Disruptive by Design: How To Use the Evolving Federal Data Strategy

March 1, 2020
By Theresa Fox

The Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB’s) Memorandum M-19-18, “Federal Data Strategy - A Framework for Consistency” acts as a foundation of guiding principles and best practices to help agencies update the way they manage and use data and improve on information delivery, service and consistency. The intent is to pull government into the modern technological times in which we live while focusing on the ethical and compliance challenges of governing, managing and protecting data. In essence, to build systems for data that are worth using and provide value to the people using it, while offering the protection and security around the data that the American people, its businesses and partners deserve.

This document, and others like it, coming from the OMB, the General Services Administration (GSA) and individual agencies, demonstrates a government-wide push toward modernization, which is more apparent with the recent migration of FBO.gov to beta.sam.gov that went live in late 2019. The government’s ultimate goal is to merge 10 separate online platforms onto beta.SAM.gov over the next few years.

It certainly makes accessing the data easier, which will disrupt the tribal and oracle mentality that once worked so well and added to the exclusivity of federal government contracting. Historically, the tools used to acquire and pull intelligence from data came from a small number of business intelligence tools and consultancies that focused explicitly on the pursuit effort in government contracting. As data becomes more readily available, the real issue becomes how effectively you are using it.

What modern tools are doing with data democratization is making data easily accessible and contextualizing it for individual businesses throughout the award cycle. These tools leverage advanced reporting and machine learning to help companies identify patterns in the data for competitive advantage.

With advancements in machine learning and predictive analytics, there soon will come a time when companies no longer rely solely on the divine knowledge of specific individuals or groups. Of course, this doesn’t mean that machines are taking over. It could indicate, however, that relationships and federal buying best practices will play a much more significant role in whether an award is won or lost.

Are these changes good or bad? I would argue they are good. From what I have seen, the changes enable companies to focus on their core competencies—developing better products and services to market to the government, finding the best talent, and focusing on smarter and better ways to assist the federal government in accomplishing its many missions. In short, these changes won’t make competition go away. They will, however, shift the playing field. Companies that embrace these changes will excel, and those that don’t will struggle.

That said, moving the government into the modern technological age is not an easy or straightforward task—as it seems to be happening at the speed of government, and we will make many mistakes before we arrive. However, with organizations like the GSA and OMB leading the charge to increase the availability of data while governing the controls and protections around that data, we will begin to see changes. As a result, the competitive landscape of federal procurement will change, and creating systems to access and contextualize the data will play a more critical role.

As the director of accounts for TechnoMile, LLC, Theresa Fox is responsible for managing enterprise accounts, developing new business and consulting on strategic marketing campaigns. She has been part of the government contracting industry since 2004 and spent her early career working for AFCEA International, cultivating relationships with government, military and industry leaders. Working in the technology/SaaS industry allows her to combine her GovCon background with her passion for technology and innovation. Fox lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband Stephen and daughter Fiona.

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