Posts Tagged ‘Open Government’

[Part One of a Four-Part Series]

The Fed’s latest guidelines for improving IT in the public sector virtually scream out for the application of Business Process Management.

In December 2010, the Office of Management and Budget announced a 25-point plan to restructure federal IT. The 25 points are based on five broad changes to agency IT, first outlined by OMB in November. Jeffrey Zients, the federal chief performance officer, said the plan should help remove barriers that get in the way of successful project management and execution.

Not surprisingly, nearly all of OMB’s broad changes can be made easier to by adopting BPM solutions.

In our next several blog entries, we’ll look at some of these plan points and look at the role that BPM can play in bringing about the changes that OMB wants. Today, let’s look at the notion of “applying light technology shared solutions.”

The point of shared services in government is to optimize data center capability among agencies through collaboration rather than new technology purchases – while also adopting a “cloud first” policy for new technology.

The continued focus on cloud computing is laudable. Organizations like the Department of Education, which is starting to use Amazon Web Services for some of its new initiatives, are already showing their understanding of how to put a “cloud-first” mandate into action.

At the heart of OMB’s shared services model is a need for better-detailed process. If one agency needs more computing space and the other has it, we’re not just talking about computing space, we’re talking about the process of understanding when your agency has excess capacity, and the process of making other agencies aware of that available capacity. That type of process can be turned into a template and shared across agencies.

Communities of interest have sprung up around BPM to provide just such “templatized” processes. For example, the Appian Forum online community provides application templates and components developed by Appian, its customers and partners. These templates all can be shared, hot deploying an application for any solution. That’s real knowledge sharing and collaboration across and between organizations.

Improved collaboration within and across agencies will get the Fed closer to OMB’s goal of shared services. When processes can be standardized not just for agency specific functions but at the edges as well, sharing that information leads to better sharing of computing capacity, too.

In our next blog, we’ll look at OMB’s goal of “strengthening program management” and how BPM fits in.

image002 OMB’s New Federal IT Plan, Made Easier with BPM

Ever since his appointment as Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra has championed the idea that technology can truly transform government. And not just transform it – he wants to make it more open through what have come to be known as Kundra’s “Five Pillars” for IT priorities — innovation, cyber security, transparency, engaging citizens, and lowering the cost of government.

The push for greater openness has even prompted the General Services Administration (GSA) to offer incentives to respond to the challenges of better engaging citizens through an agency-wide platform for innovative solutions.

At its heart, open government is about making agencies more accountable to citizens across the board. It’s about giving citizens more opportunities to connect with government in ways that leave them better equipped to understand and navigate the complex federal bureaucracy. It’s about improved efficiency, transparency, and collaboration.

In short, it’s about better business processes.

Business Process Management software can offer a firm foundation for open government. Increasingly, BPM is being used not just for the “easy stuff” in agency operations, but in targeted core mission responsibilities within an agency or a department. The BPM management methodology directly supports what the Obama Administration is telling agencies about how to relate to both internal and external customers.

Organizations such as the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) are embracing BPM as central to their operations. DAU uses BPM to enforce processes and increase efficiency, reliability, and visibility – ensuring that business rules and approvals are met every time. That reduces processing time, eliminates needless repetition and identifies process bottlenecks.

As mentioned in a previous blog, the Food and Drug Administration has picked Appian as its BPM vendor of choice, and has extended its use of the Appian BPM Suite under a new five-year Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA). Having successfully tested out proof of concept, FDA is using BPM technology licenses and support services across the entire organization, targeting core processes agency-wide.

BPM has always had deep value – beyond just trimming the edges of cost reduction and efficiency. As agencies continue looking at more ways to implement the five pillars of open government, they’ll find that BPM is a solid foundation on which to build a real connection with their constituency.

whitehouse2 300x231 BPM: A Firm Foundation for the Five Pillars of Open Government

“The longest journey begins with a single step.” That old saying is as fitting for introducing new software applications as it for any other job. Taking a BPM journey is transformative for government, but getting started with that first step can seem daunting.

When it comes to carefully wading into the BPM waters, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a prime example of how to do it right. The FDA was interested in BPM in support of a strategic vision to transform its operations in response to emerging scientific, technological, and economic trends affecting its regulatory mission. This vision reflects the principles of productivity and accountability initiated back in 2002 in the E-Government Act, and carried forward by the current administration’s efforts to make sure our government is “running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

The FDA eased into BPM by initiating a pilot program so it could assess the technology. For the pilot, the agency selected the Appian BPM Suite. Working on the pilot increased the agency’s internal BPM competency. Based on that, the FDA expanded to four separate BPM deployments that were self-contained and specific in scope. These projects further increased the FDA’s BPM comfort level with BPM technology and methodology. As various Centers within the FDA began to see the power of BPM – and how it could improve their core business functions – the FDA decided to make BPM available agency-wide.

Recently, the FDA formalized that decision via a new five-year Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) making Appian BPM available across all FDA Centers. With all options, the contract value exceeds $12M. (For more information on the agreement, see the FDA press release from Appian here.)

The FDA’s measured approach to BPM implementation is ideal for agencies with interest in the software, but an insufficient level of understanding and experience. When you break down the process of BPM adoption, you’ll find that each step gives you more confidence to take the next. Sooner than you think, you’ll be well on your way to improving how your agency executes its mission.

BPM is a journey of rich reward. Why not take the first step?

fda logo FDA Shows How to Get Started with BPM

White House2 Gov 2.0 Comes to Life Through BPM

Over the past couple of years, the concept of Gov 2.0 has grown beyond being an emerging trend to becoming a defining strategy that makes government more open, transparent and more effective.   This was further underscored by the White House’s push for “Transparency and Open Government” memo that aims to enhance collaboration, participation and innovation in government.

So, then what exactly is Gov 2.0? Mark Drapeau, Gov 2.0 advocate and thought leader, recently defined Gov 2.0 in a blog post leading into the inaugural Gov 2.0 Expo. Here is what he said:

Gov 2.0 is about changing the status quo of government in various ways. What are those ways? They include but are not necessarily limited to: innovation by government, transparency of its processes, collaboration among its members, and participation of citizens.

As you can imagine, the idea of improving government via innovation and transparency of processes caught the attention of the BetterGov editorial team.

Along those lines, Craig Newmark, creator of, has been speaking lately about government transparency initiatives needing to be raised up in the mainstream media – beyond the Beltway.  We agree that there needs to be more awareness around the administration’s transparency initiatives, and new innovations could help better bring these efforts out of the shadows.

What is really happening now is that Business Process Management (BPM) is not only giving Gov 2.0 the processes and discipline it needs to make it more efficient, effective and transparent, but also making government more effective overall.  This innovation allows government agencies to better meet new transparency standards – making Gov 2.0 actionable and real – and thus creating a bigger story to capture the mainstream media’s attention.

The combination of administrative directives for more openness with the rise of Gov 2.0, and an enabling technology such as BPM, has created a platform for a more innovative government that can better serve citizens.

Gov 2.0 comes to life through BPM!