May 30, 2010

DAU's Integration of Web-based Tools

I've really been impressed these days by DAU's integration of IT tools into the Acquisition environment.  Their latest release of the Integrated Life Cycle Chart has flash versionand new HTML version. Reading the large bureaucratic chart was always a challenge, yet now the pages zoom in on each section and each box includes links to their ACQuipedia and Defense Acquisition Guidebook(DAG).

Prior to a Milestone B, a program must have a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), but you may be asking yourself what that entails. Clicking on the PDR oval, you get the PDR ACQuipedia page. The page has links to relevant policies and laws, five references in the DAG, Handbooks and Checklists, and four DAU training courses. There are even tabs for the page to facilitate discussion and highlight what's new. Now a program office staff has ample knowledge at their fingertips to successfully plan and execute a PDR.

While a true wiki would have pulled all the knowledge onto a single page instead of a dozen links to other pages, it is a great collection of information. Hopefully the community not only takes full advantage of the resources captured, but also contributes to it too. Does their organization have any PDR guidance to share with the community? Do any of the posted checklists have outdated or incorrect information? Can you offer any feedback on the accuracy, effectiveness, and level of detail this information provided you for your review?

DAU has truly lead the way with the acquisition community and I hope they continue this push. By integrating these tools throughout their DAU courses, they should reach thousands of acquisition professionals who will continue to use them regularly when they return to their offices.

May 26, 2010

DoDTechipedia Family of Services

Check out Noel Dickover (DoD CIO, Commercial Technologies Systems Directorate), at the Gov 2.0 Expo discussing DODTechipedia and

May 13, 2010

SECDEF Gates - Pentagon Needs to Radically Reform

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a powerful speech at the Eisenhower Library on Saturday, one that has captured the Pentagon's attention. There were so many great quotes, it was difficult to cut it down to just the highlights, but the overall message is clear: The Pentagon needs to radically reform its bureaucratic processes, reduce overhead in its structure, operate with smaller budgets, and exercise political will to implement change.
Eisenhower had a passionate belief that the U.S. should spend as much as necessary on national defense – but not one penny more. And with his peerless credentials and standing, he was uniquely positioned to ask hard questions, make tough choices, and set firm limits. He told his senior defense team: “I say the patriot today is the fellow who can do the job with less money.”

Given America’s difficult economic circumstances and parlous fiscal condition, military spending on things large and small can and should expect closer, harsher scrutiny. The gusher has been turned off, and will stay off for a good period of time.

Changing the way we operate and achieving substantial savings will mean overcoming steep institutional and political challenges – many lying outside the five walls of the Pentagon. For example, in this year’s budget submission the Department has asked to end funding for an unnecessary alternative engine for the new JSF and for more C-17 cargo planes. Yet, as we speak, a battle is underway to keep the Congress from putting both of these programs back in the budget – at an unnecessary potential cost to the taxpayers of billions of dollars over the next few years. I have strongly recommended a presidential veto if either program is included in next year’s defense budget legislation.

May 4, 2010

5 Years Later, A Stronger Intelligence Community

ODNI officials Thomas Fingar and Mary Margaret Graham wrote Five years later, a stronger intelligence community in the Washington Post.  They highlight the Intel Community's transformation, one that I hope to guide the Defense Community down a similar path.

The intelligence community operates very differently today than it used to. 
  • Collaboration among analysts and collectors is more extensive and more fruitful now than it was at any time
  • More collection products are shared more widely
  • Information collectors go after is far more responsive to input from analysts 
  • Analysts now share more readily and effectively with one another and with collectors
  • Institutional barriers remain, but analysts across the agencies that make up the IC now know more about the capabilities of their collection colleagues and analysts working in other areas
  • This has facilitated divisions of labor, reduced duplication of effort and enhanced collaboration within and across agencies -- fundamental changes in both analysis and collection.
Technology has helped
  • Intellipedia -- a classified collaborative tool similar to Wikipedia but used by analysts and collectors
  • A-Space, a cutting-edge collaborative electronic workspace in which analysts have access to data from all components of the intelligence community, social networking software that identifies others working on similar problems and data manipulation tools.  Time magazine called A-Space one of the 50 best inventions of 2008
  • Library of National Intelligence, a groundbreaking distributed repository of all disseminated intelligence reports that enable intelligence professionals to discover what we already know and how obtained information has been used
  • Today, all are proven and widely used tools that enable analysts and collectors to work together responsibly in cyberspace.
New technologies were a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for building communities of analysts and collectors. The sorts of collaboration that are routine today were impossible until DNI-led efforts changed policies that had prevented analysts with the same clearances from seeing or sharing large volumes of information.

