Encouraging innovation in the federal government – a Q&A with Nick Wakeman

Next Friday, December 2, 2016, ACG National Capital is partnering with MITRE to host the Washington Technology Showcase – an exciting event that brings together the ACG membership with other local business leaders and technologists to discuss innovation and the new technologies being developed for the public and private sector.

The Showcase, which has been themed, “Building the Innovation Bridge,” will feature local small, startup and emerging growth technology companies that are working on innovative and exciting new technologies. It will also feature panel and keynote discussions from some of the local areas top thought leaders and decision makers, discussing some of the different technology fields and areas that are seeing rapid innovation and growth, and the government’s process for acquiring these technologies.

One of the moderated discussions during the Showcase is entitled, “Innovation and Technology in the Government Acquisition Process.” That panel will be moderated by someone with keen knowledge of the federal government, its pain points and the technologies that are at the forefront of their IT spending priorities – Nick Wakeman, the Executive Editor of Washington Technology.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Nick to learn more about the innovative solutions that are of most interest to the government today, and what the federal government must do to encourage startups and emerging growth technology firms to enter the government market.

Here is what he had to say:

wakemanCorporate Growth, Capital Style (CGCS): The theme of the upcoming Washington Technology Showcase is, “Building the Innovation Bridge.” What role will private enterprise play in building that bridge for the federal government and military? Is this a larger role than it used to play in the past?

Nick Wakeman: Private enterprise plays a critical role in bringing innovation to the government and over the last 5 to 10 years we’ve seen a lot of technology come into the government that had their roots as consumer technologies. I’m thinking smart phones and apps and mobility.

Because of budget and resource constraints the government has increased its use of commercial technologies. Smart government buyers know they don’t want to build something; they want to buy something that has plenty of commercial customers so that the vendor (the innovator) will continue to invest in the product or solution. If the government is the only customer, then the government has pay for development and that gets very expensive.

So I think the role of the private has always been large in bringing innovation but the role is getting larger. And that’s a good thing.

The government needs to improve how it buys so that it doesn’t discourage companies from entering the government market.

CGCS: What are the hot technologies that are in the most demand across the federal government today? Is this universal across the government, or does it vary based on agency and community?

Nick Wakeman: Cyber, mobile, big data, data analytics, cloud. Those are the biggies right now and probably will be for some time. On the horizon is the Internet of Things, automation and machine learning.

I think these are pretty universal across government. You might see varying degrees from agency to agency, with one agency being more interested in mobile than another, for example. But they all have a need in mobile. The same goes with big data, analytics and cloud.

And, of course, cyber. Everyone needs cyber.

CGCS: What trends and challenges are driving interest in these technologies? What are the current pain points impacting IT spending within government agencies and military branches?

Nick Wakeman: The biggest pain point is money and budgets. Fewer people doing the same or more of the work. Also, the government is bogged down with legacy systems that suck up resources and aren’t expanding any capabilities. So the cloud and automation and other technologies offer the hope of reducing the resources needed to maintain these systems so resources can be shifted to the mission.

So you have the budget, legacy systems that demand resources, and missions that continue to grow. These pain points help drive the need for new technologies and innovation.

ACG National Capital and MITRE are collaborating on another exciting technology event, the upcoming Washington Technology Showcase. This event, which will be held on Friday, December 2, 2016, will feature even more of the most exciting and innovative new technology companies in the region. For additional information and to register online, click HERE.

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