DorobekInsider

Focusing on six words: Helping government do its job better

Archive for March 2009

Another big merger: Deloitte buys struggling BearingPoint

leave a comment »

BearingPoint, which had filed for bankruptcy protection just weeks ago, this morning announced that the company had been sold — to Deloitte, no less. At least the public sector portion of it.

From the release :

BearingPoint and Deloitte have entered into an asset purchase agreement by which Deloitte will purchase a significant portion of BearingPoint’s largest business unit, Public Services, for a price of $350 million… In addition, BearingPoint has signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell a substantial portion of its North American Commercial Services business, including its Financial Services segment, to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP for $25 million.

From the WSJ:

BearingPoint had been reporting weakened results for some time and in late 2007 named a new chief executive in hopes of turning around its fortunes. Results improved in 2008, but the company — spun off from accounting firm KMPG LLP in 2001 — continued to be affected by dwindling cash levels, which fell nearly one-third the first three quarters of 2008 to $333 million, and an inability to generate cash flow.

For its part, Deloitte said the acquisition would accelerate the expansion of its federal-government services business, which has seen strong growth in the past five years.

Written by cdorobek

March 24, 2009 at 6:46 AM

Ed DeSeve to join the Obama administration

with one comment

Ed DeSeve, the former acting Office of Management and Budget deputy director of management during the Clinton administration and Chairman of Strategy and Solution Partners, is going to join the Obama administration, Federal News Radio’s Jason Miller hears. And I have confirmed that DeSeve will be named the Senior Advisor to the President for Recovery and Reinvestment.

Earlier this year, on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris , we spoke with DeSeve about the appointment of Nancy Killefer as the OMB deputy director of management — she has since withdrawn — but we also spoke to him about his book, The Presidential Appointee’s Handbook.

The announcement just released by the White House:

Edward DeSeve, Special Advisor to the President, Assistant to the Vice President and Special Advisor to the OMB Director for Implementation of the Recovery Act:

In this role, Edward will support the Vice President in his leadership on Recovery Act implementation, and coordinate efforts at OMB on this project. He will focus on interagency coordination and lead White House efforts to make sure that the Recovery Act is implemented quickly and effectively. His management efforts inside the Executive Office of the President will complement the oversight work led by the independent Accountability and Transparency Board, chaired by Earl Devaney.

Mr. DeSeve is the former Deputy Director for Management of OMB. During his tenure in this position, he played a major role in coordinating the highly-successful federal approach to dealing with the “Y2K” computer problem. He was most recently the Chairman of Strategies and Solution LLP, which provides sustainability and consulting services to governments and non-profits. He spent the previous eight years as a professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, as a Senior Fellow at James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and currently serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Fels Institute for Government of the University of Pennsylvania

Mr. DeSeve has served in all three levels of government. In addition to his role as Deputy Director for Management at OMB, he worked as the Controller for OMB and as the Chief Financial Officer at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. DeSeve was also Special Assistant to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Director of Finance for the City of Philadelphia.

In the private sector, Mr. DeSeve worked at KPMG Peat Marwick as a partner and national industry director, at Merrill Lynch Capital Markets as a Managing Director and at Affiliated Computer Services as a Senior Vice President. He established and led several consulting firms, including Public Financial Management Incorporated.

Mr. DeSeve has published numerous works on the federal budget, financial management, and information technology. He received a B.S. in Labor Economics from Cornell University and his Master of Government Administration in Public Finance from the University of Pennsylvania.

Written by cdorobek

March 23, 2009 at 5:49 PM

The CIO Council’s 2009 Azimuth Award goes to… Marty Wagner and Symantec’s John Thompson

leave a comment »

At the end of FOSE, the CIO Council holds an awards dinner to present its Azimuth Award. The Azimuth is essentially the compass on a boat that guides people. And so the CIO Council’s Azimuth Award is given to somebody who guides the community.

The Azimuth Award is not well known but is prestigious because it comes from the federal CIO Council. And the roster of winners is impressive. Back when I was working for Government Computer News, I got to attend the ceremony for the first Azimuth Award to John Koskinen, who at the time was leading the U.S. efforts for Y2K. (GCN seems to no longer have the story in their archives.)

Earlier this month, at the end of FOSE, the CIO Council quietly held the Azimuth Award ceremony — a lunch this year. There are two awards given out each year: one to a government person, and one to an industry person. The industry winner this year was John Thompson, chief executive officer of Symantec. (Thompson has been widely rumored for a number of positions in the Obama administration, including Commerce Secretary at one point.)

