Not your father's IAC

Industry group seeks to redefine its role as government adviser

The Industry Advisory Council is everywhere in government today, and the group is not just holding events and conferences.

IAC's shared interest groups have long served as advisers, providing a sounding board for federal agencies for nearly a decade. But these days, IAC is playing a more direct role in influencing government decisions. It is aligning itself directly with the CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee and taking the partnership between industry and government to a new level, officials said.

IAC's purpose is to be "an honest broker between 400 companies and the government," said Bob Woods, chairman of the council's Executive Committee and president of Topside Consulting Group.

Through its many events, the council provides a way to pass information back and forth on hot-button issues. But when it comes to in-depth information sharing, the interest groups become critical.

"The IAC [interest groups] have provided many insights and ideas on how commercial best practices can be applied in government," said Mark Forman, associate director of information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget.

In the past, a lot of the information has been flowing from government to industry, such as briefings on new contracts and services offerings to IAC's telecom group.

Just as much, if not more, information is flowing the other direction as government tries to incorporate industry best practices. And the IAC interest groups are intended to bring together all of the points of view, practices and experience for government to use when making decisions, Woods said.

"Government often makes bad choices because they don't know all the choices, and they've got bad people making choices," he said.

In the past year, IAC's enterprise architecture interest group has worked with OMB to develop several white papers. Those papers provide in-depth industry input into the reference models that OMB and agencies are using to make the federal enterprise architecture a reality.

As the final papers go through the IAC vetting process — an internal review to ensure that no one company or viewpoint is represented more than any other — the enterprise architecture interest group is evolving to mirror the new subcommittees on the CIO Council's Architecture and Infrastructure Committee.

By dividing the architecture group into smaller groups focused on each of the subcommittees, the group's leaders hope to help identify best practices from the most qualified companies in each specific area: governance of an enterprise architecture, reusable components that make up an architecture and emerging technologies that can be used as components, said Venkatapathi Puvvada, chairman of the group and chief technology officer at Unisys Corp.

Many of the best practices and recommendations will likely involve one of the biggest questions facing federal agencies and OMB right now: How to migrate their current enterprise architecture efforts — which are focused on technology — to the new structure of the federal enterprise architecture — which is centered around business lines and services.

"We clearly recognize that [agencies] are going to face a lot of changes going from point A to point B...so we can jump in with our expertise and hopefully offer some examples," Puvvada said.

People may worry about having industry so closely involved in policy development, and some worry is necessary, said Allan Burman, president of Jefferson Solutions, a division of Jefferson Consulting Group LLC, and former administrator of OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

But he thinks that officials in government and in IAC are sensitive to that issue.

IAC's internal review process and the balanced recommendations and expertise in the reports — the more opinions the better — is why government officials are coming to IAC more often for industry input, Woods said.

"It takes some vigilance to get it right, but I think that's the key to our success," he said.

Competition may be the best self- correcting mechanism that IAC has, said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc., a government consulting firm. With so many companies involved in each interest group — the enterprise architecture interest group has 65 active company members with more joining every week — there is very little chance that one company will be allowed to have a stronger voice than any other, he said.

***

Partnering

The Industry Advisory Council's shared interest groups serve as forums for sharing information and best practices between government and industry.

They started almost a decade ago bringing together companies in the telecommunications area — not just the carriers, but also the integrators and small businesses — to work with the General Services Administration on its new governmentwide long-distance contract.

Since then, shared interest groups have emerged to address the following areas that are critical to both government and industry:

* E-government.

* Enterprise architecture.

* Information assurance.

* Managed services.

* Small, minority and woman-owned businesses.

* Software.

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