Piatt: The key word is 'shared'

The SIGs were formed to focus on areas of common interest to government and industry By Bill Piatt

When the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils, now the American Council for Technology,

created the Industry Advisory Council in 1990, the purpose of the organization was to provide vendor-neutral

industry input into reforming the federal government's

information technology procurement processes. There was a shared sense of urgency that the Brooks Act was seriously broken and it was essential to develop alternative approaches to IT acquisition.

The shared interest groups (SIGs) were formed to focus on areas of common interest to government and industry. During the next decade, the roster grew from a single telecommunications SIG to more than eight groups. They varied in their breadth of interests, activity levels, organization and ability to generate valuable insights for government colleagues.

Shortcomings aside, their impressive track record in 2004 included testifying before Congress, producing more than a dozen white papers and holding more than 50 events that provided vendor-neutral, industry-informed feedback to specific agencies and the entire government.

To sharpen the SIGs' focus and further enhance their value, IAC commissioned a comprehensive review of the groups in spring 2004. Drawing on input from a cross-section of government and industry, the review team found that government and industry officials still want to pursue shared interests. However, the consistency, transparency and scope of the SIGs needed to be refined to maximize their benefits.

Officials at IAC, in close collaboration with ACT, have restructured and relaunched their SIGs during the past six months. Three of them are essentially unchanged: Enterprise Architecture, eGovernment and Small Business; three have been revamped to change their focus areas: Information Security and Privacy, Networks and Telecommunications, and Procurement and Acquisition; and three are new: Emerging Technology, Homeland Protection and Human Capital.

The new structure allows the SIGs to better integrate with the fabric of IAC and ACT. It also brings new challenges and responsibilities. For example, the SIGs will have a formal role in IAC's Executive Leadership Conference, and the SIGs are responsible for the content of all IAC general membership meetings. They are working more closely with those who are coordinating the professional development activities of ACT/IAC. In addition, they are exploring alliances with other organizations that have complementary missions.

The SIGs completed elections in January to select their leadership teams by using a coordinated and consistent process. The transparency of the elections sparked great interest and participation. The newly reconstituted SIGs met with their government advisory panels in January to craft 2005 agendas that are relevant to government interests.

The SIGs will present their proposedplans this month to the Executive Board's SIG Advisory Panel to ensure that they are aligned with government priorities. But throughout the year, the SIGs will do what they were originally created to do: give industry a unified voice to improve government policies and practices.

They are off to a great start.

Piatt is a partner at Unisys and IAC's vice chairman overseeing the SIGs.

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