Navigating the Future of Mobile Services

(This blog post reflects my perspective as the government-wide IT Category Manager)

Today, the federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on mobile services. An agile and evolving federal workforce is driving an ever-increasing need for agencies to have the ability to meet their missions, and do their work securely anywhere, anytime, and on any device in order to serve U.S. citizens.

Fast-changing mobile technology and increased demand are putting pressure on agencies to determine how best to acquire, maintain, and manage mobile resources. So government needs a mobile plan that looks ahead. And that’s just what the Mobile Services Category Team (MSCT) aims to accomplish.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Category Management Leadership Council (CMLC) set up the MSCT to develop and implement a government-wide strategic plan to increase efficiency and drive savings related to acquiring government mobile services. The cross-agency team looks at how agencies can best navigate the future of mobile services. OMB, GSA, and the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and State lead the MSCT.

While they’re taking input from agencies across government and industry, the MSCT has already accomplished several goals, such as establish strategic objectives, prepare mobile device guidance, make plans for a mobile brokerage feasibility study, incorporate industry partners’ insights and expertise, and are taking on mobile reporting and data management.

MSCT Roadmap and Guidance

OMB’s August Mobile Services and Devices memo (M-16-20) assigns several responsibilities to the MSCT, and the first three are now complete. Documents from these tasks are posted on the Telecommunications Hallway in the Acquisition Gateway.

1. Mobile Services Roadmap – The MSCT published the roadmap so agencies can develop mobile tools and solutions that will conform to Category Management principles and best meet agency and user needs. It focuses on general-use needs similar for most agencies (also known as core commodity services). It also identifies another primary needs segment that requires customizing based on agency and mission. This second segment focuses on mobile applications and complex mobile solutions such as security and ID credentialing.

2. Mobile Device Procurement and Management Guidance – This guidance helps agencies select, procure, manage, and dispose of mobile devices. It focuses on what agencies can do to more efficiently manage devices, reduce costs, simplify processes, improve contractual terms, and meet government green initiatives.

3. Mobile Services Brokerage Model Feasibility Study: Project and Implementation Plan – This document explains how the MSCT will conduct a feasibility study for possible use of a brokerage approach to agency mobile acquisition efforts. Typically, smaller agencies have fewer in-house resources. The brokerage approach could support them by providing external support. MSCT’s goal is that no agency be left behind while improving management of mobility government wide.

MSCT Strategic Objectives

The MSCT has three primary objectives:

  1. Standardization – Define a common set of plans, devices, terms, conditions, and other mobility attributes that apply across contractors and agencies to drive competition based on quality and price.
  2. Simplification – Make it easier for agencies to acquire and manage mobility services and devices.
  3. Savings – Further reduce costs for wireless carrier services and other mobility category services.

Insights from Industry Partners

MSCT solicited and incorporated industry partners’ insights and feedback. In response to the RFI issued earlier this year, wireless carriers, systems integrators, and technology leaders gave their list of priorities:

  • Simplify core product offerings to reduce complexity and cost
  • Support ancillary service offerings and have flexibility to use open market offerings to streamline procurements
  • Have standard terms and conditions that require less negotiation and have already been validated across the federal government
  • Use self-service ordering, service options, and a suite of templates to increase speed and quality of fulfilling orders and responding to bids
  • Allow the ability to add new services to contracts in days and weeks, rather than months

Common Data Structures, Enhanced Data Collection

The MSCT is also tackling mobile reporting and data management. Billing records contain data to assess if agencies are overpaying or under-using mobile resources. Sharing data will strengthen our ability to make intelligent and informed decisions at the agency level and government-wide. In the future, we will focus on data quality and accuracy to help the IT category deliver strategies that maximize value and savings for the government.

Continuing to Collaborate

The MSCT is ready to work with agencies and industry in fiscal 2017 to improve and streamline mobility acquisition. Want to know specifics? Read the Strategic Roadmap.

Have questions or want to provide feedback? Contact

Also, please follow us on Twitter @GSA_ITC and LinkedIn to join our ongoing conversations about government IT.

Thinking Bigger

NOTE: Mary Davie is serving as the Acting Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) for 60 days effective July 30, 2012. Her Deputy, Kevin Youel Page, has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Commissioner of the Integrated Technology Service (ITS) during this period.

This is my first blog post, so I will start with a brief introduction. I am Kevin Youel Page and it is a great honor to serve as the Acting Assistant Commissioner in Mary’s absence. Like all of us here at ITS, I believe in a great government through technology.

Prior to joining ITS, I spent time as a GSA customer as well as in industry with large and small companies. In my new role, I remain steadfastly committed to saving agencies time and money, while serving as a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars. If we keep the ideals of speed to savings and innovation in service of customer missions as our north star, we will be achieving our mission.

