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Strong Communication and Collaboration is Key to IT Modernization

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By Kitty Nix, Senior Vice President, Services DivisionKitty Nix Headshot

I joined Three Wire Systems to advance my career in Information Technology and help grow a company on the cutting edge of mission-driven solutions. We all know that outdated technology platforms and limited budgets have slowed the long overdue and much-needed process of innovation in the federal government. As Suzette Kent, the new US CIO, discussed at FedScoop’s Second Annual IT Modernization Summit (on April 5, 2018), the White House and Congress have taken strides to help agencies combat their IT Modernization challenges – including new legislation, policy, and funding – thus creating an opportunity to “turbo boost” modernization efforts.

Recently, I was honored to contribute to this important movement, by moderating the NexGen Shared Services panel at the aforementioned summit, sharing the stage with two of the Top 100 Women in IT, to discuss the importance of shared services, and how increased collaboration among stakeholders, “acquisition baked into agile development”, and technologies like containers are significant enablers to IT Modernization.

The panelists included:

  • Beth Angerman – Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Shared Solutions and Performance Improvement, GSA
  • Soraya Correa – Chief Procurement Officer, DHS
  • Banjot Chanana – Senior Director of Product Management, Docker

Key Messages for the IT Modernization Space

Despite the short amount of time allotted for the panelists to discuss these important topics, the panelists shared some insightful key messages (and a few fun facts about themselves) for everyone in the IT Modernization space.

When it comes to measuring the success of shared services, Beth reminded all of us that it’s a perfect time to take stock in what has been done in the past, and how we need to pivot to effectively move forward. She offered that measuring success is tied to driving standardization, eliminating redundant systems to maximize economic benefit and to create better and more consistent data for the government.

“The heart of measuring success [of shared services] is collaborating with the user and understanding their pain points, figuring out this problem at the beginning and how to engage in what is going to make you successful.”

Beth Angerman

She also clarified that an important aspect of measuring success is to better collaborate with the business to determine how each agency defines and measures their own accomplishments because every agency has different missions and rules. Put another way, modernizing IT for the sake of modernizing IT is not the answer.

Beth discussed that at the heart of our modernization efforts are the users. No matter how beneficial the new technology can be, and how secure we can make it if the users of that technology are not ready or “bought-in” prior to its release, it will likely lead to failure. She shared an excellent comparison to her husband upgrading her iPhone without telling her! Although she knew it would be more secure and potentially better experience for her, she was immediately irritated as she wasn’t ready for the sudden change from her normal routines. For example, she had not moved all the photos she wanted to the cloud; this was a key factor that delayed updates to the software in the first place. A critical success factor for modernization projects is ensuring there is clear communication before (modernization) efforts are underway. Beth shared a great personal anecdote of how modernization affects each and every one of us, in both our personal and professional lives. Thanks, Beth! Loved your fun fact that you’ve got two little ones at home, I completely understand the need to keep those photos!

 “It’s a strategy to look at how DHS is approaching their acquisitions to ensure they’re not just buying the right things but buying them smartly and efficiently.”

– Soraya Correa

A trailblazer and innovator in the Federal IT Acquisition world – Soraya Correa – is leading the way in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), by starting the conversation with industry earlier (much earlier), to listen and learn about the art of the possible. She feels it is critical to know what is available in the market, which helps agencies more clearly define and determine what problem they are solving and what solution they’re working towards. Having these conversations earlier across the federal marketplace could help industry “down select” themselves prior to an acquisition even being released, thereby reducing risks, avoiding undue costs for both parties, and ultimately providing the customer what they need to accomplish their mission set.

To test this hypothesis, Soraya established and is leading the Procurement Innovation Lab, commenting that it’s a place where DHS can try new procurement techniques and approaches. She emphasized that there is little to no value in issuing a procurement that takes 2-3 years to award. Soraya is leading the charge at DHS, working to engage industry early and often, and collaborating with the business owners to make sure the “current state” is benchmarked and the problem adequately defined. Also, it was also inspiring to hear that in Soraya’s spare time, she mentors as much as she can to build and empower others. Something much needed in our community!

Another key and crucial point from the federal panelists (Soraya and Beth), which I also wholeheartedly believe, is that the government should not develop anything to meet their requirements if they can buy a solution off the shelf. It’s imperative that agencies take a step back, break apart the problem, and determine if there is a solution already available to meet their needs. If the solution and technology already exist, the government can buy it and then share the risk with industry.

An Industry View on Shared Services

Switching to an industry view on shared services, I asked Banjot Chanana from Docker for his perspectives. Every decade or so, we’ve experienced a paradigm shift, from mainframes to client-server to virtualization to the most recent shift to the Cloud, and now a new breed of technologies such as Containers show promising benefits. Banjot sees containers fitting into this evolution very naturally, commenting that while it has been exciting to see all of the innovations, they’re not new. Containers have been at the center of the major shifts to the Cloud and DevOps, enabling the agility that has come from these movements. In the private sector, these capabilities have enabled organizations to move their applications into the cloud while removing some of the friction in their development process.

