Letters to the editor
Interior's Shutdown Mocks E-gov Efforts
Hello? Seventy thousand employees are doing payroll by hand and the
public is cut off from the Old Faithful Webcam because the Interior Department's
information resources management folks can't effectively isolate a database
["Searching for accountability," FCW, Jan. 21, and "Interior unplugged,"
FCW, Jan. 7]?
At the risk of oversimplifying, this ain't rocket science! If the partial
failure of a single "component system" leads to the scrubbing of an entire
department's e-government infrastructure, we'll never see the successful
launch of an integrated "e-future."
Even NASA shuttle flights orbit with more tolerance for "oops" than
Interior chief information officer Daryl White's crew.
Fifty days (and counting) is a long time to have business-critical
information systems and data down. How clueless do all federal information
systems folks look as the media moves this story toward Page 1?
Here's hoping Interior pulls the strings between the cans tighter
Fort Collins Interagency Dispatch Center
Knowledge Management Basics
In response to "Cultural change trumps technology" [FCW, Jan. 7], I
would like to offer the following comments:
1. John Cabral, State Department deputy chief knowledge officer, and
Bao Nguyen, chief of the Air Force's information and knowledge management
division, have it right that knowledge management is a business process
in itself. When federal executives really want to implement some form of
knowledge management in their organizations, they better understand that
fact and forget about most of the rest of the article.
2. For those of us actually working with organizations desiring cultural
change through process change, some of the things mentioned in this article
are simply ludicrous. For example, a chief knowledge officer will be so
far removed from the actual performance of important work that having a
CKO will do nothing more than create a bureaucracy. Rather, organizations
would do well to emulate the U.S. Geological Survey, which created a chief
geographic officer position that relates to the work being performed.
Furthermore, communities of practice are generally so ill defined and ill
placed that they are not much better than a CKO. Too many of the communities
that I have seen are composed of managers who want a reason to meet even
though they are not involved in daily work. Interest is great, but the time
could be better spent on process review teams composed of employees with
critical skills who want to document and extend their work for the future.
3. Nguyen hits the nail on the head when he speaks of a champion for
knowledge management. That champion has to balance a lot of agency and vendor
interests in favor of the "learning organization" but also has to get people
to understand why that learning organization is important.
I would tell agencies to look inward and determine which activities are
so critical to present and future operations that the understanding of these
operations must be preserved for the future.
Knowledge management must be an integrated approach that looks at people,
resources and strategic plans to decide what is important now and what might
be important in the future. Unfortunately, that will not happen by getting
generals, admirals and political appointees involved, unless they are talking
to those who actively do the work for customers.
Tieso & Associates
Grasping the GovNet Concept
I have read many articles on your Web site relating to the U.S. government's
request for a separate network for a number of federal agencies.
I attended the initial meeting in Washington, D.C., with regard to the
request for information from the General Services Administration. However,
a number of those attending simply could not get the concept. The request
sought information on the provision of services to three agencies initially,
connecting a number of locations.
I was amazed that people who are no doubt senior managers at a number
of large companies simply could not understand that a "net" can be created
independent of the Internet.
We have been working on a concept to provide a new "net" for business and
government only, addressing the very concerns that Richard Clarke, President
Bush's cyberspace security adviser, alluded to.
As Clarke so eloquently said at the meeting, "Open your minds." The
technology exists, and skilled individuals could make it a possibility.
Instead of looking at the government as a "cash cow" to bail companies out
of dire financial straits, the technology sector, as well as academia, should
concentrate on helping the government with this project.
World Business Web Inc.