don’t recognize it’s true value—and we need to be on the lookout for those rare finds. But I think we’d all be hard pressed to say that this is the rule rather than the exception. If it were the rule, it would probably throw a huge wrench in the notion of market equilibrium.

And just like everyone savors a bargain, people are of course seriously enticed by the notion of anything that is free. But do you think a healthy dose of skepticism is appropriate at something that is free? Again, another old saying comes to mine, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Remember, whoever is providing the “free” product or service, still needs to pay their mortgage and feed their family too, so you may want to ask yourself, how you or someone else is paying the price of “free,” and see if it is really worth it before proceeding.

From the organization’s perspective, we need to look beyond the immediate price tag (free or otherwise discounted) and determine the medium- to long-term costs that include operations and maintenance, upgrades, service support, interoperability with other products and platforms, and even long-term market competition for the products we buy.

So let’s keep our eyes open for a great deal or paradigm shift, but let’s also make sure we are protecting the vital concerns of our users for functionality, reliability, interoperability, and support.

>Net-centricity and Enterprise Architecture

>See video on Department of Defense (DoD) vision for Net-Centricity:

http://www.blogger.com/img/videoplayer.swf?videoUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fv14.nonxt8.googlevideo.com%2Fvideoplayback%3Fid%3D6259f916796e74a2%26itag%3D5%26begin%3D0%26len%3D86400000%26app%3Dblogger%26et%3Dplay%26el%3DEMBEDDED%26ip%3D0.0.0.0%26ipbits%3D0%26expire%3D1270317776%26sparams%3Did%252Citag%252Cip%252Cipbits%252Cexpire%26signature%3D58696B425D5829FB7550DAD75100B02F9A6E5877.39CD43AB83FECBE8E4B24F933A9BAC590B7737CD%26key%3Dck1&thumbnailUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fvideo.google.com%2FThumbnailServer2%3Fapp%3Dblogger%26contentid%3D6259f916796e74a2%26offsetms%3D5000%26itag%3Dw320%26sigh%3DJ1zfvCBFKzXFemPBXgpvlEyv0PM&messagesUrl=video.google.com%2FFlashUiStrings.xlb%3Fframe%3Dflashstrings%26hl%3Den&nogvlm=1

Source: Department of Defense

>FDCC and Enterprise Architecture

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Setting standards help us to reduce complexity, contain costs, build interoperability, and secure the enterprise.

The Air Force is leading the way in setting standard configurations for the Federal government for computers, servers, printers, and cell phones.

Government Computer News, 4 August 2008, reports that “The Air Force started taking delivery in July on the first of 150,000 new PCs…the first to come equipped with their Windows Vista operating systems, including Internet Explorer 7, preset to meet Federal Desktop Core Configuration (FDCC) 2.1 standards.”

The FDCC is an outgrowth of the Air Force’s IT Commodity Council (ITCC) “efforts with Microsoft in 2006 to test and develop a standard software configuration.” This was coordinated with NIST, NSA, and DISA, and other agencies. Further, OMB “required agencies to implement FDCC’s Windows XP and Vista standards by Feb, 1, 2008.”

Now ITCC is working with DISA, NSA, Army, Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard to build Server configurations. Microsoft is taking these base configurations and “will develop configurations for ‘roles placed on top,’ says Michael Harper, Microsoft Service Director.

“Those will include the file and print servers, the domain controller, Exchange, SQL server, SharePoint, Web, and Windows deployment services.”

FDCC is “forcing the software industry to pay greater attention to the default settings of its products”. This is helping to reduce security vulnerabilities, and reducing costs.

Some examples of reducing costs and achieving other benefits from FDCC include:

  • “Preinstalling software at the factory rather than retrofitting a machine.”
  • Reducing energy costs by “preconfiguring Vista’s energy management settings.”
  • Steamlining the number of…device categories.”
  • “Standardizing…software…makes it easier to manage network and document security.”

FDCC has been so successful that ITCC is now moving forward with doing the same standardization for mobile devices.

FDCC is a step forward in terms of inter-agency collaboration, working with the vendor community, and creating an enterprise architecture that hits the mark for improved IT planning and governance.