Mr. Morales: Welcome to another edition of the Business of Government Hour. I'm Albert Morales, your host and managing partner of the IBM Center for the Business of Government. Both in the corporate world and throughout the government community, information remains a highly valuable asset. Information resource management for today's society requires talented, informed, and effective leaders who will overcome economic and political pressures, adjust with the changes of national security, and leverage enterprise information technologies.
With us today to discuss his efforts in this area is our very special guest, Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information Resource Management College within the National Defense University.
Dr. Childs, welcome to our show. It's a pleasure having you.
Dr. Childs: I'm very happy to be here today.
Mr. Morales: Also, joining us today is Jonathan Breul, Executive Director of the IBM Center for Business of Government. Jonathan, welcome back. Good to have you.
Mr. Breul: Thanks, Al.
Mr. Morales: Dr. Childs, or may I call you Bob?
Dr. Childs: Yes.
Mr. Morales: Bob, let's start by providing our listeners with some context about your organization. Can you take a few minutes and provide us an overview of the history and mission of the Information Resources Management College at NDU and how does it support the overarching mission of the National Defense University?
Dr. Childs: What I'd like to do is take you back in history and give a context, but I want to start in the future.
I want to start right now and we've just completed celebrating our 20th anniversary this last September and it made us think about a lot of things that have gone on in the past with the history of the college and it's very much paralleled society and what's gone on there. We started thinking about what we really do and we came up with the line, "Shaping the Future." We put that in our catalog and then we talked more about what does, "Shaping the Future" mean? What do we really do with our classes and our programs? We discovered that what we're really doing is crossing boundaries--interagency boundaries, international boundaries, and boundaries with the private sector. Building communities of likeminded people was the second thing that we figured out that we do. And by doing these things, we actually transform organizations.
Now, let's flash back in history. Why was National Defense University formed?
Back in 1976, the University was formed and the idea was to bring together senior leaders, primarily military leaders at the time and, since that has grown to the interagency, about 25 percent of the students at National Defense University are interagency.
In 1982, Lieutenant General Pustay had the vision and the idea that someday computers would be central to everything that we were doing and leaders needed to know something about computers and he thought, to prepare leaders, he needed something like this and, at the time, there was the Department of Defense Computer Institute and he said, "I think I'll bring that under the auspices of National Defense University." And he did this.
Flash ahead to 1988. Robert Helms, at that time, was taking a look at the systems within the Federal government and automated information systems were costing billions of dollars and software was becoming prevalent and it was commonplace both in the private and public sector. So the question became, "What kind of skills sets do people need in information technology?" and "What type of management and leadership challenges and competencies did these individuals need to lead what was going on within the information world as yet fairly well undefined?"
Then, what happened is, under Lieutenant General Brad Hausner, the University took the Department of Defense Computer Institute and decided to upgrade the faculty to go from people that were technicians to, more or less, people that were practitioners, managers, and leaders within the information fields. They wanted to reorient the curriculum, make it more graduate level than more technical. They wanted to relocated from the Navy Yard and bring the expertise over to National Defense University where all of the other students from the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces were located. And they wanted to rename the institution. So that's how it all started.
Mr. Morales: Around some more specifics, how big is the Information Resources Management College? Can you give us a sense of the size of the budget and perhaps the number of full-time employees there?
Dr. Childs: Certainly. The number of employees varies between filling on hires and military deployments and everything, but it's around eighty-five. Fifty faculty members, thirty-five staff members doing different things. We're organized to really be flexible, innovative, creative, and be a hothouse for ideas and address concerns that leaders in the information age have.
I was part of the group back in 1988 that considered moving the college and then I came over as the Academic Dean in 1991, so I've been with the college since its inception, more or less. But at the very beginning, we set out to do four things that were important then and they're important today.
The first was be a distinctive institution. Be unique.
The way we did that, we went out and benchmarked against other colleges, other universities, other institutes. The London School of Economics. I went to Singapore, I went to different institutions in Europe, and I was trying to learn how we could take their practices and use them. What I found out is we were very unique already and, halfway through the conversations, they were turning to me saying, well, what else are you thinking about doing? It seems that you're doing these things."
Point Two. Focus on the customer and the customer is either individuals or organizations. I look at both that way because sometimes individuals will come to us, sometimes we go to larger organizations like FAA or EPA or state departments.
The third point is secure and sustain the allegiance of DOD in the Federal community. If you don't have allegiance, if you don't have money coming in, you can't sustain your programs and since then, we've added the private sector in international.
