Category Archives: information technology

Software Skills Panel Forum

On this week's Bytemarks Cafe, we invited James Hardway of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' Workforce Development Council to talk about the Software Skills Panel Forum. This is a State of Hawaii effort to bring together representatives from industry, education and government to determine, as stated by the goals statement: To establish software development industry Skills Panels that will develop statewide strategic action plans to accomplish the following:
  • Promote and grow the State of Hawaii as a center for software development;
  • Educate government and community leaders about the importance of the software industry to the local economy and its need for a quality workforce base;
  • Work with educational institutions to ensure our local software workforce is being prepared for the jobs of tomorrow; and
  • Offer solutions and assist with implementations of initiatives that grow Hawaii's software industry.
I got a chance to attend the forum and although more detailed reports are forthcoming, I wanted to pass on my first impressions. There were about 100 attendees which were divided into working groups representing: Large Companies, Small/Start-Up Companies, Experienced Developers and New Developers. I was assigned into the Large Companies group but got a chance to float into the Experienced Developers group after lunch. The Large Companies group consisted of representatives from BAE Systems, General Dynamics, First Insurance, Hawaii Health System Corporation, Hawaii Community College, Kauai Community College and UH's Career and Technical Education center. Interestingly, the group was facilitate by a representative from Tetris Online. My first observation was that the needs of the group leaned heavily in the direction of information technology (IT) as opposed to software development. The facilitator did a good job of soliciting input from the group and not overly inject a perspective from his work environment. What resulted was a discussion from the companies about trying to hire IT personnel to fill specific positions but only to find qualified candidates from the Mainland. This makes sense since if you are a defense contractor, health system or insurance provider your IT needs are specific to that industry and it is unlikely you will groom someone from college into those roles. Moreso, IT departments these days in my opinion are body shops and are looking to fill job requirements to achieve company efficiencies. There is nothing evolutionary or revolutionary about this. You won't see any great upside coming from an IT department. Their job is to install equipment and keep them running. There was a discussion about mentoring and internships from the educators in the group but IT shops in Hawaii are not part of the company's core deliverable so nurturing a new hire and investing in a learning curve is not an affordable expense. The time and money required for mentoring would be the first to get eliminated during a budget cut. I've seen this happen to many of the corporate environments I've worked in as far back as the 90's. The next challenge then is retention. If you are able to attract an employee from the mainland to fill an IT position the probability is that person will stay in the position for 2-3 years and leave. Reasons for leaving include, cost of living, lack of things to do, education and career path. The discussion then moved to programs like "Kama'aina Come Home" targeting Hawaii expats wanting to come back home. This has worked to some extent. After lunch I floated over to the group composed of Experienced Developers facilitated by Dan Leuck of Ikayzo. This group generated a much more dynamic discussion and I suspect so did the other two groups consisting of Small/Startup Companies and New Developers. It was much less about IT and more about creating strong software development shops. There were several suggested initiatives including starting a non-profit to look at SBIR funding opportunities, hosting a large tech conference in Hawaii and sponsoring a Hawaii tech presence in a conference on the Mainland like SXSW. Hawaii continues to be touted as an ideal place to do software development. If so continued discussions like these should focus on software development and strip off the IT piece as it dilutes the conversation. In the hopes to further this conversation, details of the group's findings will get published by the Workforce Development Council. As soon as that becomes available I will post it here. Dan also mentioned creating a group on Techhui for Workforce Development so stay tuned for that. I think overall this effort was a good first step in identifying the needs of this industry. The question now becomes what actionable items result from this gathering and who is going to spearhead the effort. Stay tuned for more to come.