The intelligence community is transforming from a confederation of feudal baronies into networks of analysts, collectors and other skilled professionals who increasingly think of themselves as members of an integrated enterprise with a common purpose.

So five years from now, what will they write about the Defense Acquisition Enterprise?  What tools will have helped the transformation?  What policies will leadership change?  Will the Defense Acquisition community consider themselves member of an integrated enterprise?  Boy, I sure hope so.

May 3, 2010

A Failure to Communicate

The Pentagon was abuzz last week over the NY Times Article: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint. The message: Generals, particularly those in theater, HATE PowerPoint. 
Disclosure: I'm a Point Point Ranger. I have well over 10,000 hours behind the keyboard on Power Point and have even taught classes on how to navigate the software and develop effective DoD style briefings.

I've often joked that we simply can't communicate with each other without Power Point. The issue that many in the DoD (and across the world) have with Power Point is how many people still do not know HOW to use the software or effectively develop briefings. If you recently came from a career (operations?) where you did not use Power Point regularly, I can understand, but I've worked with hundreds who have spent their entire career in an office and still struggle to capture a message in a few bullets and slides. I have ZERO sympathy for you. If you don't know how to use the software, take a class.  If you don't know how to convey a message clearly, you should rethink what you're doing at your job.

Seth Godin has a great blog post from a few years ago on Really Bad Power Point. Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:
  • No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
  • No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
  • No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
  • Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
  • Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.
The last point is worth discussing further.  We create Power Point slides with tons of bullets and information so the slides can "stand on their own" and convey the message without a speaker.  If that's the case, why have a meeting?  Just email me your slides - message conveyed.  Instead we need to use more graphics and fewer words and capture the details in the notes pages, backup slides, or a separate document.

I prefer using point papers (via wikis) to convey detailed information. A point paper can go into sufficient detail that the briefing does not, while still keeping it short (I said point paper, not a 30 page white paper with long paragraphs that no one wants to read). A 1-2 page point paper can convey similar information that a 30 slide Power Point briefing does. Hand out the point paper so your audience doesn't have to take notes or flip through a small book of briefing slides (save paper too!).  As a take away from the meeting, they have your short point paper with the key nuggets of information you conveyed and any recommendations or actions for the audience to consider.

Back to your Power Point briefing, here's my guidance:
  • More graphics, fewer words: I want to hear you speak to convey the information
  • Include a purpose statement: Why are we here?  Convey info, discuss an issue, make a decision?
  • Include a BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front - Don't make me wait for the answer/recommendation.
  • Slides are free - Use as many as you need - Don't cram a slide with multiple thoughts, break them out on separate slides - You can talk to 3 slides that each have a graphic and one bullet of text in the same time takes to talk to three bullets on one slide (plus sub-bullets and graphics).  In the past I would say estimate 2.5-3 minutes per slide, but that was for a standard DoD slide.  Since we're not printing out hard copies of your briefing, you can talk to a single slide in 10 seconds and move on. . .
  • Use bumper stickers - What's the one main point this slide conveys? This reinforces all those bullets on your slide and offers another benefit. If you planned on briefing 20 slides in an hour (using the traditional format), but at the last minute the General's schedule only allows 20 minutes, what do you do? Brief the bumper stickers.
  • Consistency between slides - Your message is distracting if each slide has different formatting and fonts. Encouraging your organization to work off a standardized template, allows everyone to reuse slides from multiple briefings. The key is to get someone who truly knows Power Point to develop the template otherwise you'll struggle for years with bad formatting and endless rework.
  • Break from the mold - There are some great presentation styles online at sites like Slideshare that break from the traditional DoD briefing format. Depending on your audience, explore alternative formats to convey your message.
  • Learn from the Experts - Garr Reynolds has a huge following with Presentation Zen. I also encourage you to read the latest Heath Brother's Book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
If a meeting is simply to relay information that can be effectively done by emailing a document or briefing then do so and cancel the meeting. If after reading your document, people want to discuss an issue, then have a meeting and limit the discussion to the issues.  It saves everyone time and energy. Once Enterprise 2.0 becomes more prevelent, we can further reduce meetings with online collaboration via tools like discussion forums.

