Wondering what the “next big thing” in federal IT will be? Then don’t look to the President’s FY’17 budget request, due to be released at the end of January 2016. Reports say that there will be no new initiatives or major programs. This is further indication that the pace of some, but not all, activity is slowing as we enter into the eighth year of the Obama Administration.
Smart federal contractors usually pay close attention to the President’s budget request for strategic planning purposes. While changes can be made by Congress, the request is an excellent indication of what your agency customers feel their priority spending areas should be. There are usually several good webinars or other events that will decipher what’s in the request in February. Make sure you plan your time accordingly.
The upside, according to agency CIOs, is that the budget request will contain more money for existing federal IT initiatives like cyber, cloud, and mobile. The federal CIO community has requested increased money for these initiatives and the administration delivered. It will now be up to Congress to follow through on the request for new money.
While a lack of shiny, new programs may be somewhat of a disappointment, the good news for federal contractors is that priority areas that are already known and planned for will remain viable targets. Companies need only fine tune existing business development approaches.
Cyber remains the number one priority. The definition of what constitutes a “cyber solution” has expanded to include previously separate focus areas such as big data and predicative analytics. Many agencies now assume that the ability to crunch large amounts of information will be part of any significant cyber solution. Additionally, prevention, detection and recovery remain key initiatives. While some agencies may be seeking offensive cyber capabilities, commercial IT companies will likely play mostly on the defense.
Cloud remains a solid number two in federal IT spending. A new fire has been lit under GSA to have more companies’ cloud offerings become FedRAMP approved. The addition of more firms will drive both competition and innovation. New contract methods to deliver cloud solutions will also come on line this year, heightening awareness of cloud as a more viable option and making it easier for buyers to get what they need.
Mobile IT will round out the top three IT priorities as CIOs look to ensure that agency workforces can operate not just under normal remote working situations, but in bad weather, remote locations, or wherever crises develop that demand a federal presence. Companies who have thought of mobile in just “normal” terms need to expand their mind and consider the full range of federal missions.
There is always the chance for one or more wild cards, too. Federal contractors and their customers need to be ready whether what’s needed is a quantum leap in technological change or a timely response to a major new national development. Feds are already looking at developing tech and trying to actually be a lead innovator in some areas. While these areas currently receive less money than other priorities discussed here, that could change if circumstances merit.
The bottom line is that a lack of major new initiatives now should not significantly impact most federal IT contractors. There may be more money available for priorities of which you are already aware. Also, time has a way of changing even the most thorough plans. Stay prepared.