Q&A

Casey Coleman's take on what's next for federal IT

Casey Coleman

Casey Coleman of AT&T Government Solutions

It's been exactly one year since Casey Coleman started her new role as client executive vice president at AT&T Government Solutions. But her time on the industry side of the table still pales in comparison to her 12 years at GSA, and Coleman said the understanding of federal IT operations she gained there has been invaluable when working with government customers.

Here are excerpts from her conversation with FCW. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

You've been in the saddle at AT&T for a year. What has your focus been?

We're a company that's doing really impactful work that I, as a former CIO, can really appreciate. My role here is really to connect our customers with the solutions they need to help fulfill their mission, to strengthen and grow our relationships and to understand the missions of those agencies and what they're trying to achieve and to help map together solutions that will help them to fulfill their missions and meet their critical compliance challenges.

How has your experience in government translated to this new role?

There are two key benefits, having been a federal senior executive for many years and an agency CIO. I think that I understand the challenges they face, the initiatives they're trying to accomplish and the environments in which they need to operate successfully. So I hope that helps me to be empathetic and critical as a partner from industry to have conversations that really get to the heart of what they're trying to achieve and how we might potentially be able to help them.

Secondly, the federal leadership roles are so challenging because there are so many stakeholders you have to be accountable to. So in order to be successful it's really a team sport; you develop skills in building coalitions and helping to bridge differences and create common points of understanding that you can use as a way to move forward. Those leadership skills and coalition building and people skills will serve you well in any role.

What projects are you involved in in the next year that you're most excited about?

One of the things I'm most excited about is this broad trend of convergence in our industry, and it's the convergence of a lot of different technologies in a way that's very synergistic. For example, traditional network-based solutions and mobility solutions. It used to be the case that mobile devices were for email or for checking your calendar. Now that is the way everyone gets their work done. And it allows federal employees and organizations to be effective wherever they are with any device anytime. The convergence of those solutions is something we're at the forefront of, and I'm involved in projects to help federal -- mainly civilian -- agencies, to utilize mobility solutions more effectively.

Another development I'm excited about is in the area of emerging technology like the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine communications. Those two ideas overlap, but the whole idea is that everything can be connected to the Internet through sensors and monitors. And so in areas where federal agencies have challenges such as transportation, supply chain management, managing fleets and managing buildings with smart-building technology, these are areas where they can utilize the Internet of Things to monitor and to manage distributed systems of physical infrastructure in a way that's efficient, secure and give them the ability to have transparency into the operations and ensure proper maintenance and secure communications. It's a promising area.

Are those conversations about the Internet of Things going on right now?

We are in the early stages of the adoption of the technology. You see a lot of use cases emerge that offer a lot of promise, and there are some early implementations, but there is more work need to make it a completely robust, fully deployed solution. And one of those areas is in the adoption of common standards so that various industry organizations that are part of the Internet of Things ecosystem have solutions that can interact with each other and talk to each other.

You're seeing a lot of interest by agencies. You can see that by the number of conversations taking place. It's a big trend that's going to touch a lot of industries in a lot of ways.

What federal IT trends do you expect to see over the next year?

I think we're going to be hearing more about this acronym SMAC -- social, mobile, analytics, and cloud -- it's another element of the whole convergence trend. Any one of these things is a big deal by itself, but when you put them together, you have some synergistic capabilities to do things you couldn't do before. Let's look back at that Internet of Things example, of a building that's being managed through sensor-based technology. That's the Internet of things, but when you add the cloud to it, you can then collect data from numerous buildings and you can start to look at the aggregation of data from those buildings and make some forward-looking projections.

Then when you add mobility to that -- for example, a building manager would be able to take a mobile device through the building and take notes on maintenance issues that need attention -- instead of having to take a clipboard, write everything down and then enter it into a computer after.

Then there's the social aspect. Occupants of the building can use a social forum or a form of social media, and take note of the issues they see in the building and communicate those. All four of those trends coming together create a really powerful environment for doing things more effectively. Doing things in a way that's not just doing old work more effectively, but also doing things you couldn't do before.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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