Archive for the ‘Deena Malley’ Category
By Deena C. Malley
This year’s budget began with an exciting, technological bang. Governor Corbett unveiled his proposal with an online dashboard where any taxpayer, anywhere in Pennsylvania could go to a website and take a look at the details by general fund, program or agency.
The rainbow colored pie charts are dazzling.
Then there are the reports. The options are bountiful. They even come complete with historical data. They are enough to make any analyst or policy wonk drool over the blinding blizzard of numbers.
The dashboard does have a few imperfections but overall it is an admirable start at presenting data with a meaningful use. It also goes a long way toward creating a window of transparency into a process that has traditionally only been privy to an anointed few.
While it is a good first step, this dashboard is at risk for falling into what is referred to by the technology community as flash and dash. Flash and dash is a generally derogatory phrase used to describe a dashboard that was created for the sole purpose of a dog and pony show presentation designed only to impress executives and make a sale.
The flash and dash is always disappointing because a big effort goes into creating them but their usefulness quickly dissipates pretty much as soon as the sales execs get their commissions.
Not all dashboards fall prey to this sentence of being locked away in a digital archive and neither should Governor Corbett’s.
In this age of analytics and comparative analysis, dashboards play a big role. Consumers use comparative data analysis every day. Whether it is booking an airline ticket or shopping, who does not relish at using sites such as shopzilla.com or farecompare.com to find the best deal. Heck, even Captain Kirk is a priceline.com negotiator.
We are all bargain hunters at heart. These sites give us data dashboards to compare leading companies so we can pick our best price.
Now that our governor has started Pennsylvania down the dashboard path, the application needs to go further and think bigger.
Be prepared. This next idea will be a boat rocker in the halls of the state capitol.
Why not have the governor and all four caucuses submit their budget proposals, including any amendments to a real-time, online dashboard.
Think about it for a second.
At any given time, taxpayers could see line-by-line the differences in what is being proposed. They could do their own comparisons, draw their own conclusions, and make their own decisions.
No more waiting for newspaper articles or press releases giving us the writer’s view and opinion of what is important. There are many budget items that are over looked and under reported year after year.
All the proposed numbers just a click away.
From a technology standpoint, it would be easy to do. All of these budgets are created in Excel spreadsheets or similar programs so it is just a simple data extract and comparisons of matching fields. In the world of IT, it would be a cake walk for a good programmer.
So why not do it? Why not step out of the budget box and let taxpayers have more than flash and dash.
A recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article quoted House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, and a spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, both saying that they are looking into consolidating duplicate printing services done between the two chambers.
If it comes to pass, it could potentially be a big savings for taxpayers. It will also address one of the items listed in the May 2010 grand jury report that talked about partisan operations in the state House.
Both Smith and Dermody should be commended for taking this first step of business process improvement. Share services are always a good thing and save money in virtually every business around the globe.
We taxpayers need the state to save every penny they can get their hands on.
While this is an exciting step in the right direction, there is that really nagging issue of root cause analysis. Sure the shared services model of consolidating printing operations solves the obvious problems of duplication of services and cost of two separate staffs but it does not get to the heart of the real issue.
To get to the real issue, the question has to be asked. Why is all this printing going on in the first place?
All across the Commonwealth too much printing is still going on for this modern digital age. This may seem trivial but each piece of printed material that is handed out or mailed is one more nail in the state’s coffin of being forever buried in a paper world that is rapidly disappearing.
The state needs to take that leap once and for all and go entirely digital. I have heard all the reasons why this will never work. My favorite one is not everyone has access to a computer. That raises a big old red flag to me and only furthers every reason in the world why we need to do this.
For every citizen that does not have access to technology is a person that we, as a state, have just locked away and forever disenfranchised. Being able to get on the internet is a crucial necessity to be connected to the global economy. It enables education, provides access to more books than the Library of Congress could ever hold, and it is a must for finding a job.
Do not say it cannot be done or you need these mailings to reach constituents. For years, Senator Jeff Piccola used to send me a printed newsletter every three or four months. He has gone digital in recent years and today his beautiful newsletter pops up in my InBox every two weeks or so. Not only can I read about his initiatives but the online newsletter gives me access to his upcoming events, links to more information and a way to instantly interact with his office. If I have a question, it is answered within hours. Much better response time and better constituent service all the way around.
If all this printing is going on because people do not have access to technology, fix that problem. In the end the savings across the board will be astronomical. More importantly, it will set a higher bar for our citizens.
How many bloody Gs are there? Ozzy Osbourne wanted to know in his Super Bowl commercial with Justin Bieber. Apparently, he isn’t alone.
At a recent House Consumer Affairs information meeting, Rep. John Payne asked a panel of wireless industry experts the burning questions: What is a G? How do I know if I have a good G? Is 3G better than 4G or should I wait for 5? How many Gs will there be?
With all the knowing nods from other committee members and the big smile on Minority Chairman Joe Preston’s face, Payne was not alone on this crazy train.
Panelist Gary Horewitz for Sprint’s government affairs cleared the air and explained a G stands for generation. In the wireless world, a G is a marketing term that has come to mean an individual company’s product has achieved the next iteration of innovation.