“You can do things In a container environment that you couldn’t do before. The level of visibility into the running application and how it’s performing and the types of operations its performing and the ability to enforce policy in those containers is now something we’ve never seen in previous technology.”

– Banjot Chanana

Specifically, Banjot covered how Containers have actually provided three significant benefits for shared services:

  1. Removing friction in the development process (adopted by millions of developers and IT professionals) allowing for closer collaboration between users, developers, and operators;
  2. Containers bring a whole new level of security to an operating environment where we can standardize what an application can and cannot do, and;
  3. the ability to standardize.  One of the most important things about the shared services environment is the way we scale.  We can now scale by standardizing the way we deploy applications, the way we run them, the way we enforce Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and the way we enforce security.

Now with Container technology, we can standardize how we deploy, operate, install and even scale out or scale back, and it works well for new and existing applications. Banjot’s most resounding message was how Container technology can be leveraged to move shared services forward.  An interesting fun fact about Banjot is that he has a twin brother he’s kept in step with all his life and who, coincidentally, works in digital modernization while Banjot works in IT Modernization. Twinning has a whole new meaning for me now!

I couldn’t help but close with a question about the MGT Act that recently passed, asking how Beth and Soraya planned on using it.  Soraya let us know that DHS is looking closely at how they are implementing Modernization projects. Further commenting that since DHS is a federated environment, they need to work together to develop smart solutions. Soraya herself is working closely with the DHS CFO, and the rest of the C-suite, to look at DHS’s priorities. It’s critical to identify what they want to attack first, and then focus on bringing the rest of the DHS community along. She noted that it’s not just a headquarters focus, rather the modernization efforts are for everyone who works and supports DHS.  Soraya is pushing DHS to think strategically and ahead of the curve, noting she wants to implement shared services the right way, and to ultimately do intelligent things within the government, to improve data and systems, and ultimately improve the experience for end users.

Beth does not intend to use the fund but plans to assist other federal agencies in thinking about how they are going to use the resources, and how they will repay the funds they borrow. A key factor in the MGT Act will be ensuring agencies identify what success looks like. Beth shared that GSA has a lot of best practices in place to help agencies effectively articulate the success criteria, in order to secure the approvals required to utilize the MGT funds.

Optimism Moving Forward 

I feel energized and optimistic after hearing from these forward-thinking government and industry leaders, who are all on the same page about how we need to move forward, and all have some great ideas on how we get there. I thank my panelists for taking the time to share their experience and insights on this very important matter and thank Three Wire’s co-sponsor, DELL EMC,  for this panel discussion, and for helping to bring this important information to focus. I hope this information energizes you just as it did me!

For more information about Three Wire’s IT Modernization efforts, please contact Kitty Nix.

About Three Wire Systems

Founded in 2006, Three Wire is the leader in innovative and efficient technology solutions for government agencies and large enterprise corporations. With solid program management and process improvement principles, they design solutions that support business goals and deliver superior results in a cost-efficient manner. Three Wire believes in maximizing investments American taxpayers have already made in the government and military while modernizing and securing America’s most important information, infrastructure, and assets. For more information about Three Wire, visit https://www.threewiresys.com/.

Essential Things to Know About the 2017 National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE)

Essential Things to Know About the 2017 National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE)

Recently, Three Wire, CEO Dan Frank, Solutions Engineer, Wes Jackson, Sr. Client Executive, Keith Foley, and Director, Business Development, Katie Koehler, attended the National Veterans Small Business Engagement (NVSBE) in St. Louis, MO. In its seventh year, this conference connects Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSB) with Procurement Decision Makers (PDMs) from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other federal agencies, state government, and commercial firms. As a collective effort, the conference affords PDMs an opportunity to conduct hands-on research and participate in product demonstrations all under one roof.

Team Reflections:

Dan Frank – Founder, CEO

“While at the event, I learned about a potential new Veterans Affairs (VA) approach to set-aside RFPs in which all companies (small and large) would be able to submit a proposal, called a “tiered evaluation.” VA would first consider SDVOSB proposals, to determine if the proposals have a fair and reasonable price. If so, VA would award the contract to a SDVOSB. If not, other categories of businesses (e.g., VOSB, 8a, etc.) would then be considered. Ultimately, if no small business has a fair and reasonable price, the contract could then be awarded to a large business who does. This could have major impacts to small businesses who partner with large businesses for set-aside work.”

Wes Jackson

“The Three Wire team met a variety of people this year at the conference. There were several PDMs and senior executives from the VA there, as well as a multitude of current and potential industry partners. We met leaders and team members from organizations who can augment things we already do, which led to some exciting discussions.”

