Gov 2-0

Happy One Year Anniversary! A Year of Progress in Open Government

Though it’s being overshadowed by the budget discussions this week, it’s important to note (and celebrate!) that today (April 7th) is the one year anniversary of Agency Open Government Plans. Just one year ago, almost 30 plans were released from cabinet-level and independent Agencies that detailed how they would become more:

  • Transparent in their work;
  • Participatory in seeking the ideas and expertise of citizens; and
  • Collaborative in how they use new technology and processes for developing government policies.

The traditional gift for a one year marriage anniversary is paper. Ironically, that pretty well captures a lot of the effort that has happened behind the scenes at agencies for the last year. Countless hours have been spent developing government-wide and Agency-specific policies, guidance and plans—critical foundational documents to support Open Government goals. This is the work that is not as often celebrated in the press or on blogs, but its importance cannot be overstated. This work is setting the stage for an even more exciting year two.

But significant progress has been made in one year and there’s a lot to celebrate. So to honor the one year anniversary of Open Gov, I’ve listed a few examples of what the Federal Open Government community has accomplished to date in a remarkably short period of time.

There are likely many more worthy examples so please add your comments to this posting to build to the body of examples. As always, feel free to reach out to me at @jenngustetic to extend the conversation.


In the last year we launched programs that reach citizens where they are to make government data more accessible…

Blue Button: According to the White House Innovation’s Gallery, previously “veterans could not download their personal information and share it with others – even doctors. VA has developed and installed a new feature – the Blue Button – on its online personal health portal, My HeatheVet. Veterans who have identity verified access to My HeatheVet can click a “Blue Button” on the website to download their health information to their own home computer or portable memory device. They can share that information with other providers, caregivers, or family members safely, securely, and privately. Of the 1.1 million users of My HealtheVet, more than 233,000 Veterans have upgraded (identity-verified) access to data from their VA medical record via Blue Button. During the first two months following Blue Button’s launch on August 28, 2010 about 100,000 Veterans asked to view their personal health data using the Blue Button and more than 150,000 PHRs were downloaded.” This is a great example of how a big part of transparency is making government data accessible and usable for the general public.

Community Health Data Initiative:“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) holds vast amounts of data that could help improve health including but not limited tosmoking rates, obesity rates, rates of potentially avoidable hospitalizations, determinants of health such aslocal access to healthy food), hospital quality, nursing home quality, and much more. The question faced by HHS: how best to unleash the power of this data to help improve health? HHS is supplying to the public – free of charge and without intellectual property constraint — a growing array of online, easily accessible, downloadable health data. Simultaneously and very importantly, HHS is also proactively marketing the availability of this data to innovators from the worlds of technology, business, media, academia, public health, and health care. These groups are using the data to power a growing array of applications that benefit the public.” (via theWhite House Innovations Gallery) The result? New community health maps and dashboards, health data integrated with web search — like hospital satisfaction scores on Bing, health care provider finders, educational games, and powerful new analytical tools for clinical providers, journalists, and community leaders, and much more. Government data is directly reaching citizens like never before.

In the last year we brought people together to build the body of knowledge around transparency issues at the…. International Open Government Data Conference: The Program Managment Office put together the first ever International Open Government Data Conference from November 15-17, 2010. The event brought together representatives from many Federal agencies and leaders from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Brazil, and Australia, focusing on the real, practical issues governments are facing while highlighting the innovations surrounding open data. Attendees were exposed to a wide array of perspectives, Dan Morgan noted that the conference represented a bit of a shift in the conversation: concentrating less on the act of opening data and narrowing in on why opening data is important.

NASA Open Source Summit: On March 29 & 30, NASA hosted its first Open Source Summit at Ames Research Center in Mountain View California where engineers and policy makers across NASA and respected members of the open source community came together to discuss the challenges with the existing open source policy framework, and propose modifications that would make it easier for NASA to develop, release, and use open source software. But why is this conference a big deal? As eloquently stated to me by one of my colleagues, Dan Morgan, “it’s the law. Open Source Software is a required alternative that should be considered, but government is taking a different view about why these days. Counting on the Open Source Software community for patches and updates at speed keeps government naturally updated and keeps the procurement cycle out of the way. Plus, government’s giving back – the White House is contributing to the Drupal code base.” This summit brought together some important minds to think about how to do this more effectively in Government.

In the last year we pushed the limits of our own comfort zones to be more transparent and availble to the public….

The HUDdle Blog: To quote HUD, “To better learn from you and share the thoughts and ideas that shape our mission, we’ve launched our new official blog, The HUDdle. Not only can you use it to find out the latest news, but you can contribute and register your own opinions in our comment section. Most recently we’ve launched a Spanish language translation of the blog to provide even more accessibility for the Hispanic community.” This two way blog is a pretty big deal for HUD—they haven’t often been thought of as the more open and innovative agency, but this new way of engaging with the public and stakeholders demonstrates their commitment to integrate these principles into the way they do business. (Disclaimer: the HUD Open Gov Initiative a Phase One Consulting Group client) Participation In the last year we created platforms that make public participation in policy making, planning, and rulemaking more feasible and effective….

