Nitin Pradhan is the former CIO of the US Department of Transportation. He is now Managing Partner of GOVonomy and CEO of Public Private Innovations. (Courtesy Photo)
As a former CIO of the US Department of Transportation, having had oversight of more than $3 billion of annual IT portfolio spending, I know federal year-end times in Washington are very hectic. Why? Well if you are government agency you may stay cautious in the early part of the federal year building a rainy day fund just in case a calamity hits or if there is sequestration down the road. However, in most cases this abundance of caution results in large left over budgets that will expire at the end of the year.
To spend or not to spend?
Ideally, as a citizen I would like this leftover budget to roll over in the next year’s budget for planned spending in the future years but this may take an act of God. The agency always has a choice of not spending the available year-end funds and returning them to the treasury, but that risks being interpreted as a sign that the agency is over-funded and could result in lower future budgets. Most agencies spend their way out on services and products to minimize leftover funds. My goal in this article is to give quick guidance on how to maximize value from this spending spree, and specific purchasing options for this year.
Strategizing for year end:
I have a three-step process for maximizing value from year-end funds:
(1) Plan for the year-end: We all know each federal fiscal year has an end; so plan for it. This means giving guidance and specific options (like the product list below) of how to use your available year-end dollars most wisely and effectively.
(2) Buy products instead of services: Procuring services is always more complicated, time-consuming and risky, as the statement of work needs to be spelt out accurately and lengthy proposals must be reviewed. Commercial off the shelf products can be demoed, evaluated and purchased quickly and provide more bang for the buck especially during the year-ends.
(3) Drive Innovation and Pilots: Bureaucracies are much more willing to accept, bold innovations and pilots with year end funds because they know it is a use-it-or-lose-it situation. Use it to your advantage to deliver action by piloting like products below.
Five great products to buy today:
At GOVonomy, we are constantly reviewing innovative products and services most relevant to the US public sector. We also have a process of introducing these products and services through our “Innovation as a Service” workshops to agencies as well as partnering with government contractors for product integration. Based on the feedback received from such workshops, here are the top five products to buy with year-end funds. I suggest mixing, matching and buying a few of these products based on your needs, challenges and opportunities. So whether you have just a few thousand dollars available for purchasing or millions more – these are the must have technologies all agencies must consider:
1. Smart paperless forms platform: Paperwork has plagued federal organizations for decades, causing billions in costs and huge delays in processing times. The smart forms technology is a modern replacement to the PDF. The current PDF is a “dumb” document that needs to be downloaded, is not mobile-friendly, has no validation or workflow built in and is not Section 508 compliant. The smart forms auto converts PDF forms and documents into fillable, mobile friendly cloud docs that can be completed from any device, eSigned if necessary, then synced with existing processes and are 508 compliant. Smart forms have built in workflows and builds real-time databases automatically of the information collected so it removes the need for data entry and repetitive admin tasks while increasing efficiency.
2. Application Performance Management (APM): Building software products better, faster and cheaper is the goal of every technology department. This product gets you immediate code-level visibility to build faster software, create better products, and delight your customers. Supporting Java, PHP, Ruby, .Net, Node.js & Python and over 60 frameworks, this APM and diagnostic platform is fast to install requiring no ongoing infrastructure, support or configuration. This APM platform helped identify and fix the failing HealthCare.gov website/application and currently helps monitor over 3 million applications in over 90,000 customers.
3. HD video conferencing in the cloud: Traditional video conferencing platforms have disappointed customers for too long. These products break the budget with high initial fees and costly ongoing maintenance. Set up is complicated and time consuming. Making a group video call is a headache from start to finish, with multi-step processes just to log in, start a meeting, or share content. And after all that, you end up with poor video and audio quality. This product is different, requiring just one click to install or start a meeting. Its cloud meeting platform offers highest quality HD video conferencing, simple online meetings and mobile collaboration for up to 100 participants with mobile screen sharing, annotation, and tablet white boarding as well as H.323/SIP integration for existing video conferencing equipment. Additionally, broadcasting capability is available for up to a 1,000 participants or locations. Plus there is no new equipment to buy!
4. Cloud-based identity and access management: Federal organizations are licensing various cloud-based services for their employees, citizens and businesses from different vendors. However, managing the various identities, access and assignments for these cloud services is proving to be a nightmare for the IT departments. This innovative platform provides a security model of perfect trust because it is based on the principle of mutual distrust of all elements in a cloud system and returns control over identity and data to the user and/or organization. Features include Single Sign On, Authorization, Authentication, Access control, Auditing and Continuous Monitoring. Yes FISMA – there is a new game in town.
5. Mobile-focused virtualization: Do you have a number of legacy applications that are difficult to run on mobile devices? Now, mobile focused virtualization technology offers a new solution that leverages the power of your existing applications without sacrificing the usability of your mobile device. It can bring your apps, collaboration, and all your data together in a workspace deployed in hours not months. It is one of the fastest ways to get any windows or web app with an adaptive UI to any mobile device, allowing easy real-time sharing and collaboration and universal secure file access to corporate and cloud file shares. This product uniquely allows the enterprise to adapt the UI for each application and each type of device – all without any coding effort.
Whether your agency has leftover year-end funds, or year-round funds, or even if you are a government contractor interested in integrating these technologies in solutions and delighting customers—the above technologies from some of the most innovative tech growth companies can help you today.
About the Author: Nitin Pradhan is the former CIO of the US Department of Transportation. He is now Managing Partner of GOVonomy and CEO of Public Private Innovations . Readers can connect with him on LinkedIn .