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IPIC day 2: Croom's Google lessons learned

It is day two at IPIC, which has focused on emerging technologies. Some of the technologies are not really emerging -- that seems to me to be technologies that most people haven't heard. These sessions focused on technologies like RFID and IPv6 -- technologies that people know are coming down the road but have not been fully implemented yet.

As a regular reader of this blog will know that I am just fascinated by search. In part, that is because it is a technology that pretty much everybody took for granted -- a technology that we didn't understand how powerful it was until, frankly, Google showed us that it was important.

And search, and Google specifically, have been a recurring theme throughout the day. The morning session started with a presentation by Air Force Lt. Gen. Charlie Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. He noted that he recently visited the folks at Google where he learned that the company has short, mid- and long-term strategic plans. A short-term strategic plan is for the next three months... mid- is for six-months... and long-term is nine-months. Google takes ideas and gets them into a lap in three weeks, he said. They then will post different products -- even if they are only 50 percent of the finished product -- and they watch to determine if users are interested. If people click over to these programs, then Google will invest the time, effort and energy into making it a completed product. And even then there are revisions.

Government, by contrast, has a two-year process of developing requirements and then all sorts of time, effort and energy in creating the product. So why can't government systems ever be closed down if they just don't work? There is so much invested. At Google, they don't have that investment.

DISA officials also visited eBay, where they have a program that sets standards for developers. That allows people to develop different systems within certain constraints as laid out by eBay, Croom said.

DISA is in the process of contracting for a set of Web-based collaboration tools. The agency will select two vendors and each will provide a suite of services that will be available for users to download. The contract will pay a subsistance rate, but it will also pay a bonus to the company that is able to get more users to download its software suite.

The result? "I just got myself out of the requirements process," Croom said. The companies will be incentivized to create a better suite of products.

Seems like a innovative way of working to me. And Croom strkes me as an impressive leader... definitely somebody to watch in our community.

I'm off to a 'meet the press' panel where people get to ask us questions. We'll see how that goes.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Mar 14, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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