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FCW : March 30, 2016
To protect your program from being trapped with old solutions while newer, better and cheaper ones emerge during the life of your program, recognize that switching to newer technology may have cost implications, and be sure that a clause similar to the following is included in the contract: During the life of this contract, as new technologies emerge, the government, after consultation with the contractor, may require that the new technologies be adopted. Alternatively, the contractor, after consultation with the government, may propose adopting newer technology. However, there is a larger issue associated with the new technologies. Beware of the technology bandwagon often ballyhooed as the solution to every major problem. First, remember that there are two types of technology: consumer technology and the big-systems technology needed to run governments and large corporations. Today, most stories describing technology moving rapidly tend to refer to consumer technology. And there is indeed amazing speed in that space. When technology catches on, prices fall, usually dramatically. In 2002, for example, United Airlines had me comfortably seated in business class with my wife, Mary Alice, on the way from Dulles Airport in Virginia to Singapore. Diagonally across the aisle were two preteen girls, sharing a portable DVD player with separate headphones, watching movies of their choice. The rest of us were watching the usual sterile, made-for-children airline movies. When we returned to the U.S., I learned that the price of portable DVD players was about $1,100 — too expensive to justify for our personal use. Just four years later in 2006, during the Christmas buying season, I checked the prices again and discovered some were selling for as little as $49. A few months later, I saw a portable DVD player with no recognizable brand name for sale at Staples for $29. Portable DVD players became disposable technologies in just five years. Buy it, use it, and if it develops a problem, toss it in the recycling container and buy another. There are many similar devices. The price of 50-inch high-definition digital TVs declined 90 percent in 10 years, even as TV technology became more advanced and reliable. The price of Blu-ray players, which improved on the video quality offered by DVDs, fell 75 percent in just two years as 20 percent of households adopted the newer technology. When a consumer electronics A reality check on fast-moving tech BY FRANK Mc DONOUGH Cutting-edge IT can sometimes be transformative. But don’t hold your breath. Bookshelf 30 March 30, 2016 FCW.COM This article is adapted from Frank McDonough’s “Spring Training for the Major Leagues of Government,” a new book aimed at executives who are stepping into senior roles at federal agencies. 0330fcw_030-032.indd 30 3/8/16 9:44 AM
March 15, 2016
April 15, 2016