And the last one, which is interesting, it's achieve national and international recognition. Some people say, "Well, why are you concerned about that?" Well, it's the fastest way to get attention and to let other people know what you have and what you can contribute.
Mr. Morales: That's great. You mentioned that about 25 percent of the population enrolled, I believe you said, are interagency, so who exactly is eligible to enroll in the college?
Dr. Childs: Okay. As far as the interagency goes, this is a mid-level to senior leader program, so we're talking about TS12, majors, and above.
I might mention about our population, we're 70 percent DOD and 30 percent, as of today, the 100 percent of DOD, 70 percent of those are civilian versus military which is a mirror image of the National War College in the Industrial College. That has expanded and we're trying to push the limits on getting private sector students in also because, just take Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, half the people over there are private sector. They're contractors. And I think we need to educate these people with the government people at the same time. Also, interagency is big, as you know, and the concept of the national security professional is coming into play and the skills that we teach, the competencies we teach are really not skills just for Chief Information Officers, they're skills for anybody who is a manager or a leader today.
Mr. Breul: Bob, with this overview, could you tell us a bit more about your role as the Senior Director of the IRM College? What are you specific responsibilities and duties?
Dr. Childs: Well, obviously, to run a quality institution. That's first and foremost. I turn the academic programs over to my academic team, Dr. Elizabeth McDaniel, who does an exceptional job in that area. We have a number of different programs, but my job is to push the boundaries.
The areas I'm working on most right now are the international area because we have coalition partners, allies, friendly countries and it's a type of soft power. When you can help your allies and friends, when you can work on things that have to do with interoperability and make their processes and procedures better, you're not only helping them, you're helping this country in the national security arena, too. Also, the private sector. I'm spending a lot of time and energy with the private sector right now because, as you know, Jonathan, in our labs, the private sector is donating and loaning a lot of equipment which Federal employees wouldn't get to see otherwise and we can put it in our information labs, our technology labs, our information assurance labs, our crisis management labs, and it's kind of one-stop shopping. The other part of what I do, I'm supposed to be the cheerleader. I'm out there enthusiasm, pushing, going, "Get on the bandwagon, we've got something good to offer," and I'm the salesman doing it.
Mr. Breul: With all these responsibilities in front of you, what are your top three challenges that you face in your position and how are you addressing them?
Dr. Childs: The top one is sense and respond to the environment. You have to sense that environment and find out what's going on. Like we've migrated, for example, from resident programs to a distributed learning program so we could get people into our program. It's about access; it's not about scalability in the case of distributed learning. We do education in context where we will design programs for different agencies. We believe in reusable code. In other words, we may have different programs. FAA may come to us and say, "Hey, I need a jumpstart program for some of our future leaders. What can you pull from your process improvement, from your organizational development courses, from your emerging technologies and design a special course for us?"
The private sector, that's a great opportunity. Like I said, I'd rather look at things as opportunities. The private sector, they're in the business area, but I've found that a lot of the attitude of, "How can I help the country?" the private sector is just looking for ways to help out also and I can't speak enough of that of the help that the private sector has added to the college and made it what it is today as far as the latest technologies and best practices and they're always wide opened to our students going out and making either local visits or our Advanced Management Program actually travels for a week and goes around the country to different agencies and they open their arms and they share everything with us and I think that's extremely important.
Mr. Morales: Now, Bob, you're clearly very passionate about IRM and what you do. I'm curious, how did you get started and, as you reflect over the years that you've spent at the college, how has your management and leadership style perhaps changed?
Dr. Childs: To use a clich�, it was almost "the perfect storm." I went through the MAT program at Duke and then I got a Doctorate degree from the University of Denver and these were in the areas of teaching and educational management. Then, I went through the Duke Fuqua School, the Advanced Management Program and, there, I was with a lot of industry people. From there, starting my military career, I was chief of an instructor training branch, I learned about lifelong learning there and how important it was, continuing education. I was part of the initial group that built an institution at the Community College of the Air Force so I learned a little bit about institutional building. I worked military personnel policy, the education side. I was involved in seeing what went on with the development and the founding of the National Defense University back in 1976. From that moment on, I said, "Boy, this is an institution that can have a profound impact on this country." Later, I was a student at the National War College, a senior research fellow there. I became Director of Planning and Programs at the National Defense University.