Federal Register 2.0: This is a big step towards helping the government and citizens work together better on policy making. “The new Federal Register website has a clear layout and Web 2.0 tools to help users find what they need. Users can check timelines for the entire history of rulemaking actions and set up RSS feeds on any topic or search term. Readers can easily connect with to submit their comments on regulatory actions and read other public comments and supporting material. The site was built at minimal cost in just three months by using open source software and through collaboration with non-profit organizations, universities, and the open government community. The open source programming code is available for reuse by all.” (White House Innovations Gallery)

DOT’s Regulation Room: Regulation Room is a groundbreaking effort to bring the public into the rulemaking process in a more effective and useful way. It is an innovative pilot program between the Department of Transportation and researchers from Cornell University’s Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) that allows the general public to comment on and discuss federal proposed rules through a transparent and intuitive online social platform. (Disclaimer: the DOT Open Gov Initiative a Phase One Consulting Group client) A great paper was recently published by Cornell that describes in more detail the impact of this type of collaboration on rulemaking.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Open for Suggestions: As a new Agency, CFPB has been open from the start. One the day they launched their new website they engaged in an “open for suggestions” campaign that received citizen feedback through tweets, online forms, and other mechanisms, and they committed to responding within hours. What’s more, they take transparency seriously and have posted Elizabeth Warren’s calendar since day one, posted all their letters to and from Congress, and consistently deliver messages that articulate their commitment to transparency (exampleexampleexample). I’m excited to see what the coming years will have in store for them. In the last year we reached nontraditional groups through new means…

Social Security 101: On Thursday, March 10, 2011, SSA hosted an interactive broadcast for young adults titled “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” The webinar targeted college students and young workers around the country and focused on Social Security issues of special importance to them – disability and survivors insurance, financial principles of the program, how workers and their families qualify for coverage, and steps to plan and save for their financial future. The webinar also included a live Q&A session. Over 60 colleges/universities participated. Viewers even tuned in from foreign countries! Promotion of the webinar occurred largely through viral social media, generating more than 500,000 impressions through Twitter alone.


In the last year we laid we the groundwork for the Federal Government’s use of prizes and competitions to stimulate innovation and solve tough problems….

America COMPETES Act: Passage of the America COMPETES Act: Why is the passage of a law important? It’s definitely not as “cool” as a flashy new technology solution or high-gloss event, but this event will be a major enabler for Open Gov moving forward. First of all it will enable more agencies to have a strong argument for conducting prizes than ever before and furthermore it demonstrates that Congress is not a staunch opponent of prizes, but instead will permit them. There has been growing support from the executive branch towards prizes, but this demonstration of support from the legislative branch is huge and will result in many more prizes in the years to come. By my count, as of today, there are nearly 100 challenges listed on This is a huge surge from the launch date for on September 7, 2010. is a storefront for all government challenges and has two primary benefits: (1) makes it easy for federal agencies to launch challenges and (2) makes it easier for the public to find challenges that interest them; support, share and discuss those that are important to them with friends; and solve them. Like contractors benefit from listing services like FedBizOps to identify opportunities, innovators around the world will benefit from the storefront aspects of

NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) Initiative: According to the NASA website, “NASA and Harvard University have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which will enable software developers to compete with each other to create the best computer code for NASA systems. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to “order” a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies.” This initiative builds upon the successes of the NASA topcoder challenges that were kicked off in 2009. The success story here is that the success of a pilot project in 2009 has opened the door to make this type of democratized procurement a part of the way NASA does business.

In the last year we experimented with opening up the grantmaking process to stimulate and leverage private investment and innovation….

Department of Education’s Open Grantmaking Approach: This is truly a one-of-a kind groundbreaking effort in grantmaking. It attempted to create an ecosystem around education grant applications to compliment the limited amount of funding the Department of Education could provide. By creating a space for philanthropists to find unfunded applications they might want to fund or provide the matching funds to, visualizing the data about where grant applications were coming from, and providing a forum for challenges to identify new ideas that could have merit for funding, Ed truly opened our eyes to a new way of doing something the Federal Government has been doing for years. (for more details on this, see a previous jennovation blog posting)

In the last year we shifted a paradigm in how we react and partner in emergencies….

Social Crisis Response: This year we saw the convergence of social media and crisis response and leaders at the highest levels of our government embracing this trend – with people like @CraigAtFEMA leading the way. Just today, the Department of Home Security announced they would be sending terror and alerts via Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because we’re looking seriously at the application of these tools to enable our government to be effective in resource allocation – a conversation that is frequently missed. We’re also seeing amazing new apps like that move beyond visualization and 311-type interfaces and has created a new group of citizen first-responders that could saves lives. It perfectly blends social and tech and has real life or death consequences.

I think this tells a pretty great story for Open Gov for the last year—and I continue to be very excited for what the future holds for this initiative. In closing, I want to thank Mike Rupert (@rupertmike), Dan Morgan (@dsmorgan77), and Jerad Speigel (@jspeigel1) for all collaborating on this posting in celebration of the one year anniversary of Agency Open Gov Plans.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog for a special featured Govloop series when I was an employee there.

Gov 2.0 Efforts are Selfish, and Rightly Should Be

Last week at a Gov 2.0 event sponsored by Fedscoop I had great conversations with several government 2.0 rockstars. But one conversation and one statement in particular really resonated with me. Gwynne Kostin from GSA, in her brilliance, said:

“Participation and collaboration are selfish activities. Most people don’t participate or collaborate without wanting to gain something in return.”

This isn’t a revolutionary concept in itself, but it does shed a different light on the types of initiatives that have largely been pursued in the spirit of openness. Even though the rhetoric in the Open Government community has been increasingly about tying new initiatives to strategic goals, much of the action has demonstrated a “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Often the things that are easy to do in transparency, participation and collaboration aren’t those things that have a discrete tie to the mission of the organization: standing up a twitter account, starting a blog, creating an iphone app, opening up ideation tools, etc… I’m not saying that these activities can’t be incredibly valuable, if done right. However, there are countless examples of services, products, and programs that demonstrate “what we CAN do” and not “what we SHOULD do”.

