Buzz of the Week: Blue week for Big Blue

It must have been a long week for Todd Ramsey. The newly appointed managing director of IBM’s U.S. federal business faced a bleak time when the Environmental Protection Agency added the computer giant to the government’s Excluded Parties List Web site.

The March 27 posting, news of which finally broke March 31, was the topic of discussion for most of last week. The issue was on everybody’s mind, even Clay Johnson’s, the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management.

At the Azimuth Awards dinner April 1, Johnson announced that the industry recipient was IBM’s Steve Ballmer — except that Ballmer, of course, is with Microsoft. Clearly it was a slip of the tongue, but it was also an indication that IBM was literally on the tip of everybody’s tongue.

The IBM story touched just about everybody:

  • Agencies were left wondering whether they could still buy the company’s nonservice offerings.

  • Procurement and acquisition employees faced the unenviable prospect of rewriting mountains of contracts.

  • Resellers were erroneously told at one point that they could not resell IBM products.

  • Some vendors who have partnered with IBM were already pondering their next moves.

The week’s events transpired quickly, from the discovery that IBM was prohibited from doing business with the federal government to the agreement late April 3 between IBM and EPA that allowed the computer giant back into the government market.

But many questions remain unanswered. What are the facts of the dispute that resulted in the ban? Is there still an official inquiry? And there are broader questions about whether there should be a process that gives parties advance notice before a company the size of IBM is summarily suspended.

The story clearly isn’t over, but by the end of last week, most people were reassured that calmer minds had found a way to resolve the dispute while also enabling agencies to do their jobs.

So Ramsey might not be getting eight hours of sleep quite yet, but he is no doubt sleeping better than he did last week.


#2: Azimuth Awards
David Wennergren, deputy chief information officer at the Defense Department, received the 2008 Azimuth Award for government from the CIO Council, and Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive officer, received the council’s award for industry at an event last week in Washington. “It’s been a fascinating career,” Wennergren said in accepting the award, and he said it has been great to work with energetic young people, the council's members and leaders in the information technology community. Karen Evans, administrator for e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, said Wennergren is a voice of reason on the council when OMB officials share their thoughts with the members.

#3: Alliant round No. 2
The virus of faulty metrics has spread from the now-suspended Alliant contract to the Alliant Small Business contract for information technology services. The General Services Administration announced last week that it would re-examine the awards it made in December to 62 small businesses. The condemnation of Federal Claims Court Judge Francis Allegra must still be ringing in GSA’s ears. Displaying a penchant for pungency, Allegra faulted GSA in the Alliant case for attaching “talismanic significance to technical calculations that suffer from false precision.” That’s not the way you want to assess a bidder’s past performance.

#4: DISA: This beats driving
More than 2,500 of the 4,000 employees at the Defense Information Systems Agency have been deemed eligible to participate in DISA’s telework program. The agency developed a Web application that employees use to register for the program. The same application validates their eligibility for DISA’s reimbursement program for high-speed Internet services at their remote workplaces. We found the telework update in the oddly titled “Collection of Human Capital Practices,” a newly released publication of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council.

#5: Web 2.0 misconceptions
At the FOSE conference last week, a panel of experts that included the founders of the intelligence community’s Intellipedia wiki challenged some common perceptions about next-
generation Web applications. The panel disputed the notion that younger people adopt Web 2.0 tools more easily than do older people. The CIA’s Intellipedia and Enterprise 2.0 evangelist, Sean
Dennehy, said the barriers that prevent organizations from adopting new Web technologies are 90 percent cultural. But that culture is changing. Dennehy’s prediction: The next generation of subject-matter experts will be the analysts who willingly post information to share it within the intelligence community.

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