The voices of industry

The Industry Advisory Council's shared interest groups outline their agendas for the coming year

Industry Advisory Council officials knew in late 2003 that after almost a decade of pell-mell growth, the structure supporting their in-house think tanks on government technology-related efforts was overdue for a revamp.

The shared interest groups (SIGs) started in 1994 as a way to share industry's opinion on the General Services Administration's long-range procurement planning. Since then, vendors' roles in efforts such as systems integration, enterprise architecture and e-government have grown so large that federal officials readily acknowledge that the corporations are now indispensable.

But as SIGs were added, focus areas didn't always keep up with changing government priorities. The group structures were varied and opaque. Some SIG committees were larger than some SIGs themselves. "Some were growing very rapidly, some of them were basically dead," said Bob Woods, IAC's chairman.

One year and a deep internal study later, a new structure and a new set of SIGs have emerged, along with newly elected leaders. Some SIGs are brand-new, reincarnated from a previous existence as a task force or set of committees. Those include Homeland Protection, Human Capital and Emerging Technology. Some are expansions or consolidations of old SIGs — Procurement and Acquisition, Networks and Telecommunications, and Information Security and Privacy. And three SIGs — eGovernment, Enterprise Architecture and Small Business — live on more or less in their earlier form.

The election cycles for SIG leadership have been synchronized so they now occur November through December. Soon, signing up for a SIG e-mail list will be as simple as going to the council's Web portal, and each SIG will make a major issues presentation during the annual Executive Leadership Conference.

Each SIG also is required to have a government advisory panel. "If the agenda is not government driven, you're not going to get any government attention," said Bill Piatt, the IAC vice chairman with responsibility over the SIGs.

That means this new set of SIGs isn't a one-time recalibration. "The nature of government is that the agenda does change from year to year," Piatt said. "We need to have the flexibility to change, with that agenda woven into the fabric."

Once a year, an advisory panel and the council vice chairman in charge of the SIGs will forward recommendations for change to the executive board. "The exception is that on an annual basis we will have some minor shifts," Piatt said.

Once a SIG outlives its usefulness, it should be shut down, Woods said. "Our hope is that they're going to be alive and well."




Tom Ragland, Apogen Technologies, vice president of homeland security, systems engineering/national security sector

On the agenda

With the leadership of the Homeland Security Department in transition, SIG members will examine the interaction and coordination among officials at DHS; the Department of Health and Human Services; and the Justice, Defense and State departments, which all have a stake in homeland protection.

The budget process needs to be addressed, such as funding shortfalls and providing line items for certain programs, such as the Homeland Security Data Network.

Deliverables: SIG members will issue four white papers on geographic information systems, wireless needs, updates on the dozen Homeland Security Presidential Directives and education about homeland security for congressional committees' leaders and staff.


"In this [shared interest group], we have currently 370 companies represented and more than 80 government representatives. The interest is huge and grows daily, and the group that cries out the loudest is the small-business group because they don't know how to work into this environment."




Tricia Iveson, SI International, director of information technology and business transformation

On the agenda

Now that many of the 24 e-government projects have been implemented, ways to measure the day-to-day effectiveness of the initiatives are needed.

SIG members will recommend that federal managers' skill sets for handling interagency projects be improved.

They will suggest enhancements to the operational model for cross-agency e-government projects.

Deliverables: The SIG plans to identify missing governance processes, recommend e-government performance metrics and develop tools for e-government managers to make sure their projects are widely adopted by the public.


"We're really going beyond just saying that we're going to automate this process and take advantage of shared services such as e-Clearance and

Recreation One-Stop. We're really trying to look at what needs to happen to effectively transform the business process."




Yvonne Zhou, president of Futrend Technology

Randy Michael, vice president for sales, MindBank Consulting Group

On the agenda

SIG members plan to work on finding ways to use IT to capture institutional memory.

They want to recommend improvements to the government recruiting process through e-government.

They also want to blend e-learning into regular training.