Federal IT has reached an exciting juncture as we search for new ways to take agencies to the cloud. OMB’s IT 25 Point Reform Plan and Cloud First Policy represented a turning point as agencies began to realize that the cloud could save them significant time and money. GSA has been working with agencies to realize those savings by

  • streamlining the acquisition process through new vehicles like the IaaS BPA and our longstanding GWACs,
  • establishing standardized cloud security through FedRAMP, and
  • sharing our own best practices through providing sample Statements-of-Objectives and Statements-of-Work.

Despite all of the great work that we’ve done to date, there is still more that we can do. We must continue to challenge ourselves to be innovative and to explore new acquisition models. As our acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini recently said, “Just when you think you’ve thought big, think bigger.”

We took Dan’s words to heart and submitted a Request for Information (RFI) to gather industry feedback on the concept of a cloud broker. A cloud broker is an entity that manages the use, performance, and delivery of cloud services, while negotiating relationships between cloud providers and consumers. The RFI positions us to collaborate with industry leaders in creating a cloud strategy that could enable agencies to increase asset utilization and lower IT infrastructure costs.

Following the RFI release, we hosted a Cloud Brokerage Industry Day to answer questions and listen to what people had to say. Thought leaders in federal cloud computing like Keith Trippie, the Executive Director of Enterprise System Development Office in the Department of Homeland Security, and Katie Lewin, GSA’s Cloud Computing Program Director at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology, led a moderated Q&A discussion with over 160 participants. The RFI, presentations, and Q&A responses can be found on our Cloud webpage. Due to the enormous interest displayed and volume of feedback received, we have extended the deadline to respond to the RFI to September 7.

This was an exciting event because cloud migration represents a major change in the way that government does business, which means that our acquisition model must continue to evolve to respond to the shift. It will not be simple or easy, but GSA remains committed to paving the way to help agencies find innovative and cost-effective acquisition solutions, and I ask industry to join us in accepting this challenge. We are excited to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Please help us continue this conversation by joining my colleague Mark Day, Director of Strategic Programs at ITS, and a major contributor to the Cloud Brokerage model, for a Twitter Chat on August 28, 2012, from 2:30 – 3:30 pm EDT by following us @GSA_ITS.

IT and Change Management in the Federal Workplace

Now that I’ve passed the one-year mark in writing this blog, I can look back and see what a tremendous opportunity this has been. I’ve had the chance to comment on how IT can help make government more efficient and sustainable, address the potential cost savings of IT procurement, and explain how government can achieve these savings by adopting new IT delivery models such as cloud computing and shared services.

One area that’s often overlooked during this time of change and technological innovation is the impact new technology has on federal workers. To achieve the positive effects I’ve been discussing, government leaders need to keep our entire workforce engaged with new technology. At GSA, we’ve made great progress modernizing our technology and preparing our employees to use it.

The benefits of workplace innovation

We are beginning another technology sea change with the transition to mobile government. Mobile government will be more mission-capable and responsive to the needs of the taxpayers. That’s because mobility connects employees with each other and releases them from traditional, static office space, enabling work from anywhere, at any time. Embracing mobile technology allows government to eliminate redundant systems, consolidate office space, be more sustainable, and increase the productivity of our workforce.

However, our progress should be measured by business results resulting from workers leveraging technology, not by the number of changes in and of themselves. For example, providing mobile access to employees through secure VPN and laptops is not enough. The government workforce is diverse and multi-generational, and some will have more familiarity with the technology than others. That means we need to provide training and change management that’s appropriate for employees of all backgrounds.

GSA is balancing change and engagement

GSA understands the benefits of training and enabling our employees to do more with technology. Our CIO team, led by Casey Coleman, has conducted change management programs to educate and engage employees for several new enterprise systems. For example, change management played a huge role in successfully migrating more than 17,000 GSA users from our in-house Lotus Notes e-mail system to cloud-based Google e-mail, which helped us save 50% on the cost of e-mail and decommission 45 servers.

Most recently, GSA has begun using Salesforce Chatter as an enterprise-wide internal collaboration tool. In just the past few months, Chatter has become a primary communications channel for thousands of GSA employees, enhancing the way we communicate as an agency through increased collaboration and sharing of information. We’re measuring our adoption rates for Chatter through number of posts, frequency of specific hashtags, and number of groups created. We’re finding that people across the agency can tap into expertise and knowledge in a matter of minutes in some cases and that helps us better serve our public sector partners.

GSA prepared for both Google e-mail and the Chatter rollout with mandatory online training, on-site help desks, “reverse mentoring” for our executives, and self-help videos. We also made it as simple as possible to get into these programs by using single sign-on so employees can use their existing usernames and passwords.

I invite you to share your own experiences and best practices by leaving a comment, or sending me a tweet @Marydavie.

