Comment

How big companies drive innovation in government IT

Shutterstock image (by Makkuro GL): crowdsourcing innovation. 

 

I read with interest -- and some concern -- the Sept. 27 commentary on FCW.com titled "The true source of innovation in federal IT." Although the author discusses several issues related to the limited abilities of large IT companies to bring innovation to the government, I have a different perspective on how innovation happens.

Some large IT companies are leading the charge in bringing cutting-edge technology and forward-thinking solutions to support the important missions of the U.S. government. The pace of change might not be happening as quickly as we would like, but it is happening. And despite differing opinions, several IT companies are well positioned to drive innovation and lead the government to next-generation IT infrastructure and applications.

In the past 10 years, the industry landscape has changed dramatically with the emergence of commercial cloud platform providers moving into the government space and the abundance of new technology companies that bring their own "special sauce" to the game.

At the same time, the federal IT market has been challenged to drive down costs while creating new programs such as 18F and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, which are trying hard to stimulate innovation in government, with mixed success. However, those efforts are to be applauded.

With all that in mind, it's clear that large federal IT contractors are finding innovative ways to help the government be more efficient, improve user experiences and better serve our citizens. The key is not necessarily the size of those companies but the people who work for them. They have years of experience in partnering with government colleagues to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape. They have a deep understanding of agency missions and a strong grasp of how to work with government from an acquisition perspective.

Further, those large IT companies understand the broad technology landscape, and they range from the big cloud platform providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, to the emerging technology companies that reside in places such as Silicon Valley; Austin, Texas; Boston; and the Northern Virginia technology corridor.

I believe that government agencies benefit from the ability of large IT contractors to fuse emerging technologies and approaches so that the government can achieve the flexibility and cost efficiencies it seeks while ensuring that solutions and services are secure, flexible, scalable and in alignment with the government's need to manage risk.

Innovation is happening every day, and it is encouraging to see. Acquisition reform and approval of the IT Modernization Fund would further accelerate the adoption of next-generation solutions and services, but in the meantime, we must constantly push ourselves to do better.

The contractors that drive change are the ones that forge great partnerships with government agencies, commercial cloud platform providers and the best emerging technology companies. Large federal IT contractors are uniquely positioned to do all that because of their domain expertise, broad understanding of the technology spectrum and landscape, ability to innovate at scale across multiple agencies, and their knowledge and expertise in navigating complex acquisition processes and contract vehicles.

About the Author

As CSRA's CTO, Yogesh Khanna provides leadership and expertise in the area of next-generation IT and its application to solving complex problems for federal customers.

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