How smaller budget may mean more business

Budget cuts might create more business for systems integrators. What three trends must you understand?

The budget debate rages on in Congress with recent proposals aiming to provide cuts in the trillions of dollars. Tomorrow’s budgets will require agencies to significantly decrease spending and hold themselves accountable for investment decisions. The question remains: Where will all the savings come from?

And more importantly, what will be the effects on the government’s ability to deliver on its mission? All this while the pace and desire to keep up with new technology is advancing faster than ever.

Large programs and the systems integrators that hold those contracts will be the first to come under fire. Integrators will be asked to provide similar levels of service at significantly decreased rates and with less man-power resources, resulting in a shift away from pricey on-site support and the old “butts in seats” mentality.

Instead, agencies and integrators alike will be looking for new approaches to solve new challenges, relying more on “best value,” commercial-off-the-shelf solutions rather than expensive, time consuming, and resource intensive custom-built systems to provide cost efficiencies and increased capabilities.

As crazy as it might seem – even with the most demanding cost-cutting mandates that the government has seen in decades – there are some potential winners in the contractor community: focused, COTS players. By adopting a more COTS-based approach, integrators will be able to provide new levels of capabilities and show tangible cost-savings to agencies. This approach will also lead to three distinct trends:

1. Faster adoption
Relying on proven, tested COTS solutions will increase the speed of acceptance and integration of newer, popular, and proven technologies into government programs. As integrators become more comfortable leveraging solutions that have been previously vetted to work effectively, the general adoption of these technologies will move at a faster pace, ensuring the integrator community actually delivers on the “faster, cheaper, better” moniker. It will also help in getting new technologies to market quicker, enabling the government to adopt cutting-edge solutions sooner than ever before.

2. Accelerated certifications
Securing communications remains a top priority with the recent major network breaches in the commercial market, a government besieged by an influx of attempted – and often successful – attacks, and the ever present role of international cyber warfare. By moving to a more COTS-based approach to systems integration, the government will actually be more secure and achieve it at an accelerated rate. State-of-the-art public cryptographic algorithms enable vendors to certify COTS products through processes such as NSA Suite B or NIST FIPS for integration into secure networks, simplifying the complex and slow Type 1 certification process previously used. By integrating approved COTS products into an overall system, the integrator and the agency reduce risk, save time, increase functionality, and minimize spending.

3. Opportunity
The integration of COTS will clearly provide a significant opportunity for focused vendors to benefit and contribute. Just as innovative startup companies can make significant contributions to the commercial market, companies that are focused on a specific technology with the needs of the government in mind are, more often than not, better suited to provide that offering. These companies work to become experts in a given field and remain focused and agile, rather than attempting to be everything to everyone. Integrators will be able to hand select the best technologies that can help them develop better systems for the government and deliver real value. We call this COTS+: Commercial-of-the-shelf technology specifically packaged and implemented to answer the needs of the unique customer.

Drastic budget cuts in the federal government are inevitable. In order to maintain their footprint in large programs, integrators must adopt new philosophies and approaches that not only continue providing exceptional development support, but also take into account that the government is simply going to be spending less. Establishing partnerships with trusted COTS providers will help integrators move in the right direction, enabling them to provide the same, or better, capabilities while limiting the government-funded efforts, multi-year development cycles, and restricted adoption. In all, it will help agencies meet their mission requirements with a best value approach, while operating within the cost-cutting pressures associated with decreased budgets.

Integrators, who take the initiative to lead this effort by proactively presenting agencies with alternative solutions to their complex challenges, will immediately reap the benefits. They must engage the COTS community to get this done. As crazy as it may seem, COTS providers will benefit from a smaller federal budget.