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A Case Study in


Aligning Technology for Business Success Š2013 CNSI


SITUATION The Census Bureau was facing a situation that is all too common in large organizations – pockets of excellence that did not communicate with each other, duplicated efforts, unshared information, and duplicated mistakes and false starts. This was an environment that was inefficient and did not support the ability to develop innovative solutions to the operational problems of the Census. The Bureau needed a way to get different directorates working together to learn from each other’s successes, and from their failures. They needed a way to foster innovation and collaboration in the same space. They needed an Innovation Center.

The innovation Center The Center for Applied Technology (CAT) was created in response to those needs. In order to help them implement that response, CNSI was engaged to make innovation work inside the CAT. The CNSI innovation team is composed of individuals with a vast area of experience, each member hand-picked for their ability to provide the highest level of support in an innovative, collaborative environment.


GOALS OF THE CAT CAT was created to foster innovation, encourage collaboration, increase knowledge sharing, and decrease duplicated efforts in the Census. By engaging individual directorates on a project-specific basis, the goal is to share the results collected in the CAT and establish a central location for Census projects to use as an incubator for ideas. The CNSI Innovation Team has the expertise to drive innovation based on clients’ specific needs.


THE ENVIRONMENT For the CAT to function properly as an incubator, it was critical that it be isolated from the Census Production environment. The CAT was built out in space formerly used as storage. It was provided with its own Local Area Network (LAN) that is physically separated (“air-gapped”) from the Census Production networks. In addition to the server infrastructure, which supports the capability of deploying virtual servers for use in the CAT as needed, the CAT contains multiple desktop workstations deployed in groups of six arranged in “pods” around the CAT workspace. This promotes collaboration between working groups within the CAT. There is a bank of workstation connected to large wall monitors to display projects in progress and to provide demonstrations to larger audiences. There are devices not otherwise deployed at Census for use in exploring new technologies and platforms –tablets, smartphones, operating systems, software packages, and laptops not otherwise available at the Census on an Enterprise level. The CAT has a state of the art conference room where videoconferencing is supported, and where vendors demonstrate their offerings and provide briefings on technologies of interest to the Census Bureau. The physical infrastructure, organization, and staffing of the CAT work together to provide a safe and collaborative working environment. This provides the customers of the CAT the ability to fail, which is a critical component of any Innovation Center. CAT is a place to “fail quickly.” It is where you learn what works and what doesn’t work – both those lessons are valuable, and the CAT makes that knowledge available across the Census. – Ex Director of Census, Dr. Robert Groves


CAT CAPABILITIES What the CAT has become is an environment where the Standards Working Group (SWG) comes to request capabilities assessments of products and services. The CNSI Innovation Team works closely with the SWG to provide “bake-off” results from comparative assessments among groups of products. Census has a series of interrelated development projects within their Improving Operational Efficiency (IOE) program – each of these IOE DEV efforts are involved with the CAT to move their efforts forward. These include data integration through metadata semantics mapping, data API development, and data visualization. The CNSI Innovation Team is embedded in each effort, and helps ensure that related efforts do not exist in a vacuum each of the efforts benefits from having that cross-effort knowledge and the result is greater than the sum of its parts.


CAT PROJECTS Since its inception, the CAT has been involved with over 100 projects within a crosssection of the Directorates within the Census, across all CAT COEs. A cross-section of the Census Bureau is involved with the CAT, including Economic, Population, Geography, Research and Methodology, Communications, and a host of others. The CNSI Innovation has been, and remains involved in every CAT project. Project support in the CAT is centered around areas of special focus M 足 obile Applications, Enterprise Services, Business Process Modeling, Enterprise Content Management, Data Management, and Data Analytics and Visualization. The CNSI Innovation Team provides support for each of those areas, some staff providing support to multiple areas. Due to the nature of the knowledge bases and the depth and breadth of experience in the CNSI Innovation Team, every project receives whatever level of support they require for a proper exploration of their ideas.


CAT VALUES The CAT is becoming part of the fabric of the Census Bureau. It is the safe place that you can bring your project to develop a proof of concept. It is the place you can come to try out new hardware and new software. It is the place you can come to play around with the latest version of the enterprise software you use but that is not yet deployed to your workstation. It is the place where you can come in and expand your skill sets. The CNSI Innovation Team is part of all of that. Part of innovation is cultural change, and the CAT is proving to be an enabler for change within the Census.

The CNSI Innovation Team is proud to be an enabler of change What they are doing in the CAT, they can do for your organization as well.

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