When it comes to technology in the federal government, many agencies suffer from a common malady: the shiny object syndrome.
But there’s an easy remedy for that: a pilot program allows users of a new technology to test it out, experience its pros and cons and ultimately, help determine whether a tool or device is worth the long-term investment.
Speaking at a session on anywhere, anytime engagement at the Adobe Digital Government Assembly, which FedScoop hosted Feb. 6 in Arlington, Va., Neal Andrew, deputy of the CIO division within the C4 Department at the Marine Corps, said his agency is participating in a larger Defense Departmentwide mobile effort by piloting mobile device management and applications.
“Along with this, it’s the basic information exchange requirements: We don’t understand what we’re using the devices for; it’s usually the shiny object syndrome,” Andrew said.
From a human resources angle, every organization has to onboard people “and that takes time, and that takes effort,” Andrew said. At the Pentagon, it’s not uncommon that getting a Common Access Card and a device takes four to six months, he said.
“If you’re paying someone a salary while they’re sitting inactive, the organization is losing out,” Andrew said.
The solution to that problem is to have a better understanding of a new employee’s mobile needs so he or she has better access to information and can hit the ground running, he said.
“We are focusing on how to improve the architecture on information before we infuse the shiny object of technology,” Andrew said.
Luke Berndt, program manager of the cybersecurity division within the Science & Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, acknowledged he’s seen first-hand the shiny object syndrome and it has driven some of the department’s pilots.
“If we’re going to look at piloting and some good initiatives to take, I really do think not focusing on the technology but [rather] on the process and focusing on piloting what you’ll be doing — how are you going to vet apps before you make them available on a device? What sort of processes do you want to have in place?” he said.
Within the Defense Information Systems Agency, the approach to mobile has been “start small, scale fast,” said John Hale, chief of the enterprise application services division at DISA.
“If you start small, and you do lots of different pilots, your investment in fairly minimal at the beginning,” he said. “And if you go in the wrong direction, you can throw it away. The old adage of ‘innovation is 99 percent sweat and 1 percent thought’ is very true there.”