The government award, however, went to G. Martin Wagner, known by most people in the government space as Marty.

Earlier this month on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, I was reporting on the award… and frankly, I got a bit overcome with my own emotions. And last week, we spoke to John Sindelar , client industry executive at EDS, an HP company, most recently, he lead GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy, and he is one of Wagner’s best friends. You can hear that conversation here.

As many people know, Wagner retired from government a few years ago after a long and distinguished government career most recently at the General Services Administration. He then joined the IBM Center for the Business of Government, which is such a perfect spot for him.

Last July, Wagner was on the roof of his home in Arlington, VA trimming his prized trees — and he fell. He was essentially in a coma for what felt like months.

But he’s now doing much better. While he isn’t 100 percent, he is able to recognize people in ways that he was not able to before.

Wagner has been such a valuable part of the government IT community — somebody who was never a CIO, I might add. Marty is the thinker. And he is a true leader. He knew how to motivate people and keep the ball moving in the government sphere — something that can be difficult to do. Wagner always presses people yet is never a contrarian. And he enlists incredible amount of loyalty.

I was so pound of the CIO Council for recognizing Wagner… and our thoughts continue to be with Marty and his family.

FCW has more on the 2009 Azmeth Awards here.

Keep going Marty.

Written by cdorobek

March 23, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Was I unfair to GSA? Maybe a bit, but…

leave a comment »

I’ve received a number of calls and e-mails about yesterday’s post about GSA halting the use Facebook as a collaboration application.

This is typical:

I think the headline isn’t quite accurate and conveys the wrong message. We aren’t using facebook but we are using another tool that was made available immediately with all kinds of support and resources.  GSA absolutely does support collaboration and I don’t think you can equate “no more facebook” with not supporting collaboration.

And to be fair, in my original post, I should have specifically noted that, like many agencies, there are real pockets of innovation at GSA… GSA CIO Casey Coleman’s public blog … the USA.gov and GSA’s office of citizen services are doing some innovative things… and, of course, the leaders of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, Jim Williams and Tyree Varnado, encourage collaboration and have worked to enable that. (ASIDE: I don’t know if either Williams nor Varnado… or other GSA leaders, for that matter… are on Facebook or GovLoop or are using any of the other Web 2.0 tools. I would encourage them to at least put their toes in the water and try it, as I do most people. These tools are very simple — and they can be fun. And very quickly they provide a glimpse at the power of collaboration.)

But the opportunity to use Facebook as a collaborative environment. I think one of the important trends we are seeing is using tools that people already use. (The fact is that people probably are already using it as a collaboration tool anyway. If if you can capture that… it’s very powerful.)

One of the people who chided me was Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services. She notes that GSA, in fact, is working to enable another tool that will allow people to collaborate. I’m thrilled to hear that.

There isn’t as much collaboration around procurement — and it seems that this can and should be a huge opportunity across government. There are so many lessons to be learned and shared, particular as the stimulus money starts flowing.

So I think I ended up kicking GSA… when I meant to simply poke ’em, to use the Facebook vernacular. I still believe it is a missed opportunity to encourage collaboration in an area where it is desperately needed… and I think this was an exceedingly low risk, but I’m thrilled to hear that this is not the entire story.

Written by cdorobek

March 19, 2009 at 7:33 AM

GSA’s missed opportunity to be a collaboration leader

leave a comment »

Collaboration is difficult because, in most cases, it involves changing the way we have done business. That is particularly true in government, which can often be stymied by the ‘that’s not the way we do business’ mantra. But that can be further undermined by when executives don’t make collaboration and information sharing a real priority.

I want to be clear — I don’t like “got ya journalism.” There is enough of that out there these days. And in this case, I am not trying to get anybody. But the General Services Administration really missed an opportunity to show the rest of government how to deal with collaboration issues — and I think they have failed, so far.

This case specifically involves the GSA Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Assisted Services.

Here is the case as it has been relayed to me by multiple sources: Mary Davie, assistant commissioner for GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services and somebody who has been trying out many of these collaborative tools, noticed that several employees of assisted services were onFacebook. Furthermore, those people were collaborating on Facebook . They weren’t sharing government contract information, but they were sharing lessons learned and best practices, ideas that had worked… and those that hadn’t — and why. Davie decided to try to enable and encourage the collaboration by carving out a private area onFacebook. (Facebook allows its users to create certain areas that are member only — where an administrator has to let people into the conversation.) Davie then sent an e-mail to her staff inviting them to participate in this collaborative framework.

