Enabling the Mobile Workforce: Sapient Government Services CTO Bill Annibell Dives into the Digitization of Government

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Bill Annibell, Sapient Government Solutions

Bill Annibell, Sapient Government Services

Bill Annibell is the Chief Technology Officer of Sapient Government Services. He is primarily responsible for studying and evaluating technologies and methodologies that have yet to go mainstream and that may still be 3-5 years out from wide-scale use by our clients.

Annibell joined Sapient four years ago when the Obama Administration was just forming its agenda. Since then there have been significant shifts in everything from mobile-first, cloud-first and customer service-centric strategies. Annibell notes that the digitization of government and constituent outreach has translated into an increasing focus on providing the most pertinent information in a way that is accessible across any device.

“While many of our clients are just starting to embrace mobile application development, big data and large scale digital solutions, I am focused on the future of those technologies, their evolution and maturity over time, and how our clients may leverage those technologies in the future keeping usability, privacy, and security top of mind,” said Annibell.

Annibell believes that mobile-related initiatives to date have been ‘big toe in the water’ initiatives. The vast majority of these initiatives have been centered on public-facing mobile applications or the enterprises’ ability to access internal email.  One of the initiatives is “bring your own device” – otherwise known as BYOD.

I really think the ‘bring your own device’ has to commit to mobile enabling the enterprise,” Annibell said. “Email is great first step, but the reality is that an email society is a slow society.”

He notes that we are missing out on efficiencies that can improve business effectiveness and workforce enablement with the current state of BYOD. In order to take advantage of mobile, Annibell says that we must maximize the devices in everyone’s hands while at work.

“It’s no longer a 9 to 5 type operation – it’s truly a 24/7 operation now,” said Annibell. “This is a pretty significant change given the government’s limited resources and how historically government has moved more slowly to adopt new technology.  Agencies have been forced to take a much different approach. I hesitate to say agile but they have to be much more nimble in their methodologies for sure.”

Advice for federal CTOs/CIOs.

One of the top priorities in the digital space is security, but it is also critical to understand that users want systems that are highly usable and functional. These systems must allow them to do their jobs and access information with ease regardless if it is stored inside or outside the firewalls. Annibell iterated the importance of getting ahead of the latest technology trends and becoming a proactive service provider as opposed to a reactionary one – “Make customer service priority #1”.

“Don’t make your problems your end-user’s problems,” Annibell continues. “The consumerization of IT has set the bar incredibly high for CTOs an CIOs and they must understand that this is not just about the devices end-users, no customers, will leverage, but the applications on those devices that customer want and are demanding right now.”

Moving into Healthcare IT.

Sapient is recognized as one of the world’s top digital agencies that provides services to both the private and public sectors across a variety of verticals. The company is often asked by its clients to develop, create and implement digital engagement strategies and develop solutions across communication channels.

“We are seeing a tremendous need for digital engagement in the health space because the constituency is truly everybody; it is academia, it is the regular citizen, it is other Institutes or organizations, and it is the ability to collaborate with the various stakeholders,” Annibell said. “Across all of these audiences, effective and strategic digital engagement is critical to success.”

There are currently vast opportunities in the healthcare space to implement big data solutions, especially as a means of maximizing the data that has been collected as part of research. From his experience, Annibell believes that big data is a process problem and far less a technology problem within organizations. Sapient strives to help its clients understand the value of their data by identifying what data they have, how it is acquired, organizing it, analyzing it, and presenting it in such a way that it is actionable for both strategic and tactical decision making in support of the client’s mission.

Implementing big data.

“The financial sector has been leveraging big transactional data solutions, in varying forms, for decades,” Annibell stated. “They are so far advanced and very good at it.”

As a result, Annibell encourages his clients to bring in those that have had success leveraging big data, such as in the financial sector, to learn how they implemented big data capabilities within their own organizations.  With regard to big data in government, he says there have been pockets of success in the government where they are doing amazing things with big data. The Intelligence Community, while a hot topic, is doing impressive things with significantly large amounts of transactional data, analyzing it and making it actionable to meet the mission needs.

Looking at big data across the federal space, holistically, big data is a still a big promise with great potential.

The most complex issue to solve in federal IT.

Security is the issue at the forefront of the digitization of government. Annibell particularly mentions insider threats, like the Edward Snowden debacle, as a key component of the security problem.

“We really need to take pause and ensure that we are addressing physical security aspects and access to data aspects of the process that may be missing,” said Annibell. “If I’m a system administrator of a very highly sensitive system should I have access to everything in those systems or should there be a mechanism in place that ensures that I’m not the only one or that at least two people have to have access to data to be able to ensure the system stay up and running without compromising the data that is secured within them?”

Government shutdown and uncertain federal budget.

The recent government shutdown and uncertainty of the federal budget was not necessarily a surprise for Sapient. Annibell mentioned that the company realized it needed to take a serious look at Sapient’s business trajectory roughly two and a half years ago.

“We realized that we needed to take a two-pronged approach in addressing the federal market.” Annibell recalled. “Approach number one was leveraging our experience and our reputation within the accounts that we had already established to open new doors. Our second approach was to focus on new verticals or mini verticals that are not government but that are dependent or act like government agencies and are in need of the services we bring to bear in the public and private sectors”.

As part of its business strategy, Sapient realized that there was a unique market in the non-profit space. Given Sapient’s extensive commercial experience, the company has been able to differentiate services for the non-profit space and is excited to add value that is both cross-industry and globally perceived.

Leadership and growing high-potential employees.

In a culture and in a digital age where instant decision making has become the norm, Annibell stresses the importance of taking the time to step back, unplug, and to take time to analyze a problem before making key decisions. Carry that process of reflective thinking into your everyday life and you have a recipe for better decision making that is no longer clouded by the constant bombardment of text messages, email or instant messages. He credits this lesson to a book titled, Consider, by his former colleague Daniel Patrick Forrester.

“His entire book is about how the great leaders of today actually take the time to reflect; and through active reflective thinking, make better decisions,” Annibell recalled. “I found that book to be an incredible read with some great reference points and it changed the amount of time that I take in any given day and in any given week on reflecting on key decisions.”

Lastly, Annibell reiterated the importance great leadership and growing high-potential employees within a company through the literature of one of his favorite authors, Jim Collins.

Good to Great, for example, is one of my favorite books because of its focus on building a rock solid organization, filled with the right people, that will continue on long after their leader has moved on.”

 

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