Today’s WashingtonExec mobility interview is with Greg Eoyang, Senior Architect at Intelligent Decisions. EoYang spoke with WashingtonExec about the similarities between the “wave of the Internet” and current issues facing mobile providers in the federal government. Naturally the topic of security came up when discussing the implementation of consumer devices in the federal space.
On a more personal note, WashingtonExec asked EoYang what his favorite app is as well how he evaluates the IT industry as a whole regarding its approach to creating a mobile government. EoYang also brought up the topic of federal acquisition life cycles in regards to the new fast-pace of technology.
WashingtonExec: Could you start by telling us about your background and what led you to Intelligent Decisions?
Greg Eoyang: I went to college at Carnegie Mellon in the 1980s and learned about technology while studying to be a computer engineer. After graduation, my first job was with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which commissions advanced research for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). During my time with DARPA I managed a range of IT related work, including the largest installation of Apple computers in the Federal Government in 1988, which included 200 computers – a big deal back then.
After that I started my own company, Westlake Solutions, primarily because I recognized the wave of the Internet was coming. Then, I worked for a number of different IT companies. The maturity of off-the-shelf software development platforms and infrastructures has evolved quite a bit and that’s what brought me to Intelligent Decisions (ID). ID is a rightsized systems integrator and value-added reseller who can leverage technologies to help build the best and most innovative IT solutions for our clients in the Federal marketplace.
It’s a conundrum. The question is how do you convert something that is considered to be a toy – to certain people – into a solution that really pays off for the Federal government. That is, as the nation’s largest employer, they are concerned about productivity when it comes to placing mobile devices like the iPad into the hands of employees.
WashingtonExec: Has Intelligent Decisions won a lot of mobility contracts?
Greg Eoyang: ID is definitely on the edge – although mobility is not yet a huge percentage of our income, with our new strategic partnership with Apple, and most of the key mobility partners, we are already focused on mobility becoming an even larger part of our business in 2012. There is a clear value to mobility within the Federal marketplace, but one of the primary challenges is security. That is, how to provide federally acceptable security in the rapidly changing mobility space. As ID President Harry Martin pointed out in a recent WashingtonExec article, one of the associated problems is that “searching for the perfect mobility solution will result in implementing none at all.” Innovative mobile devices like the iPad are already part of the fabric of the private sector, but that is simply not the case for much of the public sector.
This situation is similar to the advent of the Internet. From 1990 to 1992, the Internet was being used primarily by the academic world and no one was making money on it. However, in 1993 that started to change. So, ultimately, ID is on the edge of the mobility boom now because our primary client, the Federal marketplace, is also on the edge.
WashingtonExec: Do you think the “consumerization of IT” is a good thing for government contracting?
Greg Eoyang: It’s a conundrum. The question is how do you convert something that is considered to be a toy – to certain people – into a solution that really pays off for the Federal government. That is, as the nation’s largest employer, they are concerned about productivity when it comes to placing mobile devices like the iPad into the hands of employees.
Also, when we speak with the people at Apple their thought is “we are making the best products in the world.” The question is: as judged by who? It’s judged by the consumers. The problem is what’s best for consumers, is not necessarily what works for government contracting. For example, as I mentioned earlier, in the Federal marketplace many are concerned about the security of work related documents and other information on mobile devices.
WashingtonExec: Do you have a favorite application?
Greg Eoyang: It’s not really an application, but what I’m most excited about is the ability to take your iPad screen and mirror it to a flat panel wirelessly for presentations. The reason is because when you’re doing a presentation with an iPad it becomes a collaborative experience. If I’m walking around I’m no longer superior to you, I’m one of you. Then, if I hand the iPad to you, you’re now fully engaged and helping to drive the presentation. It essentially becomes a practical, not anecdotal, discussion.
When participants are provided with the ability to engage on a personal level – when it’s in their hands – certain barriers go down and the presentation clearly becomes more of an interactive, and many would argue, a more valuable experience. As a real world example, my wife is a teacher and there are times when a student asks her a question and she hands them an iPad, which gives them the opportunity to figure it out themselves. It’s brilliant because you’re enabling them to find the answers, which is really part of what a teacher is supposed to do.
“The biggest reason why it’s tough in the Federal space is that the government’s acquisitions life cycle is longer than the mobile product life cycle. So if it takes 12- to 24-months to execute and actually deliver the devices, the next tablet or great wave of operating systems has already been sent to market. That is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.”
WashingtonExec: How would you evaluate the Federal IT industry’s approach to mobility?
Greg Eoyang: I was reading through the recent WashingtonExec interview conducted with DoD’s CIO Teri Takai. For me, it was fascinating to learn what keeps her up at night as she addresses the issues related to the department’s 50 different pilot programs. This is exactly the problem – an acquisition cycle that takes too long. What we, the private sector, are trying to do is focus on “forget about the total 100 percent solution, is there 80 percent of something that is good enough that we can get into the field in the next three- to six-months?”
The biggest reason why it’s tough in the Federal space is that the government’s acquisitions life cycle is longer than the mobile product life cycle. So if it takes 12- to 24-months to execute and actually deliver the devices, the next tablet or great wave of operating systems has already been sent to market. That is a critical issue that needs to be addressed.