2010 election cycle could be time for collaboration tech to shine

There will be thirty-nine elections involving governors on November 2, 2010. Of those 39, twenty-three are guaranteed to not be reelected (because they’re term-limited or stepping down) but more intriguing for political prognosticators is that anywhere between 18 and 25 states could elect governors from the opposite party.

For those concerned with the business of governing, this possibility poses some real challenges – not only because states are mired in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – and not only because the economic outlooks do not foresee recoveries within the next twelve to eighteen months. The challenges associated with knowledge transfer in the information age is one that is growing more complex by the tweet, especially as governments wade into a cadre of social media strategies to communicate with constituents and manage information.

According to Booz Allen Hamilton’s Walton Smith, the information overload suffered by most government organizations is made worse by antiquated communication and collaboration tools. Mr. Smith is one of Booz Allen’s thought leaders in Enterprise/Gov 2.0. He leads the firm’s internal corporate investment strategy to bolster Knowledge Management and Information Sharing Programs, including their internal platform, Hello.bah.com.

Mr. Smith says the possibility of substantial change across the states’ executive offices raises a typical problem in government with knowledge transfer. But now, information and communication tools have expanded the wealth of data and information to a degree that complicates traditional approaches to knowledge transfer and information sharing.

“State and local budgets are getting crushed and a lot of seasoned folks are leaving with no real systems to capture what they’ve done or what’s made them successful,” he said in an interview. “In most cases, Outlook is the most effective collaboration tool they have – but it only works if the people on the other end know you.”

Today’s new government employee has a personal Facebook account, tweets and is generally much more knowledgeable about the social media landscape than their bosses. They expect to have free and open access to information, Smith says, but that information is usually not available.

“We at Booz Allen don’t just walk in with a new tool, but with the methodology to understand what actually makes the organization work.”

“Most knowledge management is driven from an org chart perspective,” Smith said, arguing that most employees are impassioned by the issues they work with and the content they know, rather than by the position they hold or the jurisdiction they work.

Mr. Smith says Booz Allen offers both COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) and open source solutions to address the ever-changing landscape of media, communications and information sharing in government. “We want to build a platform that two weeks from now you can push out another release, and two weeks after that you can do it again. Because government needs something that’s flexible and fluid that can grow to meet the needs of the organization.”

Another important factor in knowledge management is getting new faces up to speed quickly, while providing an environment that allows the broader organization to keep on top of their core missions without wasting time, Smith added.

“You don’t have time to follow every blog post and wiki that’s relevant to your job. But through our solutions, we’re all about letting people you trust gather information and automate the aggregate info around those communities you follow.”

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