Interview With Mobile Entrepreneur Tom Suder: Four Months In

Tom Suder is the founder of Mobilegov, new company dedicated to providing innovative mobile solutions to its federal, local and commercial clients. Suder spoke with WashingtonExec about everything mobile, including the pre-smartphone era (is that a thing now?), why mobility can help cure government fiscal uncertainty, and the benefits of apps in the workplace.

WashingtonExec also asked Suder about his decision to become an entrepreneur, the naming of his company, as well as what his favorite app is (Evernote).

Tom Suder was recently named a “Rising Star” by Federal Computer Week because of his “Better Ideas For Better Buys.”

WashingtonExec: Please tell us about your background and involvement in mobility.

Tom Suder: Five years ago, while acting as the CTO of my previous company, we looked at using mobility to help manage our global deployment force, which included 3,500 partners and about 50,000 technicians across the world. There were solutions available, but during this “pre-smartphone” era, they were astronomically expensive and very inflexible. During this same time period, we moved our e-mail and data applications to the Cloud environment. We saved some money initially and now, several years later, it has become an incremental money-saver. I believe mobility can provide the government with a similar savings, while also increasing productivity and efficiency.

WashingtonExec: What made you want to start your own company, MobileGov?

Tom Suder: With the financial situation this country is facing, we need to drastically change the way we do business…now.

I think mobility can be a key enabler for this change.

For example, our CTO, David Rogers, is leading a pilot called MobileCare, at a major hospital, which will put all data entry and daily workflow on mobile devices. The time savings in entering the data real-time and having queued workflow management is substantial.  Potentially life-threatening mistakes are vastly reduced as well.

While reducing your IT budget is a good thing, using mobility to improve your organization and also save money is a concept that should be very attractive to government leaders facing fiscal uncertainty.

WashingtonExec: How did you come up with the name “Mobilegov?”

Tom Suder: I actually had another name in mind initially, but two people that I really trust, Dan Arnold, Harris, and Larry Rosenfeld, Sage, independently said that I should go with “Mobile Government Solutions.”

Larry ran an advertising campaign 6 years ago for a communications firm called “Mobilegov” and thought it was a catchy nickname for the new venture.

Recently, GSA developed a program of the same name. It is simple, but great descriptor.

WashingtonExec: What are some goals you have for Mobilegov in the future?

Tom Suder: Obviously, I would like to see us grow. And I would like for Mobilegov to focus primarily on mission-driven enterprise applications, not “Angry Birds” for Feds. One thing that sets us apart is that we bring a “business case” mindset to the table. We don’t simply push the use of smartphones and tablets so one agency can simply keep up with another. We help formulate a mobility plan that makes sense – with an emphasis on the financial implications of the plan from a government point of view – so that that you don’t build something that no one in your organization would every use.

WashingtonExec: Why do you think it is important for the federal government to have a (secure) mobility platform?

Tom Suder: Security is imperative in mobility. Citizen Service apps can be downloaded from the iTunes Store without an issue. But you can’t download the “Weapon of Mass Destruction” checklist off of a public store. Will GSA take the lead? Will DISA? Or will all agencies do their own thing? I think the new Federal CIO, Steven VanRoekel, has made “platform as service” a major priority, so it would be hard not to see someone like GSA ultimately taking the lead in this area. Also, I think a “FedRAMP for mobile” is something that could possibly deal with security protocol standardization.

WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite App? If so, which one?

Tom Suder: My favorite public app at the moment is Evernote. Regardless of which platform I’m using at the time, mobile or otherwise, it allows me to take notes and easily access them at any time.

WashingtonExec: Where do you hope to see the future of mobility in the federal government in the next 5 years?

Tom Suder: I’d like to see a “Mobile First” strategy in place where every IT initiative – both existing and future – looks at how mobility can be incorporated as part of the solution. Through the use of common APIs, I think mobility has a chance to extend the life of older systems by easily creating elegant interfaces not imagined when the original systems were designed. My hope is that smart phones and tablets are the assumed way you do your job, whether you do inspections, collect data or work as a federal executive needing access to real-time data in order to make important decisions.

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