“It is fun to engage with knowledgeable people in talks that range from the future of IT, to what other industries are doing with today’s technology, to how the Government will build tomorrow’s public services.

“It was good of the VA to make so many PDMs available both for one-on-one discussions as well as several breakout sessions.  Hearing directly from our key stakeholders like this, helps the industry formulate plans and contemplate innovations that can solve the most important problems the VA is facing. So many times, in this industry, you see solutions looking for a problem. Gaining insight and having real dialogue helps us focus on the right things and not waste time and taxpayer dollars on solutions that don’t quite hit the mark.”

“I was particularly interested in hearing that VA is making progress on the path of modernizing its application ecosystem through the use of APIs.  Those efforts and innovations will mean that future apps will be far easier to develop, secure and operate.”

Keith Foley

“The Three Wire Systems team had a tremendous time at this year’s event.  Our mission especially hit home within Industry and Government engagement to collaborate on addressing the needs of our veterans.  We discussed a wide range of technical and operational areas that the VA needs help from partners such as Three Wire to modernize and transform healthcare delivery.”

“Of particular importance is the alignment of new business approaches and technologies for VA to stay ahead of healthcare demands and produce greater health outcomes for veteran care.  Cloud, Managed Services, Agile Development, Analytics and Accountability within IT are areas that we’ll continue to focus on and drive change within the agency.”

“It’s exciting to see Technology reaching a point of rapid delivery and mobility to remove legacy stove-pipe systems and improve communications which tie directly back to saving lives and enhancing the quality of life for the people who mean so much to our country.” 

Katie Koehler

“I was able to meet with over 30 companies within 48 hours, most SDVOSB and some large companies who are very interested in our Call Center capabilities and would like to partner to bring more efficient and effective performance to VA. It is extremely exciting to know others are interested in the great work we’re currently doing for veterans and want to expand and grow with us.”

“VA is changing as it grows to better support veterans, from both a healthcare and benefits perspective and there are so many good businesses and entrepreneurs that want to help VA during this transition. I heard a VA PDM say how excited he was to meet with so many people who had their hearts in the right places vice just looking to ‘get rich’. “

“With a stack of business cards in hand, new insight, and inspiration, we look forward to each follow-up to reconnect and continue the conversation.  Those follow-up meetings inevitably lead to new partnerships, great new ideas, and a wealth of new opportunities for the coming year.”

To learn more about Three Wire Systems, visit us here.

Eight Tips to Avoid the Negative Effects of a Desk Job

Many people find themselves sitting at a desk for a majority of the workday. If you are one of those people, you probably realize that this sedentary lifestyle is not the best for your health. Sitting at a desk all day is bad for your heart, your posture, your circulation, and can lead to weight gain.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent it. These eight tips will not only help keep the weight off, but they can mitigate some of the other detrimental effects of sitting at your desk all day as well. Most of them revolve around the simple act of moving – any chance you get.

Tip #1: Jump start your metabolism in the morning before work. To burn more calories throughout the day, try drinking cold water and eating a good breakfast with protein, or get in some early morning exercise. Even a quick 10-15 minute exercise when you get out of bed (push-ups, crunches, burpees, etc.) will be beneficial and give you added energy for the rest of the day.

Tip #2: Watch what you eat and stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water at your desk and pack yourself a healthy lunch. Throw away that bag of chips or box of cookies and swap it out for fruits, veggies, healthy protein, nuts, and yogurt. See our blog on “Eating Healthy During the Work Week” for more great ideas. {LINK TO BLOG WHEN PUBLISHED}

Tip #3: Do exercises and easy stretches at your desk. Every couple of hours, or when you have a free moment, incorporate exercise or stretching into your day. It will get the muscles moving, heart pumping, and blood flowing.

Tip #4: Use your lunch hour to get some exercise. If you can’t get to a gym, go for a walk. The activity will give both your mind and your body a break. Don’t forget to forego the elevator and take the stairs!

Tip #5: Swap your chair out for an exercise ball. This simple change will improve your posture by forcing you to use more of your core muscles to sit up straight. You might also be tempted to squeeze in some crunches, planks, or other exercises when you have a free minute or two.

Tip #6: Evolve to a standing desk. You probably don’t want to stand for a full day, but alternating standing and sitting will break up the monotony of sitting. More importantly, you burn more calories when you stand.

Tip #7: Schedule walking meetings. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! You’ll be getting work done while getting some exercise all at once.

Tip #9: Get a Fitness tracker. It’s amazing how numbers can drive you to set goals and exceed them. This is part of the philosophy behind fitness trackers. It keeps track of all the things you do during the day (activity, exercise, food, weight, sleep) and gives you feedback so you can see the numbers, whether it’s pounds lost, steps walked, or hours slept.

