Selling innovation properly

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Cutting-edge technologies cannot be pitched to the government in a vacuum, members of a panel discussion said today.

The public sector risks falling behind unless innovative solutions are routinely proposed and bought by the government, said Mark Forman, former Office of Management and Budget administrator for e-government and information technology. But agencies don't buy technology simply to have the latest products, Forman said, speaking on a panel today at the annual conference.

Cutting-edge technologies have to mesh with existing technology, and businesses should be able to show how the new solution will be incorporated into today’s environment, said Scott Hastings, chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. Innovation doesn’t "mean chuck your legacy solutions that we got," Hastings said. "It means further enabling them."

User needs should guide technology solutions, said Kevin Carroll, program executive officer of the Army’s enterprise information systems. For example, when the Army bought a commercial wireless network system for use on the battlefield, acquisition officers eschewed solutions that offered to much capability.

The Army needed "something that you can hook up yourself and make it work," he said. "Show how a common everyday soldier can pick this stuff up and use it."

Government needs to better recognize innovation, Carroll said, adding that the culture often discourages assuming the kind of risk that innovative technologies bring. “The only way to do it is through bravery,” he said.

Although risk is inherent in IT, "it's not taking the risks that matter," Forman said. "It's achieving the performance that matters."

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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