One of the best places to find an approach to lowering the cost of government IT can be found in the way people use the Internet when they aren’t at work.
“You do it at home today, you go out and leverage the capabilities of the Internet and don’t think twice about it, but somehow when you go to work, that changes,” David Bennett, chief information officer at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said Thursday.
Bennett was among two dozen agency and industry leaders who spoke at FedScoop’s sixth-annual Lowering the Cost of Government summit in Washington, D.C.
As federal budgets continue to shrink due to sequestration, the summit’s speakers addressed ways agencies can leverage technologies to operate not only cheaper, but smarter.
“The federal IT clock is running at about $2,500 a second. I calculate by the time I’m done with this presentation, we will have racked up millions,” said Suparno Banerjee, VP of public sector programs for HP.
“How do we start thinking about this equation when the income stream itself is compromised? That’s why I believe the conversation will eventually shift to value creation—shift to not what we do…but how do we get maximum value for every dollar that we spend?”
A number of panels focused on the value created by integrating mobility into agencies’ IT strategies. A number of panelists said that mobility is no longer an idea for the future, but a reality that should be leveraged to keep up with the modern workforce.
“Think about the history of our business, we always had a vision that saw this coming, but there was always something that wasn’t quite there,” said Mark Day, acting deputy assistant commissioner for Integrated Technology Services at the General Services Administration. “Now, we’re there. We just need people to free themselves from form-factor thinking.”
Chris Roberts, global public sector vice president for Good Technologies said the prime focus of mobility should be on outcomes.
“If you have people that want to work alone, or people working on [an] iPad, I don’t care, as long as we get to the right outcome,” Roberts said.
Mobility is at the heart of Sonny Hashmi’s central mission with the GSA. The agency’s CIO told a story of an agency employee using a WiFi connection from a Pep Boys parking lot in New Jersey in order to purchase supplies for first responder teams in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“We’re doing stuff in the last few years that folks used to say could never be done,” Hashmi said. “It’s part and parcel how smart companies are delivering on their mission and value.”
Hashmi said he also closely watches private companies to learn how government can leverage big data, with a special eye for online real estate database Zillow and business review site Yelp.
Zillow and Yelp have “taken data that is available to all of us and packaged it in a way that is vital for customers, brings data to the forefront, levels social media on top, and gives tremendous value to the end user,” Hashmi said.
The move toward harnessing big data has come so far that Army Lt. Col Bobby Saxon sees the term becoming obsolete by the end of the decade.
“We won’t be talking big data in five years,” Saxon said. “The technology is evolving so fast and predictive analytics are coming into play.”
As agencies find ways to lowere their costs, Hashmi said he hopes people realize IT is no longer just an overhead cost, but a way for agencies to shape their primary mission.
“Modern companies are leveraging IT as a strategic arm of their business,” Hashmi said. “If you look at what modern companies are doing today, IT is not an overhead function, it’s how they market, sell, track their company’s entire organization. It’s time for IT to grow up, move out of the basement and attend the board meetings.”