“What we should do” must be strategic, and provide value both for the provider (government) and the consumer (the public, stakeholder groups, academia, industry, etc…). People will only participate and collaborate if they can get something discrete and valuable out of the experience. Gwynne’s statement made me think that a large part of what we “should do” is not wholly reinvent the process for identifying how to effectively partner to solve business problems. Individuals and groups have been partnering forever to solve problems. Gov 2.0 just gives us some new methods for partnering that are more mobile, real-time and individualized.

This got me thinking about partnership theory, which was the subject of mymaster’s thesis. Mark Moore from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government has done significant writing since the 1990s about the key issues that should be considered by public managers before they commit themselves and their organizations to specific actions. The following issues constitute what is known as the “strategic triangle”:

  • “First, what is the important “public value (PV)” the organization is seeking to produce?
  • Second, what are the “sources of legitimacy and support (L&S)” that would be relied upon to authorize the organization to take action and provide the resources necessary to sustain the effort to create the value?
  • Third, what “operational capabilities (OC)” (including new investments and innovations) would the organization rely on (or have to develop) to deliver the desired results?”

Furthermore, PV, L&S and OC can be provided in various degrees by multiple people or groups. This is where partnership comes in. For example, if the OC is fully provided by the private sector, the partnership may likely be a contracting arrangement.

These are the SAME questions that we must ask when designing participation and collaboration initiatives through the Open Government Initiatives. But how is partnership in this sense selfish? It’s in its very definition. Without public value—the “so what” for the consumer—the action doesn’t have enough legs to stand on.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Key Area to Consider in Open Government Planning: Legal

Importance of Legal Issues in Open Government Planning: There are a host of legal issues that all transparency, participation, and collaboration initiatives will face. These legal constraints have been enormous hurdles for Agencies in engaging the public in decision making. For example, one of the best known hurdles is the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). This Act prevents Agencies from asking more than 10 citizens the same question (regardless of if it’s voluntary) with uniform answers, unless Agencies go through a long process with the Office of Management and Budget to get approval of those questions. It is important for Agencies to understand the entire legal environment that will influence their Open Government initiatives from the start to manage downstream risks (i.e., so they don’t discover they are breaking the law down the line). The following is a list of some high level legal issues and the corresponding legislation that will impact Open Government planning efforts. This list is not comprehensive but it should give you an idea of the wide scope of legal issues that must be considered in Open Government planning.

  • Government Soliciting Feedback from Citizens: Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) 5 USC Section 3, Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35)
  • Records Management: National Archives and Records Administration Act of 1984/ Federal Records Act
  • Security: Agency Statute, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, etc…
  • Content Liability, which includes defamation, harassment, copyright, trademark, and negligent misstatement/ fraud: Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996
  • Terms of Service: Anti-Deficiency Act
  • Privacy: Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), E-Government Act of 2002, Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and Privacy Act
  • Accessibility: Americans with Disabilities Act/ Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Rulemaking: Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of 1946
  • • Acquisition: Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)

This legislation must be considered as policies governing the use of various social media and other Gov 2.0 tools are developed for your Agency including: access, moderation, comment, advertising, records management, open format data, and employee use policies. During this activity, it could be useful for the Office of General Counsel to consider the questions highlighted here.

Linkages with the Open Government Directive: There are several requirements in the Open Government Directive that call specifically for legal understanding, including:

  • Open Gov plans must “include any proposed changes to internal management and administrative policies to improve transparency, participation and collaboration”. Internal policies are developed based on an Agency’s enabling legislation and its legal requirements. Thus in order to establish robust policies, the legal environment must be fully understood. (page 10, Open Gov Directive)
  • Open Gov plans must “include innovative methods, such as prizes and competitions, to obtain ideas from and to increase collaboration with those in the private sector, non-profit, and academic communities” The FAR makes it very difficult for Agencies to issue prizes. However, the Open Gov Directive tasks Agencies, as well as OMB, to attempt to find innovative ways to issue prizes through competitions while operating within the law. (page 10, Open Gov Directive)
  • “Within 120 days, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), in consultation with the Federal Chief Information Officer and the Federal Chief Technology Officer, will review existing OMB policies, such as Paperwork Reduction Act guidance and privacy guidance, to identify impediments to open government and to the use of new technologies and, where necessary, issue clarifying guidance and/or propose revisions to such policies, to promote greater openness in government.” (page 6, Open Gov Directive)

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.


Key Areas to Consider in Open Government Strategy and Planning

The release of the Open Government Directive on December 8, 2009 has prompted many Agencies to wrestle with what a comprehensive Open Government Plan for their Agency would look like. According to the Directive, Open Government Plans are due for each Agency in 120 days. (The Sunlight foundation provides a good high level summary of other requirements here.) The Directive then lays out about 22 detailed requirements for that plan, but gives little guidance to Agencies about how they should meet those requirements. Like a typical and appropriate policy, the Directive details the “what” but not the “how”. Thus, Agencies need to plan how they’ll be more transparent, participatory and collaborative in key areas, but they are on their own in figuring out how to do that. The Department of Transportation, recognizing that this requirement would inevitably be coming, started thinking about the “how” months ago. Through this preparation work, they developed, in partnership with Phase One Consulting Group, an Open Government methodology that captures all the key areas that Agencies should be concerned with when doing comprehensive open government planning. This methodology was introduced in a blog posting last month and at the first Open Government Directive Workshop series.

This blog series will devote individual blog postings to each of the “pie pieces” or key areas of Open Government planning. In each of the blog postings we will describe what each of the pie pieces mean, why they are critical to include in Open Government planning, and how they are tied to the requirements of the Open Government Directive.

