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Industry insights and technology trends for a modern, citizen-centric government powered by cloud

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Analytics

Oracle to talk Security and IT Modernization at 930gov: Will you join us?

For many government IT leaders, topics such as cybersecurity and IT modernization are front and center these days. As one of largest multi-sponsored trade shows for government technology, 930gov will tackle these and other key themes on August 28, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. This year, presenters from Oracle will be on hand to deliver key insights on some of the most pressing issues surrounding government IT: Navigating the Cyber Landscape in Government, Hayri Tarhan, Regional Vice President, Security and Management Cloud, Oracle Public Sector In one recent study, 49 percent of technology professionals said they had slowed their cloud adoption due to lack of cybersecurity skills. The situation is especially perilous for government agencies, which often represent "ground zero" in the cyber wars; a big digital footprint with lots of potentially valuable data makes government a prime target. As spear phishing, ransomware, hacktivism, and election tampering have become full-fledged industries, conventional security approaches can no longer be trusted to secure mission-critical agency data. This session will explore the latest tools and strategies, including cloud solutions designed to be secure at every layer. A complete cloud solution offers global access controls for onboarding and offboarding employees, with the cloud provider continually investing in security at every level as part of its overall design. Rather than tackle security piecemeal, the cloud can deliver an optimized security approach at every level of the technology stack, leveraging a broad portfolio of data security and encryption products at the applications, infrastructure, and systems hardware layers. IT Modernization in Government—The Right Approach at the Right Time, Aaron Cornfeld, Group Vice President Sales Engineering, Oracle Public Sector and Higher Education A recent survey found that IT modernization remains solidly entrenched among the top priorities of senior government IT leaders, 72 percent of whom say that legacy systems still make up more than half their applications. The cost and complexity of maintaining those systems has made modernization an ever more pressing priority. Government IT managers also are under regulatory pressure to upgrade. This spring, for instance, the White House released the President’s Management Agenda, which calls for IT modernization as well as enhanced technology around data, accountability, and transparency. The Modernizing Government Technology Act, likewise, calls for sweeping improvements to government’s aging IT infrastructure. A modern IT infrastructure is, after all, foundational to every other initiative, including cybersecurity and citizen experience. Cloud services across SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS offer the clearest path for success—helping to reduce costs while delivering optimal security. A complete and integrated cloud services solution can help government agencies ensure compliance, while simultaneously offering a straightforward path for legacy IT systems transformation. In keeping with the regulatory call to modernize, the cloud enables government IT to fully leverage transformational technologies, such as machine learning and blockchain. With its inherent flexibility and scalability, the cloud empowers modernization by enabling IT leaders to quickly and easily spin up new business processes. This means technology leaders have a freer hand to innovate faster with less risk, thus easing the burden on the IT workforce while accelerating time to value. Improve Citizen Experiences—Build Trust with Modern CX Technologies, Kerry McKay, SaaS Cloud Specialist, CX, Oracle Public Sector If citizen experience lies at the heart of government IT, it’s fair to say that many government agencies still have a long row to hoe in delivering the kind of digital encounters that inspire full confidence in constituents. According to one study, fewer than 20 percent of citizens trust the federal government to do the right thing always or most of the time. With citizen confidence in government this low, it becomes incumbent upon IT leaders to take action. At the same time, citizens increasingly trust the technology in their personal lives to build relationships, buy homes, change goods and services, and much more. This opens a window of opportunity. Government IT leaders can leverage an outstanding citizen experience not just to deliver needed services, but also to build trust. Successful efforts like the cloud-supported app deployment by the city of San Jose help demonstrate the art of the possible. *** It’s clear that cloud computing will be a common theme running through the presentations at 930gov this year. This reflects a growing interest by Federal agencies. In fact, one recent study predicts that by 2020, 50 percent of new IT spending will be on cloud implementations—a sign that many are looking to a balanced cloud approach, with an emphasis on hybrid cloud strategy. While cloud may not fix all that ails government technology, a thoughtful and thorough cloud implementation does address many of IT’s most pressing concerns. Security: Cloud security can be tailored end to end, rather than managed piecemeal at various levels across the IT infrastructure. This unified and coherent approach can ease the pressure on talent-strapped IT operations, while simultaneously ensuring that the public trust is upheld. Citizen experience: By making it easier to test and deploy new apps, and by allowing for the rapid scale-up of the most heavily used sites and applications, the cloud enables government to deliver a new level of citizen experience, thus helping government to regain trust and confidence. Modernization: For government technology chiefs and agency heads eager to shed the weight and expense of legacy systems, the cloud presents a means to rapidly and affordably access new capabilities, offering a viable path for migration toward a modernized infrastructure. Join us at 930gov: visit www.930gov.com to learn how. For more information on Oracle's secure and integrated cloud services, please visit www.oracle.com/gov.

For many government IT leaders, topics such as cybersecurity and IT modernization are front and center these days. As one of largest multi-sponsored trade shows for government technology, 930gov will...

Analytics

Five Ways to Triage Your Legacy Government IT Systems

As a former CIO in a Massachusetts health care agency, I have spent much of my career immersed in technology solutions designed to improve the health and well-being of our citizens. Along the way, I encountered many dedicated public health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, clinicians, and social workers particularly adept at diagnosing health issues and implementing predictive measures aimed at preventing illnesses. Similarly, whenever I took on a new role, I focused on minimizing risk and complexity by taking an incremental approach to prioritizing which systems were in failing health from an IT perspective. Today, with cloud environments replacing the sprawling on-premises data centers, it’s rare that one can justify or afford the “big bang” type of system replacement, so an IT triage plan is more important than ever before. Here are my five recommendations: #1: Determine which systems generate the most complaints to your customer contact center. Surging customer complaints are a sure sign of a system problem. It gets exponentially more complicated when those complaints reach the governor’s office, where you can be sure that the scrutiny will increase tenfold, potentially causing reactive decision-making rather than a more carefully crafted solution.  #2: Modify systems that lack agility. Requirements can change rapidly. When I worked at the tax department in Massachusetts, legislators would regularly propose changes to the tax code, which would inevitably wreak havoc on the existing tax system, requiring expensive custom coding, and time-consuming testing by specialized personnel.  It was never a pleasant conversation to tell the Commissioner that the legislatively mandated changes would take eight months to code, test, and deploy.  Today, “rules-based” solutions - which can plug into existing systems - allow for changes to be made much more swiftly and accurately. #3:  Replace systems that experience an inordinate amount of downtime.  For example, if your CRM solution needs to be taken offline regularly (e.g., once per quarter) for “routine system maintenance,” consider replacement.  Look for a cloud-based software solution, also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which can perform all of the same functions as your existing CRM (and probably more). #4: Identify and repair systems with broken components that are not providing full functionality. Is there a middleware component that is expensive to maintain, requires constant developer tweaking, and performs poorly? Broken, or incomplete systems are costly to maintain and require too much  staff attention. #5:  Ensure all environments (Test/Dev/Production) are consistent.  Errors can occur when a new application is developed in one environment, tested on another, and then put into production on yet a third.  A cloud-based platform enables you to pay for the development and test environments you need, precisely for the time you need them, leveraging components that exactly match your production environment, thereby saving time and unforeseen costly production errors.  Time for an IT Health Maintenance Plan Once you get the most critical systems under control, it’s time to apply a periodic review process called “application rationalization.” This formal vetting process should include key IT and business/program staff. These teams sort applications into categories to determine which ones can be retired outright, replaced with cloud-native solutions, require a code rewrite, can be consolidated, or simply don’t need any intervention at all. Perform this review regularly because business requirements change, technology improves, and user demands evolve.  It’s important for government IT leaders to emulate our private sector colleagues, who constantly evolve in order to stay ahead of the IT curve, meet the demand of their customers, and stay ahead of the competition. While government may not necessarily have competitors, leaders are motivated to operate more cost-efficiently and meet the changing customer demands. Your public sector customers will expect the same level of service and innovation.  Bob Nevins will be speaking on IT modernization at the Medical Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) August 13-16, 2018. 

As a former CIO in a Massachusetts health care agency, I have spent much of my career immersed in technology solutions designed to improve the health and well-being of our citizens. Along the way, I...

CIO

New HIPAA Assessments Demonstrate Continued Momentum for Oracle Cloud Services

The protection of private health records is a central tenet in the healthcare industry – in both the private and public sectors. As Oracle has shifted its application and technology offerings to the cloud, the company has doubled down on its protection of health related information. Oracle assessors perform periodic Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) assessments, for services in both the Oracle Cloud and Oracle Government Cloud. Services in scope for HIPAA assessments completed in the last twelve months include the following:    Oracle HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Services: Service HIPAA Oracle Analytics Cloud ✔ Oracle API Platform Cloud ✔ Oracle Big Data Cloud – Compute Edition ✔ Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Compute ✔ Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Container Service ✔ Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Object Storage ✔ Oracle CRM Cloud ✔ Oracle Data Integrator Cloud ✔ Oracle Database Backup Cloud ✔ Oracle Database Cloud ✔ Oracle Database Exadata Cloud ✔ Oracle ERP Cloud ✔ Oracle Event Hub Cloud ✔ Oracle GoldenGate Cloud ✔ Oracle HCM Cloud ✔ Oracle Identity Cloud ✔ Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Enterprise ✔ Oracle Java Cloud ✔ Oracle MySQL Cloud ✔ Oracle RightNow Cloud ✔ Oracle SCM Cloud ✔ Oracle SOA Cloud ✔   For a comprehensive list of Oracle Cloud’s compliance achievements and applicable data centers, please visit our Cloud compliance websites at: https://cloud.oracle.com/iaas-paas-compliance and https://cloud.oracle.com/saas-compliance. For more information on Oracle’s government health solutions designed to eliminate siloed programs and modernize IT systems, please visit: www.oracle.com/govhealth. In addition, Oracle government health IT experts will be speaking at the 2018 Medicaid Enterprise Systems Conference (MESC) on August 13 and the 2018 ISM Annual Conference on September 16. By Melissa Cazalet | Director Cloud Governance & Risk, Oracle    

The protection of private health records is a central tenet in the healthcare industry – in both the private and public sectors. As Oracle has shifted its application and technology offerings to the...

Analytics

Smart City Tour (Part Two): Let Your Trashcan Do the Talking

Last month, I took you on a brief tour of some of the most innovative cities in the world, places using the power of connected devices - millions of sensors attached to all sorts of physical devices—to gather petabytes of digital information that are deposited into a data lake. Through applications infused with artificial intelligence capabilities, city employees can garner immediate insights into the perennial problems of any municipality such as pervasive graffiti, overflowing trashcans or intersections snarled with traffic. Smart city initiatives are one of the most important drivers of public sector digital transformations, and cities are going digital to improve environmental, financial, and social aspects of urban life.  In fact, the IDC estimates that some $135 billion will be spent worldwide on these modernization efforts. A key enabler to transformation is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the data collected from them, requiring high performance computing, sophisticated data management resources and artificial intelligence to render meaning to the mass of digital data collected. The University of Southern California (USC) is one of many such institutions at the forefront of IoT research and has launched an Intelligent Internet of Things Integrator (I3) consortium to further advance standardization and to create solutions to help cities jumpstart their transformations. As an industry leader in IoT capabilities, Oracle has seized the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the education world, and has provided the USC I3 Consortium funding in cloud infrastructure services for three years of development work.  These advanced cloud computing resources will allow I3 to accelerate their development cycles, while greatly reducing the human and financial resources required to advance their core IoT, artificial intelligence, and Smart Cities research. The consortium’s goal is to help the cities to move beyond data silos where information is confined to individual departments, such as transportation and sanitation, to one where data flows between departments, and can be more easily managed. It also lets cities utilize data contributions from residents or even other governmental or commercial data providers. I3’s planned environment should significantly accelerate creation of Smart City applications like improved energy management, transit optimization, parking services, garbage collection, and many others. Once the system is developed and tested, I3 plans to distribute the core system technology as open source software so other municipalities, states, and other government entities can benefit from the USC I3 vision. Read more about Oracle’s role in helping accelerate smart city initiatives in this Forbes Voice story about the USC I3 Consortium.

Last month, I took you on a brief tour of some of the most innovative cities in the world, places using the power of connected devices - millions of sensors attached to all sorts of...

Analytics

Road Trip: In Search of the Smartest City in the World

Your community is getting smarter. Whether you live in a small, rural town or a huge city, you might be noticing profound changes in the way you interact  with local government. You get an email when your library books are overdue (yes, even the digital ones!). You interact on Facebook with your utility company. And you might even be using Alexa to report graffiti in your hometown. The entry point to a smart city is data, and lots of it. This includes information streaming from every kind of connected device, from traffic lights to trash cans and everything in between. According to The Economist, the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, it’s data. And cities of every size are taking notice and harvesting this valuable resource to enhance citizens’ lives.  I’ve been on the road the last few months in both North America and Europe sampling the “smartness” of cities with leaders from communities of all sizes, and it’s evident that the concept of a connected government is here to stay, and evolving rapidly.  I started my journey attending two Harvard Smart Cities Accelerator events in Dublin and San Diego. Although separated by eight time zones and widely disparate weather, each event pulsated with identical energy and excitement.  I learned about cities such as London,  which is using open data duringtheir transition to a smart city, and Moscow, a city that is digitizing itsinfrastructure and leveraging analytics to gain insight for decision-making.  Meanwhile, New York City has published IoT guidelines, adopted by 35 cities globally.  San Diego is covering half the city with intelligent street lights, and Las Vegas, in partnership with Oracle,  is doing incredible work with AI, machine learning and autonomous vehicles in their Innovation District.  I led a panel discussion in Los Angeles on how data insights can enhance livability at the Summit on Government Performance and Innovation. Los Angeles is doing exceptional work with AI and machine learning; San Jose, already forging ahead with a mobile, data-driven citizen engagement system powered by Oracle, is mapping  geological data to predict earthquakes, and is testing drones and autonomous vehicles.  And the University of Southern California’s I3 IoT Consortium is partnering with Oracle and other private companies to develop pre-built applications for IoT that can help cities jumpstart big data projects. I criss-crossed the country to present at  Smart Cities NY 2018 ,where I joined  Deloitte to discuss how cities can adopt AI-powered chatbots and robotics process automation to reduce costs, improve customer experience, and minimize rote tasks. And then I traversed the pond again, to the ICF Summit 2018 in London, as part of a Canadian delegation of cities. I will confess as a long-time resident of Montreal I was rooting for my Canadian compatriots -- the cities of Hamilton and Winnipeg -- nominated for the ICF’s award for the most intelligent community in the world.  Ultimately, the City of Espoo, Finland, won after meeting six ICF indicators for success.   I have learned much on my tour of the digital direction of these cities, reinforcing my role with the Toronto Smart Cities Working Group. It’s apparent across all these cites that insights from data can improve employee productivity, make cities safer, more liveable and create opportunities for people to thrive. The ease and decreasing cost of technology solutions introduce some wondrous achievements, from self-driving cars to self-healing databases. But we wouldn’t have gotten too far without the input and energy from city leaders, citizens and private companies all collaborating to create new opportunities for residents to thrive. It’s the people, as much as the technology, who have the potential to make every city a smart one.    

Your community is getting smarter. Whether you live in a small, rural town or a huge city, you might be noticing profound changes in the way you interact  with local government. You get an email when...

Analytics

Wake Up and Smell the Java in the Cloud

For decades, government agencies have counted on Oracle WebLogic Servers, and by extension, the Java programming language, to power the most mission-critical applications required at the enterprise level. Java, originally developed by Sun Microsystems, is now a core component of Oracle’s technology platform and is one of the most popular programming languages in use today. With the advent of cloud computing, the Java can now be consumed “as-a-Service,” giving an added jolt of features and capabilities not possible a decade ago. And with the popularity of WebLogic servers throughout the federal landscape, Oracle now offers a clear transition to the Cloud. But, is there a clear and immediate ROI for agencies that decide to make the move to the cloud? According to a Forrester Consulting report on Oracle Java Cloud Service, organizations with 30 Java developers realized a $2.5 million NPV over three years, with specific savings in both infrastructure and associated support costs.   Combining Java-as-a-Service with Database-as-as-Service leads to significant savings in maintenance costs – enabling agencies to divert resources from mundane maintenance activities to mission-critical efforts.   Such benefits have served as a wakeup call for agencies to migrate their existing Java applications to the cloud for new development. With the increasing number of cloud service providers joining the FedRAMP certification program, agencies now can make the optimal cloud platform choice.  Additional benefits for IT departments and line of business include: Allowing greater control to quickly provision development or test environments without spending days or even weeks. The Cloud can save thousands of hours of developer time waiting for infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Simplifying development with integrated modern DevOps tools. Java can be integrated with the continuous integration and deployment to respond to citizen requests more quickly and easily. Automating many of the administrative tasks such as patching and upgrading, helping reduce the time agencies have to spend on their ongoing maintenance of their IT infrastructure, potentially saving both time and money. As a pioneer of Java and WebLogic server, Oracle offers agencies the value-added tools to seamlessly migrate applications to the cloud. Additionally, Oracle expands its commitment to the DoD community with robust and securely-featured cloud services by investing in state of the art cloud data centers. According to Forrester, the benefits extend beyond costs savings and projected ROI, by moving to Oracle Java Cloud Service, agencies can see tangible improvements in allocating developer times, a reduction in their software development life cycle, and minimal resources dedicated for infrastructure, support and maintenance. For more information on the benefits of Oracle Java Cloud Service, please download the Forester Total Economic Impact report here.

