I have recently renewed my interest in faceting and have enjoyed faceting several gemstones, including my largest to date, a 31.7 carat spinel. I have been thinking about why I enjoy faceting; what about this hobby engages me. There are in fact several aspects of the process. First, I enjoy transforming a rock, a roughhewn stone, into a lovely, shiny, reflective object. I enjoy seeing the gem emerge; first as the facets are initially cut in, then as the polish is made finer and finer until the facets are perfectly clear windows with each internal face a mirror like surface to reflect light in a brilliant flash. I also enjoy the complexity of working with angles in 3 dimensions, angles that must be repeatable to achieve the cut and subsequent polish of each facet. It’s easy to make a mistake – from calculating angles correctly to prevent light escaping the back of the final gem, to consistently repeating the angles as one goes through the cutting and polishing steps. I enjoy figuring out what design to cut – what fits into the boundaries of the rough and what design will result in the most pleasing outcome. And I enjoy integrating the work of my hands and mind to achieve a desired outcome.
It is certainly far different from my professional life. I have only met a handful of faceters – there appear to be few in the DC metropolitan area – which is also far different than in my professional life. There are many IT professionals in the Washington area. Yet, in many ways faceting is a metaphor for my career choice. I enjoy the process of transforming a process – for InterImage’s customers this occurs through the implementation of technology solutions versus through discs embedded with diamond grit. I enjoy working with customers to create something new, something better, and – like the process of selecting the right design for each individual stone which will reveal the most interesting and best qualities of that stone – identifying the right solution and applying measured innovation to achieve a better outcome. And when the problem is complex, like those angles in 3 dimensions, the challenge of sorting through competing interests, breaking down barriers and creating a solution becomes even more engaging and rewarding.
Life imitates art. In this case, hobby imitates profession. I believe that means my passion for transformation, for achieving something better, for improved outcomes, runs deep.
We just finished winning (yeah!) two significant contracts, both with major add-on work so there were other incumbents, besides us. We were not as concerned about the possibility of winning as were our team mates. I realized it was because our work with these customers has always been focused on how to advance what they were doing. Four years ago we won the work with no incumbents because our customers wanted to improve their IT posture and customer service. With our customers, we constantly investigated options, planned, implemented, documented and kept improving. When the re-compete occurred, we had satisfied customers. We also had plans on how to continuously raise the IT and service bar for the years to come. Since our work with customers was to keep improving, the re-compete became an opportunity to plan for the next few years and was an exciting time (except the compliance –based writing, of course).
Tonight is the InterImage holiday party, always a very festive and fun event. This year, after a suggestion from one of our employees, we are raffling off some gifts, including an iPad, Kindle and Nook. We might get some attempts at “ballot box” stuffing but Angie’s procedures will keep that in check, no doubt to the chagrin of some employees who really want to win. And we always have a gift exchange. Invariably there are those comical gifts that make everyone laugh and the super desirable gifts that get swiped when a subsequent gift opener elects to take vs open. Then there is the disappointment when it discovered that the desirable gift has been stolen 3 times – that’s the limit. And the glee of the final holder of that gift! No matter what each person ends with, it is always a memorable time.
More important, it’s a great opportunity for John and I to again thank our hardworking, dedicated staff for the fantastic work that they do. We have such a great team of star performers, and a team that genuinely enjoys working together for the benefit of our customers. So to our employees, thank you and happy holidays. To our customers, happy holidays and thank you for enabling this gem of a company, made a gem by our marvelous employees, to exist. And to our visitors, let me just say you are missing out if you don’t work for or with InterImage!
It’s been a very busy time at InterImage with exciting results. Of course, our FAA team is extremely busy with pending deliverables for our UCS contract and a schedule that has the first module released to production just months away. It’s called delivering on our promise of rapid iterations and we are! And, at FBI our stellar team continues to prove their worth. Our customer has responded by expanding our tasking and asking us to take over some work that is in serious jeopardy. We are pulling out all stops to make sure the development gets back on track and the deployment schedule is met. It’s nice to know that our customers have the confidence to turn to InterImage when they need help.
