Why good technology fails

The missing link is the connection between mission and innovation

Recent studies show that IT may not be top of mind for many federal executives.

According to a study by Meritalk, the bigger concern for 52 percent of federal non-IT executives is streamlining business processes. Thirty-nine percent point to cutting waste.

More than half of the federal executives surveyed see IT as a cost, not an opportunity.

There’s a reason for this, according to Nick Combs, chief technology officer for EMC Corp.’s federal business: IT leaders can get sidetracked and lose sight of the mission at hand.

When new developments like cloud computing hit the market, IT leaders can get caught up with the excitement of a new technology. They don’t take the time to connect the technology to the mission, Combs said.

Sometimes, we might be so ready for a solution to current problems that we lose sight of the necessary process by which we reach these solutions. We are lured by the promise of an easy answer, praying for silver bullets, just as Washington Technology Editor Nick Wakeman says in his latest Business Beat blog.

According to Combs, what matters is not developing the newest product with the grandest of capabilities; instead, what matters is making the connection between the new technology and the agency’s mission. We should be asking: what sorts of problems is this potential product meant to solve?

To this end, Combs said that we need what he calls “knowledge managers,” people who have some technological expertise but more importantly can articulate the mission that these new innovations can help meet.

The opportunity for contractors is to provide the knowledge managers who can make the connection between the mission and the technology.

Knowledge managers could be the necessary glue that has been lacking as technologies like cloud computing progress. If the mission is secure in the minds of those making these technologies, then we might benefit from a product that isn’t just new, but one that fulfills its promise.

About the Author

Mark Hoover is a senior staff writer with Washington Technology. You can contact him at, or connect with him on Twitter at @mhooverWT.

Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 3, 2012 Evan Scott DC

Terrific opinion piece.I am sharing with our clients who are excited about their products but have no clue on how to sell into the federal government.Chief Knowlege Officer is another name for Account Executives.We could not agree with you more.

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