Why InfoZen is so pumped about a $12M DHS contract

InfoZen gets tapped by the Homeland Security Department to take "IT to a whole new level." Here's the inside story on what the company will be doing and how it could be a model for other projects.

Over the past few decades, the federal government hasn’t exactly developed a reputation for being quick on the technological draw.

But one agency – and a happy partner – is seeking to change all that.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is transitioning to a paperless electronic immigration system, and the agency has brought Bethesda, Md.-based InfoZen on board to support the project.

“(USCIS is) trying to get this all right,” said Raj Ananthanpillai, who serves as chairman, CEO and president of InfoZen. “They’re taking IT to a whole new level.”

USCIS, a Homeland Security Department agency, awarded InfoZen a $12 million contract that will entail integrating work products of up to twenty agile development teams and establishing a modernized, reusable code base for the agency, employing open source tools to provide continuous software integration.

USCIS is one of the “pockets of excellence” found throughout the federal government, seeking nimble operations and quick turnaround instead of a slow, traditional approach, Ananthanpillai said.

In fact, Ananthanpillai used a number of adjectives not typically associated with government agencies to describe the USCIS transformation, saying, “They’ve been a leader in (developing) modular, agile, lean, frictionless processes.”

“There’s not a whole lot of bureaucracy, it’s not a monolithic system,” Ananthanpillai told WT. “Sometimes there’s not that reciprocity on the government side, (but in this case there is) such a perfect alignment of our core values and (USCIS’) goals.”

Gone are the days of proprietary systems “keeping things locked up for ages,” or the major projects that take five years to implement, Ananthanpillai said.

Instead, InfoZen and USCIS will collaborate to create a flexible, dynamic system that allows the agency to move quickly and competently in the digital space.

Emphasizing the agile nature of the development process, Ananthanpillai said InfoZen will strike a balance between open source and proprietary tools, keeping core systems secure while enabling painless cross-fertilization between development teams.

If all goes well, the InfoZen contract could set a standard for improving federal IT processes.

In the InfoZen news release on the contract award, Ananthanpillai said, “We believe (this contract) can be a model for other agencies looking to leverage agile software development practices… to enable rapid delivery of high quality software.”

InfoZen has tackled similar challenges before, Ananthanpillai said, and the company is eager to streamline the immigration process.

“That’s why I’m so pumped,” he said.