There are no industry standards for Gs. Therefore, a G from Sprint is different than T-Mobile’s G, which is different from the Gs offered by Verizon or AT&T. Each company has its own standards for upping their G and defining what constitutes the next level. One thing the wireless panel representing Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all agreed upon is that they agree to disagree on what constitutes say a 3G versus a 4G.
The G could also go to infinity and beyond. There could be an endless number of Gs. With the speed in which the industry is growing and innovating, consumers could theoretically see 100 G in a few years. Maybe every new year will usher in a new G or two.
Ahhh – lots of lightbulbs went on for committee members that never knew what a G really was.
A recent purchase of a Droid is what prompted Rep. Payne’s question and he does not want to see consumers disappointed who are expecting faster speeds with the higher number Gs. He is right to be concerned for consumers. In a recent blog by AT&T’s Chief Technology Officer, John Donovan, he talks about meeting consumer expectations for speed. He points to a recent survey of their Smartphone consumers showing 75 percent rank consistent speeds as a top concern.
This is not Rep. Payne’s chief concern. He has a background and experience in emergency management services. He sees the burgeoning consumer demand for Smartphones and iPads which increases the demand for data transmission. He wants to make sure that the data needs of first responders and 911 centers are met first and not impacted because people are downloading the latest episode of their favorite television show.
So kids, just because you have a higher number G, it does not mean it is better or faster than the next guy. It just means it is better than what that company had before. The bottom line it is part of how the industry peddles their product to outsell the competition.
While the mystery of the G is solved, it is important for the wireless industry and the General Assembly to stay committed to meeting the needs of consumers while not losing sight to first meet the needs of emergency management services.
So the next time you might think you’re going off the rails on this wireless crazy train, count on Rep. Payne to ask the questions we all want to know – or call Ozzy.
By Deena C. Malley
It is always a magical time in Pennsylvania when a new administration takes the helm. It is the hope of a new dream and a better tomorrow. The Commonwealth’s technology community should be feeling particularly excited about the possibilities of Governor-Elect Corbett’s administration.
In just five short years, Corbett completely transformed the technological makeup of the Attorney General’s office. No stone was left unturned or untouched as everything from the infrastructure, computers, and applications were brought out of the dark ages.
I have seen the pictures of back office operations that were once a tangled mess of wires are now a more structured and efficient managed data center. There were also issues with different computer platforms, outdated technologies, applications that did not support business objectives, and employees who did not have the right equipment or training.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the talents of Corbett’s Chief Information Officer, George White, who worked diligently to make it all happen.
This transformation is just not a laundry list of technical accomplishments that only a true geek could understand and love. It is also about the public face of the Attorney General’s office and not forgetting it is the people of Pennsylvania who they serve.
For example, little things like securing the domain name www.attorneygeneral.gov and making that website easy to navigate so the average person can get to the exact information he or she may need.
It is also about the office’s ability to incorporate social media while at the same time creating a whole host of educational outreach programs geared toward both kids and parents on the dangers of these exact same popular online sites.
What makes Corbett different is he just really gets it. Unlike many technology proponents who profess technology advancements and are always chasing the latest and greatest thing, Corbett actually understands that without a practical, pragmatic purpose it gets you nowhere.
He also is very hands on with technology. Corbett is not one of those guys who tells you the importance of technology but has never laid a finger on a computer. He actually has used his Blackberry as a prop in some of his speeches and jokes about how it has become part of his life.
Corbett also does not try to pretend to be something he is not. He readily admits he is not a technical person but he surrounds himself with bright, highly qualified people who understand that technology cannot wag the dog. The business goals must be met and supported by technology that makes sense.
If Corbett can do all of this with just one office, imagine the difference he can make now that he has been elected governor and starts pulling back the onion skin at state agencies. It truly is a time of great expectations and hope for a better tomorrow.
By Deena C. Malley
Ingrained in the American spirit is a fascination with man versus machine. Who does not cheer for John Henry and his hammer battling the railroad’s steam-powered drill? In the 1990s, there was the first match up with a computer when IBM’s Deep Blue took on reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
IBM has done it again. On February 14, 2011, their new computer, Watson, will take on Jeopardy! all-time champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. What makes this match up incredible is it deals with a whole new level of technology innovation. It is a scientific breakthrough that takes advanced data management and analytics and applies it to natural language and all of its subtle nuances.
This new challenge should be exciting particularly to state governments. The engineering effort that went behind this challenge will usher in a whole new way data can be evaluated. Ask any IBM expert and they will tell you state governments are great at collecting all kinds of data. While there is no shortage of data, there has been a continual challenge of what to do with it and for what purpose.
Then there are the silos. State governments still continue the battle of not sharing data between agencies and, sometimes, within agencies.
What is so exciting about Watson is that it will usher in the Age of Analytics. Not only will it forever change how we interact with computers, it will change what it means to interpret and analyze data. For technology professionals it will put into the marketplace a demand for specialized analytical skills and open up new career paths. More importantly, it will be transformative for citizens of state governments who take advantage of this giant leap forward in technology.
