Mobilegov last month hosted its fourth consecutive Federal Mobile Computing Summit at the Ronald Reagan and International Trade Center to examine the post-digital government strategy and the next generation of mobile technology.
Executives from multinational IT company HP participated in panel discussions at the all-day summit and were on-site to discuss mobility trends in government.
WashingtonExec spoke with Bryan Coapstick, HP’s director of mobile innovation, and George Romas, the technical director of cybersecurity engineering & architecture for HP’s U.S. public sector segment, after the summit about topics relating to their panel, how mobility has changed the acquisition process, monetizing mobile, and the future of mobility.
WashingtonExec: Could you give us a recap of your panel? What did you learn?
George Romas: My main takeaway from yesterday’s Security Strategy Panel was the realization of the immaturity of where we are right now in terms of security in mobile solutions. During the panel, I brought up the fact that, in the end, the requirements, policies and guidelines will determine what you need to implement in the first place. It seems the government wants proposals and contracts that have mobile device management capability. I think industry has figured out that these point solutions need to be more integrated. Along with that integration come the different security components that you need to put in place. We’ve had the chance to discuss these various security opportunities with the government as a result of our contracts and have come up with an overall ecosystem of cyber security components that enable mobile solutions and BYOD.
Bryan Coapstick: I moderated the panel on mobile acquisition. We had a really great base of both software and hardware vendors. I think the key message that we came to was: policy and process equals time, and — especially with the speed of evolution of technology — time is the killer of everything. We need to figure out how to make acquisition processes, accreditation processes and certification processes all fit within a mobile life cycle. It presents a challenge because the speed at which technology evolves is a very different tempo and pace than how to government works today.
WashingtonExec: Do you think we’ll have a different landscape next year in terms of acquisition or is that a longer term thing? Has mobility changed the type of acquisition processes or do we have a very long way to go?
Bryan Coapstick: Judging by some of the animated discussions that occurred yesterday, there was some pushback on this topic because it’s a multifaceted issue. From my perspective, open data and mobility are two of the most important things facing the federal government, but there is no line of budget for them, making the acquisition process more difficult. However, GSA has made some good progress towards improving the acquisition process by standardizing requirements against agencies.
WashingtonExec: How have you all been able to monetize mobile? What I’m worried about is there’s always been pilot programs – is that indefinite or what do you all see?
Bryan Coapstick: That came up as one of the key items during my panel discussion. If you go with the idea that innovation is one percent idea and 99 percent execution, one of the key findings that some people were very animated about is the idea that we need to stop the science projects. We have about 50 or 60 pilot projects taking place across the government right now – some of which have been going on in excess of two years. With that timeframe, it’s no longer a pilot. The more quickly we are able to convert pilots into valuable projects, the more quickly we can take some of the profit earned and pump it back into the R&D timeline, enabling us to continue to advance and move the project and our client’s missions forward.
WashingtonExec: If you could get all of the prominent federal CTOs and CIOs in one room what do you think would be your message?
George Romas: From my cybersecurity point of view, my message would be to find the balance between “good enough security,” according to what your requirements are and what you are trying to protect. Ultimately, it comes down to the data. Think about what you are trying to protect and what security measures you need to put in place to provide a cost-effective solution and maintain user experience.
WashingtonExec: Have you all seen us make any progress since last year?
Bryan Coapstick: I would say there has been significant progress. The policies are moving forward and people are starting to evaluate some of the traditional mainstays. Whether it’s from an acquisition or certification process, we are seeing agencies reevaluate the mainstays. At this point, I think the tenets of the digital government strategy have been completed – and completed on time. Now, it’s just a matter of whether there is a trickle-down – what other ramifications might result from this strategy, and what is the corollary in how that translates into other facets of policy that correspond to it. This takes time.
George Romas: I think you are seeing attempts to shorten those timelines. For example, DISA released an RFP that required the contractor to adhere to a 90-day certification and accreditation period. Another example is the FIPS 201-2 derived credentials standard, which makes it easier to provide secure identity management capabilities using the devices and platforms we have on the market today. I think government agencies see where we need to go, and they are starting to head that way.
WashingtonExec: Which agency is the most forward thinking in terms of this MDM and mobile solutions?
Bryan Coapstick: In general, I would say civilian agencies are most forward thinking in this area.
WashingtonExec: I feel like sometimes we get caught up in all of the buzz words so I like to ask people how they would personally define mobility.
Bryan Coapstick: The purpose of mobility is an interaction model. This is the case whether I look at it from a security lens or from a productivity lens. From a security standpoint, we are dealing with who wants to do what with what and who wants to go from where with what. We’re working to understand which types of transactions, from a business standpoint, make sense to mobilize and which don’t — because it really is a business problem. I understand that everybody wants everything on a mobile device, but maybe in some cases it doesn’t make sense – there is no value-add. Instead, we should be thinking about what is really going to serve the public good by driving greater efficiency and greater productivity. From my point of view, the bulk of the value comes from providing people with universal access to mobile applications and data – that’s really what it’s about. Having that capability in the context that I’m in and having that context translate to the computer experience, like GPS on the phone and other applications that can enhance the business process.
George Romas: From my point of view, mobility is pretty well defined by the vision for the Joint Information Environment (JIE), a DoD strategy based on a zero client (applications live in the cloud rather than the device) that accesses information you’re authorized to have, regardless of your location or the device you’re using.
WashingtonExec: You came last year – what made you want to come to this summit again?
Bryan Coapstick: I wanted to gauge where people are. It’s a great forum to understand how people are thinking, understand where we have left to go and clearly see some of the great innovations that are occurring in how people are leveraging mobility to drive a more efficient and more productive government.