For decades, government agencies have counted on Oracle WebLogic Servers, and by extension, the Java programming language, to power the most mission-critical applications required at the...

Analytics

The Keys to Digital Transformation in the Public Sector

The rapid acceleration in IT innovation has created enormous challenges for the public sector to keep pace with digital transformation. The good news is that recent efforts have pushed IT modernization to the forefront of the administration’s agenda, and federal agencies are being provided tools with which they can close the gap and achieve the benefits of digital transformation. Last December, the much heralded Modernizing Government Technology Act, also known as the MGT Act, was signed into law. Among other things, the bill allows federal CFO Act agencies to reprogram or transfer funds into an agency IT working capital fund where they can then be used to modernize existing systems, transition to cloud computing or other innovative technologies, or address evolving threats to information security. “The improved efficiencies from the MGT Act will empower agencies to modernize their legacy IT systems, better protect our data from cyber-attacks and ultimately save billions in taxpayer dollars by reducing long-term spending,” said Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). Just recently, the White House released The President’s Management Agenda: Modernizing Government for the 21st Century. The program outlines three key initiatives for modernizing government: Modern information technology must function as the backbone of how government serves the public in the digital age. Data, accountability, and transparency initiatives must provide the tools to deliver visibly better results to the public, while improving accountability to taxpayers for sound fiscal stewardship and mission results The workforce for the 21st century must enable senior leaders and front-line managers to align staff skills with evolving mission needs. Finally, the General Services Administration established IT Modernization Centers of Excellence to centralize best practices and provide assistance to federal agencies for evaluation and implementation of IT modernization projects, foremost of which is cloud adoption. Cloud adoption can offer a clear path to IT modernization by enabling agencies to realize substantial benefits around security, performance, agility and cost. However, with several major data breaches over the past few years, security concerns continue to lead agencies to take a more conservative and gradual approach in cloud adoption. Oracle Cloud provides the enterprise-level security features federal agencies require. Oracle database cloud service provides multi-layered, in depth security features, like encryption at rest and in transit, by default, with highly available and scalable service delivering speed, simplicity and flexibility for faster time to value and savings.   And Oracle provides the most complete identity management solution for secure access and monitoring of hybrid cloud environments. An identity SOC that provides actionable intelligence and bi-directional control helps ensure the security posture of Oracle’s customers by safeguarding against the rapidly evolving threats of the digital age.   You can learn more about how Oracle is addressing the challenges agencies are facing with cloud security and data protection at Oracle’s Cloud Security Breakfast Seminar on April 26, 2018 at 8 a.m. at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Washington, DC. You will hear directly from an executive panel that includes Oracle’s Chief Information Security Officer, Gail Coury and FedRAMP Security Evangelist, Ashley Mahan as they discuss identity management, data protection, threat detection and response, and evolving government mandates, including FedRAMP. Register here: www.Oracle.com/fedsecurityseminar.  

The rapid acceleration in IT innovation has created enormous challenges for the public sector to keep pace with digital transformation. The good news is that recent efforts have pushed...

Analytics

Oracle Government 360 – Amplifying Democracy through Technology

Advances in technology have literally unlocked the doors to city hall in a way that was unimaginable 10 years ago. Government agencies are becoming digital and interconnected; constituents are instantly interacting with city and state employees, and devices – sensors, smart phones, wearables and cams – are providing a constant stream of digital data to help agencies think proactively about citizen needs, from policy to the practical.  Earlier in my career, I served as the first Director of the Ohio Shared Services Center, a new operation that streamlined our business processes, cut costs and strengthened customer service to state employees and suppliers. I interacted with many forward-thinking agency leaders who recognized that serving both constituents and employees requires IT systems and solutions that are responsive instead of reactive, and positioned to turn on a dime to meet the needs of a modern workforce. Today, many agencies have embraced this new model that expands the notion of government well beyond the confines of an office building.  Now, the pervasive digital culture that defines society – at work and at home – is steadily becoming the norm in government.  Although the democratic principles outlined by our Founding Fathers remain immutable, our technology solutions to serve the public should not. At Oracle, we recognize these widespread changes, and, in response, have created a blueprint to help agencies take advantage of our new digital world. It’s called Government 360, and is built on four pillars: A modern, sustainable infrastructure rooted in the cloud: As agencies move toward the cloud, they can work in smaller, more modular  IT components allowing them to be more agile and providing better visibility into -- and control over -- their operations. Cloud also enables government agencies to become more efficient, freeing up resources to do more value-added task. Ultimately, agencies can eliminate costs out of their infrastructure and dedicate more capital to innovation. An automated and mobile-enabled back-office: Government employees do their work in and around the community. Through the seamless connection of mobile devices and applications, they can make instant assessments and impact decisions. The back office is a springboard for enhanced connectivity, business automation and ensuring government employees have the right tools to do the job internally. This requires back-office services to become both mobile and enhanced with automation through artificial intelligence (AI). Smarter solutions for a connected government: By integrating evolving technologies like the Internet of Things and AI, government can become increasingly smarter and citizen-centric, fostering a vibrant and streamlined business climate.  Agencies can reduce repetitive and menial tasks, while helping to boost economic development through a persistent digital front door. The possibilities are limitless and exist today: Wi-Fi–enabled street lights to control traffic; trash cans that signal for pickup; HVAC units that can alert maintenance, and driverless cars linked to bus stops. Analytics, AI, machine learning and other technologies to predict and prepare for the future: Oracle’s Government 360 approach is not just about being smart today; it’s also about being predictive for tomorrow. The more digital data an agency produces, the more business intelligence it can gather, and the more predictive analytics can inform and improve government services. Over the coming months, you can follow the progress of this new way of perceiving government through the eyes of state and local IT leaders just like yourself.  Meet us online at www.governing.com/oracle360 to read our customer success stories, replay our first webinar and follow us on social media: #oraclegov360.

Advances in technology have literally unlocked the doors to city hall in a way that was unimaginable 10 years ago. Government agencies are becoming digital and interconnected; constituents...

Analytics

Chatbots in Government: Five Steps to Getting it Right

In a world where digital consumer experiences represent the norm, citizens have become accustomed to the simplification of everyday transactions using smart phones and tablets. These innovative “self-service” technologies have set a high benchmark for citizen expectations. Anything short of meeting this bar will risk leaving people with a negative experience. Conversational user experiences, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), provide an opportunity for government agencies to offer modern citizen engagement tools on par with the best commercial experiences – but they have to get the basics right. With that in mind, here is a five-step guide to help government IT professionals and agency program managers kick off their initiatives to use virtual personal assistants, often called “chatbots.” 1. Select your conversational user experiences (UX) wisely: Make sure you pick a “conversational” UX platform that can fully support cross-channel consistency by leveraging enterprise knowledge management. This will help end users get the same information from chatbots as they do from more traditional channels like web and mobile. 2. Ensure your public chatbots can handle complex conversations: Agencies need to consider an enterprise approach to support complex conversations to best achieve cross-channel consistency across the web, mobile and call-center agents. To be useful, chatbots need to access knowledge repositories (e.g., where to file taxes) and take personal actions on behalf of citizens (e.g., calculating Social Security benefits). If they can’t help citizens address their day-to-day concerns, they will be underutilized and become obsolete. 3. Make sure your chabot is smart and can explain itself: In his MIT Technology Review, senior editor, Will Knight addresses the limitations of AI in formulating conclusions. He says that “…starting in the summer of 2018, the European Union may require that companies be able to give users an explanation for decisions that automated systems reach.” Agencies need to be prepared and choose a chatbot platform that can easily explain its decisions in clear and understandable language. Over time, that will help increase public adoption and trust in the technology. 4. Choose a vendor-neutral  architecture: I recently attended an AI hackathon in Washington, D.C., and was surprised to see the number of agencies building chatbots for single vendors, such as Facebook Messenger or Amazon Echo. They were using vendor APIs directly, rather than a product that supports multiple vendors, such as Oracle Chatbot Service. These developers were failing to remember the lessons from the mobile paradigm shift a decade ago. BlackBerry once owned close to 50% of the smartphone market in the United States. Want to guess their market share today? Government agencies shouldn’t pick winners and losers in this market, but instead invest in chatbot vendors that support a write-once, deploy many deployment model (e.g., the Echo, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.) 5. Don’t plan for failure: Like the early days of mobile app development there a lot of chatbot prototypes that quickly fail. According to Facebook, 70% of chatbots are considered a failure. There are many reasons for their lack of success, but here are a few additional thoughts to consider before you begin developing so your chatbot like a pro from the start: Does our platform support rapid agility for creating and refining conversational user experiences? Does our platform enable the business to not only design simple conversations but also complex and meaningful conversations? Who will be the voice of our chatbots? Are we incorporating the right use case(s) for our chatbots? Does our chatbot architecture include controls to continuously monitor and quickly refine? Will our chatbots allow citizens to seamlessly escalate to a human?   Guest Author: Dan Kuenzig is Director of Oracle’s Smarter Government Program, specializing in improving citizen experiences using emerging technologies. He believes the successful adoption of technologies like AI, Blockchain, and IoT will be the key to providing next- generation government services. Before joining Oracle, Dan spent 10 years in consulting, guiding and implementing transformational initiatives across Federal defense, civilian, and state agencies. He also helped lead multiple award-winning projects.

In a world where digital consumer experiences represent the norm, citizens have become accustomed to the simplification of everyday transactions using smart phones and tablets. These innovative...

CIO

Demystifying Platform-as-a-Service for Government

Throughout my career as an Information Technology (IT) professional, I have visited many federal, state and local government agencies to explain benefits of technology modernization to both IT and line of business (LOB) leaders alike. I’ve noticed that most people easily comprehend the benefits of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) within their own technology experience. When you’re uploading photos and videos to a service for safekeeping, that’s IaaS. When you’re tracking your personal expenditures with consumer-grade accounting software and calculating your annual tax returns, that’s SaaS.   Many understand the value of SaaS and IaaS, but don’t understand how to make the best use of Platform as a Service (PaaS) in their IT environments. That’s because PaaS has no real consumer equivalent. However, PaaS is very much the secret sauce behind innovation. So what is PaaS? In plain English, PaaS is the tooling that allows you to build, run, connect, manage and discover innovative possibilities among all of your IT systems, both in the cloud and on-premises. That means that you can instantly gain the benefits of cloud computing that are changing government agencies, such as mobile apps, better security and the ability to instantly respond to changes in regulations, without weeks of rewriting code and enduring lengthy testing cycles. In some cases, the tools are meant for IT professionals to use; however, in many cases, the tools are specifically designed for the LOB to be able to implement and use themselves, with little to no assistance from the IT department. As with  most government agencies, your IT systems are typically comprised of a confusing mix of deployments and technologies, including on-premise, public and private cloud environments. PaaS can pull all that together for you to minimize costs, increase the pace of meaningful change, and maximize the value you get from both the technology and the efforts of your employees. Citizens and government employees expect the same range of tools and experiences introduced by the commercial sector. Line of business must innovate on behalf of their teams, and demonstrate measurable change.  PaaS gives public service agencies ways to lower costs while improving flexibility and operational agility – consuming modular but integrated tools “as a service.” As a result, agencies do not need to focus on building out a platform for development, operations and innovation; the cloud does it for them. At Oracle, we want you  to spend more time and effort on innovation – activities that move enable your organization’s mission – rather than continuing to invest a disproportionate amount of time and energy on activities related to “keeping the lights on.” Here are five simple steps to get started: Think about how your agency is currently running, and imagine the most innovative and impactful change that you could make. Enlist the help of your IT professionals to reimagine a better, more responsive agency. Replay the webinar I hosted on the  Understanding the Power of PaaS for Public Sector to further understand how PaaS is able to help you modernize, better respond to constituent demands and regulatory mandates, and demonstrate how your organization can achieve significant financial savings. Send the link to your IT team, both staff and management, and invite them to talk about how you would like to run your program. And if you need more information or help, email me at william.sanders@oracle.com.

Throughout my career as an Information Technology (IT) professional, I have visited many federal, state and local government agencies to explain benefits of technology modernization to both IT and...

Analytics

Making Federal Websites Mobile Friendly

Kevin Adler, Oracle DoD Cloud Solution Manager How many people do you know who don’t own a smartphone? Just over a decade ago having one meant that you were probably in the minority as they began to expand outside of Japan. Today, smartphone usage is commonplace. Want to book a hotel? Rent a car? How about managing your office e-mails and organizing office meetings? You can do all this and more using your smartphone. The federal government knows the smartphone is here to stay, and understands that agency websites need to be optimized for mobile experiences.  But most sites aren’t there yet – they’re simply not designed to be viewed on a small screen and navigated with your fingertips. Realizing this deficiency, Congress in December passed the Connected Government Act,  which requires federal agencies that create or update public websites to be mobile-friendly. While this focus on the user experience is a boon for citizens, it lacks something crucial: A timeline when these websites must be updated, much less a specified plan of action. So at a time when agencies are moving to the cloud – wouldn’t it make sense that they work with a platform solution that also ensures their federal website is mobile friendly, secure, and ready for a next-generation customer experience? Oracle offers a unique, cloud-based approach to website management that stands above the competition because it not only manages and updates the software, but also can seamlessly integrate the hardware and operating systems on which these systems run. Oracle also provides a dedicated cloud for government agencies that meets Impact Level 4 certification for the Department of Defense. Sure, you can move a virtual server into a cloud environment that will run your website, but agencies really need to be looking long term and spending their resources on a holistic solution platform that modernizes over time. Oracle’s Service Cloud is just that – an evolving, modern customer experience platform that helps reduce risk and increases policy adherence.  And it’s mobile friendly! That’s good news not only for federal agencies looking to modernize their websites, but are also looking to consolidate legacy systems. Just last week a major federal agency migrated to Oracle Service Cloud and reduced its legacy contracts with several different vendors for identity management, search and collaboration. Seven years after the federal government launched a “Cloud-First” directive, the time has come for agencies to adhere to citizen demands and provide a truly first-class mobile experience. For more detail on Oracle’s DoD-centric cloud solutions, please e-mail me at Kevin.Adler@Oracle.com.    

Kevin Adler, Oracle DoD Cloud Solution Manager How many people do you know who don’t own a smartphone? Just over a decade ago having one meant that you were probably in the minority as they began to...

Analytics

Big Cloud for Small Government

Small-town America. These words can conjure up bucolic images, from a local courthouse nestled in a Vermont autumn scene to a winding highway cutting through, dare we say, those amber waves of grain. But if you’re a city manager in charge of IT operations, there may be little charm and even less beauty in the current state of your IT operations. In fact, your town or county government is most likely trying to move away from decades-old technology such as on-premises data centers, clunky software, and finance and HR processes that resemble photos from your local county history museum. Many small and midsized cities running on aging legacy applications have a need to replace their outdated and high-maintenance legacy systems. With the recent rise in cloud adoption and its associated benefits, CFO’s and city managers are actively considering or even planning their migration path to the cloud for core applications supporting finance and HR. You might think that cloud computing is for big cities or large government agencies with a taxpayer mandate to spend for modernization. But at Oracle, we’ve been working with small and medium-sized cities to provide affordable solutions designed to spark the digital transformation of your core business processes. And our applications are “cloud-native,” built deliberately to reap the cost savings, flexibility and innovation that the cloud offers. From the statehouse to city hall, the journey to modernize starts with the cloud. Often, it is those back-office functions hosted in the cloud that can set the foundation for a total cloud platform. Agencies can rapidly be poised to reap the benefits of new technology like predictive analytics, chatbots, and mobile apps, all possessing security features made possible through modern advancements in cybersecurity. Consider these scenarios: Given the need for budgetary accuracy across your organization, imagine running your accounting, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) and governance in a cloud-based ERP system. Instantly pull narrative and numbers to meet the reporting standards of your Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), while maintaining a live connection with other software packages. For procurement, your pre-negotiated contractual information can be embedded to help ensure employees are using the right suppliers and contracts. Approvers have all relevant information at their fingertips, and can tap into an embedded social media feed that eliminates the need for multiple phone calls or conversations. Your employees, many who have grown up digital, are increasingly accustomed to a self-service world with systems that work when they do, anytime and anywhere.With a cloud-based HCM system, employees can update their own records for payroll, timekeeping, and benefits management. Such an integrated system supports your current and future talent base, with a single dashboard interface that enables growth, performance and employee retention. Like your big-city brethren, take advantage of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through reams of data and produce actionable insights. These applications can react, learn and adapt in real time based on historical and dynamic data, helping to improve business processes and the user experience. Think about employing machine learning to prevent procurement fraud, identify the best candidates to make a job offer to or uncover patterns to make your processes more efficient. You don’t need a lot of training or the help of a data scientist to see transformative results. These are the kinds of benefits that will put your town into the fast lane of innovation, whether or not the interstate exit is nearby. To learn more, reach out to me to discuss your move to modernize.  

Small-town America. These words can conjure up bucolic images, from a local courthouse nestled in a Vermont autumn scene to a winding highway cutting through, dare we say, those amber waves of grain. Bu...

