Card Ya

Thought this was novel in the store. 


They have a digital calendar with the date from 21 years ago.


It says:

To Purchase Tobacco Products You Must Have Been Born On Or Before This Date.

 Thank you for showing you I.D.


Ah, easy to match the DOB on the I.D. presented to the date on the calendar.  


Nothing to calculate, no mistakes. 


They raised the age for smoking (cigarettes and vaping) in Maryland to 21 on October 1, so it’s the same requirement as for drinking alcohol.


Luckily for me (even though I’m over 21), I don’t really do either–definitely not the smoking, and the drinking limited primarily to the Kiddush prayer on Shabbat. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Cloud Kool-Aid

Cloud Cool Aid

We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid and believe in using the cloud.

And with almost 1 million active apps alone in the Apple Store it is no wonder why.

The cloud can create amazing opportunities for shared services and cost efficiencies.

The problem is that many are using the cloud at the edge.

They are taking the cloud to mean that they in government are simply service brokers, rather than accountable service providers.

In the service broker model, CIOs and leaders look for the best, cost effective service to use.

However, in NOT recognizing that they are the ultimate service providers for their customers, they are trying to outsource accountability and effectiveness.

Take for example, the recent failures of Healthcare.gov, there were at least 55 major contractors involved, but no major end-to-end testing done by HHS.

We can’t outsource accountability–even though the cloud and outsourcing is tempting many to do just that.

Secretary Sebelius has said that the buck stops with her, but in the 3 1/2 years leading up to the rollout relied on the big technology cloud in the sky to provide the solution.

Moreover, while Sebelius as the business owner is talking responsibility for the mission failures of the site, isn’t it the CIO who should be addressing the technology issues as well?

IT contractors and cloud providers play a vital role in helping the government develop and maintain our technology, but at the end of the day, we in the government are responsible to our mission users.

The relationship is one of partners in problem solving and IT product and service provision, rather than service brokers moving data from one cloud provider to the next, where a buck can simply be saved regardless of whether mission results, stability and security are at risk.

In fact, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, outlines the 3 successful principles used in the creation of consumerfinance.gov by the new CFPB, and it includes: “Have in-house strategy, design, and tech”!

Some in government say we cannot attract good IT people.

Maybe true, if we continue to freeze salaries, cut benefits, furlough employees, and take away the zest and responsibility for technology solutions from our own very talented technologists.

Government must be a place where we can attract technology talent, so we can identify requirements with our customers, work with partners on solutions, and tailors COTS, GOTS, open source solutions and cloud services to our mission needs.

When Sebelius was asked on The Hill about whether Healthcare.gov crashed, she said it never crashed, which was technically incorrect as the site was down.

The cloud is great source for IT provision, but the pendulum is swinging too far and fast, and it will by necessity come back towards the center, where it belongs as an opportunity, not a compliance mandate.

Hopefully, this will happen before too many CIOs gut the technology know-how they do have and the accountability they should provide.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Meaning of CIO Squared

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An article in CIO Magazine (1 March 2012) describes the term “CIO Squared” as “the combination of chief information officer and chief innovation officer,” and goes on to provide examples of CIOs that are both of these.

While I respect this definition of the term and think innovation is certainly critical to the success of any CIO, and for that matter any organization in our times, I have been writing a column called CIO Squared for a couple of year now in Public CIO magazine and have other thoughts about what this really means.

Moreover, I think the article in CIO missed the point of what “squared” really implies

Like the notion that 1+1=3, CIO Squared is a concept that the CIO is not just multi-faceted and -talented (that would be 1+1=2), but rather that the CIO integrates multiple facets and roles and synergizes these so that they have an impact greater than the sum of the parts (i.e. 1+1=3).

I see the CIO Squared fulfilling its potential in a couple of major ways:

– Firstly, many organizations have both a Chief Information Officer and a Chief Technology Officer–they break the “Information Technology” concept and responsibility down into its components and make them the responsibility of two different people or different roles in the organization. One is responsible for the information needs of the business and the other brings the technology solutions to bear on this.

However, I believe that fundamentally, a truly successful CIO needs to be able to bridge both of these functions and wear both hats and to wear them well. The CIO should be able to work with the business to define and moreover envision their future needs to remain competitive and differentiated (that’s the innovation piece), but at the same time be able to work towards fulfilling those needs with technology and other solutions.