The most significant experience I ever had was with the American Council and Education. I had a fellowship with them for one year and it was a program to learn how to be a college president or a college dean. I had the opportunity to work for Dr. George Johnson, who was a president, and he literally took George Mason from a little known community college to an incredible institution that has world renowned programs in some areas and many of the practices that I use at the IRM College, I learned from Dr. Johnson. I can't give him enough credit.
So all of these things coming together and my passion for building teams and being successful and, to be quite blunt, wanting to be the best, drives me daily. I want the institution to be the best; I want people who are passionate about their work; and I want the college to contribute to national security.
Mr. Morales: How has the IRM College evolved to become a recognized global learning community? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the Information and Resources Management College within NDU to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.
Despite its traditional hierarchical structure which is based on command-and-control systems and culture, the U.S. Department of Defense is committed to becoming a net centric environment.
Now, higher education is another very tradition bound institution. Bob, first, would you tell us more about net centricity and it's applicability to higher education and, second, how does net centric capabilities allow the IRM college to sense and respond to students, stakeholders, and practitioners interests and needs?
Dr. Childs: Well, first of all, as far as higher education, historically, it's been a tradition-bound, slow-moving organization. It's kind of like an organization that wants to do something, but it's got a lot of constituencies and there has to be buy-in from the different constituencies and that always slows things down. The Department of Defense, also, has an ingrained cultural need and bias for a hierarchical structure, so we can't discount those things.
We can take a look at some laws that have happened. Goldwater-Nichols in 1986 was required and it came into being because the Congress thought that the services needed to work together better, they needed to be one voice, they needed to be integrated.
What is net centricity? A lot of people have different definitions of that and I think what I like best is, "The objective is to find and exploit information," but the network is only one of the ways to do this thing. Let me talk about what Defense is trying to do and then I'll try to change to what the college is trying to do.
What Defense is trying to do is provide needed information in a timely manner to those that need to make the decisions and, the better the information, the faster the information, the better the decision they could make. How do I provide data and information to the decision-maker? Supply chain management is a perfect example. If you look at the private sector and, often, the military and the government turns to the private sector to see how companies use information technology and use a net centric operation. The Department of Defense have been working and pushing this concept and it's a good concept, but implementing it, it's not really an overall network. It is truly a network of networks where you plug-and-play and you can come into it where you need to get to it. That leads to the question, "What can we do in government in net centricity?"
I'd like to drop the word net centricity for a minute and talk about things like communities of practice which we've had for a long time where likeminded individuals can get together and share information and the other things that are going on, the wikis, the blogs, Facebook.
Now, the problem is separating the personal from the business. I think you need a corporate strategy to use it. How the corporate, how is is the organization going to use it for mutual benefit? I think reaching out to other institutions for awareness and everything is incredibly important.
What we have done at the IRM College, we're working with a number of groups like the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. They're very good in connections between industry and DOD. The Industry Advisory Council and the American Council on Technology are very good industry-to-government in general. There are many academic partners that we have and we have many partners in the private sector.
So when you talk about net centricity, I like to think of a hub. The new vision of the IRM College is the global hub for educating, informing, and connecting people. Net centricity, to me, is connecting people with the information and other people when and where they need it.
Mr. Morales: As a follow up, how has this type of sense and respond approach enabled you to take what was arguably a little known institution of four hundred students in the early '90s to the institution that you have today and what have been some of the lessons learned along that path?
Dr. Childs: The lessons learned are have a lot of friends and a lot of partners. Let me give you a couple vignettes of things that happened. The National War College and the Industrial College students will attend our elective programs at the IRM College. We had some students from Romania. They really liked what we were doing and they came back to us after their 10-month program at National War College was completed and they said, "We need an academy that deals with chief information officer competencies in our country. Can you help us?" We talked to OSD and they encouraged us to do this, so we helped those people set up a CIO academy. Well, there are other people in Europe that go to that academy and, all of a sudden, we're now getting students from Bulgaria, Georgia, the Czech Republic, and the list goes on and on that way.
The same thing happened with Sweden. We had a student that came over, went through our 14-week Advanced Management Program and he convinced their government that there were areas that we teach in information assurance that were absolutely critical to Sweden. Consequently, I have a team of four faculty members that are teaching over in Sweden.
Singapore. We've had a number of students from Singapore. They talked to other people, and now, we're hearing from Japan, we're hearing from South Korea. Once somebody finds out about us, it tends to spread like wildfire, but it's person-to-person.
