The budget crunch – technology to the rescue?

Home Forums Technology The budget crunch – technology to the rescue?

This topic contains 25 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Dixon 7 years, 7 months ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #158854

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Across the government, budgets are getting tight. Real tight. In the realm of IT, this means that a lot of the funds that IT organizations receive will be invested toward sustainment activities. IT-based innovation spending (such as on new projects) will decrease significantly, as a result. Technologies such as cloud computing offer the promise of reducing required O&M spending, thus freeing-up dollars to be spent on innovative projects.

    What technologies do you think will help lower the cost profile of IT organizations and free-up more money for innovative projects?

  • #158904

    Mark Dixon
    Participant

    Check out the recent IBM PureSystems announcement. It frees up tech resources by integrating expertise at the IaaS and PaaS levels of cloud so that clients can focus on real, substantive change. Its a game changer.

    http://www.ibm.com/ibm/puresystems

    Governments will have to look at the capital vs operating expense equation…procuring technology just exacerbates the operating run rate…and becomes a structural budget nightmare. Governments will have to look more to architecture and design, not just engineering of systems. More on this if desired…

  • #158902

    Kevin Curry
    Participant

    Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technologies like Heroku, PHPFog, Standing Cloud and others dramatically lower the costs of systems administration.

  • #158900

    Steve Ressler
    Keymaster

    Some are technical like cloud hosting and SaaS solutions

    Others I think are more process driven. Can we move to a more agile philosophy and save money on the time/cost of paperwork on systems for example

    Staff costs are another opportunity but that’s hard to really recoup in government

  • #158898

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    PureSystems looks interesting. Great point on looking at arch & design. Would definitely like to hear more about how this approach could yield some savings.

  • #158896

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Great idea on Heroku!

  • #158894

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Absolutely agree on the paperwork savings. What’s the heuristic that government uses – $2k per page?

  • #158892

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Some other ideas:

    • Transitioning from Enterprise Java to Enterprise Rails to develop web apps
    • Sourcing contract programmers from low-cost areas such as North Dakota
  • #158890

    Nothing is getting fixed until we fix our procurement processes across government. There is no doubt that technology exists that is much cheaper than our current solutions, but the hoops we have to jump through when we make purchases makes it impossible.

    Example One: http://blog.chicagolobbyists.org/2012/01/12/chicago-aint-ready-for-procurement-reform/ f

    ChicagoLobbyist.org, built by the OpenCityApps team of volunteer civic hackers out of Chicago designs an awesome kick-ass website to display lobbyist data. The team even worked with the Chief Data Officer to improve the data and improve the site. The site’s clean and does the job.

    The city needed a way for lobbyist to electronically file their data and display it on the web. OpenCityApps already had 1/2 of that up and running. The team is staffed by pros, but their group is made up of volunteers. The problem is that the requirements to bid on the contract where too much for a volunteer group. The procurement rules made it so that only big shops could do it. No small elite teams need apply.

    The 2nd example is fax machines. My particular office receives about 2 reams of paper worth of faxes from employers protesting unemployment claims. The volume of these faxes causes these faxes to break down often. This means we have to pay somebody to fix the fax machine. It would be cheaper in the long term to buy a bigger fax machine – but because that’s a big ticket item, the procurement rules cause us to just keep fixing the fax machine. I don’t have enough information to do that math, but my instinct is that it’s cost us more to fix the fax 12 times than to just buy a new one.

    Now, the technology exists to take these protests and build a way to submit them directly into into our system. However, this would take a pretty big chunk of change to do. In the long term, this would make things much faster/simpler/better. I don’t think we’ll implement this anytime soon because it’s expensive in the short-term.

    We have the technology, what we don’t have is the procurement rules in place to take advantage of it.

  • #158888

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Christopher, that actually makes me depressed. Why can’t we get out of our own way? When the acquisition folks can’t even structure the requirements properly to solicit responses from capable firms, it’s not a good use of taxpayer bucks ultimately. The fax machine example represents the essence of stupidity.

  • #158886

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Kevin, what does Standing Cloud do?

  • #158884

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Chris, you hit the nail on head!

    Nothing is getting fixed until we fix our procurement processes across government. There is no doubt that technology exists that is much cheaper than our current solutions, but the hoops we have to jump through when we make purchases makes it impossible.”

    Procuring IT hardware or software in the DoD, DoN system is a nightmare for any organization. If you need something “immediately” FORGET IT! By the time you receive it, (software), the next two versions have come out and you have to start the process all over again. IT Hardware, non networked, same thing. Expect your wait to be about 6 months. The process has to go through many, many hoops, BEFORE, you can start to “buy” it. Expect no less than 20 email addresses from people you don’t know, never will, never will meet, to go through this process. If you don’t follow the directions, EXACTLY, your purchase gets disapproved and you have to start all over again.

    I have to ask WHY? Security reasons, I’m told. Ok, then why is the government buying Chinese made IT? Seems illogical to me. Gov credit card holders are told not to purchase anything for the government that is not on the TAA. Really? So instead, this is what they do. They, (the powers that be), buy IT hardware (not directly, mind you, but from an outsourced contractor), it gets shipped to the beltway, where about 30 people get their hands on it, and take it apart, check for…?whatever?, put back together, then 30 other people test, then 20 other people put the software OS on it, test it, and then in 6 short months, it’s shipped to your organization’s property office.

    Here’s a novel idea. Build it here, test it here, and ship it. Take about a week or two, tops! Wow! Now there is “innovation” for ya! Jobs for the American people. Marvelous!

  • #158882

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    This just might be the single greatest response ever. Every sentence that I read made me physically twitch.

