Category Archives: Public Sector
What I love about the cloud is it has something of value to offer practically any government organization, regardless of size, maturity, point of view, approach. Even for the most conservative IT shops, there are use cases that just plain make sense. And with the growing availability of FEDRAMP certified offerings, it’s becoming easier to procure. But, thinking realistically, for reasons of law, budget, time, architecture, we know the cloud will not be the solution for every public sector problem. Some applications, some data will never leave your agency’s premises. And here in lies the new complexity. You have applications and data on-prem. You have applications and data in the cloud. And you have business requirements that require these apps to work together, to share data.
So, now that you have a hybrid environment, what can you do about? Let’s face it, we can talk about technology, architecture and approaches all day long, but, it always comes down to this, what should be done with the data. You need answers to questions such as; Is it safe? Is it accessible? It is reliable? How do I know if the integrity has been compromised? What about the quality? How error-prone is the data? How complete is the data? How do we manage it across this new hybrid landscape? How can I get data from a public cloud application to my on-prem data warehouse? How can I leverage the flexibility of public IaaS to build a new application that will need access to data that is also required for an on-prem legacy application?
I know many government IT professional are wrestling with these questions and seeking solutions. So, here’s an interesting thought. Most of these questions are not exactly new, they are just taking on the added context of the cloud. Prior to the cloud, many agencies discovered answers in the form of a data integration platform. The platform is used to ensure every application, every user has access to the data they need to perform their mission or job. I think of it this way. The platform is a “standardized” abstraction layer that ensures all your data gets to where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, in the form it needs to be in. There are hundreds of government IT shops using such an approach.
Here’s the good news. This approach to integrating data can be extended to include the cloud. Imagine placing “agents” in all the places where your data needs to live, the agents capable of communicating with each other to integrate, alter or move data. Now add to this the idea of a cloud-based remote control that allows you to control all the functions of the agents. Using such a platform now enables your agency to tie on-prem systems to cloud systems, minimizing the effect of having multiple silos of information. Now government workers and warfighters will have the ability to more quickly get complete, accurate data, regardless of where it originates and citizens will benefit from more effectively delivered services.
How would such an approach change your ideas on how to leverage the cloud for your agency? If you live near the Washington, DC area, you may wish to drop in on the Government Cloud Computing and Data Center Conference & Expo. One of my colleagues, Ronen Schwartz will be discussing this topic. For those not in the vicinity, you can learn more here.
Get connected. Be connected. Make connections. Find connections. The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about connecting people, processes, data and, as the name suggests, things. The recent social media frenzy surrounding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has certainly reminded everyone of the power of social media, the Internet and a willingness to answer a challenge. Fueled by personal and professional connections, the craze has transformed fund raising for at least one charity. Similarly, IoT may potentially be transformational to the business of the public sector, should government step up to the challenge.
Government is struggling with the concept and reality of how IoT really relates to the business of government, and perhaps rightfully so. For commercial enterprises, IoT is far more tangible and simply more fun. Gaming, televisions, watches, Google glasses, smartphones and tablets are all about delivering over-the-top, new and exciting consumer experiences. Industry is delivering transformational innovations, which are connecting people to places, data and other people at a record pace.
It’s time to accept the challenge. Government agencies need to keep pace with their commercial counterparts and harness the power of the Internet of Things. The end game is not to deliver new, faster, smaller, cooler electronics; the end game is to create solutions that let devices connecting to the Internet interact and share data, regardless of their location, manufacturer or format and make or find connections that may have been previously undetectable. For some, this concept is as foreign or scary as pouring ice water over their heads. For others, the new opportunity to transform policy, service delivery, leadership, legislation and regulation is fueling a transformation in government. And it starts with one connection.
One way to start could be linking previously siloed systems together or creating a golden record of all citizen interactions through a Master Data Management (MDM) initiative. It could start with a big data and analytics project to determine and mitigate risk factors in education or linking sensor data across multiple networks to increase intelligence about potential hacking or breaches. Agencies could stop waste, fraud and abuse before it happens by linking critical payment, procurement and geospatial data together in real time.
This is the Internet of Things for government. This is the challenge. This is transformation.
One Search Procurement – for purchasing of indirect goods and services
Informatica Procurement is the internal Amazon for purchasing of MRO, C-goods, indirect materials and services. Informatica Procurement supports enterprise companies in catalog procurement with an industry-independent catalog procurement solution that enables fast and cost-efficient procurement of products and services and supplier integration in an easy to use self-service concept.