Unfortunately, an employee sent that e-mail to their union representative — and it then made its way through the GSA heiarchy. The net result was that the member-only area has been shut down.

GSA insiders tell me that leadership has said they are going to create a way for employees to share information.

I should note that Davie would not say anything for this post and I originally heard about it from several employees — including one who was opposed to the plan because of security and privacy concerns.

This case just seems to be sad on so many levels. As I mentioned, it is difficult to spur collaboration, information sharing and innovation in government. When there are pockets of innovation, it needs to be fostered and nurtured. But it seems to me that GSA did the worst thing — it quashed it.GSA’s misguided decision to dissolve the Facebook assisted services discussion speaks volumes — to employees who were sharing information… to people who take chances to try new things in new ways… and to the ‘this isn’t the way we do business here’ crowd — it empowered them.

The concerns, as I understand them, were about privacy and security. Again, as I understand it — and I don’t have a copy of the e-mail that Davie sent to staff, but, as I understand it, there was no mandate to participate. Rather, it invited people to participate — people who were already collaborating anyway.

Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, speaking at FOSE earlier this week, said that government needs to reach people where they are. That is true internally as well — agencies need to tap into what is already going on. After all — and this may come as a shock to some government executives — they are going to do it anyway whether you sanction it or not. They are going to do it on GovLoop … or they are going to do it on their own on Facebook… It is one of the powerful — almost subversive — elements of these tools — and it is why I often call them disruptive. Anderson also mentioned that in most cases, people often have access to more technology at home then they do on their work desktop. So, if you don’t build it… they’ll do it on their own.

But perhaps just as troubling to me is how GSA seems to be a non-leader on government 2.0 issues. It seems to me that GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy simply isn’t the power player that it should be on the government 2.0 issues. Instead, at the fore has been the Federal Webmaster Forum — which has been doing a remarkable job… the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project

And to be fair, there are many pockets of collaboration and government 2.0 expertise within GSA.

But the agency, specifically through the Office of Governmentwide Policy, is not a significant player in helping other agencies deal with — and resolve — the issues out there.

There are real opportunities here — and GSA can be a significant player… or it will be left out.

I welcome additional thoughts and voices. These issues are difficult to fully flesh out because people are reluctant to talk. I had been holding off posting this because I don’t want to kick anybody, so… as we say, this is still developing.

Written by cdorobek

March 18, 2009 at 1:53 PM

People are talking… Vivek Kundra: He’s back…

leave a comment »

I’ve been able to confirm what TechPresident first reported: Obama administration CIO Vivek Kundra is back at his job.

It is a huge relieve to many people in the government IT community, who formal appointment just weeks ago — yes, really — was largely welcomed.

Of course, Kundra’s temporary departure was one of the big events over the past week — while I was under the weather — was the saga of Kundra, the 34-year-old government IT rising star who was just appointed to be the Obama administration’s CIO to much hope.

I was getting a lot of calls and e-mails from people quite upset about the Kundra situation — and there was a lot of concern that the White House somehow wasn’t going to stand by the newly appointed federal CIO.

There was this earlier post by TechPresident.com’s Micah Sifry, that captured the sentiment:

No system of governance can repeal the coarser parts of human nature, and no matter how transparent or innovative we make government, we are undoubtedly going to still have scandals. Indeed, given how much the Obama Administration is staking on new transparency measures, like the detailed online reporting systems being planned for Recovery.gov, the more we’re probably going to hear about waste, fraud and abuse in government contracting.

President Obama is promising that local citizens will be able to track whether a particular government grant that was supposed to create X jobs actually produces, and to report back on Recovery.gov to hold everyone accountable for those results. In effect, the Obama Administration is on a collision course with business as usual, and the results are bound to be messy. But that’s no reason for the Administration to back away from its plans. Until last Thursday, those plans clearly included putting Kundra in charge of a major overhaul in how government uses data and technology to become more open, efficient and accountable. Every day that he is not allowed to do his job is another day the Administration loses in being able to fulfill its ambitious and worthwhile promises to make government more transparent. Unless there is evidence that Kundra was somehow involved in or responsible for Acar’s alleged crimes–and it appears there is none–his leave ought to be ended as soon as possible.

I didn’t expect Kundra was tied to the FBI investigation of the DC CTO office. After all, Kundra has a security clearance, and the FBI conducts that investigation. If the FBI signed off on Kundra yet he was on FBI investigation — I didn’t buy it.