Apps

Lessons on Cloud Migration: A New Way Forward

The Federal Government’s push to drive agencies away from legacy technology and implement modern cloud solutions has been a work in progress. Despite adopting a ‘cloud-first’ strategy in 2011 and adopting the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) a year later, agencies are still slow to advance their journey to the cloud. Many are proceeding with caution, facing issues ranging from budget and internal resources to a shifting political landscape and security concerns. Cloud experts within a number of federal agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, and State, have shared their insights on the prevalent challenges of cloud migration in this Government Business Council report, covering: Lessons for managing cloud migration pain points The IT modernization challenges and obstacles facing federal agencies How effective leadership and key management can elevate migration efforts Migrating workloads to the cloud offers agencies an opportunity to improve mission performance outcomes and achieve substantial benefits around security features, performance, agility and cost. But success is not achieved by simply moving workloads to the cloud with any provider – many of which offer a one-size-fits-all solution. Oracle’s approach differs from other cloud providers, which may simply move the same manual processes onto a shared infrastructure. While this may lower some hardware and infrastructure costs initially, the vast majority of expected cost savings and other efficiencies of the cloud could be difficult to realize. Running applications in Oracle Cloud provides best-in-class security features at a reduced cost. With a deep understanding of the needs of the public sector built on decades of experience, Oracle Cloud can help agencies looking to move their most challenging and mission-critical workloads to the cloud achieve significant benefit, value and security features. Find out how your organization can securely move your mission-critical applications to the cloud by attending Oracle’s 10th Annual Federal Forum on Dec. 14 in our nation’s capital at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. At the conference, you’ll hear from prominent keynote speakers like U.S. Representative Will Hurd, chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee, and Thomas Kurian, president of product development at Oracle. The conference will host dozens of sessions and workshops spanning not only cloud computing, but also enabling technologies like Blockchain, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and ChatBots. You’ll also have the opportunity to network with 1,500 peers and partners and hear the latest on government cloud technology solutions. You can learn more about the conference and register here.    

The Federal Government’s push to drive agencies away from legacy technology and implement modern cloud solutions has been a work in progress. Despite adopting a ‘cloud-first’ strategy in 2011...

Analytics

Enabling Research Without Boundaries

Many people associate higher education with the traditional aspects of learning and teaching. At its core, students attend classes and lectures, carry out projects in labs, and participate in practicums, enabled by a vast university IT infrastructure.   However, there is another, less visible component of academia – the research arm – that requires a more massive and synchronized network of computing power. At more than $68B, the annual U.S. expenditures on university research far outstrip student tuition and fees revenue. However, spending for research and development is concentrated among the top 20 schools, accounting for more than 30% of all research expenditures, according to data from the National Science Foundation.  Research, by its very nature, positions universities on the leading edge, with technology an integral partner in the drive to solve some of the world’s most critical issues. With the recent advancements in cloud computing capabilities, the fundamentals of research are changing.  Historically, researchers leveraged computing power in two ways: The data center: a centralized, pooled capacity requiring massive capital investment and skilled personnel. Often, the hardware becomes obsolete months after installation. Local commodity servers: stand-alone machines stuck under a desk or in a closet. These servers lack the computing power, scale and security required for research. Today, advances in the cloud computing service model and capabilities are disrupting the underlying tools of research by introducing near-infinite scale and bursting capabilities, allowing researchers to collaborate globally, while anonymizing data as necessary. At the same time, researchers can gain enhanced security, control and governance while taking advantage of the power of Big Data, culling key results from a vast array of disparate data sources and using the power of predictive analytics to create new insights previously not possible. With more than 11,000 higher education customers, Oracle is a longtime partner to the industry. Our Higher Education Enterprise Cloud, offering a complete stack of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS capabilities, is perfectly suited for scale-based research. Penn State University’s Institute for CyberScience (ICS) has successfully prototyped the use of Oracle’s cloud-based infrastructure with a hybrid bursting model. The system is designed to give researchers the tools to do what was previously impossible: take advantage of high-capacity computing with virtually unlimited capacity to model highly sophisticated problems, from weather patterns on Mars to the protein production inside our own bodies. “Now that it has proved its worth, we are working to develop our ability to make it available to our faculty,” says ICS technical director Chuck Gilbert. ICS achieved this high performance computing environment by placing workloads on “bare metal,” directly onto a server without hypervisor software to run at full computing speed. “Really, we're talking about nanoseconds and microseconds, and that little bit of jitter can make all the difference in a simulation being correct or not correct,” says Gilbert. “We are literally extending our data center footprint out to the cloud,” he said in a recent article for OracleVoice on Forbes. Technology has always been an important and necessary research driver, from exploring the unseen world of the atom to improving the highly tangible need of solving our world’s food supply. For more than 30 years, Oracle and CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, have collaborated on some of the most respected, cutting-edge research performed worldwide. Recently, CERN has worked with Oracle to deploy physics workloads on over 9,500 cores via the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Compute environment. CERN has also been using Oracle’s data analytics technologies in a reliability assessment study for a potential successor accelerator to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. .   And at North Carolina State University, Oracle is working to crack the code on “smart farming” techniques, collecting data from field-based sensors, drones, tractors and other sources to make better decisions about irrigation, fertilizer and weed and pest control solutions. Through collaboration with agriculture and agribusiness leaders as well as university scientists, Oracle is applying expertise in data management, analytics and artificial intelligence to facilitate better crop outcomes in a world of finite resources. There’s no question that this level of high performance computing will continue to improve, opening the door to creative solutions that will impact generations to come. For those institutions who aspire to expand their research capabilities, an investment in high performance computing may be mandatory. This is the new research: a virtual platform that knows no physical boundary. Patrick Mungovan is the group vice president for Oracle Public Sector U.S. Higher Education, Research and Academic Medical Center Technology Sales.    

Many people associate higher education with the traditional aspects of learning and teaching. At its core, students attend classes and lectures, carry out projects in labs, and participate in...

Analytics

Successful IT Transformation - A State CIO's Perspective

As technology advances in the era of cloud computing – from chatbots to the dawn of smart sensors – both public and private sector organizations are looking for new ways to better manage their IT assets. Chief Information Officers (CIO) specifically are looking to forge a new role for their IT organizations that is focused on adding customer value, reducing costs and addressing security concerns. The long-term objective is to move away from the more mundane task of operating and maintaining legacy IT systems. This sentiment was shared by former New York State CIO Margaret Miller, whose 30-year career in IT includes leadership roles in the private and public sectors. Miller was a member of the state’s Governor’s Cabinet responsible for IT services supporting 140,000 state employees. Under her direction, New York created eight new “cluster CIOs” to oversee technology, and consolidated 50 data centers into a new facility in a partnership with the State University of New York. I recently sat down with Miller, whom I met at an IT conference in Albany, N.Y, where she delivered the keynote address. We discussed the changing role of the CIO in this always-on, never-stand-still business and technology environment. Here are some of her most important strategic imperatives: Serve as the champion of the customer’s digital experience. Working closely with the chief customer officer and/or marketing, IT must create a model of the experience we’d like our customers to have, whether online, by phone, or in person, from the first interaction to purchase to post-purchase support. Demonstrate a deep understanding of, and ability to respond to, rapidly changing business demands. In order to respond to and anticipate change, it’s vital that the CIO be a member of the top executive team, included in all strategic discussions. Drive down legacy IT costs. Savings gained here can free up valuable resources to invest in meeting increasing demand for IT resources. Integrate the increasingly complex web of legacy and new, in-house, and third-party IT services. Integration provides a consistent customer experience while mitigating operational and cyber risk. Ensure that business and government colleagues are well-informed. They should know about cyber and operational risks and should be engaged in decisions regarding mitigation. In addition to these focus areas, Miller also discussed how modern CIO’s can help their organizations adapt to the digital world, and the importance of finding a balance between prioritizing security with customer privacy. Read the entire article featured in Forbes BrandVoice: Meet the Modern CIO: Partner not Pedagogue. Matthew O’Keefe is vice president and corporate technologist of Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure group.

As technology advances in the era of cloud computing – from chatbots to the dawn of smart sensors – both public and private sector organizations are looking for new ways to better manage their IT...

Modern Government

The City of Fort Wayne Wins Constellation SuperNova Award for Next Generation Customer Experience

By Molly Ambrogi Yanson Hats off to The City of Fort Wayne! Last week, Constellation Research recognized forward-thinking leaders for their implementation of emerging technologies that transformed their organizations and disrupted their industries.  Among a pool of 200 applicants, The City of Fort Wayne was recognized with the Next Generation Customer Experience Award! Read below how the city underwent digital transformation to change the perception of local government, setting the bar high for customer service and engagement across the public sector.* About The City of Fort Wayne: The City of Fort Wayne is home to 250,00 citizens. Its 311 Call Center acts as the city's "front door" to local government. This community resource responds to and resolves citizen concerns that range from pothole maintenance and downed tree limbs to lost pets and broken street lights. In addition to addressing day-to-day neighborhood problems, the 311 Call Center gives a voice to its residents, recognizing their needs and enabling the city's 23 departments–from Parks to Solid Waste–to consistently meet these demands. The City of Fort Wayne's 311 Call Center exists to increase its citizens' quality of life. It's a big city with a small town feel, that other cities have looked to emulate. The Challenge: There is a perception that city government is inefficient and costly. Fort Wayne wanted to change this notion, by capturing the voice of its citizens and publicly holding city departments and officials accountable. To do this, the 311 Call Center needed to modernize. The city needed to adopt technology that would allow citizens to engage on their preferred channels, not just on the phone. It needed to encourage self-service, by providing consistent answers on digital and mobile platforms. It needed an accurate and cost-efficient way to capture citizens' concerns and route them for resolution across 23 departments. It needed to streamline efforts and reduce the cost of administration. And it needed a way to capture all this data in a report that they could share with city leaders to proactively shape their initiatives, and also share with citizens to prove their increased responsiveness, effectiveness, and desire to make Fort Wayne a better home. The Solution: To provide a consistent and enhanced citizen experience, the 311 Call Center deployed Oracle Service Cloud. This modern customer service technology helped create process flows like dynamic scripting and built out an extensive knowledge base of answers. The Call Center added self-service options through an interactive website and new mobile app. An integrated mapping feature visually depicted problems, warned other citizens of an issue’s pervasiveness (such as flooding or power outage), and illustrated that the city was actively solving the problem. The mobile app encouraged bi-directional communication between the city and its citizens. Through the website, telephone, or social apps, residents could pin point any issues (like a pothole) using GPS, upload images, and submit a request that would automatically open a service request with the appropriate city department. These different data sources were seamlessly integrated, allowing city leaders to pull performance reporting statistics. The Results: Before deploying Oracle Service Cloud, Fort Wayne’s 311 Contact Center relied heavily on siloed and inefficient customer service platforms across 23 departments. By modernizing its approach to citizen satisfaction and facilitating engagement, the centralized Call Center disrupted the way local government operates–transitioning from a reactive to a proactive organization. By streamlining operations, the city now collects massive amounts of data generated by its engaged citizens. Oracle Service Cloud allows the Call Center to combine this data into a city wide performance scorecard. Generated monthly, city leaders use the report to gauge, assess, and mange city wide service delivery performance. By publishing it on the city’s website, Fort Wayne increases its transparency and demonstrates public accountability. This data also enables local leaders to proactively analyze citizen concerns. They can allocate budget to create services that directly address community issues, instead of reacting to bigger problems down the road. In addition, a survey tool enables the mayor to further engage with city residents, collecting their input on ideation, budget prioritization, and problem solving. That feedback supports city leaders in their planning efforts. Lastly, the mayor and other elected leaders now have direct communication channels to interact with Fort Wayne citizens throughout their terms, making the government more approachable and accountable. The Metrics: Fort Wayne dramatically increased citizen engagement and boasts a 92% Community Satisfaction Rating. This is an unprecedented score. But success goes beyond resident satisfaction. By integrating the city’s into a unifying service initiative, Fort Wayne can quickly and accurately respond to a citizen’s request. It used to take two weeks to fill a pothole. Now, street repairs are fixed 1400% faster, and a pothole is filled in less than 24 hours. Departments used to dread the Call Center’s barrage of work orders, and now they’re considered a partner in success. The Call Center itself is more efficient. Average wait time has decreased 59%, abandoned calls are down by 63%, while the percentage of calls answered are up 18% and average handle time is down 12%–all with fewer staff (YOY). The city’s service initiative also holds citizens accountable. For example, the mobile app lets trash collectors document those who forget to put their bins out, arming Call Center agents with photo proof when tardy citizens call to complain that the truck “missed” their home. What may seem trivial was a constant irritant to agents who spent 15 minutes per call, 50 times a week, resolving the issue. It has also reduced friction between the trash company and the Call Center, as they no longer roll a truck across the city for one tardy bin. Fort Wayne has increased citizen, internal, and external business satisfaction as well as a positive ROI.  The Disruptive Factor: Fort Wayne set out to change the common perception that local government is inefficient and unapproachable. In just one year they’ve changed that notion, setting the bar high for other cities. By modernizing the Call Center’s service initiative, potholes are fixed faster, lost dogs are found, and the city runs more smoothly. They are making the City of Fort Wayne a connected community, not just a place to live. Typically, a city engages with its constituents by phone. Fort Wayne interacts with citizens on whatever channel they prefer–be it phone, the web, email, or via mobile app. The mobile app encourages citizens to create service requests, send messages to departments, see requests submitted by others, access a map showing the location of each issue, and resolution time. This level of transparency and modern communication is unique in city government. The 311 Call Center changed the game by unifying the entire city’s metrics into one performance scorecard, holding departments accountable for their service performance. By giving departments the technology and tools to efficiently operate, Fort Wayne increased productivity to a point where some areas will be making money–dollars that can be proactively invested in education or parks and recreation, for example. Through online surveys, Fort Wayne’s citizens can partner with city leaders on budget allocation, current projects, and problem solving. The city has given them a voice in the decision making process.  *This content was pulled from The City of Fort Wayne's application on Constellation Research's SuperNova Awards Website. 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By Molly Ambrogi Yanson Hats off to The City of Fort Wayne! Last week, Constellation Research recognized forward-thinking leaders for their implementation of emerging technologies that transformed...

Where is Ground Zero for America’s Opioid Crisis?

Last month, I attended a rally in downtown Boston marking “Recovery Day,” sponsored by the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery. Against the backdrop of Faneuil Hall, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker lauded many in the audience for their commitment to recovery from substance addiction. I was there to support one of our customers who had recently implemented a new Oracle cloud-based software solution for the Massachusetts Substance Use Helpline. The state has launched a call center and website – helplinema.org - to better assist individuals and family members find treatment options for their addiction. Staging the event at this landmark platform for social change was no accident.  Massachusetts is one of many states struggling to combat the public health crisis of opioid addition, a problem so pervasive that it touches citizens from all walks of life.  For instance, Massachusetts’ Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, who oversees a $22 billion state budget and 22,000 public servants, described how her career had been largely shaped by her own personal tragedy of losing her mother to substance and mental health issues when she was just a teenager. States Fighting Back Substance addiction is not a new dilemma for this country, but with the meteoric growth of opioid-related addiction, state and local governments are looking for solutions to fight this epidemic impacting just about every neighborhood in the nation. Every day, ninety-one Americans die from an opioid overdose – that’s one person every 16 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.    At Governing Magazine’s Health and Human Services Summit in Washington, D.C., recently, I listened to a panel of physicians, counselors and law enforcement professionals discuss the crisis and various tactics being implemented in their jurisdictions.  All agreed that addressing this crisis will take a three-pronged approach – education, treatment and enforcement.  Some interesting highlights of their efforts include the following: Anne Arundel County, Maryland Production and distribution of a YouTube video entitled, “Not My Child.” Establishment of “Safe Stations” that enables addicts to show up at fire or police stations in search of assistance. Wilmington, North Carolina Establishment of a “Good Samaritan” law in which citizens can report overdoses without any reprisals or questions asked. Establishment of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which allows people struggling with drug addiction to be “diverted” from prosecution and into long-term mental health care programs. Erie County, New York Establishment of “Opioid Court,” which differs from normal court in that acceptance means detox, inpatient or outpatient care, 8 p.m. curfews, and at least 30 consecutive days of in-person meetings with the judge. A typical drug treatment court might require such appearances once a week or even once a month. Establishment of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which includes the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. At that same HHS Summit, one of the audience members asked the panel of experts where the so-called “Ground Zero” was for the opioid crisis in America.  They all looked at each other before unanimously saying -- “It’s everywhere!”   There are clearly many factors that can influence and ultimately turn the tide away from this horrific crisis, with technology playing an important role. For more information on this important topic, please watch the APHSA-sponsored webinar recorded here.          

Last month, I attended a rally in downtown Boston marking “Recovery Day,” sponsored by the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery. Against the backdrop of Faneuil Hall, Massachusetts...

Analytics

Modernize Your Finance System in Four Months, Not 40.

