If you didn’t make the Emerging Technology roundtable event on November 16, then you missed a wonderful opportunity to meet some key technology innovators at the DHA, CMS, GSA, and FDA. Fortunately for you, GovBrew has the scoop!
The discussion focused on current projects, challenges, investment in new technology, and advice for small businesses.
Data deep in the cloud
Artificial Intelligence is one area that these agencies are implementing and employing, including using AI to really look deep at user behavior to predict specific outcomes. For example, at CMS, they are using AI to help them predict when peak enrollment periods will be, how systems will perform under certain conditions, and how user experiences will be impacted. For some, AI helps to articulate what the problem is, exactly, that needs a solution. “It’s all about the data,” said one panelist. “Once the data is right, everything else falls into place.”
Although all agencies are deploying cloud-based architecture solutions, there are numerous challenges that come with that. Agencies are hesitant to lock themselves into one solution or one product, which might limit how they can expand and grow in the future. Portability between cloud-based services and products is one area that everyone is keeping an eye out for. Furthermore, there are interoperability considerations to make as well as security risks. CMS is looking to do more with cloud-native systems in the future because it helps them pay for what they need when they need it.
Help desk issues is another key area for focus. How do you provide help desk support for about 10 million users? When you implement upgrades and migrations, what does that do to help desk needs? Again, AI is helping agencies to provide predictions to help agencies provide the best support possible.
A winding path is ok
Here, the enthusiasm for new ideas came to a grinding halt, and every panelist expressed hesitancy in picking up new, untested products. Not just untested—untested in their enormous, extremely complex environments that are rife with legacy systems and some modernized systems. Furthermore, every single agency is accountable to the American public, so if migration to your product doesn’t go well, it can pose enormous risks to everyone connected with the agency.
As one panelist explained, “Our role in the federal government isn’t to innovate. It’s to protect and provide for our citizens.”
The panelists were in universal agreement that there are some areas where they were willing to take risks but other areas where they were not. They referred to this as “pockets of innovation.” For instance, elements that work on the “back end,” and away from the public-facing elements are more likely to be given consideration. Also, smaller “waterfall” projects are more likely to be considered than large-scale agile projects.
Some constructive advice: If you have been given the opportunity to implement something new, and you start to see the project going sideways, don’t wait for the project to crash and burn. Agencies are more than willing to take a “winding path” towards a positive result, but that involves notifying them that the implementation isn’t going the way it should be. “Don’t be afraid to speak up and offer us a course correction.”
A major roadblock to embracing new products and services is that they often do not have consensus within their own agency to move in any given direction. For example, when healthcare.gov moved to the cloud, the number one problem the team faced was culture and getting buy-in from all the stakeholders.
Where private companies can provide value is by helping your program manager market and sell to key stakeholders. This could be by attending stakeholder meetings and presenting key details, helping to develop an informational (digital or print) campaign, conducting demonstrations, and other sales materials.
Here are some great ideas for businesses with emerging technologies to sell
The panelists threw out some great ideas for private sector:
- Check out challenges as an opportunity to demonstrate your product. The GSA was excited that the Ascend Cloud Challenge was such a success. They are looking to launch two new challenges in the next year: one that is based on healthcare and one that is based on infrastructure.
- Pursue FedRAMP Authorization. From an acquisition standpoint, agencies feel better about trying something new if it’s been vetted through the FedRAMP process. For example, there’s some knowledge that the product is secure. If you have something new to sell, consider investing in getting it FedRAMP Authorized.
- Then, consider getting it listed on a contract vehicle. This has a two-fold benefit. First, it makes buying it easy. Second, it helps to ensure that a product has reached some level of maturity, which mitigates some amount of risk to them.
- Do create a capabilities statement. For any product documentation, keep it short—about 1-2 skimmable pages. They do read these documents, but they only remember products that stand out in some way.
- You can’t do everything: provide any service to any agency with any staff. Besides, it’s not memorable to say you can do anything. Instead, pick something quirky and niche, and pitch just that one tiny element to them. It’s more memorable and makes you different from the rest of the competition.
50% of sponsorship proceeds go to support No Boundaries
This event went to help support the veteran non-profit organization, No Boundaries. The group takes wounded service men and women and provides them with an immersive trip—typically 10 people in each group. Living in a large house together for 6 days to facilitate bonding experiences, the group takes on outdoor adventures to help to promote self-esteem, pride, and a sense of accomplishment. Typical activities include rafting, zip lining, ropes courses, kayaking, rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, downhill skiing, sled hockey, cross-country skiing, and tubing.
All meals, lodging, transportation, and daily program activities are paid for by the No Boundaries organization.
Learn more and consider donating to this amazing group during Giving Thanksgiving!