We gained some new customers at year end, and a number of new employees to welcome to our growing company. InterImagers, you will receive the next newsletter soon with profiles on all our new folks. I have linked to the press releases so you can read more about our new customers. In brief, we are providing a range of IT support services to the Army Northern Regional Medical Command. We rapidly transitioned that work and the team is already up and running. And, with our depth of Metastorm expertise, we are helping USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service upgrade applications. We have also been tapped by another customer in FBI for our Metastorm expertise, and that customer is already amazed by our results. Our great reputation just continues to grow thanks to the stellar work of all of our InterImagers!
I am excited to announce that InterImage has been awarded a major contract with the Federal Aviation Administration for the Unified Contract System (USC). Successes like these display InterImage’s unique ability to provide streamlined process based solutions to solve critical problems, in this case in the acquisition arena. This contract along with our previous successes and awards continues to demonstrate the excellent, innovative solutions we provide to our customers across the government, and continues to demonstrate our brand as the go to company for Business Process Management solutions, regardless of platform.
The UCS contract entails automation, modernization and integration of the FAA’s procurement processes and supporting systems. UCS will bring tremendous benefit to FAA in terms of significant efficiency improvements in the procurement processes and its overall acquisition cycle as well as cost reductions which will be realized in part by eliminating redundant and paper-based processes. You can read the press release at http://www.iimage.com/about/news.aspx.
Now that InterImage has won the contract, the real work begins. Just as with all our customers, we will roll up our sleeves and dive in to making the dream a reality. Stay tuned for more exciting news on Team InterImage!
It’s been a tremendously busy few weeks responding to proposals and RFIs, preparing for the AFCEA Energy and Environment IT Day and other general activities. Among the general activities, I did attend the White House forum on Transforming Federal IT Mangement. This was an update to the December White House briefing when the 25 Point Implementation Plan was announced. Jeffery Zients, US Chief Performance Officer, opened with discussion on how the federal sector has significantly lagged the private sector in terms of productivity gains. He noted that the positive in this news was that the government had a “late mover” advantage – an opportunity to leverage technology and experience to jump to a new level of productivity. Next, Vivek Kundra, Federal CIO discussed progress made on the 6 month goals outlined in the 25-Point Implementation Plan. In all but 2 areas (those dealing with working with Congress) Vivek reported that they are on or ahead of schedule. Then, Daniel Poneman DOE; Kathleen Merrigan USDA; Richard Spires DHS; Roger Baker, VA spoke on their agency’s accomplishments. For example, Daniel talked about their move to the cloud and the benefits it has generated in terms of flexibility, improved IT capabilities and reduced costs. Kathleen also talked about USDA’s efforts to move email to the cloud. Richard talked about best practices, the challenges he faced trying to access best practices and efforts underway to improve information sharing around best practices. And, Roger gave a pitch for TechStats (program evaluations) and how that has saved VA millions. Of course, Congress has taken some of those savings back so the savings don’t necessarily benefit the missions, but in this environment, it’s the right thing to do.
Tomorrow I chair the AFCEA Energy and Environment IT Day. It’s a great line up of speakers so stay turned for a posting on that event on Thursday.
Last night found a curious coincidence of timing. (it might be somewhat redundant to use the words "coincidence" and "timing" in the same sentence) Two nights ago I posted a blog entry about my experince entering into the world of iPad. I closed that blog with a comment certifying the visionary brilliance of Steve Jobs. Last night Leslie and I went to a play at Woolly Mammoth Theater entitled "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." As we were heading off to the play and found that amusingly curious. But then we say the play.
First a little background on our experience with theater. Leslie and I have been season ticket holders at multiple theaters for over two decades. We currently have season tickets at the Shakespeare Theater, The Folger Theater and Woolly Mammoth. We've also had season tickets for multiple years at The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage and Signature Theater. Plus we've seen single plays at many other theaters. We obviously really like live theater and have certainly gone to more plays over the years than movies. We have seen literally hundreds of plays at excellent theaters and most of the plays have been very good to excellent as well. I relate this information only to give context to "Wow !"