Information Procurement at a glance
Informatica recently announced the availability of Informatica Procurement 7.3, the catalog procurement solution. I meet with Melanie Kunz our product manager to learn from here what’s new.
Melanie, for our readers and followers, who is using Informatica Procurement, for which purposes?
Melanie Kunz: Informatica Procurement is industry-independent. Our customers are based in different industries – from engineering and the automotive to companies in the public sector (e.g. Cities). The responsibilities of people who work with Informatica Procurement differ depending on the company. For some customers, only employees from the purchasing department order items in Informatica Procurement. For other customers, all employees are allowed to order their needs themselves. Examples are employees who need screws for the completion of their product or office staff who ordered the business cards for the manager.
What is the most important thing to know about Informatica Procurement 7.3?
Melanie Kunz: In companies where a lot of IT equipment is ordered, it is important to always see the current prices. With each price changes, the catalog would have to be imported into Informatica Procurement. With a punch out to the online shop of IT equipment manufacturer, this is much easier and more efficient. The data from these catalogs are all available in Informatica Procurement, but the price can always be called on a daily basis from the online shop.
Users no longer need to leave Informatica Procurement to order items from external online shops. Informatica Procurement now enables the user to locate internal and indexed external items in just one search. That means you do not have to use different eShops for when you order new office stationary, IT equipment or services.
Great, what is the value for enterprise users and purchasing departments?
Melanie Kunz: All items in Informatica Procurement have the negotiated prices. Informatica Procurement is simple and intuitive that each employee can use the system without training. The view concept allows the restriction on products. For each employee (each department), the administrator can define a view. This view contains only the products that can be seen and ordered.
When you open the detail view for an indexed external item, the current price is determined from the external online shop. This price is saved in item detail view for a defined period. In this way, the user always gets the current price for the item.
The newly designed detail view has an elegant and clear layout. Thus, a high level of user experience is safe. This also applies to the possibility of image enlargement in the search result list.
What if I order same products frequently, like my business cards?
Melanie Kunz: The overview of recent shopping carts help users to reorder the same items on an easy and fast way. A shopping cart from a previous order can use as basis for this new order.
Large organizations with 1000s of employees are even more might have totally different needs what they need for the daily business and maybe dedicated to their career level. How do you address this?
Melanie Kunz: The standard assortment feature has been enhanced in Informatica Procurement 7.3. Administrators can define the assortment per user. Furthermore, it is possible to specify whether users have to search the standard assortment first and only search in the entire assortment if they do not find the relevant item in the standard assortment.
All of these features and many more minor features not only enhance the user experience, but also reduce the processing time of an order drastically.
Informatica Procurement 7.3 “One Search” at a glance
Learn more on Informatica Procurement 7.3 with the latest webinar.
I just finished reading a great article from one of my former colleagues, Bill Franks. He makes a strong argument that Big Data is not inherently good or evil anymore than money is. What makes Big Data (or any data as I see it) take on a characteristic of good or evil is how it is used. Same as money, right? Here’s the rest of Bill’s article.
Bill framed his thoughts within the context of a discussion with a group of government legislators who I would characterize based on his commentary as a bit skittish of government collecting Big Data. Given many recent headlines, I sincerely do not blame them for being concerned. In fact, I applaud them for being cautious.
At the same time, while Big Data seems to be the “type” of data everyone wants to speak about, the scope of the potential problem extends to ALL data. Just because a particular dataset is highly structured into a 20 year old schema that does not exclude it from misuse. I believe structured data has been around for so long people are comfortable with (or have forgotten about) the associated risks.
Any data can be used for good or ill. Clearly, it does not make sense to take the position that “we” should not collect, store and leverage data based on the notion someone could do something bad.
I suggest the real conversation should revolve around access to data. Bill touches on this as well. Far too often, data, whether Big Data or “traditional”, is openly accessible to some people who truly have no need based on job function.
Consider this example – a contracted application developer in a government IT shop is working on the latest version of an existing application for agency case managers. To test the application and get it successfully through a rigorous quality assurance process the IT developer needs a representative dataset. And where does this data come from? It is usually copied from live systems, with personally identifiable information still intact. Not good.