Consultant David Stephenson, who worked with Kundra at the DC CTO’s office, is betting that the transparency will come out as part of Kundra’s transparency initiative.

I don’t know anything more than you do about the investigation, but if anyone wants to set up a prediction market, I’ll be you dollars-to-donuts that when the truth comes out, it will show that the FBI was tipped off precisely because of policies and proceduresVivek set up immediately after he took office in early 2007.

I found it interesting that both FCW and ComputerWorld wrote stories suggesting that Kundra’s days were numbered largely because people were almost questioning his managerial experience. It’s curious because while I was at FCW — and ComputerWorld , for that matter — have had to deal with significant personnel issues. Can somebody conclude that those issues reflected on my managerial abilities while I was the editor of Federal Computer Week? Or did ComputerWorld’s issues reflect on that publication’s respected editor Don Tennant?

My assumption, of course, would be no, it doesn’t.

In general, we create systems to allow people to accomplish their missions. Bad people find ways to do things. We put measures in place to ensure that we have checks and balances, but things happen. Bad people can be crafty if they want to be.

All of that being said, we may not have yet seen the end of Kundra questions. Word out just today Kundra pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge in 1996 — when he was 21-years-old, the Associated Press is reporting. (When he was 21? Really?)

Written by cdorobek

March 17, 2009 at 5:46 PM

GSA renames regional administrators as ‘regional commissioners’ — the first step to a broader reorg?

leave a comment »

Acting Administrator Paul Prouty sent out a memo last week to GSA offices announcing that he is changing titles for assistant regional administrators and deputy assistant regional administrators. Here is the memo sent out March 11, 2009:

MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF SERVICES AND STAFF OFFICES REGIONAL ADMINISTRATORS

FROM: PAUL F. PROUTY
ACTING ADMINISTRATOR (A)

SUBJECT: Order to Change Position Title of Assistant Regional Administrators and Deputy Assistant Regional Administrators

Effective immediately, the position title of the Assistant Regional Administrators and Deputy Assistant Regional Administrators of the Public Buildings Service and Federal Acquisition Service, respectively, in the Regions are changed to Regional Commissioners and Deputy Regional Commissioners.

The Regional Administrator will continue to rate and review the performance of the Regional Commissioners, with input from the appropriate Commissioner.

The move has already been getting positive marks from some circles within GSA. Many believe that this is the first step to giving more power to the commissioners of the Public Building Service and the Federal Acquisition Service — and thereby decreasing the authority and influence of the regional administrators. Many people have seen the politically appointed regional administrators as complicating the management structure within GSA. One of the most cited example is GSA’s Office of Assisted Acquisition Services, which provides acquisition services to agencies when needed. Currently, the Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Assisted Acquisition Services, is responsible for the organization’s profit-and-loss statement. (Assisted services runs like a business — it survives — or doesn’t — based on the business they do with agencies. Financial performance rests with the assistant commissioner — yet the personnel report to the regional administrators — now regional commissioners. It disrupts the connection between responsibility and authority.

In the end, nobody is sure what Prouty’s changes mean or what they will end up meaning, but… many people are hopeful.

Written by cdorobek

March 16, 2009 at 2:08 PM

Posted in GSA, Management, procurement

The DorobekInsider… back in the saddle again

leave a comment »

I have been out for the past few days with the flu — in fact, I’m still out today — so I haven’t been posting. (The rumors about my passing were only slightly exaggerated. Ugh! The flu is no fun! The CDC reports that the flu has arrived late, but… it is here.)

And I’ve out for just a few days and there is Obama CIO… GSA news… transparency items… awards… and, of course, the Federal News Radio 1500 AM Book Club from Friday … I’m catching up with posts over the next few hours/days….

Written by cdorobek

March 16, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Posted in DorobekInsider

DEVELOPING STORY: WTOP reports FBI issues search warrant on DC CTO office

leave a comment »

UPDATE: WTOP report Mark Segraves reports (via Twitter) that “An official in the D.C. government’s office of the chief technology officer has been arrested in a federal bribery sting… Yusuf Acar, 40, was taken into custody this morning by FBI agents at his home in Northwest Washington, the sources said.”

WTOP radio , the sister station to Federal News Radio 1500 AM — and now Politico are reporting that the FBI have issued a search warrant at the offices of the DC Chief Technology Officer’s office.

Of course, the former DC CTO Vivek Kundra has been named the Obama administration’s chief information officer. [Hear Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s interview with Kurndra from this week — not related to the FBI search, of course.]