Singapore. We've had a number of students from Singapore. They talked to other people, and now, we're hearing from Japan, we're hearing from South Korea. Once somebody finds out about us, it tends to spread like wildfire, but it's person-to-person.
So it kind of works that way. It's a little bit hit-and-miss, to be quite honest with you.
Mr. Breul: Tell us more about the Chief Financial Officer's Academy. How does that seek to inform students to learn most effectively and efficiently how to use government resources and work across boundaries, particularly to achieve national security goals and who is eligible to participate in this program?
Dr. Childs: The CFO Academy, I'd like to tell the story on that because the history of the IRM College is individual faculty members going out and doing things, making connections, and using their expertise. In this case, Dr. Jay Alden went out and he talked to Linda Combs and Linda Combs suggested that CFOs needed many of the strategic leadership concepts that the IRM College was teaching. We then went to Tina Jonas who was the Comptroller at the time and Tina was very interested in establishing a CFO Academy and, lo' and behold, when you look at the competencies, you know, you overlay the competencies of a CIO and a CFO and many are very the same, probably 65 percent, somewhere in that range. What they were looking for is, there are plenty of budgeting schools and schools that teach the budgeting function, but there was no place where Chief Financial Officers could go and understand how to use information and information technology and how to become strategic leaders. In other words, don't give me the budget, sit down and be part of the strategic planning team. And what better place and meet and learn what CIOs are thinking about and CFOs are thinking about than putting them together in classes and letting them work together and think about these things?
That's how it came together and, once again, I'm back to one of those principles, crossing boundaries. We just crossed a big boundary there. The program seems to be getting legs and it seems to be generating a lot of interest.
Mr. Morales: So it's more than just the technical aspects of their work, but how their work fits into the broader context of the organization and its mission?
Dr. Childs: It's about strategic leading is what it's about. Technology is only a small part of it, but obviously, in the job, using and moving information is critical. I mean, if you look at your companies, your insurance companies and your banking companies, for example, they're huge in using information, information technology, and information assurance because they have to or they're dead in the water, so they have to become strategic thinkers.
Mr. Morales: Now, some have referred to your Advanced Management Program as a three-and-a-half month learning boot camp. Could you elaborate on this program and its method of teaching and what competencies does this program seek to bestow on its students?
Dr. Childs: The Advanced Management Program is a 14-week program and that was going to be out main program, but changing with the times, agencies couldn't give up that many people for that long a period of time so that's when we started breaking it up, the different competencies, into intensive weeklong courses. The program was modeled after your typical executive program at Harvard or Duke or Stanford or someplace like that.
What we're trying to do is it's a seminar environment that is crossing boundaries, once again. You'll have somebody with the State Department, EPA, FAA, Department of Defense, a few international students. In fact, I might mention that the class normally has about thirty-two students now and about 25 percent of those are international. As a sideline, it's fascinating because a number of these countries, originally when we opened to the international students, we thought we were going to get the UK and France and Italy and Japan, but it's Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, places like that because a lot of these countries see the use of information and information technology as a way to leapfrog the industrial age. They don't have to hardwire everything, they can go to wireless and they can become world competitors, whether it's in business or whether it's in military, by using these techniques.
That program was a leadership program. Our concern from the very beginning was the military is exceptionally good in educating their people from going out from squadron level to command and staff to the senior levels, the national war colleges, the colleges that the Army and the Air Force run, but there is no similar program for civilians. Our thought was, okay, the civilians not only provide the continuity, but need to provide the leadership, so what kind of leadership program can we put in place for civilians to come to?
That was the purpose of that program and it's fulfilling that very well today.
Mr. Morales: That's great. What is cloud computing and how is IRM College leading DOD in operating in virtual environments? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the Information and Resources Management College when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.
Bob, I understand that the IRM College is leading DOD in operating in virtual environments. For those who may not know, what is a virtual world and what are virtual world technologies? More specifically, if I may, how is that technology being used at DOD?
Dr. Childs: Let me talk about how we got into this business. Way back in 1996, we had what we called a virtual reality center. We called it "driver," D-R-I-V-R, Decision Room Incorporating Virtual Reality. We were ahead of our time. In fact, I actually let that be dissembled after about 2000 and it's kind of fascinating the way it came back. We had a faculty member, Dr. Paulette Robinson, that met with out four folks in 2007 in the summer. They put on a small conference later that year and the small conference quickly grew, by the spring, to two hundred people and over two thousand in-world. What we're talking about here, these are simulated worlds with lots of media rich stimuli. You have avatars, which are creatures, creations, that you make up. The big one you hear about most of the time is Second Life because, literally, you can go have a second life. There are many ways that these things can be used. You really can depict the real world; you can have simulations with multi players; but these have to be rule-based, they have to have actions and the big deal, I think, for government is the community that takes place within these virtual worlds. But it's a synthetic environment where you're totally immersed.
