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April 30, 2015

IT Solutions Challenge 2015 First Impressions - Gibran Mills

By Gibran Mills


In the Federal IT landscape, new buzzwords are constantly identified and implemented in the workforce. Terms like ‘agile’ and ‘better buying power’ are used so often that sometimes their true value is lost. Despite the unintentional dilution of these terms, on Thursday April 9, 2015 in the Indian Treaty Room within the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, synergy occurred. Synergy is defined as the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts. Thirty-nine participants representing 19 agencies came together to identify the issues we see in the Federal Government as they pertain to IT, establish teams, and begin brainstorming on potential solutions for these problems.

The opening remarks by Federal Chief Information Officer (CIO) Tony Scott and Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Megan Smith set the tone for the day. Mr. Scott encouraged the group to “Be bold, be disruptive, and take risks” as we embark on this IT Solutions Challenge. Ms. Smith embraced the diversity of our group and inspired us to “be ourselves” as we work together throughout this challenge. The rally cries expressed during the opening remarks inspired everyone in the room as we broke out into groups and immediately began brainstorming.

Once in our respective groups, each team member was highly energized and motivated to get started. Almost immediately, we began to throw around ideas at a furious pace, with each idea expanding and morphing as people added their individual insights. The group sessions were characterized by extremely high energy, and team members building off one another to come up with unique and innovative ideas pertaining to challenges facing the Federal IT landscape. As the day progressed ideas began to take shape and the vetting process began.

As the collection of ideas submitted by the Solutions Challenge members were whittled down to the highest rated ten, new teams were formed to again transform and expand these ideas. Quickly moving to a different group, with different members who had a variety of experiences, I was forced out of my comfort zone and, as a result, my thought process was again elevated. Making the pitch for our IT solution to the entire workgroup was challenging. The quick turnaround time required our group to think of an efficient way to sell our solution to rest of the group while expressing the value and potential it could bring to the challenge.

Overall, day 1 of the IT solutions Challenge can be summarized as being inspiring, stimulating, and left the participants excited for the future. I believe each participant left feeling they have real opportunity to make an impact on how the Federal Government views IT and its processes. Participants of the inaugural class of the IT Solutions Challenge have the unique opportunity to make a profound impact on the culture of Federal IT and we are eager to get started!

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