  • Legal (to be posted 12/16/2009)
  • Strategic Planning (to be posted 12/18/2009)
  • Internal Directives (to be posted 12/21/2009)
  • Performance (to be posted 12/23/2009)
  • Security (to be posted 12/28/2009)
  • Infrastructure (to be posted 12/30/2009)
  • Tools (to be posted 1/4/2010)
  • Pilots/ Existing Programs (to be posted 1/6/2010)
  • Participatory Activities (to be posted 1/8/2010)
  • Agency Stakeholders (to be posted 1/11/2010)
  • Communication Channels (to be posted 1/13/2010)
  • Employee Readiness (to be posted 1/15/2010)

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.


E-gov Versus Open Gov: The Evolution of E-democracy

One of the first questions I asked myself when familiarizing myself with the Open Government initiative was: “How is the Obama Administration’s Open Government (Open Gov) initiative different from the Bush Administration’s E-government (E-gov) initiative?” There are many people who use the two terms interchangeably but this paper argues that although they are distinct initiatives in the United States, they are also part of the same E-democracy maturity continuum. Thus while they should not be handled totally separately, they should not be combined either. This blog post provides a high level summary of the findings and recommendations described in more detail in a corresponding white paper. The E-government efforts of the last decade and the new Open Government initiative share many similar goals and characteristics, the largest being that they both strive to make the Federal Government more transparent. However, they are not synonymous. They are different efforts that are overlapping phases in an incremental growth towards E-democracy. Open Gov can be seen as an evolution of E-gov. Open Gov would not be possible without the outcomes created by E-gov and the advances made in technology (including social media (a.k.a. Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0) and cloud computing), policy (including OMB attempts to amend the current legal/policy environment), and culture (an employee workforce more accustomed to transparency) over the last decade. E-gov was a first and crucial step towards E-democracy. However, the Open Gov initiative is not the end-state solution. It is the most recent maturation of the Federal Government’s growth towards E-democracy, but it is not the final step. There will likely be an initiative that follows Open Government as a new future Administration enters the White House and as tools grow and the culture of the Federal Government evolves.

Some key similarities and differences between the two initiatives are highlighted below. For more detail on each of the following assertions, please see this short E-Gov and Open Gov white paper.

  • The E-gov efforts are directly enabled by law, but the Open Gov initiative is not.
  • E-gov and Open Gov both produce significant advances in Federal transparency, but Open Gov should also produce more participation and collaboration mechanisms.
  • E-gov and Open Gov both are “unfunded mandates” and must be implemented with existing resources.
  • E-gov and Open Gov both rely heavily on web-enabled technology adoption, but many Open Government-related technologies (i.e. social media tools) are rapidly evolving.
  • E-gov has largely become a compliance exercise for the Chief Information Officer (CIO), but Open Gov expands the responsibility for openness outside the CIO organization.

OMB should strive to delay, for as long as possible, the point at which the momentum supporting Open Gov is converted to devoting staff time to a reporting compliance exercise. Some reporting is valuable and necessary to ensure broad milestones are met across the Federal Government. However, just how far Open Gov will take us towards E-democracy will be highly determined by how effectively culture changes as a result of this effort—not how frequently or well Agencies report. There are several opportunities to direct the Open Gov momentum onto the right track right now—and there is a narrow window. OMB should focus on the following opportunities to help avoid a compliancy fate:

  • Provide Agencies with tools and methodologies to implement the Open Government Directive in order to prevent an attitude of compliant reporting. The Department of Transportation has started developing such a best practice methodology.
  • Support and facilitate best practice sharing and shared services to ease Open Government adoption since most Open Government efforts are not funded.
  • Tie in Enterprise Architecture from the beginning of the effort in order to identify where cost savings through IT consolidation can be applied to new Open Gov efforts.
  • Re-evaluate how E-gov and Open Gov efforts and reporting should and could be combined to eliminate redundant reporting requirements on the Agencies.
  • Advocate for authorization and appropriation for a PMO for E-democracy efforts that encompass both E-gov and Open Gov.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is Change Management… On Steroids

Giovanni Carnaroli, the associate CIO for IT policy oversight at the Department of Transportation, and Jenn Gustetic from Phase One Consulting Group presented at the Open Government: Strategies and Tactics from the Play Book event last week. For those of you that couldn’t make it, we are introducing our thoughts about how to approach Open Government to you on the blogosphere with this posting:

  • Open Government planning is about more than tools and technology. It is about the “trinity” of Technology, Policy and Culture.
  • Developing and using a comprehensive Open Government framework is possible and it can help you stay on track throughout the program lifecycle.
  • Engaging an interdisciplinary leadership and planning team from the beginning is crucial to tap into tacit knowledge and mitigate risks.

We feel that Open Government is ultimately about driving innovation through collaboration. We are heading towards that goal by getting the right people at the leadership table from the beginning and by following a framework that is focused, comprehensive and flexible in an attempt to avoid as many downstream issues as possible. We have incorporated the technology, policy and cultural elements that are essential to understand in any Open Government effort into a framework that will enable Agencies to meet their strategic objectives, mitigate risks, and improve performance through their Open Government Plan. This framework will help you answer two questions: “how should I approach managing the change required for a more Open Government?” and “who should I involve in Open Government?”

We hope that this framework will serve as the starting point for an Open Government best practice methodology (similar to FSAM), developed through a multi-agency effort.

How should I approach managing the change required for a more Open Government?

Bottom line, the Open Gov initiative represents a shift in the way we engage with the public and innovate. This is change management…on steroids.

And how do you traditionally manage change and business transformation? Through a pretty basic lifecycle management approach; assess, plan, implement, measure, and improve. But how do you assess your current state? How do you plan for your desired state? That’s where the “wheel” you see on the graphic below comes in. The wheel acknowledges that the technology, policy and culture components at your organization are all critical to understand before moving into planning. Some people see these areas as hurdles they must overcome, and others see them as resources. We see them each as unique and crucial areas for transformation throughout the Open Gov lifecycle.

