A former Defense Department chief information officer cautions industry to stay away from sales pitches focused on collecting more data, which agencies already have too much of.
More than any development of a cutting-edge technology, data will drive opportunities in the government market for years to come.
Agencies do not need more data and already have too much of it, according to former Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halverson.
Speaking at the ImmixGroup Government IT Sales Summit on Thursday, Halverson said he knew during his time at DOD that the department was wasting massive amounts of data.
“On our best day, we threw 85% of our data away,” said Halvorsen, now business development leader for IBM's federal division. “We had a nice term for it: digital waste.”
ImmixGroup's summit is a gathering of IT solutions providers, systems integrators and manufacturers that are looking to learn about the public sector market and build relationships across industry.
Halvorsen had this word of caution for companies whose sales pitch is to help agencies gather more data: “You may not get the best response."
He said companies should instead focus on helping agencies better manage and store that data. But above all, glean intelligence and make better decisions.
Technologies and solutions that help agencies do all of that are what will drive business opportunities going forward.
At the summit, Halverson described a conversation he recently had with Navy Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. That is the military's largest combatant command by geography.
Aquilino told Halverson that he has this pair of big problems -- too great an amount of data he cannot use, and no ability to get the tools he wants for working with data.
Many people complain that Aquilino’s problems reflect a broken acquisition system. Halverson agrees.
“Here’s the reality: that’s not going to change,” Halvorsen said. “So how do you work through the acquisition systems?”
Step one: Have a product that meets the vision of the customer.
“Everyone gets that but you also want products and partners that can meet other parts of the acquisition scorecard,” Halverson said.
Halvorsen said companies have to make these three sales to get one contract, he said. Sale number one is to the mission owner, or the person with the requirement. A second sale is to the contracting officer, who has different needs.
The contracting officer cares about the mission but also has other checkboxes to tick, such as competition and small business requirements.
“You need to get with your partners and make sure you’ve looked at all the other things that they are being graded on from an acquisition standpoint,” Halvorsen said. “You have to present all that as an acquisition solution to the contracting officer.”
The final sale goes to the person who controls the money.
“You have to show that you are getting a return on investment,” Halverson said.
Because data issues top his list of customer needs, Halvorsen said agencies are looking for tools that help them get data faster and it to the analysts, who can turn it into a decision that gives an advantage. Then that decision must go to the right people.
“The technologies that help the customer do that are the technologies he is going to be interested in,” Halverson said.
Workforce is another problem facing the government today with the massive labor shortage of technical skills in key areas.
“How many of you have enough cybersecurity analysts at your companies today?” Halvorsen asked the audience.
The Labor Department estimates today's shortage of cybersecurity analysts is at around 100,000.
Because of this shortage, all sales pitches should include ways to automate cybersecurity operations and use what Halvorsen called augmented intelligence. That would allow agency cybersecurity analysts to do higher-level work and present options, rather than being focused on mundane tasks.
“When I talked to federal leaders today, they tell me they are killing their analysts,” Halvorsen said. “If you give them a tool that cuts through that, that’s going to sell.”
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