Friday, March 2, 2012

Implementing SharePoint within Federal Government Agencies – Best Practices “From the Consulting Trenches”

Implementing SharePoint within Federal Government Agencies – Best Practices “From the Consulting Trenches” \ Tips for Government IT Executives & Appointees

Walking into Continental Airlines to implement an Enterprise SharePoint Deployment is entire different animal than walking into an organization like the Department of Justice (DOJ) for nearly the exact same initiative, or should I say Task Order. (The DOJ has had a great deal of success in SharePoint and I am merely using them as a large government institute example).

I had the privilege of having a breakfast meeting with the previous Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States, Vivek Kundra, last year and it was refreshing to hear his ideas about how “Big Government” should take the “lean” methodologies and best practices approach from private industry as well as his ideas on how to cut out a lot of the “fat” and red tape.

He has since left his Obama Presidential CIO (1st ever Chief Information Officer) appointment to take an Executive Vice President (EVP) position at Salesforce, but I am hopeful his ideas were passed on to administration and/or the”powers to be” as implementing a game changing and bleeding edge technology like SharePoint 2010 in a government organization can sometimes be a challenge.

I have been very vocal about my personal methodologies and best practices \ theories and those of my Sr. architects at EPC Group on how best to implement SharePoint at places such as the Pentagon, Department of Justice, multiple Air Force bases, the Department of State, Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health, and various 3 letter organizations.

From my 10+ years of SharePoint implementation experience and 653+ SharePoint implementations (literally), I would like to express my personal 5 point plan (tips and first-hand experience advice \ mandate) on how to ensure government-sized success 100% of the time (saving millions of tax payer dollars) to CIOs, 2 & 3 Stars, high-level appointees, and the people that make the I.T. wheels turn in D.C.

My personal soapbox: Errin O’Connor’s mandates for Federal Government SharePoint I.T. Success:

1. Streamline how to get to the best SharePoint talent without the need for subcontractors to then subcontract to 2 other subcontractors… (I digress, but the amount of money I have personally seen on submitting a Statement of Work \ Proposal to a Federal Agency and then the track that has taken for 2 or 3 more firms to get involved to take an initial hourly rate from $140/hour rate to an eventual $240/hour rate blows my mind).

I am a taxpayer too and when you are talking about a 1500-5000 hour engagement, this is no small amount of money (budget) to spend (so the “good old boys club” can play contract swap and task order bingo and who has the approved 8a Stars lottery to fast track this project, to me, is personally repulsive and a taxpayer waste.

Note: I am taking nothing away from legitimate and deserving 8a Stars organizations as I believe in what they do, rightly deserve, and what they contribute but I think the GSA should take a hard look at this “status” as, in my opinion, is being abused. (Note: My personal opinion)
2. Do not be afraid to break the trends of the past | we are in the mobile age, a 1 Star General is going to get an iPad for Christmas or for their Birthday and want to use it; Have your “MMGS”, Mobile Management Governance Strategy, in order, yesterday.

3. The new employees coming into government careers are the “Facebook” generation, yes, governance is key, but stifling (internal) content development keeps the status quo’

Note: A quick sidebar: I had a conversation with a Department of Defense related member, that said, “Due to the economy, we are getting the best and the brightest candidates in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines that we have had in “some” years, and they expect information now….”at their fingertips” and we are not prepared to service that request.

4. Do not just go with the consulting firm who developed the software, trust me, I have personally hired some of them and they are not always the rock stars. EPC Group, who has had over 650 successful implementations (not tooting our own horn), and sometimes will question getting involved in specific 6-8 month RFP \ proposals due to the fact that it is not worth the lengthy procurement process and contract bingo \ eBay-swap will instead take a Fortune 500 \ Fortune 1000 engagement that we know we can get executive buy-in and bring extensive SharePoint Return-on-Investment (ROI) to the table. (Note: WIthout sharing our proprietary and time tested methodologies to every IT firm interested in bidding the effort)

5. “Boutique” SharePoint Firms (like EPC Group), at the top of their game, are not always ok with sharing their proprietary methodologies with the big “7” government contractors…. something to think about and to weigh the risk factors. Why would a private firm (such as EPC Group or other respected SharePoint firms), share their time tested, “in the trenches” methodologies with an approved (massive) government contractor, who has the larger $250-500 million dollar Task Order and who can add a minuscule “SharePoint Task Order” to the overall effort (under generic verbiage) to win and staff \ deliver a project of 100-500k and risk that Big 7 firm, from turning and reverse engineering, that methodology to their own benefit. It can happen...

Note: Some of the very top talent in the SharePoint arena would, in private admit, “they would rather stay in the private sector arena and not risk their life work, i.e. risk 20k hours of 100+ employees combined knowledge and best (learned from mistakes and lessons-learned that now work time and time again), best practices for a 1 time project with zero promise of future phases with a firm who won a $250-500 million dollar “generic” task order for “IT Systems Support”.

This to me is completely frustrating and not a way to increase getting the best and the brightest to get the project done fast and efficiently. Some peoples, joking and under their breath stereotypes (about all the red tape) didn’t come from thin air and why can’t we cut out that red tape and implement a government solution for SharePoint 2010, including the NARA (The National Archives), as this information is eventually going to become part of the Freedom of Information Act.

I know personally (public information) that some of the original Space Shuttle data, now in the process of being or already archived, was originally stored in a SharePoint 2003 environment. How the National Archives (NARA) going to take that data in and make it searchable? Are we going to put it on a CD and test it (the CD\DVD) yearly to ensure it’s still valid once a year? There is such a seamless and better way this can be accomplished! (Imagine a SharePoint as a Service Platform within NARA, taking in all Government SharePoint data seamlessly regardless of what version of SharePoint that data is on?)

Final Thought…

My personal goal is for the United States government to get onboard with a solution, for not only SharePoint, but the other document management systems as well, and collaborate (led by the National Archives) to be able to take in (securely) these “content databases \ external data sources” from SharePoint 2003, SharePoint 2007, SharePoint 2010, and future versions, in a seamless manner.

There are NARA teams in Colorado that are metadata specialists that can work with all of the government agencies to develop a standard set of metadata (core content types) so that NARA can inherit content from these systems (NASA, NAVY, DoD, etc.) in a seamless and secure manner to ensure document security, seamless metadata “matching” and other requirements are stored in a 100% searchable and compliant manner.

Let’s cut the red tape with a huge set of scissors and let in some “out of the box” thinking into the many governmental :institutional" way of thinking. There are so many extreemly bright at IT folks at the top of their game in IT working at these agencies but my personally opinion from observasations as that they feel sometimes one hand is tied behind their back when they want to make real progress and real ROI changes to their organization.