“When it comes to navigating regulatory submission requirements on massive volumes of big data and related databases, there is no substitute for our experience.”
EM: During your time working with the federal government, how have you seen it evolve and in what ways do you think it could better foster innovation?
Robert Hahn: I have had the opportunity to work with many federal agencies over the past 35 years. The obvious changes during that time frame have included the development of many new government programs, the expansion of outsourcing, the shift to electronic delivery of services, and most recently the exponential growth in the availability of data and the commitment to using that data to improve the delivery of government services. Then of course there’s the technological shifts and the requirement to deliver services in a world marked by an increasingly challenging cybersecurity threat. While there are some notable exceptions, most agencies have found it difficult to keep up with the rapid changes in technology that have been taking place. This is particularly true for them at a time of rising mission requirements, constrained budgets and changing citizen expectations about what good customer service looks like.
Agencies no longer get a free pass for bad service because well, “it’s the government bureaucracy.” And while innovation continues to accelerate in the commercial sector, it often takes an unacceptable length of time for it to find its way into the government services people access on a daily basis. Three changes could help alleviate this frustrating situation and foster innovation:
- Create a sense of urgency. Long, slow project implementations hinder innovation. Many projects and programs are still being scheduled to be implemented over several years rather than in a few months or even weeks. Projects with lengthy durations are frequently obsolete before they even make it to production. Agile, flexible processes must be adopted and adapted to work in the government environment as they have in the private sector. Project cycle times (particularly software development) need to be reduced using DevOps and similar approaches which can help remove obstacles between development and delivery and cut across organizational silos within federal agencies. Short cycle times take advantage of the current technology and position an organization for future innovations.
- Fix the procurement process. Long procurement cycles also hinder innovation. Agency heads and program managers are no longer able to obtain the resources they need in a timely manner to implement the innovative approaches they do wish to put in place. With some procurement cycles for an RFP lasting up to three years, technology cycles have already refreshed twice while the agency procures obsolete systems to meet stale requirements. Industry protests during and after the process exacerbate this problem, but they are often the result of unclear RFP requirements and vague SOWs. The entire procurement process needs a major overhaul before change can be effected that will accelerate modernization or innovation. The layers and layers of regulations and processes that have been instituted to protect the public’s interest have become so problematic that they now harm the very public they were designed to protect.
- Attract and keep top technological talent. Despite the growth of contractors, the government will always need its own thought leaders, innovators, and subject matter experts who can champion the cause of innovation. To achieve this goal, federal hiring practices and compensation models need the same end-to-end overhaul that federal procurement does. As mission requirements change, agencies need to be able to hire quickly and, when necessary, refresh their pool of experts. The mantra must be “skills, not seniority” when selecting personnel to lead innovative projects. And once in an agency, employees need greater ability to move around within and between agencies and, at times, skip levels of the standard General Service grade and step schedule. Top talent will no longer wait 5-10 years until it’s “their turn” to make a meaningful contribution.
EM: What are the challenges you see in the market currently, and how do you think they can be overcome?
Robert Hahn: The federal government market is suffering from a great deal of uncertainty right now. This is true on both the agency side and the government contractor side. Some of it is due to mission requirements, some to budget changes (both increases and decreases), and some to the pace of technological change. Many government programs are faced with having to stretch their resources much further than they had imagined at this time last year. Others are seeking innovative ways to meet tomorrow’s requirements with today’s legacy systems. Still others are being asked to reinvent themselves to better reflect the current Administration’s priorities. In the past we were primarily looking at such things as automating manual processors, turning mainframe systems into client servers, creating object oriented databases and programming. Today it is about digital process transformation, not just IT modernization. Couple that with increasing demands for security, mobility, cloud-based applications, and “as-a-service” models and “modernization” takes on a whole different meaning.
EM: What new market opportunities do you see Reed Tech pursuing?
Robert Hahn: As a subsidiary of LexisNexis, we are well versed in the aggregation, analysis, and use of large data sets to help government solve its toughest challenges. This is especially true for programs that require the cooperation and sharing of information between agencies and with the private sector. We have the experience and tools to enable agencies to achieve transformative change in the way they deliver citizen services within the federal landscape. For government and regulatory agencies nationwide, streamlining processes, digitizing information, improving citizen service and providing round-the-clock access to government services has become the prime motivation for engaging solutions from Reed Tech.
When it comes to navigating regulatory submission requirements on massive volumes of big data and related databases, there is no substitute for our experience. Our ability to effectively collect, capture, validate, convert, submit and maintain data using processes that ensure the accuracy and completeness of the record will meet the most stringent compliance requirements for the most complex tasks.