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DMI helps agencies embrace mobile

As mobile takes off, opportunities, challenges emerge

Sep. 30, 2013 - 10:56AM   |  
DMI CEO Sunny Bajaj
DMI CEO Sunny Bajaj ()

The Bethesda, Md., technology firm DMI is quickly emerging as a key player in the federal mobile market.

The firm already manages a half-million mobile devices for government agencies and companies worldwide — that number is sure to go up soon. In June, DMI won a $16 million contract to centrally manage Defense Department smartphones and tablet computers and control which apps are used on those devices. DMI is also working with the Agriculture Department and Federal Aviation Administration on their mobile strategies.

“Anytime you’re on the side of innovation and transformation and you can show a clear path to the results, I think you have a better shot at possibly being successful,” said CEO Sunny Bajaj, who started the company in 2002. DMI has more than 1,500 employees and expects to bring in more than $250 million in revenue this year. About 75 percent of its revenue comes from government business.

DMI provides consulting services, application and system development, continuous security monitoring and a host of other services. The Department of Homeland Security last month awarded contracts to 17 vendors, including DMI, for tools and services to continuously monitor federal systems and networks for cyber risks.

Federal Times spoke recently with Bajaj. Following are edited excerpts:

Q. What are the most common challenges hindering mobile adoption across agencies?

A. I’ll speak specifically to USDA since that’s the one that we just rolled out. We initially started there with 3,000 users, and it’s going to scale, potentially up to 100,000 [users]. Really, a lot of their concerns were around security: secure email, browser, file sharing and the [Microsoft] SharePoint access. They wanted a few different flavors, so if someone wanted secure container solutions, they wanted to be able to provide that. If someone was not using a government-issued device or did not have the full MDM [mobile device management] product set on it [device], they still wanted to provide a certain set of services, but not access to others.

So, security was a big key — specifically, USDA wanted two-factor authentication and a container-based security solution. Obviously, it had to be compliant with a lot of the federal standards. Anytime you’re rolling something out in scale like this, the other challenge is to get the buy-in from all those groups, and I need to make sure I have a solution and feature set that is secure enough, robust enough but not that cumbersome.

Q. How were mobile capabilities rolled out at the FAA?

A. You obviously have to get buy-in before you implement anything. [The CIO office] decided to fund it initially as a pilot. They basically went to their constituents and said, “I’m going to put iPads in your users’ hands, and we’re going to roll out a solution or pilot. All we ask is that you use it as part of the pilot group, and then you give us your feedback.” The OCIO completely funded it, but they did it in a way where they ended up bringing different groups together to get everyone’s buy-in and adoption.

Q. Where are agencies getting money to invest in mobile and other innovations?

A. It’s either one of two areas: It’s a new funding stream because they’ve decided they want to implement this innovative solution, whether it’s mobility or cloud or something. Or it’s actually just balancing competing priorities and saying to yourself, ‘If we can virtualize some of our infrastructure and move to the cloud, we can realize a cost savings.’

Q. Where does the new funding stream come from?

A. For certain, but not all clients, there is some kind of fee-for-service groups internally. USDA has this in-house fee-for-service solution provider where they charge the agencies for building their apps, or managing their apps or hosting their data or their systems.

Q. How has the sequester impacted IT spending, considering agencies are still awarding contracts to DMI and other firms?

A. First of all, I don’t think we’ll see the impact right now. The impact of the budget cuts and sequestration, I think, you’ll really start to see in [fiscal] 2014 and 2015. We’re continuing to grow and win contracts. Maybe here and there we’ll get affected by some budget cuts, or we have to scale a program down a little. But one of the things the government has done a good job on, a few years ago they really commoditized. [For] a lot of just general [operations and maintenance]-type support, they either went to performance-based contracts or fixed-price contracts. Because of that, I think they’ve been able to, at least some of our customers, not have to do the huge, sweeping cuts.

Q. Of the 500,000 devices DMI manages globally, how many are government-issued devices?

A. Right now, in the government I think it’s only about 5,000 to 10,000 devices. USDA is going to scale up fairly soon, and [Defense Information Systems Agency] is supposed to be, I think, 300,000.

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