Another example – Creating a 360 degree view of the citizens in a jurisdiction to be shared cross-agency can certainly be an advantageous situation for citizens and government alike. For instance, citizens can be better served, getting more of what they need, while agencies can better protect from fraud, waste and abuse. Practically any agency serving the public could leverage the data to better serve and protect. However, this is a recognized sticky situation. How much data does a case worker from the Department of Human Services need versus that of a law enforcement officer or an emergency services worker need? The way this has been addressed for years is to create silos of data, carrying with it, its own host of challenges. However, as technology evolves, so too should process and approach.
Stepping back and looking at the problem from a different perspective, both examples above, different as they are, can be addressed by incorporating a layer of data security directly into the architecture of the enterprise. Rather than rely on a hodgepodge of data security mechanisms built into point applications and silo’d systems, create a layer through which all data, Big or otherwise, is accessed.
Through such a layer, data can be persistently and/or dynamically masked based on the needs and role of the user. In the first example of the developer, this person would not want access to a live system to do their work. However, the ability to replicate the working environment of the live system is crucial. So, in this case, live data could be masked or altered in a permanent fashion as it is moved from production to development. Personally identifiable information could be scrambled or replaced with XXXXs. Now developers can do their work and the enterprise can rest assured that no harm can come from anyone seeing this data.
Further, through this data security layer, data can be dynamically masked based on a user’s role, leaving the original data unaltered for those who do require it. There are plenty of examples of how this looks in practice, think credit card numbers being displayed as xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-3153. However, this is usually implemented at the application layer and considered to be a “best practice” rather than governed from a consistent layer in the enterprise.
The time to re-think the enterprise approach to data security is here. Properly implemented and deployed, many of the arguments against collecting, integrating and analyzing data from anywhere are addressed. No doubt, having an active discussion on the merits and risks of data is prudent and useful. Yet, perhaps it should not be a conversation to save or not save data, it should be a conversation about access
Recently, my US-based job led me to a South African hotel room, where I watched Germany play Brazil in the World Cup. The global nature of the event was familiar to me. My work covers countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, South Africa and Costa Rica. And as I pondered the stunning score (Germany won, 7 to 1), my mind was drawn to emerging markets. What defines an emerging market? In particular, what are the data-related themes common to emerging markets? Because I work with global clients in the banking, oil and gas, telecommunications, and retail industries, I have learned a great deal about this. As a result, I wanted to share my top 5 observations about data in Emerging Markets.
1) Communication Infrastructure Matters
Many of the emerging markets, particularly in Africa, jumped from one or two generations of telco infrastructure directly into 3G and fiber within a decade. However, this truth only applies to large, cosmopolitan areas. International diversification of fiber connectivity is only starting to take shape. (For example, in Southern Africa, BRICS terrestrial fiber is coming online soon.) What does this mean for data management? First, global connectivity influences domestic last mile fiber deployment to households and businesses. This, in turn, will create additional adoption of new devices. This adoption will create critical mass for higher productivity services, such as eCommerce. As web based transactions take off, better data management practices will follow. Secondly, European and South American data centers become viable legal and performance options for African organizations. This could be a game changer for software vendors dealing in cloud services for BI, CRM, HCM, BPM and ETL.
2) Competition in Telecommunication Matters
If you compare basic wireless and broadband bundle prices between the US, the UK and South Africa, for example, the lack of true competition makes further coverage upgrades, like 4G and higher broadband bandwidths, easy to digest for operators. These upgrades make telecommuting, constant social media engagement possible. Keeping prices low, like in the UK, is the flipside achieving the same result. The worst case is high prices and low bandwidth from the last mile to global nodes. This also creates low infrastructure investment and thus, fewer consumers online for fewer hours. This is often the case in geographically vast countries (Africa, Latin America) with vast rural areas. Here, data management is an afterthought for the most part. Data is intentionally kept in application silos as these are the value creators. Hand coding is pervasive to string data together to make small moves to enhance the view of a product, location, consumer or supplier.
3) A Nation’s Judicial System Matters
If you do business in nations with a long, often British judicial tradition, chances are investment will happen. If you have such a history but it is undermined by a parallel history of graft from the highest to the lowest levels because of the importance of tribal traditions, only natural resources will save your economy. Why does it matter if one of my regional markets is “linked up” but shipping logistics are burdened by this excess cost and delay? The impact on data management is a lack of use cases supporting an enterprise-wide strategy across all territories. Why invest if profits are unpredictable or too meager? This is why small Zambia or Botswana are ahead of the largest African economy, Nigeria.
