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Digital experience at the ATF

Gilbane’s Digital Experience Conference

Washington DC April 28 – 29, Workshops May 1

digital experience networking

Like most larger organizations the ATF has many types of customers, employees, and partners. Building a modern digital experience that meets their unique requirements, while supporting consistent and continuous collaboration and operational flows is no easy task. Case studies like this provide valuable insight, and we are pleased to have the ATF’s Hadiza Buge join us to share their story.

B103. Breaking down the regs: DX at the ATF

Parsing through federal regulations can be challenging. It can be hard to know where to start and find what you need. That’s certainly true at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)… Learn how digital is helping the ATF better connect state and local law enforcement as well as firearms dealers, the public, and other constituents with mission-critical information and services… Regulatory updates are shared faster with law enforcement, and best practices around personalization and usability are helping the ATF drive better results for constituents… Learn how the ATF is leveraging open source tech and strategies more typical of marketing organizations — including journey orchestration, audience segmentation, and personalization — to deliver for all of its audiences.

Monday, April 29: 1:15 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.​

Hadiza Buge, ATF


Hadiza Buge
Chief, Electronic Media & Communication, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives


Peter Durand, Acquia


Peter Durand
VP, Public Sector, Acquia


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Gilbane Conferences have been providing content management, computing, and digital experience professionals with trusted content since 2002.

Federal government to spend $1.4 billion on web content management and infrastructure

Before we get to the spending mentioned in the title, there is some important background to cover. In an email to the Presidential Innovation Fellows program mailing list yesterday and a blog post with Small Business Administration Administrator Karen G. Mills last week, White House CTO Todd Park reported on the progress of a pilot program, RFP-EZ, to make federal government RFPs accessible to small businesses.

In addition to making it easier for small businesses to win federal contracts, a key goal is to save the government money since small business bids are typically lower than larger organizations’. Another significant benefit is that it makes it easier for agencies to purchase from innovative small businesses (since more are bidding). In the technology space especially, small businesses provide the lion’s share of innovation.

So how is this program doing so far? From Park and Mills post:

Applying agile development principles, the Fellows team designed RFP-EZ over a six-month period, publishing the platform’s code openly on GitHub. The team then launched the pilot by posting five relatively simple website development and database contract offerings, four of which were also announced via the standard government portal, FedBizOps. On a per-project basis, bids received through RFP-EZ were consistently lower than those received through FedBizOps—19% to 41% lower, and over 30% lower on average. Bids made through RFP-EZ also showed less overall variation. In addition, during the pilot period, RFP-EZ attracted more than 270 businesses that until now had never approached the world of Federal contracting.

Graph of RFP-EZ pilot progress

Ok, now for the spending. First of all, note that the OMB says the total 2014 Federal IT budget is $77 billion. If you haven’t seen it yet the OMB IT Dashboard yet it is worth a look, and you can download a spreadsheet that has details on spending by agency and project. Park and Mills also said in their post that:

According to Office of Management and Budget’s IT Dashboard, the Federal Government will spend more than $1.4 billion on Web Infrastructure and Web Content Management Systems in FY 2014. Based on 2011 and 2012 results, we can expect about half of these projects to be under the $150,000 “Simplified Acquisition Threshold” that would make them eligible for contracting through RFP-EZ.

This may not seem like a lot at first glance, but at $150,000 each it would mean 4,666 web content management systems or web infrastructure projects it would be fairly easy for small vendors and consultants to bid on in 2014.

Presumably the numbers came from the OMB IT spending spreadsheet, but since software category definitions are fluid, to say the least, doing your own analysis would be a good idea. While our community knows that, for example, “web content management” can include or be a component of a collection of digital marketing tools for engagement or experience management, marketing automation, etc. we can’t assume all federal budgeteers do – or did when the budgets were developed.

All of this is excellent news for a substantial number of the vendors, integrators, and consultants who participate in the Gilbane Conference. It is also great news for federal government conference attendees who can more realistically do business with smaller companies who have the latest technology.

To participate in the RFP-EZ program sign-up using the very simple web form.