Four Steps to Implement A New Law or Policy with Enterprise 2.0

Congress is currently working on the IMPROVE Act of 2010, the follow-on legislation to the WSARA of 2009, to reform defense acquisition.  The bill had two dozen sections covering: Performance Assessment and Metrics; Requirements; Workforce; Services; Financial Management; and the Defense Industrial Base.  Each of these sections requires multiple OSD organizations (ideally with the Services and Agencies inputs) to figure out how to best implement the new law.  This law requires the DoD establish new processes, flesh out roles and responsibilities, debate interpretations of the law, and author new policies.  It's been a year since WSARA was signed into law and the Department is still sorting out who does what and how to best implement each section, because most of the decision making is taking place inside the Pentagon.  This is where Enterprise 2.0 can come in.

An Enterprise 2.0 suite of products allows the community to collaborate online to identify and resolve the issues, share documents, and use wikis to author implementation solutions.  Enterprise 2.0 tools are invaluable to gather feedback from the community (outside the Pentagon) on the issues and effectiveness of this new law and subsequent policies. 

So how do we do this:
  1. Using SharePoint, Intelink, DCO, DKO, or some other tool, create a separate workspace for each section of the bill (Performance Assessment, Requirements, Workforce, etc). 
  2. Create a discussion forum for each section to allow DoD leadership and the full community to collaborate. 
  3. Create a document repository to store any relevant documents, briefings, or websites.
  4. Create a series of wikis to draft the implementation of that section - Roles and responsibilities, draft processes, implementation strategies, open issues, reports to Congress, etc.
By establishing a single location for the ENTIRE Defense Acquisition Community to visit to learn of and contribute to the implementation of a new law or policy you will:
  • Develop solutions faster - Many hands make light work
  • Keep everyone informed - Minimizes confusion, duplicate status briefings/memos, rework
  • Identify issues sooner - SMEs and lower level staffs can influence "solutions" before they're finalized
  • Foster Innovation - You'll be impressed with what those outside the Pentagon can come up with
  • Achieve buy-in on solutions (when possible) - Earned sense of ownership
This approach can be applied to any law or policy that impacts a broad community.  Have you developed Enterprise wide policies or processes in your organization using Web 2.0 tools?  What has worked or not worked?

Overcoming 25 Barriers to Web 2.0

Internet Consultant Phil Bradley has a great post on his blog: 25 barriers to using Web 2.0 technologies and how to overcome them. I wanted to share his list of 25 with you and invite you to visit his blog to see how to overcome these excuses you'll hear from Web 2.0 skeptics and critics:
  1. It's just a flash in the pan
  2. We can't measure how effective this is
  3. We don't have time to do this
  4. We have to get it right the first time
  5. What happens if the application goes down?
  6. We don't own the resources and can't brand it
  7. We can't have a blog because someone might write nasty things in the comments
  8. There are security implications
  9. It's an IT issue and not your job
  10. These tools change the way in which we would work. Our bureaucracy couldn't work with that.
  11. Yes, but what about all the p0rnography and other unsuitable material?
  12. What is our staff spends all day on social networking sites?
  13. It's been filtered because of 'x' reason
  14. Staff don't want to learn this new stuff though
  15. We've never done it this way before and our users won't like it
  16. We're a large organization, we can't have everyone doing their own thing
  17. Our IT staff cannot support all of these different resources or applications
  18. We can't rely on resources that may disappear at any time, be bought by another company or which may be in any way unreliable
  19. Some of these resources have advertising on them, which we don't want to be associated with
  20. You can't use it because we've spent money on a Content Management System and you have to use that
  21. We can't protect privacy when they use third party tools
  22. We have a requirement to ensure that resources are available equally to all our users
  23. What about all the legal implications - copywright and so on?
  24. Great idea, but it's going to contravene our Acceptable Use Policy
  25. No, you can't do it
Do any of these sound familiar? Visit Phil's blog to learn how to overcome them.