If you are a finance manager with a government agency, you might be accustomed to working with a hierarchy of approvers to track and validate your expenditures. But, imagine having to create and distribute seven paper copies of a purchase order for each stakeholder? That was the systemic reality for Nazer Uddin, finance manager for the Fox River Water Reclamation District in Elgin, Ill., who decided to streamline Fox River’s outdated financial system by migrating a legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to a cloud based model. And he did so in just 16 weeks, with the help of ST Tech, a Platinum level member of the Oracle Partner Network and SaaS implementation expert. Nazer talked with me about how it took only four months to convert his on-premises system to the nimble and cost-effective Oracle  ERP cloud-based solution. “Our district had not been upgraded. We had an outdated system with no ability to add new customers,” Nazer said. Transactions were entered redundantly, and financial reports were created by copying and pasting data and converting it into Excel. Nazer recognized that the time was right to move to the cloud. “I didn’t think our district could afford a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) system,” Nazer said.” And it was important to have a partnership with the company, so that the product could meet our needs.” After examining a number of options, Nazer and his management selected the Oracle ERP system, with ST Tech implementing the solution. Data out, data in One of the toughest migration challenges was data loading. Nazer and his team had to figure out how much data to bring across from the legacy ERP system, and how much to leave in an archive. The transition gave the Fox River team the opportunity to cleanse their data, amending or removing database records that were incomplete, improperly formatted, and duplicative, in order to run a lean system at cutover. Financial information from previous years was stored in the organization’s legacy database, and could be accessed when necessary. Often, many financial systems use a proprietary coding language and are not open for data import and export. For any migration effort, the hard part is pulling and pushing the data in and out. However, Oracle’s Cloud ERP system is engineered as open-source, meaning that any data format can be easily handled, formatted and imported directly from an Excel spreadsheet. Social and mobile features included When a new system is built expressly for the cloud (known as “cloud-native”), the benefits of a cloud-hosted ERP system are quickly realized.  Through the addition of a social networking tool, conversations and notes about any issue can be documented and attached to the individual transaction, providing a clear record of due diligence and detailed information for auditors.  With a daily average of 38 million gallons of wastewater treated to serve 180,000 people, field service workers require an instant connection to the home office. A broken wastewater pipe may need an emergency requisition to order a required part. Extra chemicals for wastewater treatment might be required in the event of an environmental disaster. Now, operational managers on the scene can order supplies from their smart phones, and executives can instantly approve requisitions…all without those seven copies of a purchase order. Today, in just under a minute, Fox River can have its first purchase order approved, released and issued to the vendor via email due to the powerful automation and rules-based capabilities of the Oracle ERP Procurement Cloud. In the future, Nazer said he’ll be ordering tablet computers for his staff to take advantage of the user-friendly system and get instant access to data. You might just say that transforming your financial system into a productive and agile one in just a few months is no pipe dream for Oracle ERP users. Nazer Uddin will be a featured speaker at Oracle Open World 2017. Sign up for session CON7124 “Leveraging SaaS to Modernize the Back Office in Public Sector” at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4.

If you are a finance manager with a government agency, you might be accustomed to working with a hierarchy of approvers to track and validate your expenditures. But, imagine having to create...

Lift and Shift Your Workloads to the Cloud

With Oracle PaaS and IaaS services achieving FedRAMP “In-Process” status – including Database Cloud Service and Java Cloud Service – I thought it would be a great time to highlight the benefits government agencies can realize by running each. In many cases, agency legacy systems started as a Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) product, but have been heavily modified to perform specific government requirements. While Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products continue to gain popularity and functionality, they often fall short of meeting government’s broad needs. Unfortunately, many government customers continue to struggle with what to do with their large, on premises, mission-critical applications when trying to take advantage of the promise of public cloud. Migrating and deploying these applications in the cloud can seem daunting when considering downtime, compatibility, integration, security and budgets. So, given these challenges, what’s a Line of Business (LOB) leader or an agency Chief Information Officer (CIO) to do? The short answer is to explore “Lift & Shift” – moving applications to the cloud via Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). Here are some of the benefits coming from a Lift & Shift approach to modernization:   Experience the benefits of the cloud without having to attract new employee skill sets Increase efficiency without losing the functionality government constituents have come to expect Improve efficiencies as compared to moving to SaaS, which can be laborious, time-consuming and difficult to heavily configure or customize Reduce the datacenter footprint and potentially eliminate on-premises datacenter Contrary to popular belief, Lift & Shift to IaaS isn’t necessarily the best approach. While both offer the benefits outlined above, PaaS will likely provide agencies with a better total cost of ownership (TCO) for database and middleware services – including Java in the cloud. As a result, government can expect lower operational expenses for patches, fixes and performing upgrades. This can come not only from increased efficiency and productivity of cloud services, but from decreased levels of effort to deploy and maintain them. By successfully migrating workloads to the cloud through a Lift & Shift approach, agencies can quickly increase efficiency without losing the functionality and responsiveness constituents have come to expect – allowing government to provide real value, rather than just “keeping the lights on.” --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- About the Author William Sanders is the Director of Technology Strategy & Business Development for Oracle Public Sector. Sanders previously served as the CIO for the Kansas Department of Labor, where he led a successful initiative to streamline the state’s unemployment claims process. Today, Sanders employs his government expertise to help IT professionals in federal, state and local government modernize through cloud strategies and services.  

With Oracle PaaS and IaaS services achieving FedRAMP “In-Process” status – including Database Cloud Service and Java Cloud Service – I thought it would be a great time to highlight the benefits...

Apps

On the Road with Oracle Student Cloud

At Oracle, we recognize that our customers are innovators. We have listened to them as we design new features for Campus Solutions and now we want to extend the reach of their innovation to Oracle’s Student Cloud. We took our Oracle Student Cloud team on the road, to absorb insight from our higher education customers and their applicants, students, and alumni on the designs for the student system of the future.  Working in tandem with the Higher Ed User Group (HEUG), our mission is to engage in user research with as many customers as we can, and the HEUG’s regional conferences provide the perfect venue for the interaction.   Students want a personalized, integrated and coherent online experience. Institutions need flexible systems that support the spectrum of today’s educational models, and that empower data-driven decision-making. With a laser focus on student success, Oracle’s Student Cloud provides a comprehensive approach to the student lifecycle that enables institutions to anticipate students’ needs, illuminate their academic path, and empower them to succeed.   One of our stops was the South Central Regional HEUG Conference, held in July at the University of Houston. We were able to talk with admissions officers and students about how technology can improve the student experience. Admissions administrators were asking for features like these: Automate everything possible - especially transfer credit, as the number of transfer students is expected to grow over the coming years. Many students begin their educational journey at community colleges and then move to four-year colleges.   Bring more reporting and analytics to the functional user Enhance applicant communications throughout the entire admissions lifecycle, from initial contact to enrollment.  The Student Cloud Design team also met with students to hear how a student system could better support their academic planning and class enrollment efforts and to get their reaction to prototype designs. Students are concerned about enrolling in the right courses and showed us some of the creative techniques they used to get the best class schedule. They often struggle with getting the appropriate courses, in the correct sequence, and from their preferred professors, to meet degree requirements. Today’s students have grown up in a culture where a digital consumer interaction is the norm, and they expect targeted communications and personalized interactions.  Many wished for a similar experience for class enrollment, where the system would programmatically understand the student’s needs and scheduling requirements.  Our early versions of two new applications made a positive impression on our student user group. The Guided Pathways app is designed to recommend a best-fit sequence of courses to meet an academic goal, while the Scheduling app is designed to suggest an optimal set of class sections for an enrollment period.  Our test group of students were enthusiastic about both apps, and we captured a lot of positive feedback including:   “That would be awesome!” “I wouldn’t have to use my Excel spreadsheet any more…” “An app that tells me what courses I need to take would be amazing!” I want to extend a big thank you to the University of Houston and the HEUG staff who facilitated our Student Cloud interviews.  We look forward to seeing more of our customers at upcoming HEUG Regional conferences – find the conference nearest you on the conferences site.  We’re picking up a hat or a mug from every institution we talk with, and hope to add your logo to our collection. 

At Oracle, we recognize that our customers are innovators. We have listened to them as we design new features for Campus Solutions and now we want to extend the reach of their innovation to Oracle’s...

Analytics

Harnessing the Power of Cloud for Higher Education

For educational institutions across the land, August can be the cruelest month. A deluge of students, faculty members and employees descend on campuses large and small.  All bring a multiplicity of devices to connect to a campus network choked by simultaneous demands for hefty downloads, storage and speed. And all expect instant, uninterrupted, secure, and mobile access to the systems and software that run the institution. For campus IT administrators, this annual ritual becomes the ultimate final exam for systems that support a vast network of expected services, from the libraries and classrooms to the student health center, research departments, alumni groups and critical back-office functions such as HR and finance. They know that without the cost savings and flexibility of cloud computing, the campus IT infrastructure is in danger of getting a failing grade. But the fact is some institutional systems are barely passing when it comes to the smart deployment of advanced cloud computing technologies that can improve student learning, advance research and streamline operations. Others have opted to begin a journey to the cloud, presenting both tremendous opportunities but some risks, if not implemented correctly. Why is cloud so important to the academic world? The cloud eliminates both virtual and physical walls and barriers to access, delivery, and collaboration. Currently, approximately 5.8 million students—more than one in every four in the U.S. alone—are taking an online course, opening the classroom doors to non-traditional students now able to pursue their dream of a college education.  From a research perspective, cloud not only provides access to extraordinary scale and compute capabilities, but also enables unique, truly global collaboration opportunities that can result in unimaginable scientific breakthroughs. Higher education faces at least two tough technology challenges that are related: Prioritizing the needs of the institution: there are more and varied technology solutions, partners, and delivery models on the market than at any point in history. Institutions must continue to prioritize their investments to ensure that every dollar of spend materially furthers the mission of the institution in a defined and contextual manner. Investing in sustainable and extensible solutions: it’s absolutely essential that those investments are not just creating better mission outcomes, but are also seen through the lens of the enterprise portfolio of technology. One risk with ad hoc “shiny object” investments is the resultant heterogeneous technology sprawl. The full benefit of sustainable technology can only be realized when that technology is part of an integrated, performant, and secure portfolio. I have worked with many institutions to begin to define and implement their cloud strategy. Not every cloud solution fits every institution, but there are a range of options appropriate for every school.  For instance, the massive State University of New York (SUNY) system recently selected Oracle’s Cloud Machine and Oracle to lead modernization efforts across the system. This private cloud instantiation sits behind SUNY’s firewall, yet provides a range of comprehensive, integrated platform services giving the entire system the latest in innovation. Other institutions may find it easier to simply add cloud as a new service. This was the case with the University of Wyoming, requiring the benefits of modern HR and financial systems. They launched “WyoCloud,” a bold shift to updated, cloud based software, thereby setting the stage for more streamlined student services. And at North Carolina State University, Oracle is helping to sow the seeds of agricultural innovation with a research initiative which evaluates the collection of data from field-based sensors, drones and farm machinery to make better farming decisions. Oracle’s comprehensive and integrated cloud application and platform services enable the collection and analysis disparate data sources. If you’d like to learn more about cloud computing for higher education, read my Q&A interview with Converge magazine on how to harness the benefits of cloud. You can also send me an email or look for me at EDUCAUSE this fall.   Patrick Mungovan is the group vice president for Oracle Public Sector U.S. Higher Education, Research and Academic Medical Center Technology Sales.      

For educational institutions across the land, August can be the cruelest month. A deluge of students, faculty members and employees descend on campuses large and small.  All bring a multiplicity of...

Analytics

Reaching Constituents with Modern Platforms

Government agencies are increasingly using a broad spectrum of digital channels to engage constituents and to provide better services. The end goal is to replicate consumer experiences in the private sector which are digital by design, mobile first, and highly personalized to address particular needs. But to create a true digital government, it’s not enough for agencies to simply put their content online and expect citizens to find what they need. If only it would be that easy. Agencies need to personalize messages and create one-on-one interactions through online, social, and virtual personal assistants. It’s clear that today’s mobile citizen wants access to services and solutions anytime and anyplace. Engagement by way of social media and intelligent virtual assistants empower constituents with the ability to learn, share, interact, and let their voices be heard – all in real-time. So, how can government meet these ambitious digital milestones? To plan for success, government agencies should consider using digital engagement to: Establish a reputation of excellence. By leveraging social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, agencies can highlight positive messages, promote innovative campaigns, and gather feedback about initiatives and concerns. Better serve constituents. By adopting digital technologies like Twitter, for example, government can balance responsiveness and contain costs – while improving citizen services and becoming more responsive to evolving citizen demands. Empower employees. Like the constituents that they serve, agency heads need to tap into today’s digital technologies to motivate their employees that are now full-fledged adopters. The good news is that government is catching up…but it still has a way to go. Oracle is actively trying to help bridge the gap. The company will be one of five vendors participating in an open-sourced pilot to guide dozens of federal programs to make public service information available to consumer Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs) for the home and office, such as Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, and Facebook Messenger. The pilot, launched by the GSA’s Emerging Citizen Technology Program, will cover issues ranging from privacy, security, accessibility, and performance to how citizens can benefit from more efficient and open access to federal services. While constituents likely won’t notice when their experience is successful and pleasant, they will notice when it’s not. To learn more about government’s efforts to accelerate digital transformation, read Oracle’s whitepaper: Building Government for the 21st Century.  

Government agencies are increasingly using a broad spectrum of digital channels to engage constituents and to provide better services. The end goal is to replicate consumer experiences in the private...

Analytics

How the Cloud Simplifies Government Budget Planning

Bob will be a featured speaker at the annual National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) conference Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn. Let’s start with a quick quiz. What is the most widely used tool in public sector budgeting? If you guessed spreadsheets, you would be correct.  Despite innovations in planning and budgeting solutions, many government agencies are still using dated, in-house developed systems with spreadsheets as the interface. Unless an organization is small, the spreadsheet model quickly becomes cumbersome and inefficient. Hundreds of spreadsheets must be consolidated, reviewed, circulated for approval, changed and updated. At the same time, those helpful macros must be maintained and synchronized across multiple spreadsheets.   Because agencies are required to follow a defined process for budget development, they must control, compare, forecast, and record comments before publishing a budget book. At the same time, agencies must juggle multiple versions, starting baselines, and initiating budget rollups from department to agency to the entire jurisdiction.  One system, one budget book But there’s a better way, and the cloud can help agencies get there.  Cloud-based budgeting and planning applications can offer not just improved efficiency but also better insight.  Typically, agencies are required to produce a line item budget that is presented by the executive and approved by the legislature. But how can they create and analyze that information during the development process? A modern, cloud-based system is the answer. These configurable systems offer task lists, security features, workflow, version comparison, and detailed reporting with links back to source systems to retrieve HR and financial data.  For instance, agencies can integrate their HR/payroll application directly into the budgeting application, and forecast the impact of incremental pay raises and staffing changes. Project and capital budgets, often extending beyond a traditional fiscal year, can be linked and analyzed in tandem without keeping another set of spreadsheets. In addition, the relative return on investment delivered by cloud applications is on the rise. A recent case study published by Nucleus Research reveals that the initial costs for on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) were 2.1 times higher than the Oracle cloud-based ERP system. And, after deployment, personnel costs for cloud ERP averaged 1.8 less than on-premises. Move your budget planning to the cloud....today  Today, many jurisdictions use performance information and strategic goals during the budgeting process to present a better picture based on outcomes. Besides the obvious advantage of addressing the legal and mechanical aspects of producing a budget book, the real value rests in the continuous analysis and forecasting features for revenue, expense and capital spending.  By linking into the same data source, all entities have the same version of the truth.   Because budgeting and planning applications sit outside the core ERP and HR systems, they can be implemented in a cloud environment independent of these applications, which may be hosted in the cloud or on-premises.  A cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) system is typically faster and often less costly to implement than traditional on-premise applications, and eliminates time-consuming hardware, network and database administration work. In addition, government finance managers and legislators can address short-term issues and spot long-term trends through a system that will use the current budget information and consistently update the planning model with reports generated by mathematical algorithms and formulas. Most government agencies are closer to a modern budgeting system than you might think. So start your research, survey the market and discover the benefits of a modern budgeting and planning application for your agency, powered in the cloud. Learn how Oracle’s Planning & Budgeting in the Cloud helped the city of Raleigh, NC by viewing this on-demand webinar. Oracle has been named a leader in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrants for Cloud Strategic and Financial CPM Solutions.          

Bob will be a featured speaker at the annual National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) conference Aug. 12-16 in Nashville, Tenn. Let’s start with a quick quiz. What is...