POCG is proud to have supported DOT in the development of this framework

For technology, we suggest the critical areas include security, infrastructure, tools and current pilots and programs. For policy we suggest the areas are strategic planning, performance, legal and internal directives. And finally for culture we suggest the critical areas are employee readiness, communication channels, agency stakeholders, and those areas where the agency is already participating with the public, albeit not through Gov 2.0 tools. We will be releasing another blog series soon that will run through each of these areas in detail.

Note that each critical area and the corresponding activities in the five lifecycle phases can be thought of as a “cake slice”. There are distinct activities associated with the assess, plan, implement, measure, and improve phases of the each of the key areas that the appropriate office should be heavily involved in.

Who should be involved in Open Gov strategy and planning at your organization? On the framework graphic, there is a grey ring around the color wheel that contains various offices within the organization. This ring highlights what office tends to be the subject matter expert in each of these crucial areas. Walking around the circle, this framework shows that the chief information officer, project managers for key mission areas, public affairs, human resources, chief financial officer, general counsel, and policy development offices should all be engaged in the leadership and planning of an Open Gov effort. If you want more detail about what each of these offices tend to care about in the Open Gov space, check out the “Open Gov leadership team” blog series we released in October.

Bottom line: It’s important to involve folks from each of these critical areas at the beginning of the effort in order to tap into their tacit knowledge and ensure downstream challenges are mitigated.

Open Government strategy and planning is not about picking one tool and running with it. It is about fundamentally changing the way the Federal government interacts with citizens and its employees to reduce costs, improve decision making, mitigate risks, and stimulate innovation. That is a huge endeavor but this framework organizes the chaos and may enable you to more effectively tie agency strategic goals and performance targets to Open Government transformation efforts.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of Human Resources (HR)

Motivations: The Office of Human Resources (HR) is responsible for managing the staffing function of the organization, administering employee benefits, evaluating performance of employees, assessing employee satisfaction, providing dispute resolution and mediation services, and driving towards a model workplace. HR shops value the consistent and fair treatment of all employees. They ensure employees are fulfilled, developed, and supported in their workplace, and that a safe and confidential space for employees to resolve disputes is provided. HR shops adhere to the needs of the employees and work alongside internal operations teams, so tend to have less interaction with the public than the other Open Gov involved offices, except for recruitment efforts. Thus, HR shops have a unique pulse on the nature of an organization’s workforce: their technological maturity, their adaptability, their satisfaction, and their skills sets. Open Gov Programs can ultimately help HR shops achieve better results. One Open Gov program that has reached HR and improved employee satisfaction, is the TSA Ideafactory. This internal tool creates a means for thousands of TSA employees to submit ideas for how to advance the organization and improve morale that are then rated and ranked by their peers, evaluated by TSA HQ, and implemented as appropriate. This tool has been wildly successful at TSA and many HR departments are interested in adopting this program (including DHS).

Social media also offers an opportunity for organizations to recruit differently than they have ever before. In addition to the popular job boards (monster, hotjobs, careerbuilder, indeed, etc.), several federal agencies are now posting open positions on twitter, facebook, craigslist, doostang, linkedin and many other networking or social sites—enabling a more diverse and larger population to be targeted for federal jobs.

Approach: Since HR shops understand employees needs uniquely, they require a seat at the Open Gov table. When creating an Open Gov strategy, HR shops will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • How can gov 2.0 tools create an organizational culture that empowers employees and allows them to better collaborate with one another?
  • Will employee codes of conduct need to be modified at all to account for social media use? How will use of social media be regulated?
  • Prior to implementation, what legal considerations are important to review? How will these rules and regulations be communicated to employees/users?
  • How will Open Gov programs affect employee satisfaction? How will satisfaction be measured?
  • How will Open Gov change the way we recruit new employees?
  • How “ready” are employees for new ways of collaborating and participating with web-based technologies? How do we encourage employees to use these tools and transform the culture?

Partner’s Bottom Line: HR shops may be an unexpected partner at the Open Gov table. However, their role is critical in transforming the culture of the organization. HR shops should keep in mind the following when participating in Open Gov efforts:

  • Catalyze culture change within the organization. Open Gov will only work if new habits are encouraged from the inside out, and the principles of transparency, collaboration and participation are institutionalized. Help other Open Gov partners determine the tools they have to institutionalize these principles.
  • Be open. There will be risks with any new Open Gov program and it will be difficult, to predict how employees will receive new programs. But risks should be managed, not be the impetus for the status quo.
  • Be realistic. Open Gov programs, like IdeaFactory can achieve significant internal value for organizations in terms of employee satisfaction and cultivating a culture of openness and collaboration. However, these changes are not felt overnight—be patient but realistic in goals for metrics.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of the Chief Financial Officer

Motivations: There are several drivers for Agencies and their OCFO shops to focus on performance management—and many of them are directly related to compliance activities. The following is by no means exhaustive, but demonstrates a few of the Agency performance and budgeting requirements that motivate OCFO’s to be engaged in any business transformation efforts that occur as a result of embracing Open Government principles:

  • The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) shifts “the focus of government decision making, management, and accountability from activities and processes to the results and outcomes achieved by Federal programs.” Under GPRA, annual performance plans must be submitted that outline performance goals, measurement approaches, and the strategies to achieve those goals. (Source: GAO Report)
  • Executive Order 13450 – Improving Government Program Performance is the official policy of the Federal Government to spend taxpayer dollars more effectively each year. Agency Performance Improvement Officers (PIOs) must develop and improve the agency’s strategic plans, annual performance plans, and annual performance reports and assist the head of the agency in the development and use within the agency of performance measures in personnel performance appraisals, particularly those of program managers.
  • The Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) was “developed to assess and improve program performance so that the Federal government can achieve better results. A PART review helps identify a program’s strengths and weaknesses to inform funding and management decisions aimed at making the program more effective”. (Source: OMB Website) A Federal website,, displays performance information online for the public.

