A few minutes with...Ray Kane

Ray Kane, at 80, is still a force in the federal information technology community. In 42 years, he achieved a near legendary reputation as an IT business development consultant. These days, Kane gets a kick out of carrying a business card with nothing on it but his name and contact information — he’s that well-known. His friends remark that he still has his trademark sense of humor and even a few leftover copies of the 2-inch by 1-inch business card he handed out 25 years ago. The tiny card, printed in 6-point type, states: “The lack of business from you has made this economy size card necessary.”
We caught up with Kane on the eve of his 80th birthday.

What do you remember as the high and low points in 42 years of federal IT history?

Kane: We went through a very litigious period [in the mid ‘80s to mid ‘90s]. Even companies that held the previous contract — if they lost, they would automatically protest to keep the revenue stream running. I’m glad that’s gone. Today, we don’t see as many protests. If you get turned out, it’s usually the government saying, “We’ve had enough.”

We’ve done some good things in our industry that I’m very proud of. One would be Y2K, a date we could not negotiate away. It was a real problem because so many legacy systems could not recognize the Year 2000. Everyone hunkered down and got the job done. A lot of it meant buying and installing new systems that did not have the problem.

The 9/11 attacks brought out another good thing about our industry. Most companies immediately said to the government, “What do you need? Here it is. We’ll give it to you.” They had trucks with hardware on them backed up at the National Security Agency. A lot of it wasn’t taken and wasn’t used, but it was there if they needed it. No one ever said, “Is there going to be a contract? How am I going to get paid?” I was very proud of our industry at that point in time.

Do you remember what you were doing in 1987, the year Federal Computer Week began as a publication?

Kane: I was working at System Development Corp. It was the professional services arm of Unisys. We had about 4,000 people on-site in government facilities doing mostly facilities management — managing data centers. They ran the utility, and they were quite good.

We’ve come full circle, haven’t we?

: I look at grid computing now. To me, that’s time-sharing. That’s the circle coming back.

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