UH Hilo gets Beacon Grant

The University of Hawaii at Hilo, College of Pharmacy will be one of the recipients of the Beacon Community program to build and strengthen health IT infrastructure and health information exchange capabilities. UH-Hilo's $16M grant was part of an overall grant totaling $220M from the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Hawaii Island was one of 15 communities across the country to serve as pilot communities for eventual wide-scale use of health information technology. According to UH-Hilo's proposal description, their goal is to:
Implement a region-wide Health Information Exchange and Patient Health Record solution and utilize secure, internet-based care coordination and tele-monitoring tools to increase access to specialty care for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in this rural, health-professional shortage area.
Back in March we had both Karen Pelligrin and Christine Sakuda on Bytemarks Cafe to talk about the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and how it will be implemented. Karen Pelligrin is with UH-Hilo's College of Pharmacy and Program Director of Hawaii Island's Beacon grant project. The system will include patient information from Big Island physicians, health centers, island hospitals, labs and claims information to improve coordination with health providers. Microsoft's Amalga is the planned IT system to facilitate information communicated amongst participants. On a national level,  all 15 Beacon Communities will tackle specific goals of improving health care and population health status through advanced use of IT. The communities will work closely with regional technology extension centers created and funded under HITECH, as well as state health information exchange initiatives, like the Hawaii Health Information Exchange and the National Health Information Technology Research Center to ensure the dissemination of lessons learned.

Hawaii’s CIO

ICThawaiiWhen we first reported on the State's Task Force on Reinventing Government, I was a little skeptical as to what would become of it. Do these things end up on someone's shelf collecting dust or are they the impetus for action? One of the reports findings was the recognized need for a Chief Information Officer for the State system. The following section is directly from the report: Information Technology Recommendations (1) Establish a new senior position reporting to the Comptroller to be the State's Chief Information Officer. Currently, the head of the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) serves as both the Comptroller and Chief Information Officer (CIO). The Task Force recommends that the two roles be separated into two job positions. The new CIO position should be budgeted at market compensation. The CIO's responsibilities would include:
  • (a) Supervision of the Information and Communications Services Division (ICSD).
  • (b) Developing and implementing a three-year statewide Strategic Information Technology Plan (SITP) that would include the consolidation into ICSD of all hardware, operating software, related positions, and budgets for all IT and communications within the Executive Branch of state government and provide service level agreements (SLAs) to those departments.
  • (c) Reporting, at least annually, to the Legislature on the SITP's progress, and submission of a consolidated IT capital budget for the Executive Branch, as well as a report on the performance under all SLAs.
  • (d) Formulating a charter and chairing a monthly governance committee, to include all state senior IT CIOs (including Department of Education, University of Hawaii, the Judiciary, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and state hospitals), and providing the Legislature with an annual executive summary of projected and achieved budgetary savings, operational synergies, customer service enhancements, state productivity gains, and security improvements generated from the joint collaboration. This governance committee would also be responsible for the development of an annual master state IT budget and vision, as well as standards for IT job classifications; staff training, development, and certification; career path and staff retention goals; customer service and productivity targets; SLA performance targets; customer service survey results; and data management warehousing and disaster recovery planning.
(2) Request that the Legislature explore establishing a dedicated funding source for the CIO position. Given the monumental task of consolidating all of the State's separate ICSDs and their associated hardware and operating software and of converting all departmental local area networks (LANs)-so that they can communicate and share data, it is imperative that the State be committed to maintaining the CIO position through a dedicated funding source. A dedicated funding source will ensure the continuation of the position and thereby increase the likelihood of achieving program goals and concomitantly ensuring long-term benefits and cost savings to the State. Several articles have appeared about the report. A Business Week article at the end of January was the first to be published. In February this article was written in the Government Technology website. Both referencing the report, speaking to the need for a consolidated approach to information technology in the State system of departments. Each of these were written from a news wire perspective. Not so in this recent post by John Savageau in his blog Technology Innovation Topics which was also picked up by WebSphere Journal. In it, Savageau brings his own keen eye for technical detail and the experience that comes with building and supporting data centers around the world. I know him from the work he did with Level 3, Pihana (now DR Fortress) and One Wilshire in Los Angeles. The article is a great read and brings attention to the dire need for our State to get serious about Information Technology. We've got the bandwidth (although we could always use more). We've got the brain power. I see the kind of excellent IT work that goes on in corporations like the one I work at and I am convinced we have the talent here in Hawaii. We just need the vision and commitment to to see this through. The jury is still out on whether the report will create any real substantive change but it is interesting to watch bills like SB2548 move through the legislature. I will be very interested to see this position get created but more so with who would ultimately fill the role. Hawaii is at a point of critical change. Will we be positioned (in the middle of the Pacific) to have the right infrastructure, like IT and broadband, to compete with the rest of the world? Stay tuned.