Having a sedentary job doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to gain weight. Just remember to eat right and keep moving!

The Importance of Full Spectrum Support for Veterans in the Workplace

The American Council on Education estimates 1.5 million U.S. veterans will be transitioning to the civilian workforce over the next three-to-five years – a 30 percent increase over historical norms. As increasing numbers of veterans enter the workforce, it’s important for companies to recognize that veterans offer unique and versatile skill sets as potential employees. It’s even more important for companies to provide full spectrum support for the transitioning veterans.

“Full spectrum support” goes beyond hiring a veteran, and includes training organizational leaders and managers in veteran-specific issues, such as financial guidance, educational assistance, stress management tips, and emotional and family support. Through Three Wire’s VetAdvisor Program – a peer-to-peer coaching program tailored to support veterans through all phases of transition from military to civilian life – we work tirelessly to ensure businesses and veterans have the custom tailored support necessary to succeed in both their personal and professional lives.

Bunker Labs CEO and U.S. Navy veteran Todd Connor points out that “…while plenty of Americans and industries strive to support [our vets], they often don’t know how to interact with them.” Veterans live and work in a military culture that is often foreign to the civilian population. Day-to-day business environments and operations are usually very different.

Bunker Labs’ research also found that 25% of veterans want to start businesses in their local communities. Civilian mentors and professional networks each serve to support “vetrepreneurs” while navigating a successful entrée into their chosen industry. Fortunately, there are many resources available to the vetrepreneurs including programs supported by the SBA (Veteran Business Outreach Centers, Boots to Business, Contracting Support for Small Business), the Department of Veteran Affairs (Vet Biz, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal) and the National Veteran Small Business Coalition.

Government initiatives such as the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve, the Veterans Employment Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and organizations such as the Veteran Success Resource Group support veteran employment and those who employ former military members. As the preceding initiatives and programs continue to grow and operate, and as more companies harness the power of the veteran experience, veterans will prosper in the civilian and commercial workspaces.

At VetAdvisor, we are the “First in Veteran Centric Care” and offer a mission-centric focus that cultivates and celebrates the years of military skills and service that veterans bring to bear. Some of these skills include a strong work ethic, attention to detail, managerial and organizational skills, sense of teamwork, and a calling to serve a purpose greater than self.

Improving the veteran’s experience in the workplace – providing each a full spectrum of support – includes being aware of what the veterans’ needs are and implementing the appropriate support mechanisms to address those needs. At VetAdvisor, we endeavor to partner with organizations seeking to recruit, retain, and actively engage with veteran employees as part of our Human Capital Management service offering.



Ten Small Ways to Save Money

Imagine finding a $20 bill in your pocket. Regardless of how it got there, it feels like free money.

Although not as easy as simply finding money in your pocket, the following tips can help you save money in small ways over time. By being mindful about where your money is going and what you really want to spend it on, you’ll be surprised how easy – and painless – it is to save.

  • Pack your lunch. Packing a lunch instead of eating out could save you upwards of $1,800.00 per year. On top of that, packing your lunch can also be a much healthier option.
  • Make your own coffee. Spending just $2 on a cup of coffee each work day adds up to $500 per year, therefore even if it costs you one dollar to make your own coffee, you’ll still save around $250 per year.
  • Give yourself an allowance. This can be difficult, but if you give yourself a limit of what you want to spend in a certain amount of time, it will be a guide when making the tough spending decisions.
  • Buy your groceries in bulk. This isn’t always possible, but can save you money in two ways. First, the unit cost of buying a larger size of something (cereal, peanut butter, toilet paper, etc.) is typically cheaper. Second, if you stock up on essentials, you’ll likely make fewer trips to the store and therefore have fewer chances to be tempted to purchase non-essentials while you are there.
  • Buy generic items. The generic or store brand versions of items are significantly cheaper. Sometimes buying a brand name product is necessary, but when you can, buy the generic store brand and save.
  • Don’t carry excess cash or credit cards. Impulse spending is less of a temptation when you need to go to the bank or ATM to get money.
  • Pay off your credit card Don’t carry a balance. If, for instance, you carry a balance of $5,000.00 on a charge card at 19 percent interest, you’re giving away $1000.00 per year in interest.
  • Take advantage of “end of the season” sales. Holiday decorations are always on sale after the holidays. The price of candy is reduced the morning after Halloween. Cars of a previous model go on sale in September when the new models roll in.
  • Make your own greeting cards. Greeting cards can be expensive, and as beautiful and thoughtful as they are, they are likely to end up in a trash can after they’ve been read. Instead, make your own personalized card for less than $1.
  • Save your change. Put your loose change into a jar at the end of each day. These coins will add up little by little over the course of a year or more.