SIIA forms public-sector group to work with agencies on cloud

The Software & Information Industry Association has launched a new membership group to help technology companies take advantage of the evolving federal investment in cloud-related technologies.

SIIA has brought on Mike Hettinger, a Capitol Hill veteran and leading expert on public-sector management, to direct the new division.

The Public Sector Innovation Group will help cloud service providers and third-party assessment organizations work with government decision-makers within agencies to address agency needs, Hettinger said during an interview with Government Computer News.

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While SIIA has been involved for years in guiding tech companies in the government procurement process, the formation of PSIG reflects the dramatically changed government marketplace in which agencies are increasingly buying services based on an on-demand computing model rather than complete IT systems.

The Office of Management and Budget’s 25-Point Plan for IT Reform, released in December 2010, is an initiative to change the way the federal government purchases and uses IT. Part of the IT reform is a cloud-first policy that promotes the use of light technologies and the sharing of IT resources and services among agencies.

Other programs that support the cloud-first approach, such as the Federal Risk Authorization and Management Program, will also change agency managers’ acquisition mentality from buying of systems to services. FedRAMP is a governmentwide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. The concept of FedRAMP is to get reuse of security documents and approvals for cloud service providers to operate.

FedRAMP and the cloud-first policy opens up opportunities for innovative companies to participate in the federal marketplace that didn’t exist five years ago, Hettinger said.

“When the federal government issued its cloud-first policy last year and adopted the FedRAMP Concept of Operations, we knew it was time to do more to help our members understand the impact of changes to the IT acquisition environment.” said Ken Wasch, president of SIIA.

The idea behind PSIG is for SIIA to be a leading voice for innovative technology companies, Hettinger said. “We want to help them understand the acquisition and government environment,” he noted.

The first step was to hire someone with Hettinger’s background to lead the public-sector group. Hettinger most recently served as executive director overseeing strategic planning and market development in Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector Practice, where he was responsible for companywide strategic business planning, federal marketing and external relations.

Before joining Grant Thornton, Hettinger was the staff director of the House of Representatives' Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and Accountability. Hettinger specialized in areas of shared services and procurement issues while on Capitol Hill.

SIIA is now talking with members about the role they want to play, Hettinger said. Some member companies are conducting business with the federal government; others are not. Those companies that are not have tended to shy away from doing business with the government because of the complexity of procurement regulations. That is something SIIA officials hope to change by using Hettinger’s expertise.

SIIA wants to have input in helping to improve acquisition legislation if needed or provide additional guidance in the finalization of FedRAMP, which is scheduled for a June 2012 launch. SIIA is also looking for new members now that it has launched the public-sector group for instance, government contractors who might not have joined because there was not an emphasis on the public sector.

The Public Sector Innovation Group plans to focus on acquisition, cloud computing, innovation, privacy and security and the emerging areas of data-driven innovation and mobility.

SIIA officials said they want to forge deeper relationships with agency managers. “At the end of the day, the folks on the agency side understand this better than anyone because they are there and doing it every day,” Hettinger said. Often, agency managers turn to their contractors for innovative approaches to address their needs.

SIIA hopes to gather that contractor and agency knowledge and put it into best practices that can help government decision-makers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively, Hettinger said.

“We’ll connect members with government decision-makers, and hopefully they will want to sit down with us and draw best practices out of our collective knowledge and the members we have,” he said.

There is an big opportunity for small businesses to provide the methodology to help government make the transition to the next-generation IT environment, Keith Trippie, executive director of enterprise system development for the Homeland Security Department, told an audience at the recent SIIA Cloud/Gov conference in Washington, D.C.

Agency managers and industry have to collaborate on finding ways to marshal the power of the federal government and change the business model, Trippie said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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