Modernizing IT Systems: A Discussion on Cloud-Centric Government

Editor’s note: In the first in a series of interviews with Oracle cloud experts, Matthew O’Keefe, vice president and corporate technologist, discusses how government agencies can begin to migrate their IT systems to the cloud with William Sanders, director of modern platform strategy and business development for Oracle Public Sector.  Sanders previously served as the CIO for the Kansas Department of Labor, where he led a successful initiative to streamline the state’s unemployment claims process. Today, Sanders employs his government expertise to help IT professionals in federal, state and local government modernize legacy systems through cloud strategies and services. Matthew O’Keefe: Why should state and local governments consider making the journey to the cloud? William Sanders: The cloud gives public service agencies ways to lower costs while improving flexibility and operational agility. As citizens and government employees become increasingly digitally savvy, they expect the same range of tools and experiences introduced by the commercial sector. Agencies must meet those citizen expectations by offering services that, at minimum, can be accessed via any platform: desktop computer, mobile device, and the conventional telephone.    Matthew O’Keefe: Tell me about a time in your state government experience where you were able to use technology to help citizens. William Sanders: When I was CIO for the Kansas Department of Labor, many companies had routine shutdowns in November and December. So unemployment insurance requests spiked, and our department needed to respond quickly. The workload would increase by a factor of five, and IT had to provision statically for either the peak or base load, then deal with fallout from those decisions. Citizens were spending hours on the phone, an unacceptable level of service that was quickly communicated to the elected officials in our statehouse. We created a new system to improve the claims process, which started on the internet, but allowed applicants to pick up the phone and ask questions. This method off-loaded enough work to make the claims system scale. By the way, it’s interesting to note that back then, we also had to purchase enough gear to handle the peak load, which meant we were over-provisioned for the rest of year. Today, the cloud takes care of that problem.   Matthew O’Keefe: Clearly, the cloud makes a big difference here. Are most government agencies ready to make their cloud journey? William Sanders: Yes, and we can help them lay the foundation. Today, government IT teams are often overwhelmed just trying to maintain current systems, let alone initiate newer methods. For example, procurement processes are waterfall-oriented and not reactive to new, changing requirements. In contrast, many private enterprises do agile and incremental development. Today, a government agency can sign up for fast, agile processes; but they need help in integrating on-premise and cloud options.  So you need a strategy to enable good decisions that are not just fast and responsive, but can determine intelligently what applications and data should migrate to the cloud, and what can remain on premises.   Matthew O’Keefe: What options do Oracle’s state and local government customers have when considering cloud deployments for IT services? William Sanders: Oracle offers five primary modes to support IT service deployments: public cloud, on-premise public cloud, traditional on-premise, private cloud, and managed cloud services. Oracle also has a wide portfolio of converged infrastructure, including high-performance automated platforms for databases and storage that deploy on-premise while having public cloud equivalents. We can help government customers sort through this range of options.    Matthew O’Keefe: How do you decide among different deployment options? William Sanders: The key is to be able to incorporate different technologies as they become available. There are a host of questions you need to answer before you deploy, including: Is the framework you’ve defined able to adapt to these new technologies? Or, do you have to start over? What are the workloads? Are they steady-state or highly variant? Is there a pattern to the variation? What are the line-of-business/agency needs for the system? What service is being provided? What are metrics for service? What is the timeframe for deployment and expected length of service? What happens if the service is not available, and how can the related adverse effects be managed? Are there particular government compliance or security regulations that need to be considered?   Matthew O’Keefe: How do you make “build-versus-buy” decisions when considering cloud deployments? William Sanders: For standard business functions, such as HR and ERP, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud applications are the way to go. The cloud service provider does most of the work, the technology is current, and the deployment model is sustainable. Agencies can focus on their core missions, instead of implementing technology. For unique applications in government without a commercial equivalent, the customer should explore Platform-as-a-Service (database and middleware) before considering Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This approach helps ensure the customer can adapt specialized systems to the cloud and get the most value from the cloud service.   All of this requires strategies to ensure a close match to your unique requirements, as well an investment strategy for new technologies and maintenance. That means the operations need to be simpler than they are today through the use of cloud management tools. The key to it all is standardization where possible, so things that are easier to implement, integrate and support. Oracle can also provide the public cloud infrastructure directly to a customer’s data center with the Oracle cloud machine, which supports IaaS and PaaS software layers, with SaaS planned for the future. This is a great solution for those who, for various reasons, want a machine behind their firewall, but also want to take advantage of public cloud services.   Matthew O’Keefe: Are there specific differentiators from Oracle technologies to meet these challenges? William Sanders: Yes. These include the breadth and depth of the Oracle offerings and their integration. It’s easier to standardize on a smaller set of technologies from one vendor; and easier to train, implement, integrate, and measure success with these efforts. It’s also easier to manage contracts.  For instance, maybe an agency is a legacy Oracle PeopleSoft customer. Oracle can help move that application onto IaaS, or offer options for migrating to Oracle’s Human Capital Management cloud solution. Either way, Oracle understands how these pieces fit together. ----- About the Author Matthew O’Keefe, PhD., is a corporate technologist, specializing in helping customers leverage the Oracle cloud to build out agile, next-generation enterprise IT. Prior to Oracle, he co-founded two storage startups, and served as a tenured professor at the University of Minnesota, teaching computer engineering and doing research and development in application development and DevOps.

Editor’s note: In the first in a series of interviews with Oracle cloud experts, Matthew O’Keefe, vice president and corporate technologist, discusses how government agencies can begin to migrate...

Analytics

Oracle Cloud Services: New Possibilities for Government

As one of Oracle’s public sector cloud leaders, I have the opportunity to meet many federal, state and local IT professionals who believe that the future of IT lies in the creative and cost-saving features of the cloud. Gone are the days of measuring IT success by the number and size of data centers. Today, the mandate is to shrink or dismantle antiquated data centers to deliver modern cloud-based services.  But how do you get started? What kind of cloud do you need? And what strategy gets you there? Along with two of my colleagues, I recently spoke with Government Computer News editors about Oracle’s approach to cloud, and how it can help agencies at the federal, state and local level envision and execute their own cloud strategy.   Cloud computing is not a new technology, but how and when to migrate to the cloud is somewhat of an art form. Most agencies manage a combination of on-premises and cloud-based data and apps. You might keep critical, custom-written legacy applications on premises, for instance, while using ERP and other core business applications in the cloud. You typically could offload work that’s not part of your core competency and send it off to a cloud service provider so you can more easily focus on your organization’s mission and function.   That’s the story of the Texas Department of Information Resources, which developed a private community cloud pilot program for all state agencies. Oracle provided a hybrid public cloud that brought the public cloud on premises and into the agency’s data centers, allowing government organizations to maintain control of the environment. Or take the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, where its leaders connected 23 essential agencies directly to its citizens by launching a modern 311 Citizen Call Center. And Chicago saved millions of dollars annually in recruitment costs after it transitioned to Oracle’s Human Capital Management cloud.  Whether you want to modernize your back office systems, build apps faster to respond to ever-changing citizen needs, or simply reduce the high cost of traditional IT services, I invite you to read this special report in GCN to find out how modern cloud options can help you lead your own personal style of innovation. Read the full GCN article here: Oracle Cloud Services: New Possibilities for Government Learn more: Federal Tech Talk: Modern Cloud for a Modern Government ---- William Sanders is the Director of Modern Platform Strategy and Business Development for Oracle Public Sector. Sanders previously served as the CIO for the Kansas Department of Labor, where he led a successful initiative to streamline the state’s unemployment claims process. Today, Sanders employs his government expertise to help IT professionals in federal, state and local government modernize legacy systems through cloud strategies and services.  

As one of Oracle’s public sector cloud leaders, I have the opportunity to meet many federal, state and local IT professionals who believe that the future of IT lies in the creative and cost-saving...

Analytics

A Digital Lifeline for Human Services

Written in collaboration with Donna-Mae Shyduik, Director of Strategic Programs, Health and Human Services at Oracle. The broad adoption of social media, mobile devices and responsive web content demand that human services agencies think differently about their outreach and engagement tactics with today’s connected citizens. If not, they risk the possibility of failing to meet their core mission and goals of providing services to those who may need it the most, an expanding population of divorced parents, teenage mothers, children entering the welfare system and citizens struggling with opioid addition and  other health issues. Human services agencies have some catching up to do. The opportunity is tremendous, and the potential positive outcomes for the most vulnerable populations can be life-changing. It simply starts with each agency systemically committing to establishing a digital identity and taking that first step. While improving customer self-service channels and offering the most important content online seems obvious, today’s leaders need to plan appropriately to consistently deliver critical information in a way that’s accessible, personable and secure across today’s modern platforms. Digital engagement technologies can play an important role in helping to address a range of very real social needs that impact citizens across the country. Programs and information that can help in these scenarios exist – but getting that information into the right hands at the right time remains an opportunity that modern digital outreach efforts can help address. Instead of the usual broad-based outreach campaigns, agencies need to target individuals in need through today’s widely available digital channels, including mobile applications and social media channels. Now, agency leaders can communicate gender-, geographic- and location-specific messages that encourage non-custodial parents (NCP) to learn more about a support program by visiting a campaign-specific website where they can complete an anonymous, online screening to determine eligibility. If eligible, the parent can enter personal information on a phone or other mobile device to apply for the program. This digital engagement model helps remove fears commonly associated with more traditional in-person processes – contacting the child support agency and pleading their unique situation, can be time-consuming and stressful. Digital interactions help remove some of these barriers, speed the overall process and improve trust and outcomes. Digital processes can also help human services personnel more effectively identify and recruit the best potential foster parents in high-risk communities. Agencies can target and engage the most highly desired segments of the community population based not only on their location, but also other important key markers including gender, education, profession and more. By moving many of these tactics online and enhancing the experience through social and mobile platforms – including recruitment, training, and licensing processes – allows for a level of interaction that has never been available at scale. To top it off, all of these channels have near and real-time analytics capabilities that track the digital footprint anyone engaged so that program effectiveness can be measured and adjusted throughout the recruitment cycle. Staff from community-based nutrition programs have long struggled not only to provide a specific service, but also to engage clients in a meaningful way. Digital engagement in this case could enhance existing services by introducing closed-loop social communities that would provide an additional channel to engage clients on a more frequent and convenient basis. These online communities offer a channel where people can communicate with like-minded folks, peers, and domain experts around topics and social causes they care about or want to learn more. While digital engagement clearly offers important opportunities for citizens and agencies, some leaders struggle with how and when to start. Here are the key steps they need to take to get moving: Develop a Vision: Learn how digital technologies are used in other industries, and leverage ideas to develop a compel­ling vision for how you would use the technology. More important, think about how you want it to improve outcomes for the agency and the population you serve. Define Policy and Technology Boundaries: Using the vision document, review your goals with legal, information technology, and policy staff to define what compliance, control, and privacy boundaries should exist. In these conversations, keep the focus on the right course through these con­straints rather than letting them be show-stoppers. Mature Competencies: Assess your staff and evaluate how you’ll need to prepare them for this new world. There might be required training and additional skill sets needed for them to succeed.  Don’t overlook industry partners that have deep specialty and can provide key guidance. Adopt Technology Platform: Define the technology tool-sets that will enable the capabili­ties you seek and make sure it can support privacy and compliance mandates. Execute Plan: Define specific, incre­mental phases that will take you toward your vision and start the journey. Consumer organizations learned at the dawn of the internet that digital channels were nothing more than another medium to deliver their message and engage potential customers on a continual basis. Real change requires a shift in behavior or position from one belief or understanding to another more desired belief or understanding that will alter an existing behavior.            

Written in collaboration with Donna-Mae Shyduik, Director of Strategic Programs, Health and Human Services at Oracle. The broad adoption of social media, mobile devices and responsive web content demand...

Analytics

The Evolution of Modern Government Back-Office

When we thought that we had achieved the vision of the “paperless” office with the ability to scan and attach digital versions of paper documents and digital signatures, these concepts quickly became a thing of the past. Today’s technologies enable digital processes from start to finish. Cloud computing is the underlying technology for other digital enablers, including social, mobile, analytics and the Internet of Things. Advance­ments in cloud computing have become pivotal to establishing and achieving modern best practices for back office. Effective agencies take advantage of digital transforma­tions, and embed solutions into the pro­cess—whether it’s employee recruitment, financial reporting, or budgeting. Government organizations have always pursued process improvement, better integration of resources, reduced paperwork and other overall efficiencies. Technology is often the foundation of those pursuits. In many ways though, modern technologies are now driving best practices. Without them, you can only advance so far.  Here’s a look at how technology is positively affecting several areas of business best practices. Human Capital and Talent Management The overall workforce is changing and govern­ments are challenged with competing with private industry to attract the same caliber of talent. Successful recruiting efforts begin with the first interaction, and top talent expects social, mobile and easy-to-use solutions at work. Modern government business practices must align to the expectation of the skilled job seekers. Government organizations that can’t provide that experience will lose out in the battle for their attention. Agencies need a comprehensive understanding of their existing workforce, so they can have visibility into who is ready to retire, or move on to other positions and when that transition will likely occur. They have to predict their future needs and establish a plan to ensure they have resources with the necessary skills to fill those gaps. Cloud computing helps to achieve success by providing sophisticated data collection and a way to marry that with analytics to help predict those future needs, understand potential gaps, and develop a succession plan. The City of Chicago has successfully used cloud computing to navigate these challenges. Chicago deployed a cloud solution to automate its hiring processes, enabling officials to reduce the number of candidates they need to manually screen by 75 percent, while also cutting the time-to-hire from a year to just 90 days. In the process, the city saves millions of dollars a year in recruitment costs. Finance and Procurement The government finance office can profit from modern technologies, particularly with the often tedious process of period end closing and financial reporting. This process involves coordinating all involved accounting staff and ensuring they complete the right tasks in the right order. They also automatically keep a written record of the process in case questions need to be answered after the fact. From a procurement perspective, cloud-based applications provide a guided shopping experience to help gov­ernment purchasers. Workers simply enter a keyword for what they need. They then see a list of ap­proved vendors along with the negotiat­ed contract prices. Procurement policies are enforced through this application, and all necessary accounting is complet­ed automatically. All the purchaser has to do is select the item. The City of Detroit has worked hard to emerge from their financial difficulties, and have transformed their business processes by replacing their existing back-office ERP solution with a cloud solution. Instead of looking to a solution that would require customization to meet their current processes, they looked to modern technology to take advantage of best practices inherent in the applications. It will provide the city with the ability to implement standardized leading-practices throughout their departments. They looked to hire and cultivate within their workforce change agents to help them transform. Planning, Budgeting and Reporting There is no government function that stands to profit more from modern, technology-driven best practices than the budgeting process. The primary aspects of the budget process, preparation, analyzing the costs and revenues, and communicating the budget all can be dramatically improved with modern best practices. Cloud applications offer an intuitive, easy-to-use employee experience, letting the tool be used across the organization and at all levels. It simplifies and accelerates the process of engaging different departments and agencies that have input into the budget reporting process. Today, more government agencies are engaging citizens during the budget process using modern social collaboration tools. Modern planning and budgeting solutions facilitate those exchanges. Conclusion Government agencies face a growing urgency with regard to upgrading and integrating their back-office processes with modern mobile, social and predictive analytics technologies. Modern best practices dictate their use, and government agencies that fail to embrace them will quickly fall behind in delivering the services employees and citizens expect. The cloud provides not only the opportunity to deploy those new technologies but also align business process to best practices. Oracle has developed a website devoted to modern back office best business practices across industries and processes, we encourage you leverage it.  

When we thought that we had achieved the vision of the “paperless” office with the ability to scan and attach digital versions of paper documents and digital signatures, these concepts quickly became...

Analytics

Millennials in Government: How to Attract the Next Generation Workforce

Government agencies today are facing unprecedented workforce challenges. The twin realities of the “Silver Tsunami” Baby Boomer retirement wave combined with a need to attract and retain new talent – especially sought-after Millennials – has created pressing new urgencies for HR organizations. As a recent report on the effect of Boomer retirements from the Government Finance Officers Association notes, “Baby Boomers may have delayed retirement due to the economic downturn, but it’s inevitable as you can’t delay aging”. The focus now has to be on attracting the next generation of workers to government, but how do you do it? Enter the Digital Workforce Era By 2025, Millennials (born between the early 1980s and early 2000s) will make up about 75% of the global labor force, Deloitte tells us in their Millennial Digital Survey. To meet citizen demands and the expectations of leadership, understanding their perceptions and influences is vital. Most of them have grown up with instant access to Facebook, Google, and Amazon. When they start new jobs, their expectations of the systems and tools they will use are already hardwired from their experiences as members of a digitally native generation. Candidates and employees want a compelling work environment that provides a great experience, which includes their dealings with human resources. Traditionally, HR has delivered employee services based on standard processes that are accessible only in person or by phone during office hours. HR services weren’t designed to make employees enthusiastic about HR or reward them with an engaging experience. Instead of a model based on scale and efficiency, modern HR must be designed for effectiveness and convenience so that employees can choose when and how to engage. Employees want to choose the time, place, and channel to interact with HR. Being able to do this makes them enthusiastic about their next HR interaction, and feel that they work for an organization that understands how they want to get things done. Modern HR leaders can differentiate their organizations in the competition for talent by providing a consumer-grade experience for their candidates and employees. High-value, talented individuals are savvy and have high work-life expectations. They want to know that they are positioned for success. When the workplace is driven by social interaction and optimized for connectivity on the go, employees will have the peace of mind of knowing they work on the cutting edge of operations for an organization that has their best interests in mind. Those who do not feel this way will explore their options. The demand for talented individuals has resulted in a highly competitive hiring environment, and even the hardest-working employees will start to look for new jobs very quickly if their current employers don’t deliver the experiences they are looking for What Government Leaders Should Learn From Millennials: A recent study published by Route Fifty, “Preparing for Tomorrow’s State and Local Government Workforce,” does a great job highlighting case studies and experiences from many jurisdictions across the country on how to attract Millennials. A particular section that caught our attention is where Scott Fadness, Mayor of Fishers, Indiana, says that government has a lot to learn about the entrepreneur mentality of the often maligned millennial generation. The three qualities he refers to are: Pursuit of Passion:  Millennials are criticized for not accepting the way things have always been done. Employers may struggle to engage younger employees, and job performance may not meet expectations in antiquated corporate environments—unless employees feel a sense of purpose. Millennials are motivated by meaningful work and organizations they believe in. Passion and purpose are the new collective values. Risk-taking: Millennials celebrate entrepreneurism but aren’t creating new businesses in pace with previous generations. In this context, Millennials aren’t considered strong risk takers. They are fearless brainstormers of creative ideas and solutions. To some, out-of-the box thinking is a risk. Staying Connected. Millennials are known for being connected in social and technology contexts. The concept of connection, being linked to a person, thing or idea, is an intangible quality that helps leaders understand complex issues and how so much of our world is interrelated today. Conclusion There really is no point recruiting and investing in top talent if organizations can’t hold on to the great people they already have. Hiring and retaining a high-performing workforce over the next 10 years will require improved focus on the quality of employees’ experiences and the tools they use every day at work. While most leaders are quick to say their employees are the organizations most valuable asset, many are failing to provide HR teams with the tools they need to ensure the best workers are able to perform to their full potential. This approach requires new thinking not only about technology but also entrenched business processes, and encouraging a culture of change. The talented, high achievers on whom organizations depend expect information they need to be instantly available, whenever and wherever they require it, from any device. HR organizations and modern processes should be part of that evolution. While technology is certainly one part of the equation, today’s HR leaders also have an opportunity to think completely differently about the employee experience, from recruitment through retirement.  