4) Expertise Location Matters
Anybody can have the most advanced vision on a data-driven, event-based architecture supporting the fanciest data movement and persistence standards. Without the skill to make the case to the business it is a lost cause unless your local culture still has IT in charge of specifying requirements, running the evaluation, selecting and implementing a new technology. It is also done for if there are no leaders who have experienced how other leading firms in the same or different sector went about it (un)successfully. Lastly, if you don’t pay for skill, your project failure risk just tripled. Duh!
5) Denial is Universal
No matter if you are an Asian oil company, a regional North American bank, a Central American National Bank or an African retail conglomerate. If finance or IT invested in any technologies prior and they saw a lack of adoption, for whatever reason, they will deny data management challenges despite other departments complaining. Moreover, if system integrators or internal client staff (mis)understand data management as fixing processes (which it is not) instead of supporting transactional integrity (which it is), clients are on the wrong track. Here, data management undeservedly becomes a philosophical battleground.
This is definitely not a complete list or super-thorough analysis but I think it covers the most crucial observations from my engagements. I would love to hear about your findings in emerging markets.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will talk about the denial and embrace of corporate data challenges as it pertains to an organization’s location.
What springs to mind when you think about old applications? What happens to them when they outlived their usefulness? Do they finally get to retire and have their day in the sun, or do they tenaciously hang on to life?
Think for a moment about your situation and of those around you. From the time work started you have been encouraged and sometimes forced to think about, plan for and fund your own retirement. Now consider the portfolio your organization has built up over the years; hundreds or maybe thousands of apps, spread across numerous platforms and locations – A mix of home-grown with the best-in-breed tools or acquired from the leading application vendors.
Evaluating Your Current Situation
- Do you know how many of those “legacy” systems are still running?
- Do you know how much these apps are costing?
- Is there a plan to retire them?
- How is the execution tracking to plan?
Truth is, even if you have a plan, it probably isn’t going well.
Providing better citizen service at a lower cost
This is something every state and local organization aspires to do by reducing costs. Many organizations are spending 75% or more of their budgets on just keeping the lights on – maintaining existing applications and infrastructure. Being able to fully retire some, or many of these applications saves significant money. Do you know how much these applications are costing your organization? Don’t forget to include the whole range of costs that applications incur – including the physical infrastructure costs such as mainframes, networks and storage, as well as the required software licenses and of course the time of the people that actually keep them running. What happens when those with with Cobol and CICS experience retire? Usually the answer is not good news. There is a lot to consider and many benefits to be gained through an effective application retirement strategy.
August 2011 report by ESG Global shows that some 68% of organizations had over six or more legacy applications running and that 50% planned to retire at least one of those over the following 12-18 months. It would be interesting to see today’s situation and be able evaluate how successful these application retirement plans have been.
A common problem is knowing where to start. You know there are applications that you should be able to retire, but planning, building and executing an effective and success plan can be tough. To help this process we have developed a strategy, framework and solution for effective and efficient application retirement. This is a good starting point on your application retirement journey.
To get a speedy overview, take six minutes to watch this video on application retirement.
We have created a community specifically for application managers in our ‘Potential At Work’ site. If you haven’t already signed up, take a moment and join this group of like-minded individuals from across the globe.
In the other, they hear administrative talk of smaller budgets and scarcer resources.
As stringent requirements for both transparency and accountability grow, this paradox of pressure increases.
Sometimes, the best way to cope is to TALK to somebody.
What if you could ask other data technologists candid questions like:
- Do you think government regulation helps or hurts the sharing of data?
- Do you think government regulators balance the privacy needs of the public with commercial needs?
- What are the implications of big data government regulation, especially for users?
- How can businesses expedite the government adoption of the cloud?
- How can businesses aid in the government overcoming the security risks associated with the cloud?
- How should the policy frameworks for handling big data differ between the government and the private sector?
What if you could tell someone who understood? What if they had sweet suggestions, terrific tips, stellar strategies for success? We think you can. We think they will.
That’s why Twitter needs a #DataChat.
What on earth is a #DataChat?
Good question. It’s a Twitter Chat – A public dialog, at a set time, on a set topic. It’s something like a crowd-sourced discussion. Any Twitter user can participate simply by including the applicable hashtag in each tweet. Our hashtag is #DataChat. We’ll connect on Twitter, on the third Thursday of each month to share struggles, victories and advice about data governance. We’re going to begin this week, Thursday April 17, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. For our first chat, we are going to discuss topics that relate to data technologies in government organizations.
