No one knows how exactly the government contracting community will be effected by cuts in the federal budget, but one thing is clear, it will not be “business as usual.” WashingtonExec spoke with Tod Tompkins, Vice President of Sales Operations for the Federal Government division at Micro Focus. Micro Focus is a software and enterprise development company for public and private sector clients. Tompkins believes that the federal government will begin to invest in cost-efficient technologies such as virtualization, mobility and the cloud, leading to smarter modernization projects. Tompkins also forecasts a major shift in new platforms, to be seen in both business and government. The role of the new federal CIO, Steven VanRoekel, as well as the federal 25-point plan of his predecessor were also topics discussed in our interview.
WashingtonExec: We finally got a debt deal. What do you think should be our nation’s next steps?
Tod Tompkins: In terms of the debt deal that was passed – it cut government spending, yes, but over the course of the next four years. What this means in terms of federal IT is that agencies will need to begin preparing for these cuts – developing plans, increasing efficiencies, and getting the most out of what they have, rather than investing in unnecessary new systems. Agencies will be looking for tangible results now more than ever – things that actually make a difference today, not ten years down the line. Traditional solutions are no longer acceptable from a budget and achievement perspective and frankly, they have not been overly successful. This doesn’t mean modernizing and saving money is mutually exclusive, it just means you have to make smart decisions, work with what you have, and take the initiative to explore non-traditional solutions to the problem.
WashingtonExec: How has Micro Focus prepared for the inevitable shakeup of the government contracting community?
Tod Tompkins: This is a volatile time for the government market, but these past few years have been a net-positive for us. Unlike some of our colleagues, our value proposition is a simple one: by migrating legacy code off of legacy systems, we help agencies’ take advantage of new platforms like cloud, virtualization and mobile, and save significant money – even in the first year – all in a low risk engagement. That’s a strong argument in difficult economic times and an extremely positive use of tax dollars – we’ve seen a good amount of success in this regard. We are committed to supporting the government – everything we offer aligns with the OMB’s 25-Point Plan for Federal IT Reform and President Obama’s transparency and open government initiatives. By enabling migration we help agencies execute on the mission more effectively, without the risk, and at significant cost savings. Today, agencies want proven results and we’re fortunate to have a solid portfolio of past experience delivering cost savings in year one.
WashingtonExec: President Obama recently named Steven VanRoekel as the new federal CIO, what trends do you think the government will be looking at in terms of cost savings?
Tod Tompkins: Again, cost-savings will be huge and you’re going to see an evolution in the big-name projects coming out of the federal CIO’s office. Data center consolidation and cloud computing can absolutely save you money – but the way those projects are structured now, where agencies in effect have to find the resources to implement projects – hinders their potential for success. Unfunded mandates are difficult to fulfill to begin with; they’re going to be even more difficult now, especially with the focus on reducing costs quickly. The new CIO has his work cut out for him because his control over budgetary matters is limited. Whether that means these programs are infused with some money to help agencies get moving, or their ambitions are scaled back, I don’t know. History shows us it might be the latter. I believe you’ll see a renewed focus on improved project management, more TechStat sessions taking a microscope to existing projects and seeing what can be cut or consolidated; you’re going to see a greater emphasis on shared services because duplication is costly – more inter-agency initiatives like FedRAMP, and the teeth behind them to make agencies take notice.
In terms of technology, it’s still about modernization. This Administration sent a message by appointing someone with deep experience in industry, because for years commercial organizations have seen greater efficiency gains from IT – about 1.5 percent a year according to the OMB, versus only about a third of that by government. So the government has a good way to go and making smart decisions to modernize infrastructure – the mainframes, the acquisition workforce, the way we reach citizens – will be a central tenet of the mission.
WashingtonExec: How does cloud computing and virtualization efforts support this goal?
Tod Tompkins: The promises of cloud and virtualization have the potential to be real. The ability to make information/data accessible anywhere, anytime, from any platform can save money in the long run and provide better backup. But it’s still early in the shift towards the cloud and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered – from security concerns to data “ownership.” And there’s still the issue of implementation, which is going to take time and money. Think about the 10,000 IT systems in the government, think about the nearly 2 million federal employees and all of the information they have; this is clearly a long-term effort and agencies must ask themselves if the cloud is the right approach. In some cases, the answer is “yes” as the cloud has the potential to save agencies money in the next few years, especially when talking about new implementations. But the real focus has to be on other non-traditional approaches that have less risk and are able to offer dramatic reduction in costs over a significantly decreased timeframe.
WashingtonExec: Can you provide some metrics as far as cost savings you have seen from these types of programs? Where do you see cloud computing in the federal government in the next 5 years?
Tod Tompkins: There have been some early adopters of cloud that have seen cost savings. Recovery.gov used the cloud to handle millions of visitors a day, realizing $750,000 in savings that could now go to identifying fraud, waste, and abuse. The Department of the Interior is consolidating 12 email systems with 80,000 users, and they’re looking at 66 percent savings in the cloud. In the next five years these cases should increase. In the near-term, however, agencies can recognize the benefits of modernizing their infrastructure not just for the sake of modernizing, but for the benefit of realizing real cost savings. For example, many agencies have legacy systems that run on a programming language called COBOL, which powers more than 70 percent of worldwide business transactions. Agencies that take their older legacy systems and make them available on new environments can realize millions in cost savings within the first year – just by making that language available on other platforms. We worked with an Office of the Secretary of Defense-level agency to migrate their applications, which reduced costs by over $10 million per year. This is just one example of the immediate positive results modernization can provide.
WashingtonExec: Do you believe mobility also has a role to play? Is there anything additional that you think is relevant?
Tod Tompkins: Mobility and the cloud go hand-in-hand. We’ve reached a point now where everyone gets their email on their smartphone, and that’s changed the way government gets its work done. In the next few years, as the cloud begins to host applications in addition to just data, we’ll see a real transformation of the workforce, not just within government, but across the spectrum. What will work look like in five or ten years? You will have agencies with shared work-spaces, and a greater emphasis on providing office space to collaborate in real-time in person. The conversation will shift – from work to collaboration, and this will infuse technology as well, this drive to collaborate and work together. Information systems will have to be much more accessible, data will need to have the ability to be updated in real time and also analyzed in real time. This doesn’t mean the old missions and business functions of IT will become irrelevant; if anything it means these functions will take a step forward, to do everything they did before but on new platforms, in new mediums, for a new workforce. That future is what every company in this market needs to have its eye on, and it’s why we’re confident of our place in that space – to take those proven IT business functions, and push them forward into these new platforms, to save real time and money, and empower the next generation of government.