EC is a hot topic with Commerce

he came to Commerce, Baker was vice president of marketing and product development for
Visa International’s Interactive subsidiary in Herndon, Va. He helped build an online
system for Visa’s member banks.

Baker has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in business
from the University of Michigan.

He talked with GCN about Commerce’s Digital Department initiative and how
electronic commerce will help the department carry out its mission.

Electronic commerce is renovating entire processes, from paper-based processes to
electronic-based processes. There’s a big difference in thinking about the way you do
business when your customer can interact with you at any point along the process.

At the Patent and Trademark Office, it’s a very paper-intensive process. To change
PTO to an electronic format will require a substantial commitment including changing the
way PTO does business.

The objective of electronic commerce at Commerce is to increase the availability of
information and services to the public.

One of the first things I did when I came on the job five months ago was ask Commerce
bureaus whether they accept information over the Internet—and if not, why not. I also
asked whether they disseminate information over the Internet—and if not, why not. I
learned a lot about the department and bureaus from their answers and where their public
burden lies.

Commerce’s electronic commerce goal is to achieve the business goals of the
department with effective information technology via an electronic transaction. You want
to exchange value electronically, whether it’s information, money, or goods and

Most future electronic commerce transactions at Commerce will not involve monetary
exchanges. The department does not primarily engage in that business process. We deal
mostly in information retrieval, forms submission, and information delivery and analysis.

I’m heavily oriented toward electronic transactions because they interact with the
end consumer. The right way to look at electronic commerce is that it lets you get much
closer to and interactive with your customers by providing them great customer service
through effective automation.

You want to serve your customers better and exceed their expectations. You also want to
increase your own efficiency by redesigning your processes. You can also improve
perception of your department as an e-commerce participant.

The Commerce Department’s e-commerce challenge involves online PTO processes, an
electronic census, online data dissemination, fully electronic statutory reporting in
exports, fisheries and census data, and creating an Internet-intranet knowledge base.

Secretary William Haley has made a commitment to the Digital Department and hired me to
drive the transformation. There’s no central strategy yet to establishing the path
forward, but there’s bureau expertise and support in electronic commerce at the
National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Telecommunications and
Information Administration.

We need to set specific, achievable mandates. We’re working on having every form
in the department available online, with key initiatives showing success by next year.

We want to make ignoring electronic commerce solutions very difficult by 2000.

Roger Baker
Chief Information Officer

Alan P. Balutis
Deputy CIO

Karen Gregory
Associate Director for Information Technology, Census Bureau

Alan Lorish
Computer Services Division Chief,
Bureau of Economic Analysis

Mitch Laine
Senior IRM Official, Economic Development Administration

Jack Floyd
Acting CIO, Bureau of Export Administration

Bernie McMahon
IRM Director, International Trade Administration

Peter L.M. Heydemann
Technology Services Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

John Villemarette
Acting Information Systems Director, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Keith Sinner
Acting IT Director,
National Technical Information Service

Bernadette McGuire-Rivera
Associate Administrator for Telecommunications and Information Applications, National
Telecommunications and Information Administration

Dennis Shaw
CIO, Patent and Trademark Office

Arthur Andersen & Co.  $ 33.7

Computer Sciences Corp. $ 27.7

Litton PRC Inc.  $ 26.7

Lockheed Martin Corp.  $ 19.7

Exide Electronics Corp.  $ 15.7

Raytheon Co. $ 9.1

Cray Research Inc.  $ 8.3

CommPower  $ 7.1

Signal Corp.  $ 6.8

Oracle Corp.  $ 6.6

Total  $161.4

Systems Development and Maintenance—The
Patent and Trademark Office in February 1997 awarded a $540 million contract to Computer
Sciences Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. to help the agency increase its use of
automation. The goal is to improve communications between applicants and examiners and
better manage patent applications. Through the project, PTO uses business process
re-engineering to devise a new workflow plan. The vendors will implement the new system.

Patent Data Capture Products—The Patent
and Trademark Office in September awarded a $172 million contract to Reed Technology and
Information Services to convert PTO’s paper patent forms to a digital format. The
Horsham, Pa., company is doing the conversion work, which lets PTO turn around patent data
for its weekly publication of the Official Gazette. Patent data capture now takes PTO up
to 42 days. The new process will cut that time to 24 days.

Data Capture Services—The Census Bureau
in January awarded a $187 million contract to TRW Inc. for support services for the 2000
Decennial Census. TRW’s services include facilities management and office automation
for processing 2000 Census data. Meanwhile, under a separate $49 million contract,
Lockheed Martin built optical character recognition systems that Census will use at four
processing centers to collect and convert to a digital format information gathered from
forms filled out by more than 117 million households.

Fleet Replacement and Modernization—The
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will spend $375 million to modernize the
systems aboard its 30-year-old, 22-vessel research fleet. The project is part of a
15-year, $1.5 billion effort to upgrade the NOAA ships. Various vendors are providing
data-gathering and scientific application systems for the project.

The National Weather Service’s Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System
improves meteorologists’ ability to forecast weather and save lives, according to
Commerce Department chief information officer Roger Baker.

Meteorologists at a local forecast office earlier this year warned park rangers at Zion
National Park in Utah of an approaching storm and that a narrow gully there would likely
flood. The park service stopped 50 people from going into the gully. Of four people who
ignored the service’s warning, three drowned.

“Because of the ability of AWIPS to overlay lots of information, such as stream
rates and where rain is falling and at what rate, forecasters could tell the National Park
Service that the gully would flood,” Baker said.

AWIPS lets meteorologists generate detailed forecasts quickly, he said. It runs on
Hewlett-Packard Co. systems and integrates data from multiple sources using software
developed by Litton PRC Inc.

“So you can look at AWIPS and say maybe it saved 50 lives at Zion,” Baker
said. “That’s pretty powerful and could not have been done with the current

The department has tested and implemented 76 percent of the date code fixes for its 460
mission-critical systems and plans to finish all systems by July, four months after the
March deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget.

“We had planned on being fully compliant by the end of March, but a couple of
systems have slipped,” Baker said, noting that the Patent and Trademark Office will
need extra time to finish its fixes.

PTO has sent a detailed plan to Baker on how it will get its systems ready by July.

“When an organization comes to me and tells me a project will slip and here’s
our project plan, I personally think that organization is in control,” Baker said.
“The ones that really worry me are the ones that don’t have processes and
planning in place.”

He has asked that Commerce agencies and offices submit a test plan for every system
declared year-2000 ready to determine which systems the department can be predicted to
perform without a hitch come Jan. 1, 2000.

Between 2007 and 2010, NWS and the Navy plan to launch satellites for a polar satellite
system. The National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellites system will save
millions of dollars because the agencies will not have to launch their own satellites,
Commerce officials said.

The agencies are working with NASA now to determine the instrument configuration for
the satellites, which will gather environmental and weather data.  

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