I'll give three quick examples. The Navy Undersea Warfare Center is using it. They have an electronic library in there and they have underwater exhibits. TRADOC is using it in their Virtual Warrior University and they're using Active Worlds which is another world. And the Air Force is using something called My Base and it's an environment where they plan to have the future of all their education and training. Those are a couple of examples.
Mr. Morales: Aside from virtual environments, we also hear a lot these days about cloud computing. What precisely is cloud computing and, from your perspective, to what extent would be every bit as transformative as the Web itself?
Dr. Childs: Well, cloud computing is not necessarily new. In fact, I had been pushed by my faculty for the last fifteen months to put on a symposium about cloud computing and I resisted. I wasn't sure what it was. Since then, you can't pick up a magazine or a publication without talking about cloud computing.
What cloud computing claims to offer from a remote server is an Internet connection, and that's all you need, and you can go in and literally computing becomes like a utility. Right now, you have your desk, you have a hard drive, and you're now using all that capacity, so the idea is, one, you'll go in and buy capacity. It can either be hosted by your organization in a private cloud or it can be in a public cloud. To my way of thinking, it compartmentalizes services, applications, social media, and it allows you, if we want to use the word "thin client," you can literally deliver all these services anywhere as long as you have a common access card. You could be on a plane, you could be at home. As long you have your common access, you have access to the data in the applications.
The concern has to do with security. Who is controlling it? It also has to do with bandwidth and is it going to be public, private, or a hybrid? For example, DISA is running their RACE program which is very good. It gets into supply chain management.
Mr. Breul: Bob, tell us a bit about the college's Information Leaders Program. What are the topics that are covered? Who do you invite to speak? What are the benefits of hosting these kinds of events and, should someone be interested, how are going to find out more information?
Dr. Childs: The Information Leadership Symposium actually grew out of our 20th anniversary and our thought there was, "How can we highlight our faculty in the topics that we're very good at? How can we highlight our expertise? How can we address issues that many people want to know about, but they don't want to go to a formal class and go through a formal program that's accredited to get that information?" Last year, we picked three areas. We picked "Cyber Security, The Privacy Aspect of IT," "Virtual Worlds," and we are, in fact, leading a consortium in Virtual Worlds for the Federal government of over a thousand people at this time; and "Web 2.0" and, Jonathan, I believe you attended that.
What we did is we looked out and we said, okay, who is doing something in these areas? And we always try to get a blend of some of our people that are experts working with private sector and bringing in the public sector that show the best practices that are going on, so you have a blend of the three. So far, we haven't really done anything internationally on that, but we expect to in the future.
Mr. Breul: Let's talk a bit about the rise of the so-called net generation. These are the younger workers who grew up on the Web and digital gadgets. How are you integrating this generation with the established culture of senior leadership which didn't grow up on such a digital environment?
Dr. Childs: Well, obviously, the net generation knows how to use these gadgets, so the question is, "How can we accommodate these people that have really good ideas, but in many cases, have no concern about security, no concern about time, not wanting to show up at an office, wanting to work from home when face-to-face is often better? How do we do all these things?" The older generation, I don't want to discount them, there are many people that are "older" that are very good in these areas, too, and they can blend practices, experience, and technology, so I don't want to totally discount them.
How do we do it at the college? Well, we have 10 research assistants and these people are college students ranging from undergraduate to PhD students who come in and show us how to use the latest and greatest technologies. Obviously, we learn from them and get ideas from them.
Faculty members, I look for people that like technology. You really don't go out and hire a PhD in social media, you get somebody who may--I've got some lawyers, for examples, that are very good in these areas because they use them all the time. We have a group called eSolutions, eLearning, and these people look at the technologies and they use your Facebook, they use your Twitter, they use these things all the time.
I think the larger question is, "How do we capture these technologies in a strategy versus just incidental use and leverage that somehow?" And, obviously, groups like the Industry Advisory Group and AFCE and other groups like that are taking a look at this because they have senior membership and the senior people across the Federal government as well as industry have to be concerned.
