FOSE: Abuzz about info strategies

The FOSE Exposition and Conference last week brought federal officials and company executives together for three days of networking and education. We’ve rounded up some of the highlights from panel sessions that wrapped around keynote speeches and information technology exhibits at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington. FOSE is hosted by Federal Computer Week’s parent company, 1105 Government Information Group.

Information sharing
Agencies with a record of success in creating information-sharing policies rely on strong leadership to get the ball rolling, but as practices become familiar, they become easier to maintain, said Jeremy Warren, chief technology officer at the Justice Department.

Speaking on a panel at FOSE, Warren credited Vance Hitch, the department’s chief information officer, for Justice’s role in creating the National Information Exchange Model, a joint project with the Homeland Security Department. Hitch’s relative longevity in the CIO role and the respect he has earned contributed greatly, Warren said.                             
 — Michael Hardy

Search and discovery
As increasing amounts of information exist only in electronic form, agencies must find new ways to search that data, retrieve useful information and retain it to comply with information retention rules.
Legal cases now routinely require agencies to produce not only paper records but also e-mail messages, text chat logs and other electronic data. That’s a challenge many are unprepared for, said Ed Meagher, deputy chief information officer at the Interior Department.

“This is one of those issues that has really crept up on us,” said Meagher, who moderated a panel discussion on the topic.

“It’s relatively easy to store 1 billion objects, but it is incredibly hard to search for relevant information” within them, said Jason Baron, director of litigation at the National Archives and Records
Administration.

The situation will only grow more complicated, Baron said. To date, most of the attention given to electronically stored information has centered on e-mail, text chat logs and similar tools. However, that information can also include voice mail, electronic calendars, instant messages, video conferences, posts to wikis and blogs, and communications within virtual worlds such as Second Life, he said.

Lt. Col. James Whitlock, chief of knowledge management at the Air Force Medical Service, said enterprise users are conditioned by Internet search tools — primarily Google — to expect well-sorted search results. Google’s Web site ranking system is so good that 90 percent of the time, users find what they need on the first page of results, he said.

But the technologies that make Google’s Web search tool so effective won’t work well in enterprise search, Whitlock said. Google and other companies have enterprise search tools that use other approaches to sort and order the data, but users are socialized through the ubiquity of the Web search technologies to expect that level of accuracy with enterprise search.  
 — Michael Hardy

Managing change
Managing change — not implementing technology — is often the biggest hurdle when an agency transitions from existing systems to a new information technology infrastructure, Internal Revenue Service officials said during a panel discussion. 

“Instilling change is 80 percent of it,” said Theresa Beverly, infrastructure ransition program manager at the IRS.

“People are a very big part of it,” she  said. “Basically, they’ve been used to doing work [one way] and it’s been working for them. Now you want [to change it] and make it better, but they say, ‘Who asked? It’s working for me.’ ”
— Richard W. Walker

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