Approach: OCFO’s must balance a myriad of pressures and priorities when developing the annual budget including performance management and strategic goals alignment. OCFO shops will be concerned with metrics, strategic alignment and the costs associated with any Open Government effort. When standing up an Open Government program, OCFO’s will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • Do Open Government philosophies and programs enhance an Agency’s focus on their mission?
  • Do the efforts support annual performance goals?
  • Will senior managers be able to use the performance and financial data that is created through Open Government to manage their programs?
  • How do we link agency employees’ appraisals to the agency missions, goals, and outcomes associated with Open Government?
  • How will we apply program evaluations (PART) to assess the effectiveness of Open Gov programs?
  • What is the full cost of achieving the performance goals associate with Open Government?
  • What is the marginal cost of changing performance goals due to Open Government?
  • Will budget requests need to be altered as a result of Open Government efforts?
  • How do we measure baseline performance targets associated with the Open Government?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an Open Government program that considers the answers to each of these questions, OCFO’s should:

  • Integrate the Federal-wide goals of transparency, participation and collaboration into strategic planning and performance management for the Agency.
  • Work alongside and appreciate the importance of “techies” to understand the scope and possibilities for the effort. This will enable them to understand how technology has evolved and will evolve to assist agencies in meeting the Federal-wide goals of transparency, participation and collaboration.
  • Be open. What is defined as “success” and a performance target should be evolving as technology moves forward. We should not continue to pursue outdated targets as possibilities change with technology.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Gov Partner Approach: Office of General Counsel

Motivations: OGC’s primary mission is to provide legal opinions, advice, and services with respect to all agency and departmental programs and activities. OGC’s are charged with ensuring compliance with all federal laws, statutes, and OMB guidance in all Agency activities. They keep the rest of us out of trouble and handle disputes with agency decisions as they emerge. Approach: OGC’s must survey and interpret a host of different information sources to develop a legal opinion on any new government effort, including open government programs. Legal Counsel will review Agency statutes, federal laws, OMB guidance and directives, OMB circulars, and internal Agency policies to advise the client on actions that are legal, illegal, and those that may need slight modification to transfer between the two. This activity can be quite time consuming, especially in areas where substantial case law does not exist (i.e. the questions being asked are new).

When standing up an open government tool, OGC’s will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • What is your authority for creating this tool or program?
  • Are there any statutory constraints or enablers that impact the Agency’s use of open government tools, including security protections?
  • Will the tool be collecting information from the public, and if so, will it violate the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)?
  • Are you seeking consensus advice from the public, and if so, will it trigger the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)?
  • Are your tools 508 compliant and do they meet the requirements of all accessibility laws?
  • Is the Agency okay with the tools “terms of service”, if it is an established tool?
  • Does the program meet all privacy regulations and is a privacy impact assessment (PIA) required?
  • If an interaction tool is desired, what should the comment policy say? (This policy details the legal protections for the service provider (aka federal government) with regards to the user generated content.)
  • If access is restricted, what is the basis for restricting access and should there be an access policy?
  • Is the content on the tool considered a “federal record” and if so, should a disposition schedule be developed?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an open government tool that considers the answers to each of these questions, OGC’s should:

  • Work alongside the strategists and program developers to understand the purpose of the effort. This will enable them to advise the effort in real-time and prevent most legal issues from emerging down the line, which could slow or completely halt all efforts.
  • Be open. Open Government is a new application of several outdated laws (NARA, PRA, FACA, etc…) and OGC’s across the federal government are sharing legal opinions that are flexible but still operate within the boundaries of the law.
  • “Approach the tools and issues with an eye to analyzing and managing the actual risk. Too many projects get stalled on unlikely what-if scenarios. Ask, what is the real risk? What is the likelihood of it occurring? Recognizing that some risks may not be tenable, the benefit of openness needs to be prominent in the equation.” (Thanks to Gwynne for contributing)

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.


Open Gov Partner Approach: Program Offices

Motivations: Program Offices are often those folks that are motivated by outputs and outcomes that most directly relate to the bottom line mission areas of an Agency. They are charged with implementing programs that tie into the strategic goals of the organization and are often the closest to the stakeholders. These folks are closest to the pain points in Agency processes and statutory limitations. They know what they need to be successful but often times face barriers in implementation with the integrating offices (OCIO, OPA, OGC, etc…) so they often “go it alone” and do what works for them in order to meet their mission, not focusing on integrating their efforts with the needs of the entire organization. In a perfect world, they would have access to customizable solutions to help them meet their business needs that have already taken into account the hard legal, policy, technical and performance questions. Approach: Program offices identify a business need, and will fill that gap with the solution that best balances their time, resource, cost and technology limitations. To create these solutions, program offices tend to follow some form of a project management process to design, implement, maintain and improve upon their initiatives, consulting other offices when appropriate.

This approach is no different when programs decide to utilize open government tools. Building a blog, a wiki, or a specialized participation tool requires a project management approach to stand it up, and then program management to maintain and improve upon it. When standing up an open government tool, program offices will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • What type of information sharing with the stakeholders will help me to achieve my strategic goals more effectively? Will open government tools help my bottom line by making public engagement easier?
  • What type of outreach reaches my stakeholders the most effectively? Do those stakeholders have the technological maturity to transition to a primarily online collaboration environment?
  • What type of program is realistic to maintain given my personnel, budget and time constraints?
  • What tools are available for me to use? Are those tools adequately vetted from a security, privacy and utility perspective?
  • How much ability do I have to execute creative license over the tool to customize it for my needs?
  • Is there any reason why I can’t do what I want to do (internal policy, statute, the law, etc…)?
  • Has an effort like this worked any where else outside my organization or within it?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an open government tool that considers the answers to each of these questions, program offices should:

  • Work closely with a team of the legal, technical, policy, and performance subject matter experts;
  • Follow project management discipline in order to manage risks, costs, schedules and resources; and
  • Be provided with a source where Agency best practices and resources can be shared so each program office is not forced to ask these same difficult questions each time a new business need emerges.