Therefore, the role split between the CIO as the “business guy” and the CTO as the “technology whiz” has to merge at some point back into an executive that speaks both languages and can execute on these.

That does not mean that the CIO is a one-man team–quite the contrary, the CIO has the support and team that can plan and manage to both, but the CIO should remain the leader–the point of the spear–for both.

Another way to think of this is that CIO Squared is another name for Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO).

– A second notion of CIO Squared that I had when putting that moniker out there for my column was that the CIO represents two other roles as well–on one hand, he/she is a consummate professional and business person dedicated to the mission and serving it’s customer and stakeholders, and on the other hand, the CIO needs to be a “mensch”–a decent human being with integrity, empathy, and caring for others.

This notion of a CIO or for that matter any CXO–Chief Executive Officer or the “X” representing any C-suite officer (CEO, COO, CFO, CHCO, etc.)–needs to be dual-hatted, where they perform highly for the organization delivering mission results, but simultaneously do so keeping in mind the impact on people and what is ultimately good and righteous.

Therefore, the CIO Squared is one who can encompass both business and technology roles and synthesize these for the strategic benefit of the organization, but also one who is mission-focused and maintains integrity and oneness with his people and G-d above who watches all.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Architecting Crowd Control


Last week (19 October 2011) T3 Motion Inc. in CA launched their all electric Non-Lethal Response Vehicle(NLRV) for “crowd control.”The vehicle is a souped-up three-wheeled Segway equipped two compressed air powered rifles able to shoot 700 non-lethal rounds per minute of pepper, water, dye, or rubber projectiles, and each vehicles can carry 10,000 rounds.According to Trendhunter, the NLRV also has a “40,000-lumen LED strobe light, a riot shield, a P.A. system, and puncture-proof tires” as well as a video camera.The notion of a law enforcement officer shooting an automatic (non-lethal, as it may be) to quell a riot does not quite fit in with general first amendment rights for peaceful assembly and typical demonstrations that as far as I know are generally NOT an all heck break loose scenario.I wonder whether instead of a NLRV for handling riot control, a better idea would be a Lethal Response Vehicle (LRV)–with proper training and precautions–to handle homeland security patrols at major points of entry and around critical infrastructure.From an architecture perspective, this seems to me to be a clear case of where a “desirement” by somebody out there (gaming, fantasy, or what not) should be channeled into fulfilling a more genuine requirementfor people actually protecting our homeland.The benefits of speed and maneuverability can benefit field officers in the right situations–where real adversaries need to be confronted quickly with the right equipment.

Appropriate Technology For All

For July 4th, we headed down to the D.C. Folk Life Festival today on the Washington Mall.

The Peace Corps had a number of exhibits at the festival, including one on what they call “Appropriate Technology.”

Appropriate technology is about being user-centric when applying technology to the local needs and realities on the ground around the world.

There are 3 key rules in developing and implementing appropriate technology:

1) Affordable–technology has to be affordable for the people that are going to use it. Even if it saves money in the long-term, it has to be something that can be acquired by people without access to traditional financing in the short-term. 
2) Local–the material must be available locally in order to make it accessible to people living in remote and even dangerous parts of the world. 
3) Transparent–the design of the technology must be transparent with the assembly instructions available to the local people, so that it can be maintained indigenously. 
One company that is helping needy people around the world using appropriate technology is Global Cycle Solutions.
Two products from this company that attach to your bicycle were on display and one was actually being demonstrated:
1) Corn Sheller–For $75 plus shipping this attachment to your bicycle shells corn from the husks in pretty amazing speed. According to the supplier, you “can fill a 90-kg sack of maize in 40 minutes and 10-15 sacks per day…[so the] machine pays for itself within a month.” (Pictured you can see the exhibitor from Peace Corps loading the corn into the device and the husk coming out the other end; a little girl is pedaling and powering the device in one, and a little boy is spinning the wheel in the other.)
2) Phone Charger–For $10 plus shipping this bicycle attachment charges your phone as you pedal from place to place or as you spin the wheel in place. According to the website, it “charges as quickly as using a wall outlet.” (Pictured is the bike and charger on display.)
Since bicycles are routinely found around the world, these add-on devices that help in food preparation and communications are practical and cost-effective. 
Appropriate technology is not a technical term and the concept is not rocket-science, yet if we just keep in mind the people we serve–what their needs are and what constraints they may be living under–we can make solutions that are functional, cost-effective and sensible, and we’ll can help a lot of needy people in the world, bells and whistles aside. 
Appropriate_tech_1 Appropriate_tech_2 Appropriate_tech_3 Appropriate_tech_4

>Civic Commons-A Lesson In Sharing

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Love this concept on Civic Commons that was presented at the Gov 2.0 Summit (2010) and is now becoming a reality.