I will also be at the annual GSA Training Conference and Expo in San Antonio from May 14-17. The EXPO is a unique opportunity to attend training and talk to GSA experts and our vendor partners about technologies like mobility, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. For more information, please visit the Expo  webpage.

Achieving the IT Reform Plan: GSA’s Four Secrets of Success

Government agencies are six months into implementing the Federal CIO’s 25 Point IT Reform Plan, and according to agency CIO status blogs, we’re on schedule. That’s great news.

However, how we finish is more important than how we stay on schedule. With Federal CIO Vivek Kundra moving on, we need to work that much harder.

That’s why I want to share some secrets that will help us achieve the plan the Federal OCIO set in motion:

Secret #1 – GSA has the first-mover advantage (and wants to share!)
As Casey Coleman pointed out in her blog, GSA successfully addressed point 3 of the IT reform plan: We moved our email to the cloud using our own Alliant GWAC. We can share our scope of work and lessons learned with your agency.

Secret #2 – GSA has the solutions to meet your IT reform plan challenges
We’ve created the first OMB-sanctioned cloud computing-specific contract vehicles for Infrastructure as a Service and Email as a Service, fulfilling points 4 and 5.

We can also help you consolidate your commodity IT spending under agency CIOs (point #20), an area where government is behind the curve. We have stood up a new IT commodity buying program and are building our Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Wireless program to provide streamlined acquisition support.

Secret #3 – Involve industry in any IT project
Industry involvement is critical for any IT project, as is communicating early, often, and throughout the process.

At GSA, we are involving industry and agencies to develop new solutions such as our cloud BPAs, our FSSI Wireless, and SmartBUY, as well as planning our Network Services program strategy.

In addition to face-to-face conversations, we are using tools like wikis, discussion boards, and idea-generation tools. We have found these tools to be great ways to augment traditional market research and requirements definition processes, reaching a broader audience as well as increasing transparency and participation.

Check out GSA’s use of a wiki to get input on RFIs, requirements, and acquisition strategy at the BetterBuy Wiki. We’d be glad to share lessons learned and “how-tos” with your agency.

Secret #4 – Pick the right partners
As the government’s primary workplace solutions provider and a proving ground for new IT solutions, GSA can provide the tips, tools, and technologies to enable you to see all of your IT projects through to successful conclusion.

Let me know how we can help your agency by leaving a comment or reaching me on Twitter.

General Sustainability Administration?

A recent blog post questioned GSA’s recent focus on sustainability as well as our ability to deliver innovative information technology (IT) solutions.

I think that GSA’s pursuit of sustainability is the best way to improve how we deliver innovative IT solutions.

The Business of Sustainability

The real issue here seems to be how we define sustainability—is it a separate environmental bonus or is it woven into the fabric of how we do business?

GSA is obviously motivated by environmental concerns—as demonstrated by Administrator Johnson’s Zero Environmental Footprint (ZEF) “moonshot” goal—but the real impact of our sustainability effort is more nuanced.

Sustainability is a platform through which GSA and all government agencies can tackle their most critical business challenges:

  1. Organizational Change: Sustainability acts as a North Star for government and industry, inspiring change and creating a ripple effect.
  2. Operational Effectiveness: Sustainability allows us to reframe the national conversation on budget cuts as an opportunity to create less waste and use our resources more intelligently.
  3. Innovation: Sustainability is what motivates us to develop and agencies to adopt cutting-edge IT solutions, such as cloud computing.

Driving an organization towards a sustainable future is not just about creating a greener, cleaner environment for future generations—it’s also about being smart about our limited resources, and inspiring lasting change and innovation for future efficiencies.

Do More with Less

Sustainability is not a problem; it’s the answer. Here’s why:

Sustainability is a major differentiator for GSA offerings because it’s something our customers want and need. For example, the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the United States. That means that when GSA provides an IT solution that requires less energy to achieve the same results, we’re not only going “green” for the environment, we’re also saving “green” for our customers by cutting costs and waste.

Including sustainability into our comprehensive IT solutions improves the acquisition process. For example, we’re incorporating sustainable acquisition into the IT Schedule 70 program as well as our large IT governmentwide contracts (GWACs), such as Alliant and 8(a) STARS, which have already broken records and outpaced many previous contracts.

Our GWACs save our customers time and money precisely because they are designed to meet every agency need:

  • achieving socioeconomic credit
  • improving cybersecurity
  • fulfilling mission goals
  • attaining sustainability

As I see it, delivering integrated services is a major driver to improving GSA’s ability to meet our agency customers’ needs. In fact, GSA can only be a leading IT solution provider by factoring sustainability into everything we do.

From the start, GSA’s sustainability initiative has been about delivering a more efficient, cost-effective, and innovative government for the American people.

Let’s continue this conversation. Leave me a comment. Tweet me. Post a link to your own blog. Open communication will only make us better.

