Susan Penfield of Booz Allen Hamilton Talks Monetizing Mobile, Mobile Security and Mobile Health

Susan Penfield

WashingtonExec spoke with Susan Penfield, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton about how her company is monetizing mobile, what she believes is the best way to establish a secure mobile ecosystem, and the future of mHealth.

We also asked Penfield if it is safe to bank mobile and what her favorite app is (TomCat anyone?).

WashingtonExec: Could you talk a little bit about your background and your role at Booz Allen Hamilton?

Susan Penfield: I came to Washington about twenty years ago, and two years later, began working at Booz Allen Hamilton. I’ve been a Partner and Senior Vice President for the last ten years here, leading the firm’s health technology business and the systems development business, which is where the mobile capability is resident. Prior to Booz Allen, I worked for a small, women owned technology consulting business and started my career in the field of radio production and advertising.

WashingtonExec: What makes mobility such a ground breaking technology?

Susan Penfield: Mobility has revolutionized our lives and our real time access to information. We have just-in-time access to data — to get where you are going, to find a restaurant, to pay bills, to get the weather report, to count calories, to read a book, a newspaper, or a magazine, to connect with your family, your friends, etc. Mobile has infiltrated our lives! Now commercial and government enterprises are doing the same – giving their customers real time access to information to enhance the workflow and efficiencies of their operations.


“The “there’s an app for that” mentality is easy, but you need to make sure that you have a solid understanding of how mobile will extend your enterprise – in old fashion terms a requirements analysis.”


WashingtonExec: What are some elements that you need to implement a secure and adaptive mobile ecosystem within the federal government?

Susan Penfield: Strategy is the first thing you need. Understanding your business objectives, defining a supporting mobile strategy, and appointing a group of people within your firm or your government organization to define that strategy and govern your way forward. The “there’s an app for that” mentality is easy, but you need to make sure that you have a solid understanding of how mobile will extend your enterprise – in old fashion terms a requirements analysis.

Once you have the strategy in place, you need to make sure that you have a robust mobile device management and mobile applications management capability. We are seeing plenty of RFPs (Request for Proposals) around mobile device management, and there are many products on the market now. Mobile app management in the enterprise is where simple can get complicated, really quick. Without some specific controls, the volume of internal enterprise applications could result in duplication and failure to thoroughly address standards. Establishing a governance structure and establishing secure app development, distribution, and management processes is critical.

WashingtonExec: How do you monetize mobile? Are we doomed to pilot programs?

Susan Penfield: Developing just mobile apps may not be an ideal business to be in – but extending the enterprise through mobile capabilities, building a secure infrastructure, and implementing MDM and MAM approaches is where we want to place our focus. We are really focused on building the ecosystem – developing mobile capabilities that enhance enterprise operations and respond to a client demand – making their mission more efficient.

WashingtonExec: We all know that these consumer devices are not built to have the level of protection like on the federal infrastructure. I was wondering how you have balanced between cyber security standards and trying to keep up with the technology innovation?

Susan Penfield: We focus on all layers of security. A multi-layered security strategy is necessary to not only control and manage devices plugged into your network, but to protect your organization and your critical intellectual capital and data. First, understand your organization’s mobile vulnerabilities at each level, then prioritize the risks, and then implement mitigation strategies and solutions. Developing the overarching security architecture that responds to the enterprise requirements is key to aligning the right level of protection to secure the enterprise.


“While new mobile capabilities are great and desired, security is the top of mind issue that stops innovation in its tracks – so the balance of risk and reward is what our clients and our teams grapple with on a regular basis.”


WashingtonExec: What would you say is the biggest difficulty you’ve had with managing these mobile assets?

Susan Penfield: Balancing “securing the device and the data” while “innovating to meet the demands” of the client mission. The mobile device provides so much potential for the client to be more effective and efficient. A mobile device is contextually aware and offers an immense amount of capability to do the job better because it knows where you are, it can take a picture of things that you are passing by, it can track the physical health of a particular person, etc. Mobile technology can enhance your responsiveness, your decision making, etc. by allowing you to access and create data anytime, anywhere (at home, in the field, in hospitals, doctor’s offices) via centralized data repositories (i.e., clouds).

Just think, doctors could use augmented reality glasses to project images and information into the surgery scene in front of him/her to increase surgical accuracy and order tests real-time on his mobile device that is voice operated while doing a procedure. Then, as he/she walks down the hall to check on patients, the test results and patient records automatically pop up based on location or facial recognition – eliminating the need to log in and query for data across multiple databases or paper records. Or patients can have their health vitals monitored at home via sensors that allow mobile devices to query the data and send to their doctors.

This efficiency is great, but a security and privacy nightmare with personal health information, data leakage, and potential for outsiders to hack into medical devices to alter orders. While new mobile capabilities are great and desired, security is the top of mind issue that stops innovation in its tracks – so the balance of risk and reward is what our clients and our teams grapple with on a regular basis.

WashingtonExec: Do you view the US as a leader in mobile?

Susan Penfield: Thinking about what Apple has done to revolutionize mobile technology —putting it into the hands of the consumer and creating a global dominance as it relates to devices. I definitely think the US is a leader in mobile technologies. Apple has set the bar and has ignited a whole new industry. The innovation started on the consumer side and is now taking off within the enterprise market – and it is many US based companies that are driving the new and leading technologies for the enterprise market. It’s going to be an exciting next couple of years.

WashingtonExec: What is your favorite application?

Susan Penfield: TomCat is my favorite application. TomCat is a little cat that you can pet and it purrs. It is entertaining and when I’m having a stressful meeting, I might just talk to it and have it repeat back something that I’ve actually said in a very high pitched voice. It is a riot and everybody who meets TomCat gets a good laugh.

WashingtonExec: I have a mobile banking app. Do you think that I’m safe?

Susan Penfield: One thing to know about security is that there is no perfect security. Capabilities like two factor authentication, encryption, etc. provide more security. I only log in to my bank through the computer, using two-factor authentication and entering identifying information that only I would know. In addition, when I access my accounts online, whether mobile or not, I ensure my passwords are encrypted.

WashingtonExec: What was your first job?

Susan Penfield: My first full-time job was writing commercials and doing on air production for a radio station in Pennsylvania. I’ve always had a creative flair and a passion for technology – I grew up with the first computers…I remember when you had to wait in line to access a computer in college.

WashingtonExec: What’s on your summer reading list?

Susan Penfield: I love to read, and do it often. I read a lot of the typical fiction stuff such as The Hunger Games Trilogy. Books I’ve read recently include Steve Jobs’ bio and The Emperor of Maladies, which is about the history of cancer and cancer research. Since I’m in the healthcare space it’s very interesting to me how cancer evolved, certainly as a disease, but also how the whole research world has become a huge business.

Washington Exec: What does a great day look like for you?

Susan Penfield: I have a lot of good days because of the opportunities I have to work side-by-side with my client delivery teams. I’m energized and excited when we develop fresh, innovative and smart solutions for our clients. My favorite feeling is being thoroughly impressed and, honestly, humbled by the level of creativity and sharpness of our people.




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