IT investment requires partnerships, industry tells feds

IT investment requires partnerships, industry tells feds

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

APRIL 3—When it comes to innovation, even the best companies don't go it alone-and neither should the government.

That's the message a gathering of some 50 agency executives heard yesterday at a conference on assessing technology investment risk, co-hosted by the General Services Administration and Post Newsweek Tech Media Group, GCN's parent.

For example, IBM Corp., in reinventing itself as an electronic business, has freely partnered with one-time competitors for applications software while abandoning the tight clutch it held for decades on proprietary systems, said Kathleen Kingscott, IBM's director of public affairs.

'We're no longer a proprietary company. Let me put that in bold letters,' Kingscott said. IBM packages the Linux operating system with its high-end systems and uses applications from companies such as Siebel Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif., for customer relationship management and Ariba Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., for online transactions, she said.

Dell Computer Corp. really innovates only in packaging and chassis, not in the basic technologies of PCs, said Robert E. Barr, the company's director of federal marketing. Barr, who recently joined Dell after three years at the IRS, said Dell's success lies in being a low-cost manufacturer and jumping into markets as soon as standards jell and high-volume sales opportunities open up.

Government and industry face similar processes in managing investment risks, said George Vaveris, vice president of Getronics Government Services of McLean, Va., and a 25-year veteran of federal service.

'Serving the public trust and serving corporate stockholders are different, but not by much,' Vaveris said. His advice for agencies partnering with vendors to build technology solutions: 'Don't tell me what to do, tell me what your objectives are and what you expect your outcomes to be, and we'll get there.'

Like industry, government needs to establish performance metrics and a reliable way of calculating return on investment, 'both in terms of dollars and in qualitative improvement,' said Joan Steyaert, deputy associate administrator for information technology in GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

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