Do you know your customers' top 5 challenges?

Leading CTOs explain the biggest challenges -- and your opportunities -- that government agencies face today.

According to the 2011 Northern Virginia Technology Council-Washington Technology CTO Innovation Award winners, the biggest challenges facing government right now are:

Money. Although the government will still spend tens of billions of dollars on IT solutions and services this year, they are facing a more austere financial future. “Our customers are fixated on the dollars right now because change downward in budget is always hard, even if in percentage terms, it’s a fairly modest change,” said Neil Siegel, vice president and chief engineer of Northrop Grumman’s Technical and Engineering Group. To overcome this challenge, he and his team will “re-engineer the customer’s business processes to be better, and better in the sense of moving them to a new price-performance plateau that gives them more capability for materially less money,” said Siegel, noting that the strategy worked extremely well for him when the Defense Department experienced budget cuts in the aftermath of the Cold War.

Transformation. Government not only needs streamlined, cost-efficient processes but it is constantly in need of new and better ways of accomplishing the mission. Tim Hoechst, co-founder and CTO of Agilex, said that being able to leverage the government’s full sets of data through advanced analytical techniques will be a game changer in terms of improving the value of government services, ferreting out fraud and reducing costs. Another technology strategy that Hoechst will employ is to address the transformation challenge in the “compute cloud,” which spreads the various application needs of a major solution across a cloud of computing resources. “The idea is that instead of buying high-end, specialized, expensive pieces of hardware, I can instead buy lots of little commodity machines and have them cooperate to solve hard problems,” he said.

Oceans of data. H. Gilbert Miller, corporate vice president and CTO of Noblis, says there exists a growing need for high-performance computing resources to help organizations accomplish the complex analytics and modeling and simulation needed to successfully address what is often called the “oceans of data” problem. High-performance computing, whether using a supercomputer or clusters of computers that maximize processing power, can enable organizations to bring together disparate data that appears to have very little relationship and create actionable information. Areas especially ripe for this type of computing are national security, health care, climatology, aviation, finance and benefits and network resilience and security. 

Cyber vulnerability. The cyber threat to government networks and resources is much more profound than most people think, and “the commercial response to it has been, quite frankly, anemic,” said Neil Siegel, vice president and chief engineer for Northrop Grumman’s Technical and Engineering Group. As such, his company is focused heavily on developing government-specific cybersecurity solutions. “The government, and especially the military, has lots of special problems in this area,” he said. “And agency executives are really waking up to the depth and breadth of the cyber problem and they are going to want to see much more powerful answers than the market has provided to this point.”

Going mobile. Hoechst notes that only a year ago, companies like his still had to convince agencies to take advantage of the growing availability of mobile devices. No longer. “They are now moving ahead adopting what is a fundamentally different technology at the fastest rate I’ve ever seen in government,” he said. However, challenges abound, not the least of which is the heterogeneous nature of the various mobile platforms and issues surrounding systems management, security and policy. “These are going to be important, interesting dimensions of the dialogue, but make no mistake: The dialogue is going to happen,” he said.

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