    So many seemingly arbitrary rules that stand in the way of progress. There are so many cases where technology could not only be purchased more cheaply, but could also generate savings in the form of reduced labor, better decision-making, etc. All these savings can be put toward innovative projects that deliver public good. You perfectly described this bureaucratic tax that gets stamped on each purchase.

  • #158880

    Jaime Gracia
    Participant

    When the acquisition folks can’t even structure the requirements properly to solicit responses from capable firms, it’s not a good use of taxpayer bucks ultimately.

    Chris – This statement is incorrect, and part of the perception problem that does not seem to be addressed or discussed in this comment thread. Perhaps a typo, but let me explain.

    Chris and Julie are correct, and I agree that procurement issues and acquisition lead times are the biggest culprit when it comes to delays in IT. Definitely need to improve, and standardize processes, especially when it comes to security as Julie mentioned.

    Programs write requirements, and not acquisition personnel. This is also one of the biggest problems, in that often the government does not know what it wants or needs. It has an idea, but that is the almost ubiquitous requirements we see in many RFPs/RFQs.

    Especially with IT, best practices are for PMs to be transparent and collaborative with industry on leveraging IT knowledge (that industry has and government does not), gain a better understanding of the possible (through capabilities and price) in effective and thoughtful market research, and really create meaningful communications to buy what is needed at the right time, at the right price.

    Obstacles here are poor leadership, caustic cultures of risk aversion, resistance to change, and mistrust (on both sides).

    I would argue that changing the culture would be step one, as better written requirements allow for the shortening of acquisition lead times through better communications and collaborations with industry.

    Easier said then done, but it works.

  • #158878

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Jaime, you’re right. If I were merely talking about the KO’s and COTR’s, then I’d be incorrect. However, government acquisition programs, as an umbrella term, constitute both the procurement side of the house and the program / project management staff (and others). As an aside, my personal belief is that it’s a mistake to expect the PM’s to structure requirements effectively as part of an acquisition package 100% of the time. The COTR should be heavily involved upfront and advise the PM on the best structural approach to soliciting the desired response and, ultimately, fulfilling those contract requirements.

  • #158876

    Larry Fast
    Participant

    Leasing from other company’s not just IBM is available too. Just search the Internet using the search terms “Private Cloud Leasing” There are small configurations available too, not just really big Private Cloud hardware packages.

  • #158874

    Stephen White
    Participant

    Voice over IP has been around since at least 2000, (as Unified Communications since 2004) and the trend has been steadily towards IT/Telecom convergence but it seems there are many “legacy” systems still out there. UC technology should enable O&M savings (in facilities and core infrastructure) and gains in productivity. Do you agree?

    The company I work is an SI providing AV and VTC solutions/services so of course I may be biased. I’d be interested to hear a government/user point of view on unified communicaton and collaboration technologies.

  • #158872

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Stephen, I think that’s a great suggestion. Convergence could drive significant savings. Seems as if government tends lag 7-10 years behind private sector when implementing technologies that have an enterprise-wide impact such as this.

  • #158870

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Yes, that is true — IBM isn’t the only company to lease computing cycles from. HP is another. And others.

  • #158868

    Peter Sperry
    Participant

    Can anyone name one IT development in the past 70 years which has actually delivered on the promise of reducing expenditures? IT advances improve our lives in many ways, cutting costs has never been one of them and never will be. At best IT developments provide exciting new capabilities which means the cost savings realized from greater efficiencies are more than offset by the large expenses of doing things we had never done before. At worst, we simply pour money into a never ending DME cycle as agencies add largely unused functionality to systems that often uneeded in the first place. I’ve seen offices which could accomplisht their tasks quite effectively with a shoebox and 3×5 cards spend millions on data mangement systems as they fall behind in actually doing their jobs. IT advancement probably will help government provide new more effective services; but they will come at a much higher cost. Always have; always will. It is the nature of the beast.

  • #158866

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    Peter, that is a VERY insightful observation. You’re absolutely correct about nature of the way dollars are thrown at IT. It’s analogous to the behavioral studies done on shopping. Once you buy one item, your whole psyche changes from one of frugality to excess.

  • #158864

    Stephen White
    Participant

    Can’t resist a challenge… How about Virtualization. The savings in data center space and power alone are worth the investment: that’s well documented.

    Commercial pressures and cultural expectations cause us to want to do more, reinvest our savings and “re-up”, rather than save. No doubt agencies could sometimes do a better job of evaluating needs/solutions and the potential “return on investment” but for the most part the trend is positive IMO.

  • #158862

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I think Virtualization is a good one. If you think about where we are on the maturity curve and rate of adoption, Virtualization really hasn’t been fully harnessed, at least in government. Agree?

  • #158860

    Stephen White
    Participant

    This not the end, this not the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning for Virtualization. 🙂

  • #158858

    Julie Chase
    Participant

    It just got tighter. News from on high…….organizations are now being asked to reduce computers by 10% per organization. Now which folks in your office could do without a computer? No, it’s not the computer per se….it’s the cost to pay on the network. Outsourcing the network, saves money…..Come again? Really? Could’ve fooled me. Luckily there is an old IBM typewriter in a storage closet (do they still make ribbons for those?) and an old printing calculator. I guess we need to shine those up and break them out again. A few yellow legal pads, and some carbonless forms and heck yeah, we’re in business! We are moving from 1999 back to 1979…..light up that disco ball and let’s dance!!

  • #158856

    Chris Cairns
    Participant

    I don’t mean to laugh at your plight, but LOL! You should take up a career in writing business satire.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.