FCW's Federal List: 10 organizations worth watching

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. Sept. 4, 2007. Please go to Corrections & Clarifications to see what has changed.

The focus of Federal Computer Week’s Federal List this year, as last year, is organizations worth watching.

The selections are subjective and not meant to be inclusive. We looked for organizations that are doing interesting work and deserve attention for what they have accomplished. We selected some because they are innovative work. Others are on the list because of their growing reputations, influence or ability to find opportunity in disruptive events. And some organizations are on the list because they face unique challenges. We tried to select organizations that are bellwethers of change in the government information technology community.

As in last year’s list, some themes keep cropping up. One is an ability to adapt in the face of pressure to change and evolve. Another theme is transparency and openness. Finally, most of these organizations are dealing with disruption, chaos and transformation.

We hope this list encourages discussions about how the federal IT market is changing — for better or worse.

-- Christopher J. Dorobek

10. Ambient Devices
David Rose, Founder and Chief Executive Officer
www.ambientdevices.com

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of information you must process every day? Ambient Devices understands, and the company is trying to do something about it. Ambient creates devices that enable people to use information more efficiently. Its wireless products let you turn everyday objects, such as umbrellas, into tools that provide useful information. The company’s Ambient Orb is a frosted-glass ball that glows in different colors as it displays real-time stock market trends, traffic reports, pollen forecasts or other data for which Ambient has an information channel. Some utility companies are testing the orb’s ability to provide information about energy use. Ambient is experimenting with enterprise dashboards that track and display metrics. Can the Ambient version of the President’s Management Agenda be far behind?

9. NASA Ames Research
Center’s CoLab
Pete Worden, Director
colab.arc.nasa.gov

The CoLab focuses on collaboration in support of the Vision for Space Exploration. It has been innovative in bringing together a diverse group of NASA employees, business leaders, software programmers and individuals outside the traditional space community by using every online tool NASA can think of, including the virtual world of Second Life and social-networking site Facebook. Through CoLab, software experts are also creating open-source software called CosmosCode that NASA can use for its space projects. Eventually, CoLab leaders plan to build a real-world facility in San Francisco, where interested parties can collaborate with NASA.

8. Federal Sources Inc., the Coalition for Government Procurement and the Washington Management Group
Bill Gormley, President and CEO
www.fedsources.com
www.washmg.com
www.thecgp.org

Here we have an organization coming back from the dead. A decade ago, Federal Sources Inc. was the powerhouse among government market research firms. Then Primedia bought the organization, and the Dark Ages set in. In 2003,Washington Management Group bought FSI and has b een working to bring it back to prominence. FSI’s primary competitors, Input and Eagle Eye Publishers, have placed more focus on the market than they previously had. There are two other organizations under Bill Gormley’s umbrella: Washington Management Group is a consulting company that helps businesses get contracts under the General Services Administration schedules, and the Coalition for Government Procurement is an industry group that monitors issues that could affect its member companies. Because GSA is still a significant procurement player, those three organizations are worth watching.

7. Sprint Nextel
Tony D’Agata, Vice President of Federal Government Business
www.sprint.com

It’s been a difficult year for Sprint Nextel. The merger of the two companies was not as smooth as envisioned, and then Sprint Nextel got shut out of the massive Networx Universal telecommunications contract. Although the company won a place on the Networx Enterprise contract, the Universal loss means it will need to be more creative in how it approaches the federal market.

6. National Institute of Standards and Technology
William Jeffrey, Director
www.nist.gov

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is the government’s home for technology standards. NIST’s influence on improving cybersecurity through its technical guidance and standards is wide and deep, particularly because many recent governmentwide initiatives have required its expertise. Behind those initiatives — the Federal Information Security Management Act, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, the secure Microsoft Windows desktop configuration, IPv6 and others — NIST’s work is indispensable. The Commerce Department bureau benefits every agency through its standards for information technology.

5. New Paradigm
Don Tapscott, Founder and CEO
www.newparadigm.com

New Paradigm says it is the business innovation company, but its leaders want to be the government innovation company, too. Don Tapscott has been at the forefront of the Web 2.0 movement, most recently with the popular book he co-wrote called “Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.” He recently spoke at FCW’s CIO Summit, and last month, he addressed the CIO Council. New Paradigm is finalizing a deal with the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget to participate in a research program they have named Government 2.0. It will investigate how the government can use Web 2.0 tools.

4. Defense Information Systems Agency
Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, Director
www.disa.mil

The Defense Information Systems Agency has become a model for dealing with change. In many ways, the agency is always in flux because it must constantly adapt to changing technology. Lt. Gen. Charles Croom has looked for innovative ways to develop products. DISA has posted a variety of applications so users can try them and decide which one they like best — a development process more closely associated with Google than government. Faced with a deadline for moving its headquarters from Northern Virginia to Maryland, DISA has also become a major proponent of telework.

3. Google
Michael Bradshaw, Leader of Federal Enterprise
www.google.com

Google is one of two organizations on last year’s Federal List that we included on this year’s list. In 2006, we focused on Google’s broad influence on the information technology market. In the past year, the company has turned its attention to the government market. Last year, Google’s government team had five people. Now it has 18, which represents a small but significant increase. G ogle has also broadened its product offerings.

Last year, it touted its search appliance. This year, it has Google Earth, with links to geospatial and other applications. Postini, best known for its spam filter, is Google’s most recent buy. Michael Bradshaw said the acquisition will enable Google to offer a host of security applications. The company remains at the heart of changes in how people use technology. Search engines changed the way people sought information, and now Google Maps and Google Earth are changing how people look at geographic data.

2. General Services Administration
Lurita Doan, Administrator
www.gsa.gov

The General Services Administration is the other organization that is on both our 2006 and 2007 lists. Much has happened in the past 12 months, and GSA promises to again be one of the most-watched government organizations. Aside from Administrator Lurita Doan’s trials and tribulations, GSA faces some systemic challenges. Last year, we said, “An important portion of GSA operates on a fee-for-service basis, which means that part of the organization must stay attuned to customers’ needs to be successful.” That remains true. On the positive side, GSA has awarded a number of large contracts, including the two Networx contracts, Alliant and Satcom. Those contracts will help direct how agencies buy and use technology for years to come. On the negative side, GSA still faces organizational challenges caused by the merger of the former Federal Supply Service and Federal Technology Service under a unified Federal Acquisition Service. GSA has also been debating the future of its money-losing Office of Assisted Acquisition Services. GSA remains an organization worth watching, and the government IT marketplace will continue to feel its presence.

1. Government Accountability Office
David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States
www.gao.gov

The Government Accountability Office has been at the forefront of change on a host of issues and has taken a leadership role on two in particular. One is oversight. The Democrats increased congressional oversight when they took control of Congress, and since then, GAO has had a more effective oversight role. As has been its tradition, the agency has focused less on prosecution and more on using its oversight authority to improve federal programs. GAO has also been a leader in workforce management. Walker is one of the major advocates for finding new ways for the government to manage its workforce. GAO has tried to be a model for other agencies in using pay for performance. However, its experience has also shown how disruptive pay changes can be. GAO analysts will vote this month on whether to unionize.

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