What don’t you join us? Tell us about it. Mark your calendar. Bring a friend.
Because, sometimes, you just need someone to talk to.
Loraine Lawson does an outstanding job of covering the issues around government use of “data heavy” projects. This includes a report by the government IT site, MeriTalk.
“The report identifies five factors, which it calls the Big Five of IT, that will significantly affect the flow of data into and out of organizations: Big data, data center consolidation, mobility, security and cloud computing.”
MeriTalk surveyed 201 state and local government IT professionals, and found that, while the majority of organizations plan to deploy the Big Five, 94 percent of IT pros say their agency is not fully prepared. “In fact, if Big Data, mobile, cloud, security and data center consolidation all took place today, 89 percent say they’d need additional network capacity to maintain service levels. Sixty-three percent said they’d face network bottleneck risks, according to the report.”
This report states what most who work with the government already know; the government is not ready for the influx of data. Nor is the government ready for the different uses of data, and thus there is a large amount of risk as the amount of data under management within the government explodes.
Add issues with the approaches and technologies leveraged for data integration to the list. As cloud computing and mobile computing continue to rise in popularity, there is not a clear strategy and technology for syncing data in the cloud, or on mobile devices, with data that exists within government agencies. Consolidation won’t be possible without a sound data integration strategy, nor will the proper use of big data technology.
The government sees a huge wave of data heading for it, as well as opportunities with new technology such as big data, cloud, and mobile. However, there doesn’t seem to be an overall plan to surf this wave. According to the report, if they do wade into the big data wave, they are likely to face much larger risks.
The answer to this problem is really rather simple. As the government moves to take advantage of the rising tide of data, as well as new technologies, they need to be funded to get the infrastructure and the technology they need to be successful. The use of data integration approaches and technologies, for example, will return the investment ten-fold, if properly introduced into the government problem domains. This includes integration with big data systems, mobile devices, and, of course, the rising use of cloud-based platforms.
While data integration is not a magic bullet for the government, nor any other organization, the proper and planned use of this technology goes a long way toward reducing the inherent risks that the report identified. Lacking that plan, I don’t think the government will get very far, very fast.
In the first two issues I spent time looking at the need for states to pay attention to the digital health and safety of their citizens, followed by the oft forgotten need to understand and protect the non-production data. This is data than has often proliferated and also ignored or forgotten about.
In many ways, non-production data is simpler to protect. Development and test systems can usually work effectively with realistic but not real PII data and realistic but not real volumes of data. On the other hand, production systems need the real production data complete with the wealth of information that enables individuals to be identified – and therefore presents a huge risk. If and when that data is compromised either deliberately or accidentally the consequences can be enormous; in the impact on the individual citizens and also the cost of remediation on the state. Many will remember the massive South Carolina data breach of late 2012 when over the course of 2 days a 74 GB database was downloaded and stolen, around 3.8 million payers and 1.9 million dependents had their social security information stolen and 3.3 million “lost” bank account details. The citizens’ pain didn’t end there, as the company South Carolina picked to help its citizens seems to have tried to exploit the situation.
The biggest problem with securing production data is that there are numerous legitimate users and uses of that data, and most often just a small number of potentially malicious or accidental attempts of inappropriate or dangerous access. So the question is… how does a state agency protect its citizens’ sensitive data while at the same time ensuring that legitimate uses and users continues – without performance impacts or any disruption of access? Obviously each state needs to make its own determination as to what approach works best for them.
This video does a good job at explaining the scope of the overall data privacy/security problems and also reviews a number of successful approaches to protecting sensitive data in both production and non-production environments. What you’ll find is that database encryption is just the start and is fine if the database is “stolen” (unless of course the key is stolen along with the data! Encryption locks the data away in the same way that a safe protects physical assets – but the same problem exists. If the key is stolen with the safe then all bets are off. Legitimate users are usually easily able deliberately breach and steal the sensitive contents, and it’s these latter occasions we need to understand and protect against. Given that the majority of data breaches are “inside jobs” we need to ensure that authorized users (end-users, DBAs, system administrators and so on) that have legitimate access only have access to the data they absolutely need, no more and no less.
So we have reached the end of the first series. In the first blog we looked at the need for states to place the same emphasis on the digital health and welfare of their citizens as they do on their physical and mental health. In the second we looked at the oft-forgotten area of non-production (development, testing, QA etc.) data. In this third and final piece we looked at the need to and some options for providing the complete protection of non-production data.