What’s Next for Cloud in the Federal Government?

blog-ChrisWBy Chris Wiedemann, Consultant

immixGroup’s Event Center was packed to the gills the morning of April 12 with technology companies looking for insight into what’s next for federal cloud adoption. The good news is new federal policy, renewed emphasis from government leaders, and updated acquisition methods are creating opportunities for industry to sell technology as a service to the federal government.

So where are the cloud-specific opportunities? My colleague, DOD Manager Lloyd McCoy, and I talked on this issue for nearly an hour during our Market Intelligence Briefing portion of the event.

Here are some key highlights from this discussion that demonstrate where we’re seeing an uptick on cloud adoption in the federal IT community: Read more of this post

3 Areas COTS Vendors Can Help the IRS Improve Its Cyber Posture

Chris Wiedemann_65 x 85by Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

As you’ve3 Areas COTS Vendors Can Help the IRS Improve Their Cyber Posture probably heard, a recent cyber-attack on the IRS compromised personal information of more than 100,000 taxpayers via the Get Transcript app on irs.gov. What you may not have heard is according to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, a whopping 2.7 million taxpayers had their identities stolen last year. Combine that with low funding levels and it’s the perfect storm. The IRS can’t keep up with the rapidly-evolving hacker landscape and as a result, has a pressing need for data protection, fraud detection, and vulnerability testing – and very little money to pay it.

The good news (relatively speaking) is challenges like these are the breeding grounds for COTS opportunities. If you provide capabilities in these three areas, you should be targeting the IRS now, working your solutions into FY16 discussions:

Read more of this post

IRS Security Weaknesses Mean COTS Opportunities

Christopher Wiedemann_headshot-65 x 85by Chris Wiedemann, Senior Analyst

Tax day is tomorrow, but the IRS may have more to worry about than an explosion of last-minute returns: This Tuesday, Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report identifying the agency’s internal control over financial reporting systems a “significant weakness.” This marks the second year running that the office has commented on material weaknesses in the IRS security posture, and while some progress has been made, there are still three critical areas where COTS vendors could help secure taxpayer data. Specifically, the GAO has called out weaknesses in:

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OMB Clarifies Travel and Conference Attendance Policies

Photo of Allan Rubinby Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

The GSA conference scandal has crept back into the news as the IRS has encountered its own high-profile spending scrutiny. So I found it noteworthy when this item crossed my desk today.

The Office of Management and Budget just issued a “Controller Alert” to all Federal agencies, acknowledging the need for Federal employees to attend mission-related conferences and outlining recommendations, including best practices for approving travel and conference expenses. The document adopts many of the measures suggested in a meetings protocol provided by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, which met with OMB in March. You can find the entire document on the ASAE Web site.

To be clear, the Alert states it does NOT “constitute official guidance or include specific tasks for agencies beyond consideration of appropriate steps to address the issue” of travel and conference spending. It certainly reinforces many of the restrictions we’ve seen over the past 18 months, but it also provides what may be some wiggle room for the post-Sequestration world. That’s how I read statements like this:

“As each agency reviews its travel and conference-related activities, it is critical for each agency to continue to recognize the important role that mission-related travel and conferences can often play in Government operations. Given the unique travel and conference needs of each agency, there are circumstances in which physical collocation is necessary to complete the mission.”

And this:

“…bringing together Federal employees at a single location—such as for program reviews or technical evaluations, presentation of scientific findings, oversight boards or advisory group meetings, …may be the most efficient and cost-effective means for reviewing Government-sponsored efforts, issues, or challenges. Several agencies rely on meetings with industry and academic colleagues to drive innovation and ensure continued advancement in related fields.”

There is, of course this reality: while an agency should not interpret the recent guidance “as a moratorium on all conference events, agencies and related stakeholders should anticipate a continued reduction in conference and travel activity for the duration of the sequestration order.” And to make sure nobody’s having any fun at taxpayer expense, the Alert reminds readers that “events should not include excessive or lavish social components.”

The Alert makes clear that each agency is responsible for implementing its own internal travel and conference policies, and each agency needs to achieve the right balance between reducing spending and meeting mission-critical needs. It encourages agencies to start conference planning by examining whether “physical collocation of Federal employees in a conference setting is a necessary and cost-effective means to carry out the agency’s mission (and that other, lower-cost options, such as videoconferencing, have been explored).” To me, this points to a likely boost in future attendance at, and acceptance of, virtual engagements both within and outside of the agency environment.

Similarly, it makes a distinction between conferences and training events, stating that conferences “should not be considered training events absent a written justification by an appropriate official that specifies the learning objectives and mission or job performance outcomes.”  It further clarifies that “professional training may include Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or Professional Development Units (PDUs) for areas that are relevant and valuable to the job function of the individual employee and that contribute to maintaining professional accreditation or certification.” Takeaway: don’t expect to slap the word “training” on your marketing event and think you’ve covered your bases.

A lot of this is old news, and it remains to be seen whether the IRS spending scandal (as opposed to the IRS political scandal) will result in even tighter restrictions or if there’s not much left to tighten. I’m already hearing that government employees are starving for information and interactions that will help them do their jobs. So what should you do next?

  1. Consider whether virtual events have a place in your marketing arsenal. Try something new.
  2. Align your marketing activities with events that offer real training for government attendees.
  3. Keep an eye on what happens next based on the IRS fallout.

Maybe I’m optimistic, but we may be seeing some cracks in the armor. As always, I welcome your comments.

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