Government agencies today are facing unprecedented workforce challenges. The twin realities of the “Silver Tsunami” Baby Boomer retirement wave combined with a need to attract and retain new talent –...

Analytics

March Madness Isn't Over...

When you think of March Madness – you usually think of college basketball. In 2017 however, we will all remember the March Madness debate associated with the American Health Care Act - the bill meant to replace Obamacare. The frenzy began with the introduction of the bill on Monday, March 6, and ended with the bill being pulled without a vote on Friday, March 24. It’s too soon to tell whether another bill will be floated, or whether lawmakers will seize the opportunity to make changes to the existing law, with politics playing a big part of the equation. In government, the interpretation, implementation, and communication of changes impacting constituents require the right combination of tools to get things done. These “tools” are the technologies and processes that can effectively respond to the inevitable policy and programming changes that will ensue over the long-term and the ability to proactively reach out to the impacted constituents. One shift that appears clear is that states will take a much more active role in determining how programs will operate and how dollars are spent. As I see it – there are three critical areas that will determine the level of success: Ease and agility in applying policy and regulatory changes - IT professionals learned the hard way that interpreting policy and writing code for those interpretations is a recipe for disaster. The problems were twofold: 1) misinterpretation of the policy, and 2) the inability to easily make changes once it was hard-coded into the system. Luckily, the emergence of “Rules- Engine” technology put the management of complex rules in the hands of the program staff, rather than the IT team. The most effective versions of these Rules Engines are able to cut and paste sections of the law or regulations to ensure accurate compliance.  They can also provide agility to react to the inevitable changes. States such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Georgia, and Tennessee have all relied on robust Rules Engines – including Oracle Policy Automation to guide eligibility determination for key social and human service benefit programs. Proactive outreach to those who are impacted – As laws are implemented and policies changed, it is absolutely essential to proactively notify citizens. Otherwise, you are subject to a tsunami of calls, emails, texts, and walk-ins to your agency contact centers; not to mention disruptive town halls. Additionally, confusion or misinformation can develop into a snowballing negative story that stifles progress and erodes public confidence. To avoid these situations, you will need to look beyond the usual broad-based outreach campaigns. Rather, you should target any affected individuals through today’s widely available digital channels, including mobile applications and social media channels. You can engage most consumers who need to know about any changes based not only on their location but also other important key markers including gender, education, profession and more. By moving many of these tactics online and enhancing the experience through digital platforms, you can achieve a level of interaction that only recently has been available to scale. To top it off, all of these channels have near and real-time analytics capabilities that track digital footprints, so program effectiveness can be measured and adjusted where necessary. Personal Engagement – The third critical area is achieving a level of personal engagement with your constituency. This happens when citizens are able to obtain the right service at the right time.  Leveraging solutions that have already penetrated commercial markets would include personalized citizen dashboards, as well as a 360 view of the citizen with the ability to collaborate across other government agencies. Also, implementing machine learning – which is the ability for computer programs to teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data – can also guide recommendations for a citizen journey resulting in positive outcomes. Offering an “Opti-Channel” (i.e., optimized for the individual citizen) delivery of government services offers personalized, consistent experience to facilitate transparency and trust. And ultimately, analyzing data allows leaders to develop actionable insights, which can refine policy, target resources and make informed decisions going forward. These are not futuristic wish lists that are fun to dream about but impossible to achieve. The technology exists today. The need exists today. And change is on its way – if not today – very soon!

When you think of March Madness – you usually think of college basketball. In 2017 however, we will all remember the March Madness debate associated with the American Health Care Act - the bill meant...

Analytics

How Data Analytics Can Help Transform Government Agencies

It is a fact of life that for many years the public sector has been asked to do more with less, deliver better and more timely services, provide transparency, give citizens  better access to government and improve customer service. At the same time commissioners, managers and business users within public sector agencies have been relying on the same reports they’ve been looking at for years, dealing with an IT queue that prioritizes work requests, and trying to match and make sense of multiple spreadsheets many of which are laid out differently. Business users know that if they had better access to the mounds of data available to them they could make more informed and better business decisions and they could be looking ahead not backwards. We finally have modern user-friendly data analytics tools available to do just that.  Let us tell you how. Modern Data Analytics Data Analytics tools have finally caught up with workplace demands and the public sector has figured out that data analytics can help. Agency leaders no longer need to review reports and just observe trends; they now have real-time insight into their business and can predict what is likely to occur and make decisions based on forward looking information, not on what already happened. Measurements can be put in place to quantify program effectiveness – not after the fact – but as a program or a fiscal year progresses. We can now truly measure the effectiveness of our programs, by getting answers to questions such as: Are expenditures in line with the budget or projected to exceed the budget?  If there are project over-runs what are they, what are they projected to be and where can those costs be recouped? Are we serving as many citizens as promised?  Are wait times decreasing? Do citizens have access to the information they need?  Are those most ‘at risk’ receiving the services they are entitled to? And the list goes on and on... Modern data analytics tools are built with the business users in mind. Although IT still has a role to set up the data connections, and data scientists help build the predictive models, business users can now ask their own questions and create their own ad-hoc queries. Users can now explore the data without a predetermined list of questions. As an example, a query about the cost of a particular government program per individual served could lead to the discovery of one or more clients abusing the system by receiving multiple prescriptions for drugs and then having them filled by ‘preferred pharmacies’ and selling them on the street for profit. In this example the query was cost per patient served – but when that question was answered and it was clear that one program was way out of line with the others – further discovery led to why it was so skewed.  But that was not where the questioning had started. This one example illustrates how access to data and the ability to interrogate that data is very powerful. This simple line of questioning highlights abuse, fraud and ultimately program savings. Data Analytics in Action Examples of how data analytics can impact positively your mission: Public Sector Segment Use Case Benefits Government Administration Back Office ( Finance, Human Resources, Procurement) Data analytics helps agencies identify: least cost vendor with highest rating, sick leave taken by an individual, departments that are not in normal range, areas where retirement will impact operation, types of skills that will be needed, query the data to find encumbrances, where spending at current rates will exceed budget and why. Health & Human Services Child Welfare Predictive data analytics uses all data available to identify most at-risk children, those least likely to be re-unified and the best services for each child. Health and Human Services / Departments of Revenue Fraud Detection/Prevention Fraud, waste and abuse is something all government agencies keep a watchful eye on. But the use of predictive data analytics can help agencies stay ahead of fraudsters and allow machine learning to identify schemes and the big business behind fraud. Public Works Fleet Management Data analytics can take all of the information about a vehicle, maintenance requirements, warranty dates, known issues from that or similar vehicles and times of least use so vehicle downtime has minimal impact. Transportation Airports – enhance customer experience and reduce costs Predictive data analytics helps identify terminals not in use to save on maintenance and heating/AC costs, best locations for retail, where long lines are anticipated to assign TSA staff, route expansions to maximize  airport revenue   This is merely a sample of how data analytics can help government agencies measure and enhance effectiveness by having access to insight to make better decisions. We encourage you to check out the ‘How You Can Use Data Analytics to Change Government’ guide that GovLoop has published earlier this year. It offers an in-depth view of what is data analytics and how it can help government. Conclusion Traditionally, the ‘techies’ have looked for the next silver bullet, focusing on the tool but not on the business problem. It is no longer about the tools but all about the business decision that needs to be made and the data that drives that decision. Business users do not want just a report, they want access to all of their data, they want to explore their business from every angle and gain insights. They don’t care what tool they use, they just want to be able to do it themselves without relying on IT for every question they want answered. Today the cliché of a picture is worth a thousand words could not be more relevant. Data analytics helps people understand the data by viewing it in charts, graphs, and an almost limitless set of visualizations. The focus is now on making data analytics user-friendly.

It is a fact of life that for many years the public sector has been asked to do more with less, deliver better and more timely services, provide transparency, give citizens  better access to...

Infrastructure

Cloud Roadmap: Going Hybrid in an Era of Uncertainty

Despite changes in government and a turnover in administrations, one thing remains the same: agencies are under pressure to improve citizen services while reducing costs. A key strategy to achieving this resulted in the “Cloud First” directive in 2011: a step to push agencies to the Cloud for the common good. It stated:  “for the Federal Government, cloud computing holds tremendous potential to deliver public value by increasing operational efficiency and responding faster to constituent needs.”  With each passing year, new challenges in this journey have emerged, including budget cuts, workforce transformation, and most recently, the challenges of cybersecurity. Since the OPM breach of 2015, there is no greater roadblock in the journey to the cloud than the risk of comprised data security. Agencies estimate that 32% of their data cannot be transferred to the cloud due to data security or sovereignty issues according to MeriTalk.  Nonetheless, federal and state agencies alike have pursued cloud strategies for compliance and cost savings. The state of Texas has been aggressive in its pursuit. State Representative Larry Gonzalez said, “I realized how much money we were putting into servers, hardware, software; and the men and women providing those services. I realized right away that the cost of doing business for the state could be significantly less with the technology the cloud was offering us.” More on the path Texas has taken can be read in my earlier blog post: A Lesson in Governing: Texas Pioneers a Path to the Cloud.  Hybrid Cloud: The Prudent Approach The path many agencies are taking to dealing with these risks is a prudent, methodical approach: hybrid cloud. A true hybrid approach offers agencies the ability to safely store confidential citizen data on premises, while moving public (non-critical) data repositories to the cloud. This model offers a win-win scenario – achieving cost savings over the long-term, while placing strong controls on data security and oversight.  The hybrid model also supports a gradual and practical shift in workforce transformation. Historic functions involving data center management, and system updates/refreshes require a specific set of job skills. The journey to the cloud, which entails a new set of functions, including IT consolidation, virtualization, workload management, data security, and strategic planning require vastly different expertise. Compounding this challenge is that government agencies face a tough battle competing with the private sector for new talent. As such, they should consider a balanced approach in recruiting candidates with specialized skills externally, while training internal (tenured) employees to cover required skills over the short-term.  The burden of operations and maintenance cost is also a key factor. As a result of obsolete systems deployed decades ago, government agencies spent more than 75% of their IT budget on O&M investments in 2015 according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report. This circumstance can potentially limit agencies’ adoption of cloud technologies with less budget flexibility than previously planned.  A Cloud Partner for Today…With an Eye on Tomorrow With the emergence of big data and IoT fueling the need for cloud technologies in government, the challenge for agencies is selecting a technology partner that offers a custom and targeted approach. Due to an inherent lack of consistency in hybrid cloud models, Oracle has recently introduced the Oracle Cloud Machine to address this growing need.  Oracle Cloud Machine provides a stepping-stone in the journey to cloud, as it uniquely offers the advantages of a public cloud with less disruption and risk. As an on premises implementation of Oracle Cloud, agencies can run their applications seamlessly wherever they want, as workloads are completely portable between the public cloud and agencies’ own data centers.  Oracle Cloud Machine also helps agencies meet data sovereignty requirements with single vendor accountability. It addresses security concerns by protecting highly sensitive data and applications behind the firewall. Oracle Cloud Machine helps maximize agencies’ TCO between public and private cloud environments. It has been regarded as one of a few 4th generation hybrid cloud solutions by Wikibon.  With change regarded as business as usual, government needs a technology partner that can support the journey to the cloud today and be prepared for requirements that are on the horizon. Take a look at the IT Executive's Guide to Developing an Enterprise Cloud Strategy and the infowall below for more on hybrid cloud models. You can learn more about it on the Oracle Cloud Machine Website. And for more information on Oracle Cloud solutions for the public sector, please contact Oracle Senior Marketer, Amit P. Sharma.

Despite changes in government and a turnover in administrations, one thing remains the same: agencies are under pressure to improve citizen services while reducing costs. A key strategy to...

CIO

The Modern Government CIO

This week my focus is on IT leadership and the evolving role of the government CIO. I've collaborated with my colleague and public sector cloud expert William Sanders, former CIO at the Kansas Department of Labor, to share his perspective on this topic. William is currently Director of Cloud Platform Strategic Programs, Oracle Public Sector. --- A Few Words from William I spent a number of years in state government as the CIO for a core-mission, billion-dollar state agency. During that time, I made many friends with agency CIOs from other states. Often, as we were socializing at conferences and association meetings, would discuss common challenges we were having back home and how others had gone about addressing the issues. Irrespective of size, geographic location, or political leanings, we fought the same battles over strategic direction, budgets, and the technology required to deliver high-quality service. We faced the same complex issues—sometimes with a different flavor or scale—but all-in-all very similar. A Tale of the Overwhelmed CIO: I kept in particularly close contact with one of my Midwestern counterparts.  My colleague's problems were complex and familiar: big staff cuts with aging IT systems; no budget directly allocated to him; required to seek Line of Business approval to spend outside personnel costs; no planned refresh cycle; unable to sunset most of what he had despite its technical obsolescence. As his staff retired, he struggled to replace them with people who knew his older technology. In summary, he faced a large and growing technical debt. This was true of his most mission-critical systems. While his systems were able to function, it wasn't without the ever-present fire drill, especially during periods of peak workloads. In addition, his agency experienced failed IT projects. His staff grew jaded. When presented with a path forward, their response would be something about how modernization efforts wouldn't be successful, or that they couldn't allocate the staff to modernize and simultaneously keep the systems up. I thought to myself, well, a Viking boat would sail across the ocean, but is that the way a modern sailor would want to go? Machiavelli famously once said, “It is easier for the losers to see what they will lose than the gainers to see how they will gain.” For my friend, this was absolutely the case. --- Unfortunately, the scenario that William describes is quite typical of what many government CIOs face. This mode of business is simply not sustainable. So how can the vendor community help government CIOs embrace and act on the innovations that will lead to more successful outcomes? First, we have to help them execute on the key points that will create success, regardless of the service delivery model they choose. Select small, clear and visible wins Celebrate successes Maintain the change momentum by using success to tackle more change Everyone reading this post are likely familiar with technology trends around cloud, mobility, digital transformation, lean, agile, incremental, etc.  We also know that CIO's need to wear many hats, from managing day-to-day operations to innovate with technology and everything in between. Modern CIO's will eventually operate an IT business that  relies on hybrid cloud principles and quite possibly embraces more cloud services than on-premise architectures. CIO's can achieve cloud success with various service models, but must understand that Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) all have different value propositions. IaaS makes it easy to move application stacks and show quick wins, but don't have the overall cost savings that PaaS and SaaS can bring. Platform is aimed at reducing the people costs of maintenance and development— an IT organization's costliest expense. Given that CIO's are the shepherds of an IT department, they spend as much time with personnel and budget issues as with technology issues, particularly in the government space. Cloud offers a way to deliver more with less—and demonstrate success quickly. In addition to lower costs, PaaS also offers the CIO the ability to become agile. Development teams are often waiting on the infrastructure organization to provision the environment. In order to make new services available faster, PaaS can be used to offset the weeks or months it would otherwise take to procure hardware, install software, configure software, implement security controls, etc. With PaaS this timeframe could be reduced to hours or days—quickening the pace of change, reducing the risk of delayed go-live dates, and giving the project team and end-user community the confidence that positive change is coming. CIOs are asked to do more all the time, and the pressures continue to rise. The need to demonstrate value for their organization is constant, whether it's standardizing processes, reducing costs, innovating, or providing more services with fewer resources. The list is endless. As a vendor community, we need to be there to support them and help them shine with their stakeholders.

This week my focus is on IT leadership and the evolving role of the government CIO. I've collaborated with my colleague and public sector cloud expert William Sanders, former CIO at the Kansas...

