A Focus on Government: Hello World

In this post - the first in a series focused on government - I want to introduce myself quickly and touch on a few federal topic areas that Phase2 will be working on in 2012. Off the bat, I'll say that - as a newcomer to Phase2 - I'm thrilled to be here. Phase2 has been a dynamic participant in the Drupal and open source community. Seeing the team in action first hand, I can see why. I am coming on as Phase2's Federal Practice Manager and will be focused on the success and direction of our federal work.

In this post - the first in a series focused on government - I want to introduce myself quickly and touch on a few federal topic areas that Phase2 will be working on in 2012. Off the bat, I'll say that - as a newcomer to Phase2 - I'm thrilled to be here. Phase2 has been a dynamic participant in the Drupal and open source community. Seeing the team in action first hand, I can see why. I am coming on as Phase2's Federal Practice Manager and will be focused on the success and direction of our federal work.

This past decade, I've been working at the intersection of content, open technology, and the public sector. At this intersection… these are interesting times. And a variety of forces within and around government have created fertile ground (and appetite) for transformative approaches to IT investments to save money while improving service to citizens. Increasingly, successful government solutions will depend on their vitality and adaptability. Open source software provides "protection against the forces of entropy that threaten this vitality." [1]

To be sure, government on the web ain't what it used to be. Over the past several years, federal IT policy has taken measured, bold steps to transform how IT products and services are procured, deployed, and managed. These steps are aimed at reducing waste while also providing better services to taxpayers. As a taxpayer and technology enthusiast, this is welcome change. In December 2010, the Federal CIO's '25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management' signaled a new framework for thinking about IT in government.

The plan calls for the federal government to "fundamentally shift its mindset from building custom systems to adopting light technologies and shared solutions." The plan urges agencies to question whether systems need to be developed from scratch since - too often - solutions are developed that have already been built and paid for by taxpayer dollars. This is wasteful. For some in the vendor community, however, this can be a profitable scenario that they may not be incentivized to change.

Many of the themes in the CIO's Implementation Plan are aligned closely with Phase2's core mission of using open technologies to decrease the cost of IT while increasing its effectiveness and capacity to deliver real innovation. In the current "do more with less" landscape, better procurement and distribution models are critical to mission success. We believe that leveraging open source for federal web solution development helps eliminate wasteful, duplicative IT.

One concrete example of this is Drupal in government. Drupal provides a proven, scalable platform for deploying sites in increasingly flexible ways, such as multi-site configurations and enterprise-wide platforms in which sites sharing the same core with shared components (e.g., modules) can be combined in various permutations (e.g., virtual sites, multi-sites, and micro-sites). For those of us who like pictures, here's a graphic that attempts to capture the underlying philosophy of our federal practice.

Drupal in Government visualization

Pretty self explanatory.

One recent initiative that is spawned out of the 25 point plan is the “Future First” program (launched by Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel in late 2011), which promotes the use of modular development using open standards regarding how government procures software and sets policy. Here's an excerpt from his remarks at the program's 'unveiling':

Changing the Way We Invest

In the end, we can’t build a 21st century government without fundamentally changing how we invest in technology.

Traditionally, it has taken years for an IT solution to move from planning to budgeting to procurement. Too often we have built closed, monolithic projects … And because of how they are architected, modifying these systems to meet emerging needs has often cost more than building a new system from scratch.

Going forward, we need to embrace modular development, build on open standards, and run our projects in lean startup mode. [2]

We agree.

And along these lines, here are example themes of what we'll be looking at in this series:

  • open source as a tool to innovate and reduce government waste
  • the intersection of Drupal and 'traditional' enterprise content/data management
  • mobile government
  • the web and government customer service
  • content overload and semantic technologies

If there are other topics/themes you think we should cover in this series, 'A Focus on Government'… please let me know.

[1] http://bbyidx.com/

[2] http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/svr_parc_speech_final_0.pdf (capitol dome icon courtesy of Indiana University)

 

 

 

Greg Wilson