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FCW : September 15, 2015
Need to know 24 September 15, 2015 FCW.COM Regulators and auditors have long been management analysts and accountants. But in a world where technology permeates everything — and presents new risks — should IT proficiency now be a priority for overseers? It becomes a matter of asking: “Do the watchers have a flashlight that works?” NASA Inspector General Paul Martin said. It turns out those flashlights can be few and far between. Inspectors with IT proficiency Furthermore, the government is struggling to keep up with galloping IT advances that progress so rapidly they can vex the companies that come up with them, and that pace isn’t likely to let up. Therefore, the government must find a way to adapt. Wennergren said agencies should rely on con- tractors for product-level expertise, and federal contracting officers should focus on knowing how and whom to ask for effective IT solutions without going into technical specifications. “Too often, government organizations don’t ask for the right things,” he added. The government has been injecting IT savvy into its acquisition and education processes — through the U.S. Digital Service’s activities, 18F’s blanket purchase agreement for agile services and OFPP’s effort with the Federal Acquisition Institute to incorporate more IT-specific train- ing into the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting. Although he said he approved of most of those efforts, Wennergren added that they are not attempts to keep up with specific technol- ogies and instead are intended to change the conversation about IT on a number of levels, including the ability of federal contracting offi- cers to ask the right kinds of questions and think in a less rigid way about how to implement IT projects. “The prize to be gained from 18F will be fed- eral agencies that understand how to ask for” what they want in terms of end results rather than specific products and narrow specifica- tions, he said. Federal contractors, meanwhile, must develop a more holistic view of the IT environment at the agencies they hope to serve and have the technical knowledge necessary to understand how their products and services can address those needs. Wennergren said cloud computing contracts offer a good example of how the technical nuts and bolts behind the managed service are mostly left up to the vendors while federal contracting officers focus on the business and management details. “In most cases, the underlying technology solution is left in the hands of technical experts,” he said. n Auditors and regulators: Time to hire more IT grunts? BY ZACH NOBLE 0915fcw_016-025.indd 24 8/24/15 4:26 PM
August 30, 2015
September 30, 2015