(Note: This is a part of a series that was originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

We’re not so Different After All: Touch Points in Open Gov Approaches Preferred by Internal Partners

In our first open government series we talked about how intermediate goals (which reside between the temptation to go straight to “cool tools” and the overall vision of “government as a platform”), are critical to focus on when developing an open government strategy for an Agency that will ultimately help them achieve their mission better. This series drives at another challenge that practitioners face in creating robust open government strategies: who to engage in the leadership of the effort and how to get those people talking the same language. We do this by:

(1) Laying out the motivations and approaches that individual offices would likely take in developing their pieces of an Open Gov strategy; (2) Suggesting some bottom line recommendations for those offices the equip them to be the best possible partner; and (3) Synthesizing those approaches into a common language that can help all the right people work together from the beginning.

The goal of this series is to help make the case for convening as step one an interdisciplinary leadership team to develop an Agency’s Open Government strategy.

Often offices don’t communicate because they believe their processes don’t complement one another. However, this series will demonstrate that all the essential partners aren’t so different after all, and though they may have different terms and general approaches, they share many of the same concerns, requirements and motivations. We will highlight the following offices and their drivers in the coming weeks:

(1) Program Offices (Posted 10/6/09) (2) Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) (Posted 10/8/09) (3) Office of General Counsel (OGC) (Posted 10/15/09) (4) Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) (Posted 10/21/09) (5) Chief Technology Officer (CTO) (Posted 10/23/09) (6) Policy Development Office (Posted 10/26/09) (7) Office of Public Affairs (OPA) (Posted 11/3/09) (8) Human Resources (HR) (Posted 11/10/09)

Please let us know any feedback and whether or not you think any other offices/approaches should be integrated as well. This series will hopefully help practitioners get to “step one” in their open government effort: convening the right people at the table to support the development of a robust and implementable strategy.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is about Eliminating the Digital Divide (Part 5 of 5 of Series)

This may seem contradictory initially. Doesn’t Gov 2.0 enhance the digital divide by pushing government engagement further away from folks that aren’t equipped with a computer or web-enabled mobile device? The danger of focusing on Gov 2.0 only, considering the digital divide, is that certain populations will be under-represented in the governing process. We can do a lot of “cool” things with Gov 2.0, but some argue that unless we address accessibility we aren’t really transforming government to an equitable platform; we are instead making its operations more inaccessible to certain stakeholder groups. Closing the digital divide and encouraging Gov 2.0 are not mutually exclusive however. You don’t have to choose one or the other—choose both. In fact, some people think that the digital divide is a myth and only a perceived gap—that as cost of use decreases and ease of use increases, the ethnic, racial, and geographical internet access gaps will decrease on their own. (see “The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth by Benjamin M. Compaine) Furthermore, one could argue that Gov 2.0 will increase ease of use as open source applications allow tools to be customized by users so they become more and more useful through each version. However, this is a result that occurs over time and thus government programs should in the interim make sure to consider accessibility issues and prioritize digital equality programming in parallel with Gov 2.0 efforts.

It seems that those places that have had some success in bridging the divide are heavily dependent on programming at the local level. Boston has done some really interesting programming and tried to address the problem from a lot of directions through the Boston Digital Bridge Foundation. This is also a unique time where the federal government is financially supporting broadband technology expansion with stimulus funds and several grant programs including the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

As another intermediate goal, we should continue to encourage innovation through Gov 2.0, but also address digital divide issues in parallel through efforts like what they’ve done in Boston. One should not be sacrificed for the other—they just need to be balanced given limited resources. The good news is, a lot of the Gov 2.0 efforts are “free” or low cost compared to the infrastructure heavy investments required for certain digital divide programming.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is about Realizing Economies of Scale through Standardization (Part 4 of 5 of Series)

Now this statement alone may give many of you pause since Open Government is about “openness” and not standardization. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Economies of scale are accomplished because as production increases, the cost of producing each additional unit falls. If we don’t work to standardize the process of and tools required to produce additional units (whether they be blogs, wikis, or other Gov 2.0 tools), the same barriers to entry and costs will exist for each new effort (i.e. development of policies, security plans, employee training, etc). Some examples of standardization already exit. GSA’s negotiated terms of service have provided Federal-wide standardization to most Agencies that desire to use web 2.0 platforms. Whenever you sign up for a social media service (facebook, twitter, etc…) you agree to their terms of service when you register. The terms of service are often seen by legal departments as a “contract” with that tool owner. With the negotiated terms of service, GSA has done the work to provide a standard “contract” that government agencies can use when utilizing these social media tools. Thus, each legal department doesn’t have to struggle through this issue each time a new tool surfaces; GSA has provided a standard that makes development much quicker and easier. is one example of using standards to create economies of scale across the government.