I mean, if you want an eye-opening experience, go visit Google. You're out there and these people come in with their fleece jacket on, riding their bike, they just have their laptop, they plug it in, they don't have an office, they're very casual about things, but they're very smart. In many cases, they're allowed to pursue the areas that interest them. They don't have a defined job; they may have a defined area to work in. So I think this is an issue that faces all of us and, if you look at the conferences, a multi-generational group will draw a lot of attention at conferences.
Mr. Breul: Tell us more about your Education and Context Program and the additional learning activities outside the traditional classroom setting. How do these programs connect the IRM faculty and the students with real world practice?
Dr. Childs: Okay. We have a number of areas where we've done that. As I mentioned in the beginning, we started out with only resident programs, we added distributed learning, and our attitude used to be, "Here's the program. Take it the way it is." That was fine administratively. That was nice that most organizations, most educational institutions are tradition bound and, you know, day classes, this is the way it works. Here is how many hours there are.
Well, we started having agencies come to us--EPA, FAA, GAO--and they said, "Hey, we need some of the things you're offering, but we don't want them in a one-week program or an eight course program. We need a jumpstart program for our younger potential leaders. We need some stuff in enterprise architecture but we don't want a course." What we did, to put it in software terms, we started doing reusable code. We took a look at our programs and we'd pull a couple hours from here, a couple hours from there, and we could tailor programs so we called "education in context" and we would put on the program and design it for what the customer wanted. If you go back to one of my principles, focus on the customer and what they want. We're doing a lot with the various combatant commands around the world, the U.S. combatant commands, and telepresence is actually going to help us project faculty expertise from our college out there.
Getting back to the education and context, they're telling us what their requirements are and we're pulling that from things that we're very, very good at.
Mr. Morales: Bob, we've only got about a minute-and-a-half left and you've spent some time talking about your work internationally, but I'm curious, are you looking to expand internationally and what might that look like?
Dr. Childs: Yes, we are looking to expand internationally. It's a connected world and we have to do things together and we're approaching a very aggressive outreach program. We plan to offer conferences in the Middle East and in Asia during this coming twelve months. We're working with OSD in this area, areas that of interest to them.
The tricky part is trying, if we put something on in the Far East, how can we get government employees in, in the combatant commands, say, Paycom, as well as, say, South Korea and Japan and Singapore, if they're interested, or in the Middle East, where do we hold a conference, do we hold it in Bahrain, do we hold it in Dubai and who do we bring in to that?
By the way, when you look around in those countries, I was just in Dubai and I'm driving down the street and I see Cisco and HP and IBM and these people all know technology, but their companies want the employees to start thinking strategically, so what topics do I pick and how do I pull it together? Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the Information and Resources Management College? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the IRM College to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.
Mr. Morales: What does the future hold for the Information and Resources Management College? We will ask Dr. Robert Childs, Senor Director at the IRM College to share with us when the conversation about management continues on the Business of Government hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to our final segment of the Business of Government hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales and today's conversation is with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. Also joining us today from IBM is Jonathan Brule.
Bob, as technology continues to evolve, it's important to look ahead and anticipate the innovations. Could you tell us more about how you do trend spotting, specifically, how advantageous is it to monitor consumer technology trends for their applicable use in government? Could you provide some examples of where this has been successful?
Dr. Childs: That's a very interesting question. I think it was about five years ago that COMDEX stopped having a conference. I may be off by a year or two on that. I was at a security conference in Las Vegas and tied into the security conference was a consumer electronics convention which has about 140,000 people attending it and it's got every electronic device, every major company. Corporations spend, I've heard, as high as a million dollars on displays on the floor; they're huge demonstrations. I was overwhelmed. The first time I went, I couldn't even figure out how to get around the place, you know, but I knew it was important and I went back.
Also, it brought in the guest speakers. This is where Bill Gates would speak and unveil what Microsoft was going to do and the latest technologies; John Chambers from Cisco would come out and talk about what was going on; HP; all the top executives would speak and they'd unveil what was happening. And the fascinating part was they would bring people from entertainment, from the Federal government, from the movie making industry and talk about how technology was affecting their areas.
Well, I started looking at things like that and I said, "Wow! The impact to the consumer is going to be great."
Now, a little vignette that goes with that. Tony Seiko (phonetic), who was the Chief Information Officer at the GAO a few years back, we were at a Gartner Luncheon and he was talking, this was quite a few years back, he was talking about Blackberries and he said, there's this new device people are using and we're wondering whether we should support it within the enterprise. Well, this is a perfect example of how the consumer or, in this case, the government employee taking an electronic device and changing the way government operates.
