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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How to capture more IT business from HHS in FY18

Chris Wiedemann

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

I have worked with immixGroup’s suppliers and partners on a wide range of federal agencies and their IT requirements and buying patterns. And one department consistently stands out as the most commonly asked about: Health and Human Services (HHS).

Diving into the numbers makes it clear why. At $13.8 billion, HHS’s top line IT budget is several times bigger than other large non-defense agencies. And although most of that money goes straight out the door in the form of grants to state and local agencies, the remainder still makes HHS the largest non-defense IT agency in government.

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How to manage in an uncertain budget climate

Chris WiedemannBy Chris Wiedemann, consultant

It’s safe to say that, over the last few years, industry and government have both gotten used to a certain amount of dysfunction in the appropriations process. We haven’t had a full package of 12 appropriations bills since 2008; some combination of omnibus appropriations and continuing resolutions (CR) is the new normal.

However, even by those standards, this fiscal year has been rocky – a series of short CRs, followed by the first government shutdown since 2013. In the end, that shutdown lasted less than a day, as Congress passed a CR funding the government through Feb. 8.

This is good news in that our customers have appropriations again, and can keep the lights on for the next three weeks. If you’re lucky or were working on closing deals before funding expired on Jan. 19, those contracts may close during this CR. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to the deal: Without getting lost in politics, there’s a very good chance that we’ll be right back where we started when this current appropriation period ends.
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Is this the new way of modernizing old systems?

Chris WiedemannMGT Act, tech modernization

By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

If you attended the Civilian FY18 Federal Budget Briefing at immixGroup’s most recent Government IT Sales Summit, one theme should have resonated throughout: the new ways government agencies are approaching the old problem of legacy system modernization.

It can be challenging to separate rhetoric from action sometimes, but there’s real energy in government around addressing the challenges of technology overhauls. Agencies are taking a customer-centric approach to design and development, with agile methodologies and human-centric design really becoming deep-rooted in civilian IT groups – and, perhaps more importantly, they’ve gotten an assist from Congress in the form of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which was signed into law as part of the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

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What is FBO?

Chris WiedemannWhat is a prime and a sub?By Chris Wiedemann, consultant

In my last post, I covered solicitations – where the rubber meets the road in federal procurement. As I mentioned, solicitations take different forms and come out in different ways. Most of them come out on specific contract vehicles, and in turn, most of those vehicles have specific bid boards (for example, solicitations on the SEWP GWAC are released to the SEWP website, while GSA Schedule solicitations are released to eBuy).

This has the advantage of limiting the universe of competition, which makes the buying process easier on the government. However, there are occasions when a government buyer wants to open up a solicitation to the entire industry. This is known as an “open market” solicitation – and if the value of the planned acquisition is greater than $25,000, you’ll find it listed on Federal Business Opportunities, better known as FBO.

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