Stakeholder’s Meeting 10/25/06. And I don’t mean to be annoying. Honest!

The PMO held their bi-monthly Stakeholder’s Meeting yesterday and while I couldn’t attend (we’re responding to a large proposal and I’m — how can I put it? — going nuts) I got the notes from a colleague. The presentations should be on the web site shortly. Here are the bulletpoints from the notes:

  • is thinking about how to incorporate lessons learned from the GAO’s reports, especially in terms of obtaining input from agencies and the grant community. Two weeks ago they sent out something to grantees and agencies to form a JAD (Joint Application Development) team, and hope to have nominees by next week, all of whom will have used
  • They are rethinking their outreach / travel activities. Up to this point, they’ve attended a lot of grantee meetings but that may not continue.
  • On November 1st, IBM is releasing Workplace Forms for the Mac, a viewer which is in the testing phase.
  • The new systems integrator was introduced. Elinor Robinson is the Project Manager and she spent her entire grants career working on a national emergency management information system.
  • Anteon has done a phased transition of the hardware and had to learn to maintain the existing software.
  • Sandy Rosenberg, CEO of IAI, made a presentation on forms development: they’ll be covering existing forms first, then new forms. All forms will be converted by 4/1 (and new ones added by that date if they are needed for packages)

The following discussion had a few highlights:

  • Question: Will the form functions really stay the same? Answer: Yes
  • Question: Will the schema not change? Answer: There will be “little or no change to the schemas”. Adobe is working with them to ensure that, and Harsha Rao says he is “very very sensitive to schema changes” and is “working aggressively with Adobe on that”
  • The system bottleneck now is that when package comes in, it is processed on a specific server. The new system will be SOA based.
  • Will start incremental delivery in Dec/Jan to IV&V, but cutover for public use on 4/1/07.
  • Implementing the Google Search Appliance is “not a big risk because it doesn’t exist now — there are no dependencies”.
  • They plan to reuse lots of the current system.
  • Question: Now G.g sends 100 applications/hour to the agencies. How much faster will it be with Adobe? Answer: Starting 4/1/07 there will be changes to the back end architecture, to be more SOA, but it won’t be in production until 4/1. Will have a few servers dedicated to the old [format] and have the other servers for the new format.
  • Will support PureEdge through the end of the Fiscal Year. All new forms will be built in Adobe, but existing forms can be used through the end of FY07
  • Terry Nicolosi said that they will get a forms schedule out, and will stage aspects of development on the web site and let others see the Adobe versions.
  • Question: Will the user community see the IBM Mac versions? Answer: Testing starts 11/1.
  • Question: Will there be autopopulation [of forms]? Answer: There are opportunities there. Adobe seemed to give us that. {My note: There is also the suggestion that autopopulation wouldn’t be needed if agencies didn’t ask for the same information twice in the same form package. But that’s an argument for another day…}
  • G.g using a center of excellence for its contact center, DataTrac.

My note-taking colleague also mentioned that Terry Nicolosi said something about seeing “in the blog world that was at risk because of the transition,” and that she hoped that issue would be addressed at the meeting. Assuming that refers to this blog, firstly let me say how nice it is to be heard. 🙂 Second, though, I’d like to state (again) that I have every belief that will be around for a very long time and serve an excellent purpose. My concerns have always been around the impact of this transition on users — grantees and agencies — and whether the new system that will be deployed in April will meet’s needs for several years to come.

And unfortunately there’s little information that Terry and can provide to answer those concerns today. The best approach might be constant and frequent communication, demonstrating exactly how things will be panning out, so it’s good to see more technical details being presented at the Stakeholder’s Meeting.

While I think is moving in the right direction with SOA, I think this transition remains high risk because of the continued use of e‑forms, the mission-critical nature of the system, and the aggressive budget to which the systems integrator is committed. These are risk factors with unclear mitigation strategies. For example, Anteon intends to re-use large parts of the existing system (I assume for time and cost efficiencies) but, at the same time, they are just now “learning” it. Well, how can you assert that you’ll re-use it if you don’t know how it works?

I don’t mean to be a pain in’s side. Truly, I don’t — it’s not my intention and as a advisor it’s not in my best commercial interests! But with so many people (our clients and others) dependent on’s success, these issues need to be discussed and answers for them sought out. So I still think there are risks associated with this transition, and I don’t envy John Etcheverry or Terry Nicolosi’s jobs as a consequence. They have had tough decisions to make, with more to come.