Nobody today would argue that the Blackberry has changed the way we do business and the way we think about things. Well, there are other technologies that we've run into and it actually ties into our labs in a number of things that we're trying to do. Telepresence is one. Telepresence is such an improvement over VTC. You really can be there and see somebody. There's a lot of advertisements on TV and we're going to use telepresence to project our faculty expertise to these conferences we're going to put on and the courses we're going to offer around the world. There is a number of things that cloud computing is going to do. The concept of plug-and-play wherever you are. The technologies are going to change the workplace. We talked about net generation people. They're not going to have an office. There's going to be a space that they come to.
I recently had faculty down at Duke University and we had our NDU librarian down there with us and, really, it's more like a Starbuck's environment. You come in, you can have a drink, you can sit down, you can plug in your computer, you can collaborate these things, or you don't even have to plug in, there are wireless areas, too. So there is a number of things that are going on that way.
Some other things that we've run into that were important is the ultra mobile personal computers. These are small computers that have tremendous power that you can hold in one hand and these are really important for unmanned vehicles and submarines. We started working with a group called OKEO to do that.
Voice translation, which is being used in Iraq, that was one of the biggest problems that we had when you're encountering somebody that you don't have somebody that speaks that language, these voice translators can do it for you. It's fascinating how they work. That was a technology.
Nine to ten years ago, PDAs weren't that big a deal, so I think we have to look at all these things that are coming out and they will have a dramatic impact tying into the new generation that uses that, tying into the mobility that it gives us, tying into the workplace of the future and telework. All these technologies are incredibly important. This is a big convention out there that shows all those technologies.
Mr. Morales: How does this impact the classroom of the future?
Dr. Childs: Well, I think the classroom of the future and the workplace of the future are almost one and the same thing. I'm facing a situation right now where we're expanding and I don't have office space to go into so we're thinking about, okay, you don't have an office space, Al, you know, or Jonathan or me, there's an area that we come to and, by the way, we may be in for a couple days this week, we're not going to be in for five days, we're not going to be in at 6:00 in the morning, but we may be here on weekends, we may be here at night, and you have to tie the lifestyle that people want and you have to give them the collaboration tools so they can do their jobs.
We have people who are teaching distributed learning and this is a real live case. I had a faculty member on the beaches in Hawaii conducting his distributive learning classes, I mean, why does he have to be in a classroom or in an office to do that? He's got his computer, he's got his students connected, that's all he needs. So it's kind of going to be anywhere.
Mr. Morales: I'm sure in that situation the students would like to be with him on the beach.
Dr. Childs: Yeah, I'm sure they would, too.
Mr. Breul: Well, Bob, let's switch the discussion to you. You've recently been honored as one of the Federal 100 award winners for your outstanding leadership to the CIO community and for innovative and progressive programs at the college. You were also honored with the 2009 Eagle Award for being a pioneer in distance learning. Could you tell us about each award and, importantly, what does it mean to be recognized by your peers?
Dr. Childs: Obviously, when you're recognized by your peers, you feel very good, but also, as a leader, I'd be the first to recognize that, a lot of times, a leader gets the award that the organization has earned. I'm proud to have gotten the award, but I recognize it's through the hard work of many other people.
The college, going back to my point at the very beginning, achieve national and international recognition, I think receiving recognition like this when you tie it to the institution help publicize your institution and, to be honest, that's the important part for me.
This interview is the same kind of thing. I can talk about the college and what the college is doing and maybe some of your listeners will be interested in what we're doing in context. We've received a number of awards, the Distributed Learning Award, we were one of the first ones.
We worked with Blackboard and helped them become DOD compliant and the rest of Defense did that. We're very proud of that work and, actually, it was a former student that put us in for that. We had no idea this award was coming.
Recently, we were also a finalist for the Management of Change Shop Information Solutions Award for what Paulette Robinson had done with Virtual Worlds Consortium.
Elizabeth McDaniel, our academic dean, had gotten an award for the college in telework in our policies. We allow our faculty, as I mentioned, to telework. They all don't get to go to Hawaii to do that, but they do that.
And we've received a number of corporate university awards for innovation and best practices.
Awards, it's kind of like you go into a restaurant and you look up on the wall and it says, "Best Italian Food," it doesn't necessarily say when it happened, but it recognized you for being good, I think recognition is important for an institution.
