Having some hands-on IT experience would be a great benefit for many acquisition professionals. That’s some career advice from Keith Nakasone, the General Services Administration’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition, Office IT Category.
Speaking at the Public Sector Innovation Summit in May, Nakasone credited his time working in the field with giving him an understanding of what IT professionals are looking for.
“I have 27 years of procurement in IT and telecom. I grew up more in the operational and tactical world of the procurement process, not only writing contracts but out in the field and pulling cable,” he said. “One of the things I learned in my career [is] it’s impossible to understand the challenges … without doing some of it.”
Nakasone said he likes to focus on market research about things “that would help us work the procurement after it’s awarded.” GSA is looking at “agile procurement,” he said, building an 80/20 solution – contracts that meet 80% of the government’s needs – but making the contract vehicles more flexible so they can be adapted to the changing technology landscape over the life of the contracts.
Rob Palmer, DHS’ deputy CTO, touched on some of the same themes from a different direction.
“It’s not a technology problem, a people problem, a process problem – it’s all of it,” Palmer said. “Technology is racing faster than people can catch up.”
He suggested that integrating innovation begins with innovation of thought, changing the way agencies and their employees view everything, from how to deliver on their missions to their relationship with vendors, before they even get to the actual technology. “I think we’ve got the technology we need right now, we can’t take advantage of what we’ve already got,” Palmer said
Chris Steel, Chief Solutions Architect at Software AG Government solutions picked up on Palmer’s idea of creating a holistic view of IT to help manage the acquisition and procurement process.
“There’s been a real revolution in the sophistication of IT planning and portfolio management solutions recently,” he said. A portfolio management solution can address the people and process problems that Palmer mentioned by providing the opportunity to analyze, create governance and prioritize collaboration. “In the end,” Steel noted, “they increase your return on investment and reduce transformational risk by understanding when, where, and how to make changes in your organization’s IT portfolio.