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is a one man presentation of theater. Mike Daisey is a self-proclaimed life-long techno geek and a journalist. He is both the creator and performer of this play. It is at the same time amusing, engaging, poignant, personal, absolutely hilarious, informative and moving. That's a lot. It delivers in spades on all accounts. It is very rare the we've seen a play so much fun, so interesting and so moving all at once.
I am making this post to encourage everyone who sees this to get to the Woolly Mammoth Theater and see The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs while it is still here. It runs until April 17. Find the time, steal it from somewhere out of your life, make it happen. You will walk out of the theater thinking that you’re glad you took the time to go. Spread the word, tell your friends. The theater is small, there's really not a bad seat in the house. There's a bit of cursing for sure, but there was a large contingent of high school girls in the theater last night so take teenagers. It would be good. The teenagers there stood in applause at the end.
I sometimes make a recommendation to someone if I think they, in particular, will find a play interesting. I can't recall making such a sweeping recommendation, however. Anyone in our industry should see this. If you've ever had or used an Apple product you will identify with parts of it. His look-back accounting of the history of Apple and Steve Jobs is done is a captivating sort of way that is also very interesting and informative.
But there is much, much more. If you have an iPhone, iPod or really any kind of electronic device this play will be relevant to you. You will most definitely laugh, a lot! Mike Daisey's style of humor is fantastically, almost fanatically on target. You won't cry, but you will never be quite the same. And he tells you that and when he does you realize that you can't deny it. Don't ask me in the kitchen what I mean by that. I don't have his story telling ability and the message would be lost as I took things out of context from the play. It would be far better discussed between people who have seen it.
But it is also completely true that we, the somewhat jaded theater goers, experienced something last night we are unlikely to forget for the rest of our lives. Now THAT'S some rare and excellent theater!
My iPad 2 showed up two weeks ago. I’m already surprised how much I’m using it. It seems to never be far from me. I really did not expect this. My iPhone has been a more or less constant companion since the first generation iPhone was released. My current phone is the iPhone 4 because my nice, white iPhone 3gs met the ocean back in November. For those of you who don’t know, salt water is not good for iPhones. In fact, it’s so bad that should your iPhone ever encounter salt water, and the salt water gets into the iPhone, you should immediately dunk the device in fresh water…. a lot! Shake it around and try to rinse out the salt water. The phone won’t work afterwards, but usually it is easily repaired from a fresh water soaking. Salt water, on the other hand, well, as I learned that is a one way trip for the poor little iPhone.
But I digress. So I thought I really had the convenience and usefulness of the iPhone+apps sort of capability well integrated into my life. So why did I want the iPad? For the size, primarily. I’ve read a few books on my iPhone and while that may seem strange, it’s only strange for the first couple of pages. Then I would just get absorbed in the book and it was no longer odd at all. And I’ve read a ton of documents and articles. From time to time I did muse that it might be nice to have a larger format. The iPad is a very expensive Kindle replacement, however. And it doesn’t have anywhere near the battery life of a dedicated reader like the Kindle. So why else did I NEED an iPad? I didn’t have a good answer for that, your honor.
There was Judy Cohen showing up to meetings with her fancy iPad taking notes by writing right on the screen with her very high tech looking stylus. There was the occasional frustration of navigating complex webpages on the small iPhone screen. But I’m pretty good at that by now and I wasn’t spending that much time on webpages on my iPhone anyway. Maybe it was the lure of a much larger map screen when I needed to use a GPS while driving. Plus I could watch movies and TV, streaming them from Netflix and Hulu. I could do that on my phone, but the screen is a little small. It kind of reminded me of the very tiny portable TVs that around in the 70’s. 2.5 inch screens, black and white, more of a novelty than anything else.
The first time I knew that I REALLY WANTED one was last summer riding back from New York on the train. There was a person across the aisle and one row up from me reading something like a newspaper or magazine on an iPad. I was also reading the New York Times…. on my iPhone. That had never bothered me in the past. In fact I loved it! I had the New York Times with me all the time because my phone was always with me. It was fantastic. But as I sat eyeing that big clear screen, the way the pages flipped like in a book as opposed to scrolling up or down every half dozen lines, oh man! I REALLY WANTED an iPad!
