For R&D, it's good to have help

For R&D, it's good to have help

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

That was the message about 50 agency executives heard at a conference last month on assessing technology investment risk, co-hosted by the General Services Administration and GCN's publisher, Post Newsweek Tech Media Group.

For example, IBM Corp. reinvented itself as an electronic business by partnering with one-time software competitors 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 open-source operating system with its high-end systems. It uses software 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. innovates only in packaging and chassis, not in basic PC technologies, said Robert E. Barr, director of federal marketing. Barr, who recently joined Dell after three years at the IRS, said the company'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.

Fighting the same foes

Government and industry face similar challenges 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: '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.'

'Thomas R. Temin

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