successfully launch complex software products with relatively little money, why can’t
well-funded government IT projects experience similar success?
Looking to save taxpayer dollars and improve outcomes, both countries are now trying
to streamline their costly public-sector projects. In the U.S. Congress, a bipartisan group
of legislators introduced a bill last July calling for IT procurement reform—specifically,
changes that would make it easier for smaller, newer software companies to win some
of the US$80 billion the U.S. federal government spends annually on IT projects. The
proposal hasn’t yet passed, but that hasn’t stopped an investor in California’s Silicon Valley from creating a US$23 million venture capital firm focused on funding tech startups
that intend to seek contracts for government projects. Ron Bouganim launched Govtech
Fund, based in San Francisco, California last September.
“You can debate policy all you want, but these days when
you want to roll out policies, it turns out that technology plays
a really important part,” he told Fast Company.
Lowering Barriers to Entry
In an increasingly digital world, the quality of government ser-
vices can be limited by the skills of the project team rolling out
IT systems. To tap the best project talent in a rapidly evolving
sector, the U.S. government needs to make it less daunting for
smaller and newer organizations to win a project contract, says
Jeff Rubenstein, president and CEO, SmartProcure, Deerfield
Beach, Florida, USA, which gathers procurement intelligence
for both private- and public-sector organizations. To improve
project outcomes, he says, red tape needs to be minimized and
the power of incumbency needs to be curtailed.
“The default position can’t just be what it’s always been,
which is, ‘Let’s just go with the incumbents—if a certain com-
pany has been around for 20 years, that means they must build
the best websites,’” Mr. Rubenstein says. “That is no longer
true. The new challenge is about identifying these younger,
vibrant, great-idea companies and giving them a chance to be
Another frequent problem with government IT projects is
their size: They tend to be large, which means long implemen-
tation periods, creating increased risks of obsolescence and risk
to execution, says Andy Robinson, senior vice president of Fair-
fax, Virginia-based professional-services consultancy ICF Inter-
national Inc., a member of PMI’s Global Executive Council.
“In the past, I’ve managed some larger programs that have
been big-bang, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. But if
it takes you years to implement a new technology, it’s obsolete
by the time you’re done in many cases,” says Mr. Robinson.
He is also chair of the Institute for Innovation of the American
Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, which
works with the U.S. government to spur rapid and small-scale
IT innovations and make the culture of the federal workforce
“If it takes
you years to
by the time
you’re done in
—Andy Robinson, ICF
International Inc., Fairfax,
ThyssenKrupp is trying its own
technology on for size by constructing a cable-free elevator
system that will move elevator cars
horizontally as well as vertically.
The project in a Rottweil, Germany test tower will use magnetic
levitation technology to propel the
cars around a loop, and is expected
to be complete by the end of 2016.
Because more than one elevator
car can travel in a shaft at a time,
the new technology will trim wait
times to a maximum of 30 seconds, according to ThyssenKrupp.
Sensors in the system will help
detect needed maintenance and
The Essen, Germany-based organization hopes the new system,
called MULTI, will also influence
future building engineering and
inspire new projects.
“[After] the birth of the elevator
160 years ago, we allowed the
building industry to transform,”
ThyssenKrupp North America CEO
Patrick Bass told the Chicago Tribune. “The problem was elevators
didn’t change enough. The industry
became a detractor. We’re limiting building heights and building
shapes.” —Imani Mixon