At a time of unprecedented deficits leading to extreme budget constraints, this new technology can bring new meaning and cost savings to virtually every major government service. Apply advanced analytics to healthcare and you help support family physicians and other medical professionals to evaluate patients with real-time monitoring and decision support decisions that can predict and respond to significant events, like those that occur in emergency rooms and intensive care units. Use it in education and it links student, financial and operational performance to student results giving the Department of Education a 360 degree view of each school district. Public safety applications bring new ways to identify threats, respond to emergencies, and increase incident awareness.
IBM is already putting its analytics technology to the test in New York in the area of fraud and abuse in delinquent tax collection. Since 2004, IBM and the State have developed analytical applications to identify questionable refund claims which have resulted in savings of over $1 billion.
Their latest advancement called, the Tax Collections Optimizer, is based on advanced analytics, and will equip the New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance with individualized action plans based on each case using a unique combination of data analytics and other models. The plan optimizes the order of activities agents will take in order to maximize the total amount of debts collected while taking in to consideration the case load, personnel resources, and the anticipated effectiveness of the suggested actions.
The project is expected to bring in an additional $100 million in revenue over a three-year period. This new approach to tax collection is not inherent to New York. IBM has identified several states where analytics could be used to recover or prevent fraud, abuse or waste in programs like Medicaid in addition to fraudulent tax activity. The opportunity in Pennsylvania alone could be multiple billions over the term of our incoming Governor.
The Age of Analytics is here. If Pennsylvania capitalizes on this innovation and puts itself in the forefront, its citizens will benefit from improved services and it will give us a new, technically advanced addition to our workforce.
Information technology is on a timeout in the White House. According to a report from Tony Romm and Kim Hart of Politico.com, enough was enough for IT projects that are high-cost, low-return, do not meet project schedules and far exceed costs.
So, the Obama administration did what most parents do when their charges get out of control – they took a timeout.
Now, IT practices are being assessed, $20 billion worth of projects are frozen, and there is a 120-day review to evaluate how projects are secured and managed.
The Office of Management and Budget has put numerous projects into question. Some of the worst offenders are a Veterans Affairs’ 10-year, $300 million financial system, the $305 million FBI’s Sentinel project which is estimated to have a $30 million project overrun, and an underperforming $400 million Electronic Records Archive for the National Archives and Records Administration. All of these projects have not even come close to on time, on budget, and fell far short of the original project scope.
Does this sound familiar Pennsylvania?
So what has caused this tech turn of events? One tool that that has been implemented within the last year at OMB is online dashboard reporting. This tears the onion skin way back on the federal government’s IT spending. Agencies are required to report on their major IT spending and the data is rolled up and analyzed. With the red, yellow, green pie charts and the individual project reporting, it is easy to see the health and wellness across the board. Overtime, this dashboard will be able to head off failing projects at the pass instead of after the fact. Read the rest of this entry »
by Deena C. Malley
Pennsylvania primaries are just one month away and one topic that will continue through to the general election is the debate on the merger of the state’s two highway systems – the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Admittedly, I do not pretend to be a transportation expert but I have spent time in my professional career and as a consumer in both organizations. Putting the politics and the debate on the cost savings that may be had combining both organizations aside, what gets lost along the way is the many technological advances both organizations have made in the past two decades.
What makes both of these organizations unique and interesting is their entrepreneurial spirit. Both organizations have evolved bringing a great willingness to integrate new technologies to improve their services. Many of these changes have happened within each organization and without a lot of fanfare but they have greatly improved the mechanics of each operation. Read the rest of this entry »
Senator pumps up reform on state’s technology projects
By Deena C. Malley
After just ten minutes with Senator Mike Folmer and it is easy to see how this Republican from the 48th Senatorial district pulled off one of the biggest upsets in state election history. He is high energy and deeply committed to the promises he has made to the people who elected him. Folmer insists on more accountability, openness and transparency in state government. In everything he does, he questions the need for spending and continually fights for the Commonwealth to make strides in improving the state’s business climate.
Folmer’s high octane extends beyond his Central Pennsylvania constituency to statewide issues being tackled through his chairmanship of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee. Folmer took on this committee after former Senator Rob Wonderling (R-24th) stepped down from his Senate seat in July 2009 to become the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Wonderling was widely regarded for his knowledge and grasp of technology issues. Read the rest of this entry »
By Deena C. Malley
The recession has not really impacted the technology industry compared to others. In fact, many companies have beat earnings expectations and continue to grow. In the last 20-30 years, this industry has pushed through some of the biggest economic and societal changes and is being looked upon as the key to the revitalization of our economy.
If Pennsylvania is going to be part of the next wave of technology advancements, our next governor must not be content to just ride along but actually get out in front of the pack. He will need to be the Technology 360º Governor. Read the rest of this entry »
by Deena C. Malley
As much as I love technology and get excited about the many great opportunities it brings to my daily life and to the world around me, there are some things so sacred in Pennsylvania that technology should not and could not ever replace.
No, it is not anything to do with any state agencies, the legislature, or even the governor. It is far more important and valuable than any of that. It is one of our state’s most precious and prized possessions. Read the rest of this entry »