New Gilbane Beacon on High-Volume Data Challenges

We’ve published a new paper on addressing large-scale integration, storage, and access of complex information. As Dale mentions in his entry over on our main blog, the paper frames the discussion in terms of challenges to Open Government initiatives. We note, though, that the exploration of obstacles to effective, efficient processing of high volumes of data and content is relevant across many industries.

We’re cross-posting here on the XML blog because the paper deals wtih XML content and the XML family of standards, including XQuery and XPath.

The Gilbane Beacon is available as a free download from Gilbane and from Mark Logic, sponsor of the paper.

Open Government Initiatives will Boost Standards

Following on Dale’s inauguration day post, Will XML Help this President?,  we have today’s invigorating news that President Obama is committed to more Internet-based openness. The CNET article highlights some of the most compelling items from the two memoes, but I am especially heartened by this statement from the memo on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA):

I also direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public, including through the use of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.

The key phrases are "increase and improve information dissemination" and "the use of new technologies." This is keeping in spirit with the FOIA–the presumption is that information (and content) created by or on behalf of the government is public property and should be accessible to the public.  This means that the average person should be able to easily find government content and be able to readily consume it–two challenges that the content technology industry grapples with every day.

The issue of public access is in fact closely related to the issue of long-term archiving of content and information. One of the reasons I have always been comfortable recommending XML and other standards-based technology for content storage is that the content and data would outlast any particular software system or application. As the government looks to make government more open, they should and likely will look at standards-based approaches to information and content access.

Such efforts will include core infrastructure, including servers and storage, but also a wide array of supporting hardware and software falling into three general categories:

  • Hardware and software to support the collection of digital material. This ranges from hardware and software for digitizing and converting analog materials, software for cataloging digital materials with the inclusion of metadata, hardware and software to support data repositories, and software for indexing the digital text and metadata.
  • Hardware and software to support the access to digital material. This includes access tools such as search engines, portals, catalogs, and finding aids, as well as delivery tools allowing users to download and view textual, image-based, multimedia, and cartographic data.
  • Core software for functions such as authentication and authorization, name administration, and name resolution.

Standards such as PDF-A have emerged to give governments a ready format for long-term archiving of routine government documents. But a collection of PDF/A documents does not in and of itself equal a useful government portal. There are many other issues of navigation, search, metadata, and context left unaddressed. This is true even before you consider the wide range of content produced by the government–pictorial, audio, video, and cartographic data are obvious–but also the wide range of primary source material that comes out of areas such as medical research, energy development, public transportation, and natural resource planning.

President Obama’s directives should lead to interesting and exciting work for content technology professionals in the government. We look forward to hearing more.

Gilbane Washington D.C. to Provide Venue for Sharing Best Practices between Government and Industry

The Gilbane Group, Lighthouse Seminars and CMS Watch announced that the second annual Gilbane Conference on Content Technologies Washington D.C. will take place at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. June 5-6, 2007.

This is the industry’s most comprehensive forum for bringing together both government and industry executives to share content management best practices. The Gilbane Conference on Content Technologies will focus on concrete lessons learned and best practices for industry and government specialists alike. The Conference will be chaired by Tony Byrne, founder of CMS Watch, an authoritative, vendor-neutral source for comparative evaluations of content management and search technologies. Content technologies for managing documents, websites, and records have grown in utility and sophistication. New technologies can enable searchers to find and retrieve information on a scale unheard of just five years ago. In the meantime, emerging standards in industry and government are supporting greater content exchange and systems interoperability.

By attending The Gilbane Conference on Content Technologies, attendees will learn about: Enterprise Content Management technologies, business applications, and solutions; How to get your Content Management project funded; Best practices in content governance and web operations management; Content technologies and 508 compliance; New standards in content interoperability; Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Content Management; Latest Search and text-mining technologies: beyond the hype; Comparative approaches for using XML to manage authoritative content; How different enterprises have successfully implemented records management solutions; What lessons can be drawn from hard experience; Role of new media technologies – blogs, wikis, and RSS; The future of web publishing; How non-profits, associations, publishing, and other firms are managing growing volumes of content successfully.

Speaking proposals are due January 29th.

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