Apps

The Future Is Now: Next-Generation Citizen Services

Written in collaboration with Suhas Uliyar, Vice President - Mobile Strategy Product Management at Oracle The phrase "customer service" has often sounded like an oxymoron to anyone who has endured interminable lines at the DMV, navigated maze-like call centers, or even attempted to get a simple answer from a website. Help could be on the way—and sooner than you think. With advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, government agencies and leading consumer brands are thinking anew about how to not only improve but expand their digital customer services. By using familiar consumer platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Skype, for example, AI-enabled chat bots offer the promise of handling citizen inquiries accurately and automatically, freeing up employees to focus on issues that truly require human interaction. The Next Wave of Technology Innovation Technology comes at us in waves. We catch a glimpse of it building—far out on the horizon—not knowing exactly its size and impact. Some much bigger and faster than others—but all swell and develop. Give it time and that wave gets more defined as it approaches—and we can begin to see its shape, size and potential impact. Social media is one of those waves, which gave a voice to the people. For the first time ever, consumers had a platform to interact, learn, share and voice their opinions. It was as if everyone had their own broadcasting platform. Communication went from one to one - to one to many.  Millions were flocking to social networks to share, like, follow and learn. The social networking phenomenon took consumers by storm; it changed behavior and shifted power. We saw another wave in the shape of mobile apps that gave birth to the phrase "There is an App for That!" There are roughly 2 million mobile apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. On average mobile users interact with 4-5 apps on their mobile devices of which messaging apps make the top 1 or 2 mobile apps used. We are now seeing another wave on the rise—and it's much bigger—and happening much faster than social networks. And that's messaging apps. For consumers, particularly younger demographics, this isn't new.  Messaging apps have been experiencing explosive growth for years. Popular Asian messaging apps like WeChat, KakaoTalk, and LINE have taken the lead in finding innovative ways to keep users engaged. Snapchat, Kik, Messenger and others today boast incredible user growth. And let's not forget Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which combined have half the 4.2 billion monthly mobile active users. Artificial Intelligence Enables Smart Messenger Apps In the last few years, we have seen an appreciation for the data within and around us. Organizations want their decisions to be data driven as opposed to be arrived at heuristically.  Public databases have emerged and are valuable repositories of data and can be used to augment the data within enterprises.  Machine intelligence is shifting the enterprise apps landscape. These AI-powered apps are capable of performing higher-order tasks typically performed by knowledge workers. The current suite of applications must develop intelligence or they will get swapped out for a new generation of applications which take advantage of machine intelligence. The rise of conversational interfaces are pushing the need for machines to understand human language and the knowledge embedded in various application domains. How Do We Make Apps Smarter? Machines need to understand domain knowledge and for that, data needs to be canonically represented so that machines can understand and act upon it.  First Google and then later Microsoft have done this for public data in what's termed as "Knowledge Graph"—a graph of entities, their relations and actions. Google today uses this to power Search, Google Now and other applications. The questions now are: Can we combine public data with the data we have in our databases to create an enterprise knowledge graph? Could this serve as a foundation to build smart applications based on machine intelligence? What sort of services can we build on top of that and what kinds of smart applications could this power? This is particularly exciting for governments wanting to reduce costs through efficiencies, yet delivering a better customer experience.  What better way for a citizen to start having a conversation with government on Facebook Messenger and start asking questions that they're looking to get information on, such as 'what is the status of my student loan application?', 'how is my immigration application progressing?', 'what is the nearest VA hospital near me?', and many more. On June 28th, GSA hosted a workshop titled Automatic for the People: AI, Machine Learning and Chatbots for Digital Customer Service in Government," which brought together thought leaders from the industry and from government. So What's the Future? Is it social networks vs. messaging apps? We don't view it as one or the other. In today's multichannel world, it's about meeting consumers across all their many devices, channels and platforms. The right choice will be Social Networks & Messaging Apps—as each serves different needs and—again—it's a multi-channel communication and engagement world. We are entering a new era of personalized communication that can be automated through Messenger Chat Bots, leading to cost savings for agencies and better experiences for citizens.  Exciting times ahead!

Written in collaboration with Suhas Uliyar, Vice President - Mobile Strategy Product Management at Oracle The phrase "customer service" has often sounded like an oxymoron to anyone who has endured...

Cloud Computing

Modern Government for a Modern Cloud

Written in collaboration with Aaron Erickson, Director Government Innovation, Oracle Public Sector North America There is no doubt that the move to cloud computing is here. But many organizations still struggle with an essential question: What is the best way to get there? Public service agencies, including those in government, education, and healthcare are always looking for lower-cost and more flexible ways to improve the efficiency, flexibility, operational agility and integrity of their systems. Cloud computing has come to be recognized as both a business and deployment model that enables public sector organizations to achieve these aspirations. U.S. federal government agencies are implementing cloud computing with the support of the Federal CIO, the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration. Meanwhile, worldwide, governments and local agencies, burdened by budget cuts, a rapidly aging workforce and increased service demand, particularly in health and social care, have initiated several strategies.  In the UK, the Digital by Default strategy estimates that moving services from offline to digital channels will save between £1.7 and £1.8 billion a year (nearly $2.5 billion USD) while in Australia  officials plan with their Digital First policy that by 2020, four out of five Australians will choose to engage with the government through the internet or other types of online service. Similar initiatives are underway in Canada, Japan and many other nations. Public Sector organizations are facing increased public expectation to access services quickly and conveniently, when and where it suits them. By developing an agency culture that puts citizens' needs first forces government leaders to plan and design services focused on specific user tasks, and  using digital technology to drive improved services at lower costs.  Today's modern agencies are consistent in their approach as they move toward the cloud, and often start by examining two important components: Business Drivers: Improving citizen services and experiences:  Many governments are looking for ways to improved, more integrated and targeted services to their constituents, while reducing the long-term cost of delivery. Overcoming budget cuts and rising costs: In the current economic climate governments are often faced with declining tax revenue and other income sources, while overall costs are generally rising. Innovation demands: Agencies are being asked to provide increasingly personalized solutions across disparate lines of business. And they're being asked to deliver these innovations more quickly than ever. IT Drivers: Reducing escalating operational costs: Agencies want technology that can reduce costs such as maintenance, power, cooling, floor space and staff. Enabling process improvement: Deliver functionality that provides improvements in overall costs and effectiveness of government processes. Improving service levels: Modern agencies require improved IT performance, availability, security and compliance. Providing smaller upgrades over time can be less disruptive and costly. Government Journey to Cloud: If you're reading this blog then you most likely have already started the journey. Hopefully, you have a complete plan that takes into account short- and long-term objectives. The most successful early cloud adopters were able to mix rapid uptake with thoughtful, long-term planning.  Cloud computing should be tackled as a strategic plan within your organization to ensure there is the right level of support and business alignment to be successful. I recommend this approach: Define the business objectives: Examine the current environment and determine how to cut costs, deliver better services and be positioned to grow. Define the cloud strategy: Evaluate transaction, program and policy services that are candidates based on the strategic intent and which organizations will be targeted. Create the roadmap: Set strategic direction for cloud adoption within your organization.  Establish a framework within which any single project can contribute to the overall goal, allowing multiple projects to progress in parallel yet remain coordinated in pursuit of a common target that provides value greater than the sum of the individual projects. Deploy cloud services: Determine the first components of the new operating model. Core decisions on the operating model impact the business case and implementation strategy. Achieve new operational efficiencies: Start leveraging new business capabilities to drive process improvement and help users do their job more efficiently. Moving to cloud does not mean that agencies must replace every single system. Cloud is complementary to existing IT infrastructure. The goal should be to identify which functions and systems could be more efficient in the cloud and would provide the greatest return on investment, and deliver the most business value to users. It is an iterative process. Everyone's journey to cloud is slightly different and is typically based on their business and technology environment. Certain steps inevitably will be more challenging than others.  Learn from your peers by reading about their successes and challenges. The new GovLoop cloud guide offers a variety federal and state and local examples of agencies successfully making the journey.  Creating a blueprint and gaining upfront support is a key part of ensuring you make it across the finish line.

Written in collaboration with Aaron Erickson, Director Government Innovation, Oracle Public Sector North America There is no doubt that the move to cloud computing is here. But many organizations still...

Analytics

Improving the Patient Experience in Today's Digital World

Written in collaboration with Jim McDowell, Senior Director - Healthcare Strategy at Oracle Public Sector North America Like most organizations today—commercial as well as those in government — agencies involved in healthcare delivery are seeking innovative ways to use digital communications and mobile health technologies to drive improvements in patient engagement and overall care outcomes. Whether providing easier access to scheduling and test results, nurse/physician communications, or self-service symptom checkers, digital technologies are proving to be an important ingredient in bending the current cost and quality curves in medicine. Early adopters have achieved significant improvements in managing key (and costly) chronic patient populations—helping them to stay healthier and avoid costly trips to the emergency room or hospital. The exciting thing about many of these deployments is that they not only drive improved care and lower costs but they're also achieving tremendous gains in patient satisfaction, virtually hitting the trifecta of Berwick's original description of healthcare "Triple-Aim" goals: Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction) Improving the health of populations Reducing the per capita cost of health care In fact, a study (PDF) conducted by the National Health Service Confederation that examined  patient experiences at British and U.S. hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt Medical Center and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center—found a correlation between hospitals delivering high-quality patient experiences and excellent mortality and safety records. According to a recent HFMA article, "the success of Accountable Care Organizations ultimately depends on the extent to which it intelligently deploys technology solutions for data analytics, care team workflows and patient engagement — to improve population health while reducing costs." The mounting body of evidence points to a few unmistakable truths: Enhancements in patient engagement lead to better outcomes Patient experience and patient satisfaction are more intertwined than ever Increased patient satisfaction improves the bottom line Patient Preferences for "Engagement" have Changed While millennials are often described as preferring non-verbal communications in many of their daily interactions—social media, chat or text messaging, for example—the trend isn't unique to this demographic. Studies show people want to engage where and when it is most convenient — and healthcare providers need to embrace that reality if they want to improve engagement and satisfaction. Deloitte's 2015 Survey of U.S. Healthcare Consumers provides important insights on what patients are looking for: Nearly 40% of consumers look for healthcare information online 28% use technology to monitor & manage their health & fitness 23% use social media for health-related purposes 18% have communicated with their providers via secure email, text, or chat channels 28% say they would like to do so in the future Focused Technology Leverage Can Yield Rapid Impact Implementing the right set of technologies can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of care coordination, patient education and monitoring, as well communications between patients and the care team. This alone cannot only bring improved outcomes but also reduce overall patient care and program administration costs. A recent example earned Kaiser's KP OnCall Telehealth group a prestigious innovation award from Constellation Research last year. In its case, KP OnCall used a combination of cloud-based, web survey and process automation tools to add a self-service channel for reporting symptoms and communicating on care interactions.  After a short period, KP OnCall documented not only dramatic satisfaction ratings by patients using the new service, but a significant labor savings among their stretched clinical staff in the Telehealth group. KP OnCall is now in the process of expanding this capability to broader patient groups. Another great example is Southcoast Health, which is using data to improve patient care and manage costs.  Southcoast is employing big data analytics capabilities with a special care-management team that treats the healthcare system's population of high-frequency patients. These are people who have been to the emergency room 10 times or more or have had at least four in-patient stays in the last calendar year. Big data analytics is helping Southcoast Health to better understand what is driving the behavior and take corrective actions to reduce costs. How to Begin? There are many ways to apply these new technologies across broad areas of healthcare. These include direct patient engagement and self-monitoring capabilities to improving access to information and communication between patients and their providers or payers. No matter where you begin we believe there are certain steps that can help ensure success based on common factors we've seen among many early-adopters. Start by identifying patient groups where well-developed patient engagement or self-management programs are already in existence. Most healthcare organizations have Tele-Health or other programs providing extended services to key chronic disease groups, such as chronic heart or lung patients, or diabetics, for example. When choosing your first pilot groups for implementation, err toward groups or programs where any potential adverse consequences would have the least impact. (This was why KP OnCall chose to start with a chronic urinary tract infection group vs. chronic heart failure patients.) Choose robust and flexible cloud-based platforms to deploy these new technologies — they greatly reduce start-up time and costs. Modern Customer Experience (CX) platforms are the most important technologies you'll need for success. They should have strong, rules-based process automation capabilities, and robust embedded analytics to help drive continuous improvement. Application providers and consultants with direct healthcare implementation experience will greatly reduce initial deployment time as well as risk of failure or cost overruns. Whatever You Do—Get Started! In closing, we encourage you to simply take action. Your next step is to identify obvious and low-risk opportunities in patient and citizen groups and begin experimenting — now.

Written in collaboration with Jim McDowell, Senior Director - Healthcare Strategy at Oracle Public Sector North America Like most organizations today—commercial as well as those in government —...

Apps

Paradigm Shift: Engaging Citizens as Customers

Digital experiences are now the cornerstone of interactions with government services, driven in part by the rapid spread of web, mobile, and social channels. Citizens are in control. They decide how, when, and where they want to engage with government—whether it is in a service center, over the phone, on social media, via a mobile app, email, or on the web. No matter which channel they choose, constituents expect government to recognize them, who they are, what processes or interactions are underway, and to do so at every touch point. Given the fluidity of today's online interactions, citizens are often one click away from broadcasting a bad experience with your agency to hundreds of friends, or abandoning an online service for a high cost in-person transaction. The more digital engagement becomes culturally ingrained, the more vital it becomes to providing good customer service. To better reach customers, companies are using digital technology to promote, deliver, and enable innovative services that reliably create positive experiences for their target audiences.  Now it's up to government to meet this new standard. To reach constituents in the digital age, successful agencies must cultivate those same instincts. They need to learn how to use technology to deliver their services and messages in a way that appeals to their customers—tech-savvy modern citizens. In doing so, they can build better relationships and interactions with all constituents—any time, any place, any device. "The innovative use of technology is fundamentally transforming how the American people do business and live their daily lives," President Barack Obama stated in 2012, as he announced the Federal government's Digital Government initiative in a memorandum to heads of executive departments and agencies. Citizens want to feel, in their communications with government agencies, like their voices are being heard. In fact, in a January 2014 survey by Accenture of 5,000 citizens from 10 countries, 76 percent of the Americans polled wanted more citizen participation and engagement in government, answering "tend to agree" or "strongly agree" to the question "Should people be more involved in shaping how public services are designed or delivered?" Digital engagement empowers constituents with the ability to learn, share, engage, and let their voices be heard—in real-time. People want to be able to access government services and solutions anytime and anyplace. Digital engagement technologies help government effectively meet those needs. The initial building blocks for success are to: Establish an expectation of excellence. Public perception of government services is generally low. Although progress has been made, there is still work to be done. The most recent US Federal Customer Satisfaction report published by ACSI shows that there is a decline in satisfaction. Albeit there are many factors that impact this decline, such as increased demand and reduced budgets, the fact remains that government trails significantly behind the private sector. Agency leaders need to define an internal and external expectation of quality, timely service and manage to that expectation.  Digital experience technologies like social media, mobile apps, email, and others make it easy to service new channels, integrate them into existing work teams, and exceed expectations.  These tools help highlight positive events, promote new innovative campaigns and gather feedback on existing initiatives. Enhance customer service. Demand for services from constituents is constantly increasing. By adopting digital technologies, such as web, mobile, and self-service, government agencies can deliver a personalized experience, and balance responsiveness while containing costs, leading to increased customer satisfaction while meeting resource constrictions. We recently partnered with GovLoop and published a pocket guide titled Customer Service 101: Breaking Down What You Need to Know." We encourage you to download it and leverage it in your organization Promote civic participation: Engage citizens in improving processes for your city.  Citizens want to feel that they are making a difference. Providing citizens with a platform to collaborate with city officials through digital technologies will lead to the formation of innovative ideas that will create value for all, and increase the sense of belonging to the community. Empower employees. Like other citizens, government employees embrace the efficiencies and effectiveness of digital technologies in their personal lives.  Empower them to serve constituents with these same services and channels and help them know that they are providing great service. Engaged employees will deliver better experiences to your citizens, leading to increased customer and employee satisfaction. Citizens of the digital age want easy access to the agencies that serve them. To meet that need, agencies must modernize and focus on orchestrating personalized interactions with each and every constituent across channels and devices. They must understand the evolving needs of their customers and use a customer-centric approach to engage with their audience, taking advantage of all the tools and channels available to serve customers of all ages and in all demographic groups, at home and across the globe.

Digital experiences are now the cornerstone of interactions with government services, driven in part by the rapid spread of web, mobile, and social channels. Citizens are in control. They decide how,...

Infrastructure

The Government's Growing Need for Long-Term Storage

Government agencies at all levels are facing a challenge in the data-driven era. They need to decide what to do with their mission, operational and citizen data. What government agencies used tape storage for in the past has evolved with new compliance, regulatory, continuity of operations, cybersecurity forensics and data recovery requirements. These factors are driving a new look at a long-term archive storage tier strategy. Let’s look at all of the ways that a true archive strategy can help government CIO’s address top data management priorities: Better system performance: archiving frees up primary systems, leading to improved performance while keeping archived data available online Lower operational costs: adding an archive environment lowers overall storage costs, especially those associated with the backup environment Greater efficiency: having less data to manage improves operational efficiencies Better analytics through big data: how agencies analyze data not readily available and using archiving to save historical data Enter the Data-Driven World In a recent post on Wikibon, analyst David Vellante made the case and predicted a new and evolving need for large amounts of tape storage, noting: “The combination of tape and flash will yield much better performance and substantially lower cost than spinning disk. This statement will prove true for long-term data retention use cases storing large data objects.” Tape systems have evolved significantly, improving in high availability, management, compression and tape cartridge capacity. Today’s tape archive systems are designed for large-scale data protection and archiving environments and scale up to 2.1 exabytes of data-protection capacity. According to a report by Enterprise Strategy Group, the economics and operational value of modern tape storage as the preferred archive tier has never been better – based on reliability, speed and cost. In the end, tape storage is simple, easy-to-use and a key element of an agency’s enterprise tiered storage and data protection strategy delivering low TCO and long term investment protection. Tape and Cloud Tiering Storage In the journey to the cloud, agencies find themselves faced with new opportunities to extend tiered storage strategies to leverage cloud services.  On the surface, adding cloud storage sounds like an easy tier addition. However, cloud services introduce new variables. Agencies must ensure all storage tiers provide them with maximum flexibility and data security at all levels. To maximize ROI, support mainframe and open systems user requirements and achieve data management objectives, agencies are best advised to select an on premise, tape archive solution that provides a secure and scalable data protection solution for mainframe and heterogeneous systems with the additional capability to provide fully automated tiering directly to the public cloud. Furthermore, and equally important, selecting a solution that is architected to seamlessly integrate with a Storage and Archive Cloud service provides storage administrators with a built-in cloud strategy. Cloud storage should be as accessible and manageable as on premise storage. Choosing a Tape and Library Storage Solution As the volume and value of data grows beyond online resources and backup windows, Oracle’s StorageTek tape solutions help agencies manage complexity, control costs, and deliver on service-level agreements. With enterprise tape libraries that provide 24x7 availability, StorageTek tape systems also reduce backup windows, maximize archive access, and lower total cost of ownership. Whether on premises or in the cloud, Oracle StorageTek solutions provide a low-cost, highly efficient infrastructure for enabling data protection and archiving for government agencies. To learn more about Oracle Converged Infrastructure, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com.