Presented by Bryan Sivak the CTO for DC–Civic Commons is about governments collaborating and building technology once and reusing multiple times, rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again–a critical enterprise architecture principle.

Governments have similar needs and can share common solutions–products and projects–for these.

A number of successful examples:

1) DC and San Francisco building Open 311 (which I wrote about in a prior blog).
2) Minnesota building a $50 Million Unemployment Insurance System and then sharing it with Iowa who implemented it at less than 1/2 that.

Some initial products that have been committed:

1) White House IT Federal Dashboard
2) Track DC (Operational Dashboard)
3) San Francisco Master Address Database Geocoder
4) New York Senate’s Open Legislation Application

And more will be coming…all of which can be used and improved upon.

It is great to see so many state governments collaborating–across the Nation–from Seattle to LA, Boston, San Francisco, NY, and Chicago. Moreover, they are coordinating with the Federal Government, as well as with supporting organizations, such as OpenPlans, Code For America, O’Reilly Media, and more that are helping with coordination, facilitation, and support.

This is another great step in breaking down the silos that separate us and becoming more efficient in working together and learning to share what can benefit many.

>The Center Of Gravity Is Information

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Center of Gravity (COG) is a military concept that Dr. Joseph Strange defines as “primary sources of moral or physical strength, power, and resistance.” From a military perspective, this is where we should concentrate when attacking the enemy. As Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz states, “that is the point against which all our energies should be directed.”

In “Center of Gravity Analysis” (Military Review, July/August 2004), Army Colonel Dale Eikmeier describes the framework for COG and how an enemy (your threat) attempts to exploit them, as follows:

· Center of Gravity—the organizations that do the work (e.g. the military/industrial complex)

· Critical Capabilities (CC)—the strengths of the organization—its “primary abilities”

· Critical Requirements (CR)—the supplies that a COG use—the inputs that are their opportunities, if leveraged for future plans

· Critical Vulnerabilities (CV)—the vulnerabilities a COG has—e.g. exposed or unguarded critical infrastructure

From an enterprise architecture perspective, I greatly appreciate this analysis of COG as it aligns beautifully with Albert Humphrey’s famous Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis for organizational strategic planning.

Aside from typical SWOT analysis to develop your organization’s strategy, the COG analysis adds greater offensive analysis to SWOT–like the military, organizations using the COG model can disrupt competitors’ advantages by seeking to weaken them where they are most vulnerable.

For example, EA used in this fashion may lead a company to build a sophisticated online sales site that directs customers away from your competitor’s retail location. Similarly, acquiring a major supplier (i.e. vertically integrating) may disrupt a competitors’ supply capability, and so on. The point is that EA becomes a force for attack rather than a mere planning tool or information asset.

It is at this point that I disagree with the assertion in the article that “Information is not power; it is a tool, an enabler. It helps wield military or economic power. By itself, it is simply information.”

Far to the contrary, information is one of the greatest assets that we have. It is the way that an advanced, intellectually based society competes. Of note, our declining performance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), which is so greatly worrisome to our leadership, is of concern because it is directly a threat to our competitive advantage, both militarily and economically, in the global environment.

Information, as embodied by the Internet, is now the center of our society. With it, we perform critical tasks of information sharing, collaboration and education. Used effectively, our military has developed robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (C4ISR)—all information-based. Similarly, our industry is highly competitive and advanced because of the engineering, innovation, and people behind it.

Enterprise architecture, once a small part of the IT infrastructure, can actually play a far greater role in the information society if we allow it to. We have morphed from the industrial age of the 18th and 19th centuries to a highly advanced information society that creates new sources of critical capability, but also new critical vulnerabilities that must be defended. And we must also leverage the vulnerability of our enemies in order to stay viable. Whether it’s cyber-warfare or economic survival, information is at the heart of everything we are successfully doing today.