Sustainability and Cybersecurity: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Every morning when I scan the headlines, I see the buzzwords sustainability and cybersecurity in government, IT, and acquisitions articles.

Journalists and industry pundits write about one or the other topic. Conferences schedule numerous panels and workshops. Even the administration has released specific mandates, including the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative and Executive Order (EO) 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. It’s easy to see why these two complex topics are often discussed independently. They sometimes appear to be mutually exclusive: you can either be sustainable or secure, but you can’t be both.

Despite this, I don’t think we’re at a crossroads. If we’re going to effectively face our energy and security threats—as well as the goal of “cheaper, faster, greener”—we need to talk about the two topics together and blaze a new trail.

Heads or tails, we both win

Sustainability and cybersecurity are two sides of the same coin. But it’s not a coin toss—each depends on the other.

We are learning that sustainability and cybersecurity must go hand in hand. As agencies move forward on Open Government initiatives, we see previously restricted data sets posted in more public fora, and, by virtue of their very openness, exposed to more security threats. Innovative Green IT solutions such as smart grids, data center consolidations, and cloud computing—though more open, accessible and energy-efficient—require new or increased security measures.

Given the resources GSA and other agencies devote to developing contract vehicles allowing agencies to procure these solutions, it makes sense that acquisition officers integrate security and sustainability requirements at the beginning. Rather than treat one or the other, or both, as add-ons, cybersecurity and sustainability should be in all contracts.

Smarter buying at your fingertips

GSA is at the forefront of these issues. We’re a strategic partner of the administration in its sustainability initiatives. Also, we’ve pushed government technology providers to adopt security measures.

Two offerings—SmartBUY and MTIPS—help agencies meet administration mandates and successfully integrate sustainability and cybersecurity requirements.

This is only a start, but it’s the first step that makes all the difference. As Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Let’s continue the discussion. Post a comment below or come see me on the Cloud Computing panel at FedScoop’s 2nd Annual Lowering the Cost of Government Summit, August 19th in Washington, DC.

First Steps in Sustainability: Saving the Planet and Taxpayers’ Money

I recently attended a GSA conference hosted by Administrator Martha Johnson designed to bring together GSA executives to discuss GSA’s sustainability plans. To prepare, we read the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

Cradle to Cradle asks us to rethink commonly held beliefs, such as the idea that industrialism and nature can’t be reconciled.  Instead, we are asked to see the dichotomy as a design issue.  The authors ask us to view sustainability as a coping mechanism rather than a solution and urge us to redesign solutions to our more critical challenges.

To do so, let’s consider one of government’s bigger challenges.

The federal government is the nation’s largest consumer of energy, and information technology represents a huge part of that energy consumption.  At all levels of government, agencies are seeking  cost-effective, cutting-edge solutions to reduce their IT energy consumption, recycle IT equipment, optimize data centers, and reduce their carbon footprint.

Sustainability, in this context, is as much about saving taxpayer money as saving the planet.

In October 2009, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13514: Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, urging agencies to lead by example in using environmentally responsible products and technologies.

Our Administrator recently—and boldly—accepted that challenge, stating that “we at GSA are embracing a zero environmental footprint (ZEF) goal. We are setting our sights on eliminating the impact of the federal government on our natural environment.”

“Zero environmental footprint is this generation’s moon shot. And so, it must be ours at GSA.” Putting someone on the moon took years of focused energy to achieve—but we did it.

Cradle to Cradle lists five guiding principles, which help us take the first steps toward meeting this challenge:

  1. Signal your intention—Administrator Johnson put the market on alert that GSA is committed to a completely new paradigm, not just incremental improvement.
  2. Restore—strive for “good growth,” not just economic growth. With GSA’s resources, we can give agencies access to cutting-edge technologies and solutions that enable the growth we need, save taxpayers money in the long run, and no longer deplete our resources.
  3. Be ready to innovate further—Innovation requires noticing signals outside of our comfort zone: from our customers, industry, the environment, and the world at large. Administrator Johnson wants us more acquainted with what our customers need, as well as more open to “feedforward” not just feedback.
  4. Understand and prepare for the learning curve—GSA continues to develop next-generation contracts like Alliant. That’s a good step, but we need to put in place practices that can evolve into the next next generation, so our contracts facilitate a cradle-to-cradle lifecycle and benefit our customers and industry partners.
  5. Exert intergenerational responsibility—Administrator Johnson is adamant that our acquisition solutions should not create problems that future generations must solve.

Implementing solutions like Green IT will enable government agencies to do more with less, while meeting government mandates.  We should aim to move beyond simply mitigating the negative consequences of our actions and to be good stewards of our fiscal and environmental resources from the start.

What kind of sustainable, green, or cradle-to-cradle initiatives are you working on?  What are you working on that involves governmental ZEF?

Please share your initiatives and ideas.  Post a comment below.  I want to learn what is happening across our government and in industry.