Government agencies at all levels are facing a challenge in the data-driven era. They need to decide what to do with their mission, operational and citizen data. What government agencies used...

Cloud Computing

The Converged Journey to the Cloud

Public sector organizations are increasingly driven to improve operational efficiency, share information, and integrate processes across operational boundaries, while maintaining control and reducing costs. Therefore, it’s no secret that cloud computing has captured significant attention as both a business and computing model that enables public sector organizations to achieve these daunting objectives. The White House “Cloud First” directive was issued as guidance to all Federal agencies to move from traditional on-premise environments to consolidated data centers and virtualized, cloud-based services. Agencies are already reaping the benefits of cloud. In fact, in a 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that outlined progress under the Cloud First policy, the GAO said that 19 out of 24 Federal agencies have saved $2.8 billion in operating costs and avoided capital expenses between 2011 and 2015 by moving workloads into the cloud and not building more data center space. With this growing significance, the challenge isn’t the decision to adopt cloud, but rather the journey to get there. In this installment of our converged infrastructure series, we will explore the path and the factors for agencies to successfully move to the cloud. Government Considerations At The Forefront Despite the benefits, there are three primary considerations for public sector agencies in moving to the cloud: security, cloud deployment models, and workforce impact. Security In 2011, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration introduced the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), a government-wide program providing a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring of cloud services from accredited Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). In general, the FedRAMP accreditation process has improved agency confidence in purchasing and deploying cloud services. Public Sector agencies at all levels can leverage and benefit from CSP FedRAMP accreditations as a demonstration of their respective cloud security controls, policies, and practices. Deployment Model Within public sector, agencies frequently express their concern in identifying the right deployment model and having a solid understanding of what they can put in the cloud. There are strict guidelines around data governance, meaning agencies have good reason to feel hesitant about moving sensitive data to the cloud. The ultimate decision in the journey to the cloud begins with selecting a deployment model—public, private, or hybrid cloud. Each offers its own benefits and opportunities. One of the key differentiators between public and private cloud is related to some of the security controls.  Agencies primarily concerned with maintaining more control over security functions may select a private cloud model. Public cloud has more front-end appeal to agencies focused more on data center consolidation, reducing total cost of ownership and increasing flexibility. We have seen agencies adopt a variety of approaches based on their individual needs and requirements. Hybrid offers benefits of cloud, while relying on private cloud to maintain more control over security functions and public cloud to provide lower cost for general storage. Some agencies have looked to develop applications in a private cloud behind the agency firewall and then move those applications to the public cloud; while others have taken the opposite approach. Workforce Impact There is also a great deal of uncertainty in public sector regarding workforce impact and job training to ensure employees have the necessary skills to work in the cloud environment. Strategic IT initiatives like data center consolidation, virtualization, and cloud computing require new workforce skills—requiring a strong understanding of development operations, development testing, workload management, cloud operations, migration and planning. To ensure migration and ongoing operational success—regardless of the chosen CSP services—it is critical for agencies to invest in cloud computing skills training for IT staff. These concerns are valid, but it is important to have a holistic perspective. Cloud can serve as a significant resource for government organizations. It can enable them to improve citizen services and experiences by providing integrated and targeted services to their constituents. Cloud helps public sector organizations overcome budget cuts and rising costs, by purchasing only what they need and use—an option available through most cloud services. And cloud can help improve service levels around performance and availability; with a regular cadence of smaller upgrades, which generally are less disruptive and costly. For public sector, “most organizations now acknowledge that a complete cloud strategy includes both private clouds and public clouds in a hybrid environment. The combination of both cloud models helps agencies find the greatest operational efficiencies and lowest costs,” said Gary Newgaard, Oracle’s vice president of public sector hardware sales in a recent FCW article. Selecting A Strategic Cloud Partner: Not All Are Created Equal With the landscape of technology providers changing rapidly, agencies need to carefully evaluate cloud vendors. A provider that can meet compute, storage, and analytics requirements, while supporting a full range of SaaS services is critical in achieving long-term success. The key here is selecting a provider who offers flexible solutions that span all cloud service deployment models – whether private, public or hybrid. Oracle addresses the strategic nature of cloud computing in government by offering a full range of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services and capabilities. Oracle’s approach enables agencies to leverage the latest innovations for rapid development that cloud provides. Furthermore, as part of helping address some data security concerns for a hybrid or private cloud deployment, Oracle has recently introduced the Oracle Cloud Machine. A differentiated on-premises implementation of Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Cloud Machine allows agencies to develop and run applications seamlessly behind their firewall as workloads are completely portable between the public cloud and your data center. To learn more about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com. For more news, tips, and information about government technology, check out Oracle Public Sector’s Facebook page and Twitter handle.

Public sector organizations are increasingly driven to improve operational efficiency, share information, and integrate processes across operational boundaries, while maintaining control and reducing...

IoT

Connected Government and the Internet of Things

Poised to create the next industrial revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping government agencies utilize data more effectively to create better outcomes. IoT is a technology tipping point influencing capabilities in all levels of government. Further, IoT can help agencies cut costs and accelerate IT modernization efforts. This includes advancements with more scalable and tightly integrated systems; and software that drives new requirements for storage, analytics, cloud, and data management. In the age of connected government, near real-time information is key to creating new outcomes, driving faster, more informed decisions, and delivering innovative capabilities. Traditionally, governments were limited to sourcing data through human engagement, studies, or observations. However, rapid advancement of sensor technology is creating more ways to collect and leverage data. Intelligent endpoint devices or “machines” collect data based on their specific purpose or mission and send a payload upstream to upstream applications or systems. These data rich interactions are playing an increasingly crucial role in the development of next-generation government operations and services, spanning everything from smart cities to advanced military applications. Data-Driven Government Capabilities and Services Initial interest and early adoption of exploratory IoT use cases are serving as the proving ground for innovation and evolution, supporting the changing awareness of government at all levels. With devices getting smarter and more capable of addressing physical constraints like power and weight, IoT quickly launched into reality. Now use cases and possibilities include everything from critical infrastructure monitoring to situational awareness and critical services. Through the power and importance of real-time data, government agencies are able to make faster, more informed decisions.  IoT offers agencies these vital data-driven benefits:  Provides a variety of types of data to key government decision makers Fosters cross-agency collaboration and information sharing Facilitates joint participation from citizens and agencies Now You See It, Now You Don’t… While the promise and benefits of IoT are exciting, government IT leaders are now also faced with new challenges and policy decisions—such as privacy, security, and scaling infrastructure to support more end point devices. One of the challenges is that some IoT devices only require network connectivity for a few seconds to deliver their data payload before returning to a dormant state; while others are constantly connected delivering a continuous supply of streaming, unstructured data.  IoT Security – Defense in Depth As an extension of an agency’s trusted computing environment, IoT devices of all types must be implemented with security in mind. Each IoT device can come with its own data and security risks. A security strategy can help reduce the risk that the presence of either an IoT device or communication with the device introduces new vulnerabilities. Data collected and sent by IoT devices could even contain sensitive information, requiring meeting certain compliance and regulation mandates (i.e. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). For government agencies, security considerations must not be thought of as an add-on to the deployment of an IoT device, but rather be a mandatory consideration in the testing and evaluation phase of the device and associated use case. They should seek to address data protection across the IoT solution, including data-at-rest within the IoT device hardware and operating system, as well as in the upstream systems in silicon through encryption and extending through hardware and software layers of an agency’s converged IT infrastructure stack.  IoT and the Government Data Infrastructure The growing influx of IoT devices may challenge government agencies at all levels. Specifically, virtualization and integration of infrastructure services provide the scale and reach to handle the potential of billions of intelligent, connected things. As the data platform of government agencies, converged infrastructure systems should be capable of providing a full slate of services, from virtualized data storage and processing to security features in operating systems, middleware, and applications. This is vital to support an agency’s broad IoT deployment objectives.  IoT and the Cloud To support all profiles, types, and locations of IoT devices, an agency’s data platform capabilities should extend infrastructure services through a public, hybrid, or private cloud service. To allow for maximum flexibility and optimized use of virtual resources, an agency’s IoT cloud computing service should provide middleware support of the IoT infrastructure gateway and offer data management functions. The IoT cloud service should be a platform-as-a-service (PaaS), providing a rich set of functionality for creating IoT applications. In implementing an IoT cloud-enabled service, an agency should ensure it is capable of: Ingesting the message, as well as enrichment, storage, and stream processing for near real-time analytics Dispatching messages to external systems such as a database, another cloud service or an external application Managing identities, security policies, and credentials Managing software assets on devices running the IoT Cloud Service Gateway, enabling distributed intelligence Oracle’s IoT Capabilities in Government  Oracle enables agencies to develop and deliver IoT services with a common foundation of services that include security features and can connect, analyze, and integrate near real-time IoT data.  Oracle’s cloud solutions are part of a more extensive cloud offering that includes infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service technologies, and a rich portfolio of IoT applications with self service provisioning. Oracle delivers single vendor accountability for agencies’ end-to-end IoT needs.  Oracle offers enterprise-grade IoT capabilities that include high performance, elastic scalability, and security controls. Further, Oracle’s solution is comprised of an integrated “all-in-one” platform that provides the essential device connectivity, event analytics, and enterprise connectivity capabilities required for an effective IoT strategy.  Oracle can manage the large number of devices and volume of data expected with IoT, enabling government agencies to: Connect and control IoT devices Rapidly deploy IoT-focused preventive and predictive analytics Optimize business processes with process automation and pre-built integrations across multiple enterprise applications Oracle has built holistic, enterprise-grade solutions from hardware through software layers to accommodate various government missions and tackle countless data challenges. By properly leveraging these capabilities, agencies can securely collect data from integrated devices within their enterprise, perform near real-time predictive analytics on IoT streams and events, and seamlessly extend agency enterprise applications and processes with IoT data. Most importantly, Oracle can facilitate agencies’ journey to improved outcomes and transformed mission objectives through more informed data driven decisions. To learn more about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com. 

Poised to create the next industrial revolution, the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping government agencies utilize data more effectively to create better outcomes. IoT is a technology tipping point...

Analytics

The Impact of Data Growth on Analytics in Government

For the 2020 Census, America will for the first time conduct digital forms of outreach – a massive collection that both relies on and results in big data. The organization will use a combination of in-office and in-field canvassing and more importantly, rely on new efforts tied to advanced analytics. For previous census collection, the Census Bureau depended on manual field collection to walk every block in the United States, driving when necessary – about 6.7 million blocks and 137 million miles, according to the United Nations Statistical Commission.  “[W]e will continue to canvas every block, but we will only conduct in-field, on the ground canvassing where it is necessary,” said Lisa M. Blumerman, assistant director, Decennial Census Programs, U.S. Census Bureau. The Census Bureau is working with terabytes worth of data from Federal, state, and local government sources to determine where that in-field work is required.    The use of big data isn’t new in the United States. Administrative data, such as tax data, has helped improve census data collection for decades. Back in March 2012, the Obama Administration announced a $200 million investment in big data projects with the goal of advancing scientific research in areas such as energy, environment, and healthcare. And, within the Federal Government, there are approximately 200,000 data sets available to the public through www.data.gov.  Just as the government is using data to help it work more efficiently for the 2020 Census, public sector organizations must learn how to extract meaning, turning big data into advanced analytics. “McKinsey & Co. estimates that by digitizing information, disseminating public data sets, and applying analytics to improve decision making, government agencies can act as catalysts for more than $3 trillion in economic value,” as reported by Forbes.  It could be argued that public sector organizations stand to make the greatest impact on our society by employing advanced analytics. Earlier this year, the Executive Office of the President tasked the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC) with identifying how big data analytics could enhance the government’s national security and preparedness capabilities. “Technologies and analytics can help government protect against, prepare for, respond to and detect emergencies more rapidly and effectively through augmented situational awareness and more accurately projected outcomes,” said Chase Gunter, FCW editorial fellow in his assessment of NSTAC’s draft report findings. In Chicago, CIO Brenna Berman is leading an effort to create a predictive analytics platform that will process more than 7 million rows of city-collected data daily, according to Government Technology. Chicago’s SmartData project will collect data, examine it for trends, and offer problem-solving predictions. “I think this city has the ability of putting predictive analytics into the hands of every department in the city and unlocking the value of predictive analytics,” Berman said. Whether with the NSTAC, Chicago’s SmartData, or the 2020 Census, we’re seeing advanced analytics serve our nation in a big way. Yet, there are still challenges that face public sector organizations trying to make sense of this inpouring of data. For instance, organizations often lack the tools and training to extract value from big data, as well as the IT capabilities to manage the data consistently. Adding big data to existing architecture is complex and requires detailed preparation to organize data relationships. And, as we’ve discussed, this data often comes from disparate, siloed resources, making it more difficult to correlate. Advanced analytics is also a relatively new concept in government, meaning routes to governance or enforcement can be hazy.  Achieving New Outcomes Leveraging Data Analytics  According to IDC, “By 2017 unified data platform architecture will become the foundation of BDA [big data analytics] strategy.” Oracle uniquely offers organizations a complete and truly integrated solution to address the full spectrum of enterprise big data requirements. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure’s framework enables converged hardware and software integration at every level of the IT stack. By evolving enterprise architecture, public sector organizations can leverage the proven reliability, security, and performance of Oracle systems, including the new Oracle Big Data Management system. Oracle addresses agencies’ big data requirements through a number of tightly integrated solutions, including: Oracle Big Data Appliance, Oracle Event Processing, Oracle Real-Time Decisions, and Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise. These solutions can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.  Oracle’s big data framework is built on strong analytics, helping ensure that organizations can discover and make data-related predictions faster than ever. Furthermore, with tighter integration of software and hardware, a true converged infrastructure stack empowers government agencies to better utilize their data, enabling them to: Make better decisions more quickly Improve mission-critical outcomes Identify and reduce inefficiencies Eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse Improve productivity and worker morale  Boost return on investment, while cutting total cost of ownership  Enhance transparency and service at all levels Help prevent cybersecurity threats and compromise of citizen data  Oracle’s unique architecture development process guides agencies through each of the following stages: context evaluation, architecture vision, current state assessment, future state definition, road map development, and change management.  To learn more about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com.

For the 2020 Census, America will for the first time conduct digital forms of outreach – a massive collection that both relies on and results in big data. The organization will use a combination of...

Cybersecurity

The Intersection of Cybersecurity and Converged Infrastructure in Government

Some government agencies continue to struggle with modernizing IT infrastructure to support new, emerging, and disruptive technologies. Since the early 1990s, legacy enterprise architecture dictated separate technology “swim lanes” as a best practice to maintain and scale IT infrastructure—helping deliver new citizen services and mission critical capabilities. These traditional swim lanes are now intersecting in new ways, fueling the need for agency IT infrastructure transformation. The increased volume, variety, and velocity of agency data translates into a larger cyberattack surface making the intersection of cybersecurity and critical infrastructure services an agency priority.  Governments Are Under Constant Cyber Attack The 2015 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data breach was an eye-opener for government agencies—it compromised 21.5 million citizen and government employee data records. This data breach included government employees and contractors holding government security clearances. The post-attack analysis of the OPM hack found a number of issues in the approach protecting agency and citizen data.  The magnitude of the OPM breach gained national attention, however, government agencies have been under constant attack from nation-state actors, hacktivists, cyber criminals, and inside threats for years. As agencies’ mission use of data continues to grow throughout the entire IT stack—from servers and networks to mobile applications and cloud services—the attack vector and levels of vulnerability also increase. Cybersecurity is Defense in Depth  Data is an often critical and potentially vulnerable agency asset. As such, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework recommends a defense in depth strategy to protect agency data and infrastructure. The framework’s core functions—identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover—address threats presented to critical systems impacting national security, economic stability, public safety, and health risk. Dependency on Converged Infrastructure Services Defense in depth cybersecurity calls for a range of near real-time, interactive services from an agency’s IT infrastructure. These often include compute, encryption, tiered storage, analytics, identity and access management, data protection, event log management, notification, data management, and security policy enforcement services. Many infrastructure services are invoked at different points throughout the NIST risk mitigation process as shown in the chart below:  With software and hardware tightly integrated, a converged infrastructure stack can be well positioned to support the near real-time, data-rich environment of core functions of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework to address ongoing threat detection, analysis, and mitigation.  A Natural Intersection Key to Cybersecurity Operations Success Infrastructure services can be critical to an agency’s cybersecurity operations. Oracle believes that cybersecurity and converged infrastructure are a natural intersection in government IT environments. Through the delivery of near real-time, converged infrastructure services, agencies can gain tools to help successfully execute cyber threat operations to protect and defend mission operations and citizen data. Oracle’s tightly integrated and co-engineered converged infrastructure stack is intended to empower government to ensure successful execution of agency cybersecurity operations. To learn more about Oracle’s Converged Infrastructure Stack, please contact Amit Sharma at amitab.sharma@oracle.com. 

Some government agencies continue to struggle with modernizing IT infrastructure to support new, emerging, and disruptive technologies. Since the early 1990s, legacy enterprise architecture dictated...

Oracle

Integrated Cloud Applications & Platform Services