Also, many Agencies have developed Agency-wide use policies that give guidance to employees. However, more standardization can be encouraged at the Agency level that will reduce the barriers to entry for emergent programs and thus accomplish economies of scale.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is about Enabling Public Private Partnerships and Innovation (Part 3 of 5 of Series)

As the release of OMB’s Open Government Directive approaches, Departments and Agencies should embrace thinking about Open Government in a new way—not as an initiative that can be satisfied through the utilization of web 2.0 tools, but as an opportunity to jump-start and enhance public-private partnerships (PPPs) and innovation that will enhance their mission. PPPs are said to only be possible when partners bring concrete public value, operational capacity, and legitimacy and support to the table. The Open Government initiative contributes to all three of these areas by prioritizing the public value of information sharing, increasing the data available to the public and thus reducing information asymmetry, and providing the leadership support to increase PPPs’ visibility. The bottom line is that the Open Government initiative makes partnering easier in every area of government service provision and the momentum created by OMB’s initial transparency efforts through should be leveraged in order to identify and encourage new areas for partnership. The Government should not have a monopoly on innovation. But by withholding data, making processes unnecessarily cumbersome, and making public engagement in decision making extremely difficult (if not illegal—see the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) for guidelines on reaching public consensus to advise lawmakers), several public service areas have become near-monopolies. This Open Government initiative empowers and requires the Federal Government to break down those walls, to increase openness, and to encourage public private partnerships, so that we may create meaningful and productive innovation and progress through harnessing the best ideas, regardless of their creator.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is about Leadership, Strategy, and Teaming (Part 2 of 5 of Series)

Putting together a well-balanced leadership and implementation team is essential and should start from the beginning of Open Government efforts. The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) and the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) should co-lead the effort with executive sponsorship from the highest levels of the organization. While the OPA manages most of the branding and communications for the Agency, the OCIO is uniquely situated, in most cases, at the center of technology, policy and culture issues and thus should be part of the core leadership team. Several other parties should be engaged in Agency-wide Gov 2.0 efforts, including: the General Counsel’s Office (OGC), Chief Technology Officers (CTO), Chief Information Security Officers (CISO), Privacy Officers, Human Resources (HR), and project managers (PMs). These parties must be at the table to ensure all legal, policy, technical, organizational and business factors are addressed when devising an Open Government strategy. Without an Agency-wide effort, programs will utilize social media and Open Government tools on an ad-hoc basis, driving up redundancy, cost, and the instances of inconsistent policies. By embracing the strategy phase upfront, Agencies have the opportunity to ensure that Open Government programs and tools comprehensively:

(1) Enhance the Agency’s mission and make service provision more efficient for the government and useful for the public (2) Channel public energy to partner with the government to innovate productively and; (3) Align with IT standards, federal policies, and Agency strategy.

Teaming doesn’t stop at the strategy level however, it continues all the way down to program development and management. We are all familiar with the teaming required to stand up and operate a tool or program; it’s the strategy leadership—with the exception of the White House and OMB—that has been lacking. Agencies leadership teams should focus on a current “openness” assessment, strategy development, planning, tool selection and then program development and management, in that order, to ensure Open Government adds real value to mission provision.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

Open Government is about Technology, Policy and Culture (Part 1 of 5 of Series)

Open Government strategies must consider technology, policy and culture to meet the bottom line goals of Open Government:

1. To ensure cost effectiveness, accessibility, and quality in service provision; 2. To streamline federal efforts allowing Agencies to focus on and enhance their mission areas; and 3. To stimulate the openness that drives public trust and innovation.

We all know this, but until now, the dialogue has been focused primarily on technology, with policy and culture issues thrown in as contributing factors to success, but not inputs that need to be considered before an Open Government plan is even conceptualized.

However, I will argue that technology, policy and cultural components must be considered before tools are even selected in order to get a deeper understanding of what strategies will best assist Agencies in enhancing their mission provision through Open Government. Don’t wait until a tool has been selected to consider security, privacy, stakeholder, legal, resource and communications issues—consider them from the start. Looking at Open Government through this lens will help tool selection decisions be informed based on Agency mission priorities and not merely on what tools are available and sexy.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.

What Open Government is About: Suggested Intermediate Goals and Guidance for Gov 2.0

There has been a lot of buzz in the last eight months around the concept of Open Government. Last week, the Gov 2.0 community met for an energizing Gov 2.0 Expo and Gov 2.0 Summit, sponsored by TechWeb and O’Reilly Media, which brought together thought leaders, practitioners and federal executives around the ideas of transparency, collaboration and participation. Speakers illustrated success stories, emerging applications, agency specific tools, and an open source vision for today and the future. Gov 2.0 bloggers have been posting summaries and outstanding questions since. September 15, OMB and GSA announced the launch of, a storefront for approved cloud computing applications. Needless to say, there is a lot of activity in the Gov 2.0 world, but it seems that the content of the conference, recent discussions, and recent initiatives have fallen in to two primary categories: technology and vision.

1. The Gov 2.0 event was highly focused on the technology aspects of Open Government. However, Open Government is not ONLY about technology. 2. The Gov 2.0 event also featured plentiful discussion about the desired to-be open source state for government operations. However, there must be intermediate, manageable steps that lead to that to-be state. While I agree with Tim O’Reilly’s statement that “government as a platform” should be an overall goal of Open Government, I also believe that in order to achieve meaningful results from Open Government efforts in the near to medium term, Federal practitioners must have intermediate goals that drive their efforts as well.

To build upon the Gov 2.0 community’s conversation through this new lens, I have compiled the following series of blog postings explaining what I think Open Government is about. These thoughts will hopefully help to focus practitioners on some of the intermediate goals that may assist their Open Government efforts and kick-start the conversation to bridge the gap between the high-level “to-be” state discussions, and the implementation issues at the tool level. Thus, I start by suggesting that Open Government is about…

1. Technology, Policy, and Culture 2. Leadership, Strategy and Teaming 3. Public Private Partnerships and Innovation 4. Realizing Economies of Scale through Standardization 5. Eliminating the Digital Divide

I welcome your comments and additions.

(Note: Originally posted on the Phase One Consulting Group, Government Transformation Blog when I was an employee there.