Dr. Childs: I don't know, I guess it's been three or four years that we started talking about partnerships, but for many years, as the academic dean, I was encapsulated and focused on programs and we started with academic partnerships and it's like anything else, the more people you're connected to, the better you can do. Partnerships is central to what we're doing. In the private sector, we have over thirty partners now.
Now, I would say on partnerships, it's hard. Building a relationship, like a marriage, takes a lot of work on both sides. There have to be mutual interests, you have to put time into it, and I think the rewards are unbelievable and it spreads, you know, to use your term, Al, the virus. One partner leads to another partner leads to another partner and, when you have a number of smart faculty members out making connections -- I use the Kay Alden and Linda Combs thing for the CFO Academy -- the big thing for me is to contain that within the purpose of the college and decide what partnerships are worth our time and how much energy to put into it. Obviously, the areas that we're pushing is interagency, international, and private. The DOD connections we have, although we are now reaching out to the CoComms more than we ever have because we feel there's a need there and we want to fulfill that need, building teams is a lot of fun.
And I'll just mention this one. Mr. Grimes, when he was Assistant Secretary at NII, had suggested that we take a look at this company, TIBCO, out in the West Coast which is into predictive intelligence. We started working with them and they suggested that we might want to put our conference on in the Far East because there was a lot of interest there, and so, all of a sudden, we now have TIBCO bringing in partners and interest that way.
And then, TIBCO says, by the way, IBM is doing certain things in this area and working in virtual worlds and we know you're interested, so all of a sudden, it all ties together, but managing it is unbelievable and I'm having to bring more staff on to do that. It just mushrooms.
Mr. Morales: Along this train of thought, what is your vision for the college? What direction will you take the college within, say, the next three to four years? How do plan to educate, inform, and connect information age leaders?
Dr. Childs: I want to read a quote. We had a history written up here and I was asked the question, "If I could diagram my vision for the future," and I'm quoting this now. I described it as,
"A series of at least 10 interconnecting crossroads all meeting at the hub of an English-style roundabout. The titles of the roads were Defense, Policy, Economics, Government, Private Sector, International, Interagency, Business Processes, Best Practices, and Emerging Technologies. Every road was chocked full of speeding and honking traffic and numerous potential for collision or collaboration. I was the cheerleading cop at the middle of that traffic circle swinging my arms, shaking my body, and blowing the whistle. I had total confidence I was about to orchestrate a world class symphony and I can't blame the diagram on exuberance of youth because it happened just a few years ago."
Well, there's a lot going on and my job is to create that environment so the creative faculty and staff I have can bring these things together.
How do I see the future? I think it's going to be totally mobile, incredibly compact, ridiculously nano tiny, and eye-watering powerful. And everything around you that you see will become hyperized, socialized, networkized, and virtualized.
Mr. Morales: That's a great visual, just a wonderful visual. Bob, I have one last question and, obviously, you're very passionate about your work and you've been very, very successful, but what advice might you give to someone out there who perhaps is considering a career in public service as you have undertaken?
Dr. Childs: I would say, number one, you want to do the best that you can do. You want to be the best. You want to follow your passion. You need to take risks, but they have to be reasonable risks. You have to do the right thing, but sometimes you have to push the boundaries a little bit. You have to develop partners and friendships. If you don't, those are the things that get you through the hard times and help you along and make it fun and, as my wife likes to say, "Enjoy the journey because every step of the journey is the journey."
We climb mountains and the interesting thing is you think your objective is to get to the summit, but the fun is really planning it and working to get there. Once you achieve it, it's almost anti-climatic. It's the journey that you have to enjoy.
Mr. Morales: That's a wonderful perspective. Thank you. Unfortunately, we have reached the end of our time now. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, Jonathan, I would like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country.
Dr. Childs: Well, thank you very much. The last thing that I have to offer is, anybody who is interested in the IRM College, contact me at Childs@NDU.edu and we do have the cloud symposium coming up, 15 July, it's on our Web site. Just look up http://ndu.edu/IRMC and you can sign up for it. It's free.
Mr. Morales: That's great. Thank you.
This has been the Business of Government hour featuring a conversation with Dr. Robert Childs, Senior Director at the Information and Resources Management College within the National Defense University. My co-host has been Jonathan Brule, Executive Director at the IBM Center for the Business of Government.
As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who may not be able to hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.
For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.
Announcer: This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. And visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There you can learn more about our programs, and get a transcript of today's conversation. Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.