AI, Machine Learning, Automation: Key Themes for Fed Healthcare

Chris Wiedemann

By Chris Wiedemann, Consultant

At the recent AFCEA Bethesda Health IT Summit, government and industry had a chance to catch each other up on the latest developments in a rapidly-evolving space. As usual, the event was information rich, covering everything from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s agile development-driven programs to address the opioid crisis to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ internal enterprise cloud strategy.

But the underlying theme was that the agencies engaged in big healthcare challenges (VA, Health and Human Services, Defense Health Agency, etc.) are starting to work faster and smarter by using tools like agile development and purchasing, artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning, and they need industry partners who can do that with them.

Of course, any mention of agility, automation, machine learning or artificial intelligence should excite COTS manufacturers. Although the government speakers mostly avoided calling out products by name, the role of off-the-shelf technology was a common thread throughout the event. There are a variety of drivers behind the move to COTS and away from customization, ranging from the availability of sophisticated data analytics tools to the need to hedge against institutional knowledge loss as more of the federal workforce approaches retirement.

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Cloud Spending in FY19: Three Areas to Watch

Chris WiedemannBy Chris Wiedemann, Consultant

With record-setting projections for cloud purchases in the government by the end of FY18, customers are going to be more open to cloud-based solutions than ever before. Offering technology in the cloud will be increasingly important to retaining business, because customers who were once open to on-premise deployments may begin to look elsewhere for answers.

Here are three cloud trends and opportunities for FY19

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Truths and Lies About Year-End Funding

Chris Wiedemann

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

The end of another government fiscal year means another September, with all the craziness and excitement that it brings. As we’ve noted before, the government doles out an average of 40 percent of its annual IT expenditure in the final month of the fiscal year. In fact, given the relatively late arrival of this year’s appropriations, we might see that share go up this year. The conditions are ripe for a hectic four-week period, where we should all expect long hours to make sure every order gets filled.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re keeping an eye on the phones, no matter when they ring — September is the month for blue birds, but you need to be responsive to land those last-minute deals and capture year-end money. Steve Charles, one of immixGroup’s co-founders, has a great video running down other best practices for the end of the government fiscal year you might want to review.

All that said, I do want to address a common misconception about year-end money: in most cases, customers aren’t going to identify any new requirements for FY18. One of the most common requests our market intelligence team gets is to help reps “find” year-end deals — but the realities of the government buying cycle make it impossible to accurately track which customers have the right combination of unfulfilled requirements and unspent budget. Don’t add to the stress of the month by chasing new deals – instead, keep the following tips in mind:

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OMB: Agencies Need Help With Old Problems

Chris WiedemannBy Chris Wiedemann, consultant

The cybersecurity challenges facing the government are well understood. Combine a highly federated environment, huge volumes of sensitive, classified or legally-protected data, all running on outdated legacy technology, and you get the government’s current situation: struggling to stay ahead of the latest threats in an increasingly dangerous digital environment.

Federal networks are very popular targets. The government deals with thousands of attacks each year – 35,277 in FY17, according to the most recent FISMA report. Moreover, the consequences of a successful attack are significant. Perhaps no data breach better exemplifies the dangers of lax security than the OPM attack in 2015, which exposed the personally identifiable information of millions of individuals to malicious actors and prompted a round of reports, recommendations and recriminations on the security posture of agency networks – as well as a renewed sense of urgency around security at the agency leadership level.

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What is NAICS?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a contract vehicle?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Over the course of this series, we’ve covered a lot of the ins and outs of government contracting in the IT and COTS space.

Of course, the government buys products and services across the full range of the American economy, in addition to its role in monitoring, reporting on and regulating American industry. That led to the need for a classification system to bucket American companies based on the service or product they provide – the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS).

NAICS codes, as they are known, are six-digit codes that categorize companies and are used by the government in different ways. For example, every solicitation that an agency releases must indicate a primary NAICS that the solicitation pertains to (and, in some cases, additional NAICS codes that might apply).

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Omnibus signed into law–now what?

Chris Wiedemannfederal budget, fiscal year, procurementBy Chris Wiedemann, consultant

Despite some last-minute dramatics, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus appropriations bill into law last Friday, fully funding the government for the rest of fiscal year 2018.

Of course, with any bill this size (over 2,200 pages in total), it takes a while to fully digest the implications for our customers and industry.

That said, it’s never too early to pull out some early highlights – to wit:

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What is Exhibit 53?

What is a prime and a sub?Chris WiedemannBy Chris Wiedemann, consultant

As I’ve hopefully conveyed over the course of this “What is…?” series of blog posts, selling to the federal government is a complicated and involved process. It’s been compared to doing business in a different country, and in many ways, that’s an apt comparison. There are enough differences in rules, language and requirements that you can’t just bring commercial sales tactics to bear and expect to be successful.

However, there are some instances where those different rules work in our favor. For example, because the government primarily spends money that is appropriated from taxes, it’s required to show how it’s being used. Which brings us to agency IT Portfolios, formerly (and still informally) known as the Exhibit 53.

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