So I decided that I had to at least explore the idea of getting one. As I entered iPad world I was immediately confronted with the IPAD RUMOR MILL. It seemed like there was always an "expert", an "extremely well informed person" or the ultimate in sources "a high level Apple employee" saying the new iPad 2 would be announced in just a few weeks. Arrrg! I was frozen by the anticipation for the next, the better, the best!
Christmas came and went. No iPad. My birthday came and went. No iPad. More promises. More dates come and gone with no announcement. Oh when would this cruelty end?
My iPad did finally show up, obviously. I use it constantly. I’ve ported over all of my existing iPhone apps. Some I subsequently deleted, though I’ve kept most. But I’ve added many. Some are just iPad specific versions of apps I already had on my iPhone. However most are new. 22 so far. and I need more!
So how do I use this marvel from the world of Apple? I read on it constantly. I now have many new news sources. Most are science and technology related somehow, though I have multiple apps that are for general news. Seems like one source just isn’t enough these days. I also have a great app for taking notes in longhand on the touch screen, purchase inspired by Ms. Cohen, as well as an app that gives me much of the functionality of MS Office. Entry is by keyboard, at which I’m getting better despite the lack of touch feedback from actual movable keys. I can also watch movies and TV from HULU and Netflix, which I haven’t yet done. But I have shown a number of people the fabulous Kia Soul Hamsters on Youtube. That has already made me popular with people I don’t even know. (it’s the 3 minute, 47 second version, btw) And of course there is Angry Birds!
The iPad is great for email and reading documents or, mainly because it’s so easy to always have with me, plus there is no boot up. I open the smart cover and it is instantly on, as in before I can get the cover rolled all the way back. It’s also fantastic for doing research on the web. I’m reading a new book and while the iPhone was just fine for reading books, this is great. Again, partially because it’s so easy to always have with me. And of course I can do all the really important things like find movies/times and watch trailers and buy tickets, make dinner reservations, identify constellations and track satellites and the International Space Station. I haven’t Skyped yet. I guess I need to do that soon…..
In the end I have to admit this purchase was originally a splurge. I was spoiling myself and I knew it. I didn’t actually need an iPad, I just really wanted one. And of course if the iPad were to go away tomorrow I’d obviously survive. I can certainly live without it. But I don’t want to. I am very surprised at how much I use it, how much benefit it has brought in so many different directions in my life. As it turns out, Steve Jobs was right when he said "this will change everything."
John and I attended the AFCEA Bethesda Children’s Inn Gala Saturday evening. It was a really lovely event, not only because of the cause, but also it was executed so well. The room was filled with IT execs, about 900 of them, and everyone looked dazzingly. Interestingly, the event attracted at least one couple from outside our community. This couple that I am referring to has a granddaughter that suffers from Leukemia so they signed up for the event to show their support. They knew no one, but were engaging and seemed to enjoy themselves. When at times it seems we live and breathe the IT community, it’s nice to interact with those that do something totally different. The oddest part of the evening is that I had 4 separate conversations with people in business development that work at large companies that have just changed jobs or are about to start their new job. Coincidently, we also have a new business development person starting today – Fran Vogel. We are excited to welcome Fran to the InterImage team.
I attended the AFCEA Bethesda Advisory Board meeting this morning. The intent of the meeting was to have a discussion on potential AFCEA Bethesda programs over the next year – to get our Government advisor’s input and insights into what would constitute valuable programs. There were a number of interesting comments, but one part of the discussion in particular struck me. And, it harkened back to one of my earlier blog posts. It is around the concept of rapid development approaches (fill in the blank: agile, iterative, incremental) and the impacts of those on program management and acquisition. While there is some success with these in government, as one of our advisors pointed out, one agency he knew about having success was achieving that in spite of misaligned acquisition vehicles. There is still a long way to go before the implications of these approaches – and as I noted in my earlier post, the implications are distinctly different based on whether agile, iterative or incremental is pursued – are appropriately accommodated within government program management processes and, especially, contract vehicles. Fundamentally, there needs to be more education before a robust dialogue on the topic can occur.