Greg Wenzel, a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, is one of several company leaders for the firm’s organization focused on new ideas and concepts related to technology — the Strategic Innovation Group.
In a January 2014 interview with ExecutiveBiz, Wenzel overviewed the firm’s push to help its public sector partners adopt an enterprise approach for C4ISR and apply data science analytics.
Wenzel recently caught back up with ExecutiveBiz to discuss his areas of focus at Booz Allen’s SIG group, potential applications of the Internet of Things in the public sector and how government ownership of intellectual property affects the technology development process.
ExecutiveBiz: What have you focused much of your attention on since we last talked?
Greg Wenzel: I’ve been primarily focused on our new digital initiative within the firm’s Strategic Innovation Group, creating the framework and solutions that address our client’s most pressing challenges.
ExecutiveBiz: Could you walk us through the SIG's Digital initiative and some of the areas it focuses on?
Greg Wenzel: In our personal life we live in the digital ecosystem, where we use a multitude of different apps for several things from entertainment reservations, navigation, and transportation to identifying our interests and making recommendations based on who we are. We are trying to apply the digital ecosystem technologies of social, mobile, analytics, and cloud for our federal clients that focus on the digital citizen, warrior, and workforce.
Digital citizen, as the name depicts, is where the government provides digital services to our citizens. Examples are tax payers getting access to IRS services, health services from the VA, and making reservations to use our American parklands.
Digital workforce refers to the digital solutions that create new ways of working for our government clients. A lot of business processes are still based on paper so we are working to leverage the new social and mobile components of the ecosystem. An example of digital workforce would be digital inspectors going beyond their current workplace and entering information with a mobile device instead of writing down paper comments.
We could offer secure solutions for federal digital health providers where doctors or nurses carry an iPad into a hospital room and it immediately uploads patient information and erases itself upon leaving the room instead of the usual clipboard at the end of the bed, which is a standard of the past.
Digital warrior includes digital soldier, commander and logistician solutions. The soldier has a bandwidth disadvantage because he actually doesn’t have ubiquitous Internet access in the field. So, we are finding ways of providing the soldier with devices and connecting them into the larger warfighter enterprise of networked C4ISR systems. The commander solution means commanders now get information together by using digital technologies so that they can make smarter and better decisions.
Finally, our military logistics still follow the old inefficient process of having 10 times the supplies so that our war fighters will want for nothing while in combat. The intent is good but the solutions are a little dated causing massive extra costs. Digital logistician solutions involve finding ways to understand the logistics supply chain and emulate a Walmart model where there is an automatic reorder once supplies reach a certain level.
ExecutiveBiz: What areas of the Internet of Things has Booz Allen identified as key?
Greg Wenzel: We are focused on helping our clients realize the value proposition of Internet of Things, which is a fully interconnected ecosystem of things that create smart solutions vs. the individual parts. We can provide individual point solutions but focus on the really hard problem of helping our clients establish and secure the open IoT ecosystem which is not available in the federal space like it is in our personal lives.
We will need an open, secure ecosystem that allows devices to interact and communicate so that they truly get the value out of it. There’s going to be a need for a different type of integrator that creates that open IoT ecosystem. Security and privacy are going to be huge because people aren’t going to move into that space unless they know their information is secure and private.
We see potential in the health, energy and defense sectors – things around smart hospitals, smart cities and buildings, smart logistics and soldiers. The logistics community has already been doing IoT-like “things“ but in one-off point solutions. An open IoT can help the logisticians understand their supply chain and be more efficient in that space.
ExecutiveBiz: What can GovCon industry do to make technologies more interactive for the user?
Greg Wenzel: GovCon industry should focus on the experience and not just the presentation of data. We build IT systems that only present the data but we should think of the success Apple had with interactive. Use intuitive design up front and then take it to the next level where the software reacts to the input from the user. It responds to the input and adjusts and changes based on the user’s preference. We can make the analogy to human-to-human interaction.
We react and respond based on inputs, both oral and visual communication. Nirvana would be that technologies learn and adjust to the style of the end user experience. I wonder if once the technologies have matured enough, maybe we can get back to the future of artificial intelligence that we have been trying to attain for decades. We could get our solutions and software to move in the space where they start learning users' interactions.
There is so much data out there. As more devices come online and as we move to the Internet of everything, we will get more inundated with data. So we should be focusing on the experience and the software's reaction to the user.
ExecutiveBiz: How does government ownership of intellectual property change the tech development process?
Greg Wenzel: Industry truly has an ecosystem that allows consumers to interact successfully and all the apps allow people to have entertainment and social activities. The federal space does not have this ecosystem and it still operates in the traditional stove-pipe system. If the government takes back some ownership of the intellectual property, it can create an open ecosystem that will allow each one of the traditional system integrators to provide more, smaller things that are already interconnected.
It changes the tech development process by shortening it. It breaks the large monolithic thing that has taken years to field into smaller pieces operating as an enterprise or an ecosystem. It makes it more agile and allows the government to buy smaller interconnected interoperable things instead of buying the traditionally large monolithic thing and connect it to something else after the fact.
It will allow us to get to the nirvana of agile IT development. There would be a more competitive ecosystem of more, smaller procurements and the best of industry gets to play but they are now providing a piece of this enterprise that interacts with everything else. And just remember the best government developed IP was the Internet itself.