From WTOP 103.5 FM, which broke the story:

“We are there as part of a continuing ongoing criminal investigation,” FBI Washington Field Office spokesperson Katherine Schweit tells WTOP.

Schweit would not comment on the details of the investigation.

There are at least a dozen FBI agents – including evidence technicians – at the office, located at 1 Judiciary Square on 4th Street in Northwest, WTOP’s Mark Segraves reports.

Written by cdorobek

March 12, 2009 at 10:15 AM

ACT/IAC Government 2.0 panel: The liner notes — about middle age and centralization

leave a comment »

The ACT-IAC government 2.0 panel today at FOSE

The ACT-IAC government 2.0 panel today at FOSE

As I have been mentioning, I have the opportunity to moderate a panel at the FOSE trade show on Wednesday titled Government 2.0: Evolution or revolution.

I’ll be fascinated by how the discussion unfolds. It seems that there are several issues going on with this topic right now.

It comes at a time when the topic of government 2.0 is — the use of Web 2.0 tools — is beyond hot. In fact, it is so hot that O’Reilly Media has just announced they are going to host a Government 2.0 Summit in September. There are several reasons for that. Clearly, one is the election of Barack Obama as president. For people who have been laboring to get agencies to believe that these tools can help agencies accomplish their missions more effectively, there is now a White House that shares that belief.

But the real reason this issue is so hot right now is because these tools are… so easy to use … they enable collaboration in ways that have been only talk before … they enable people to tap into the concept that all of us are better then each of us individually … they bring to fruition what we all already knew: that information is power, but that information is even more powerful when it is shared.

And these tools have been growing so quickly — Mashable has reported that the number of Twitter users in 2008 grew by 752 percent. (I don’t see any real data behind this number, but…) Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson made mention of how the Twitter “fail whale” has become something of a cultural icon — there have been tatoos … and even a Fail Whale Fan Club. (An excellent write-up of Anderson’s presentation here.) And the March 2, 2009 issue of Fortune magazine, under the headline How Facebook is taking over our lives, notes that today there are more than 175 million Facebook users, and those people are sharing more information then ever before — even simple status updates. In February 2008, Facebook had 4 million status updates daily. One year later — February 2009 — there were more than 15 million daily. And people are spending more time onFacebook — Fortune reports that the average user is spending 169 minutes a month on the site, compared to the NewYorkTimes.com, which holds on to readers for 10 minutes per month.

All of this is influencing — some would undoubtedly argue infecting — how people do their work.

I have mentioned the fascinating conflict between government people keen on Web 2.0 vs the Web 2.0 people keen on government. That is perhaps most evident in how people view the evolution at the White House Web site.

But there is a growing chorus of people calling for these tools to be mandated, and for the White House or OMB come up with a way to coordinate the government’s efforts. Some — including two of the members on the ACT-IAC panel today — have suggested that government 2.0 initiatives are hitting middle age. And there was even a passing tweet that all CIOs should be required to use Twitter.

To be honest, I couldn’t disagree more. First, I don’t think the government 2.0 baby is even close to taking the first step — and those that have are icons. There is the remarkable Intellipedia… there is Navy CIO Rob Carey’s blog … there is almost anything done by NASA Goddard CIO Linda Cureton … there is TSA’s remarkable Idea Factory… there is the Alabama Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual Alabama … there is DC’s Apps for Democracy and its data repository … and the list goes on and on and one — and you can see many of those examples at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project.

There are many interesting and innovative things going on, but the government is just dipping its toe into the shallow end of the pool. There is so much more that can — and I believe will — be done. Those, however, are going to involve the ongoing evolution in thinking — and it is why on Friday the Federal News Radio Book Club will discuss Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do? The book talks about giving up control — and there are few agencies that are willing to do that yet. [Listen to the Federal News Radio 1500 AM Book Club on Friday at 2p ET. All the details can be found here.]

Beyond that, all of these tools have to be focused on helping agencies accomplish their missions. If these tools prove to be better mouse traps, then use them. Demonstrate it. And be the evangelist for it. There are people who will resist — welcome to the real world — but in the end, the better mouse trap will win.

That being said, I’m not sure we’re ready to standardize on any specific tools. In my mind, there is still a lot of evolution yet to happen in this revolution. And there is plenty of time for mandates. Right now, there is too much innovation going on.

This afternoon on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we’ll talk about the session today… and I’ll report back here as well.

Written by cdorobek

March 11, 2009 at 7:37 AM