They will examine federal IT workers' salaries.

Deliverables: SIG members also will form a government advisory board and issue white papers to consider ways to use IT to improve workforce performance.


"We can contribute to finding a solution, whether to offer telework so those who are going to retire can stay longer or speed up hiring processes so the younger workers can acquire the knowledge as fast as they can before the retiring people are out the door," Zhou said.




Ed Silva, Infopro, director of business development

On the agenda

SIG members will look at the Small Business Administration's transformation plan, a five-year effort intended to shape the way SBA operates.

They will also work toward educating businesses, which need to get a better handle on establishing teaming arrangements for maximum return.

Deliverables: SIG members will establish a Small Business Advocacy Excellence award program as an incentive to federal officials to improve small business contracting.


"Because the reporting is inaccurate, we don't know where [small-business contracting] stands. Until those things are taken care of, and they are being taken care of little by little, we don't know."




Mary Ellen Condon, SRA International, vice president and deputy director of the Orion Center for Homeland Security

On the agenda

SIG members will focus on blending information security and privacy policies and on new technologies to enforce the policies.

They will explore challenges of implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, which calls for integrating federal building access security and computer access controls.

Group members plan to collaborate with the Enterprise Architecture SIG on security aspects of architecture planning.

They also plan to collaborate with the Homeland Protection SIG on homeland security planning.

Deliverables: SIG members want to create six working groups to focus on specific issues such as identity management and others and produce white papers on each issue.


"Privacy is a relatively new issue. ... But now that we're doing more information sharing and collaboration, people are seeing that

they need to be concerned about privacy."




Dave Nadler, attorney at Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky

On the agenda

SIG members plan to emphasize the SIG's role as an honest broker between industry and government, so that advice to government is vendor-neutral.

They also plan to collaborate with other SIGs on common issues such as homeland security and small-business contracting.

Deliverables: A series of monthly meetings will feature acquisition officials from various agencies as speakers.

A new government advisory board, consisting of five agency leaders, has been appointed and will guide the agenda for the year.


"We are clearly headed back to an era of increased oversight and scrutiny. ... The challenge, of course, is not to swing the pendulum too far in the other direction so as to reverse the important acquisition reforms of the 1990s."




Prashant Gaur, partner in Unisys' federal civilian agencies division

On the agenda

This SIG will work with agencies that heavily use emerging technologies, such as the General Services Administration and the Energy, Homeland Security and Defense departments.

Members also plan to ensure that new technology gets integrated into the enterprise architecture.

Deliverables: They plan to bring in industry leaders for roundtable meetings in the next few months that will focus on topics such as grid computing and service-oriented architecture.


"What we are trying to be really careful of is we're not pushing technology for the sake of technology. It's not a 'gee whiz' attitude, where [we say], 'Hey that's cool. Let's use it now.' "




Dan Twomey, marketing director in Altarum's enterprise solutions division

On the agenda

SIG members plan to identify gaps in the federal enterprise architecture. The reference models should make missing pieces apparent.

They will try to create a unifying framework to unite the five reference models, which were released individually.

They will encourage the use of enterprise architecture as a tool for transforming the enterprise, not just the back office.

Deliverables: SIG members will issue recommendations for reference model improvement and a revised framework review. They will update the IAC's white paper on reusable architecture components.


"Many of the people who will be working with these reference models and the overall framework will be contractors. We would like to give [government] broad industry reviews prior to something being a plan of record."




Charles Viator, executive consultant, Topside Consulting

On the agenda

SIG members will find new priorities beyond Networx and developing appropriate programs.

They will address the issue of transition and the adoption of new technologies and instill new ways of thinking in both agencies and companies.

Deliverables: They will create an advisory panel made up of government officials to keep the SIG focused on the most useful topics.


"It's an incredibly complex set of issues. I think if we as a SIG were to try to divine what we should do on our own, it's at best a 50/50 chance that we're going to provide value."

The Industry Advisory Council's shared interest groups outline their agendas for the coming year

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