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A Look At Federal Software Spending

If a new study is correct, the feds will be spending a lot of money over the next year on information sharing and management. Let me say: hooray.

If a new study is correct, many federal IT dollars will be spent in 2006 on categories like knowledge management and its ilk. And let me say: hooray.

It should be noted at the outset that this study, released last week by Input, was approached from the perspective of where and how software vendors can pitch their wares to the feds as subcontractors. Still, I do find it encouraging that so much of the activity will be in the knowledge and content management arenas. It means there's a big focus, and rightly so, on software infrastructure issues like how to share information and how to manage it most effectively and efficiently. It also means that federal agencies are putting their dollars where the lessons of Katrina and 9/11 hit perhaps the hardest: that information works best when shared and not hoarded into silos.

According to Input, the top five federal software categories for 2006 will be: document and content management, project management, supply chain and logistics management, knowledge management, and inventory management.

As might be expected, supply chain, logistics, and inventory are primarily defense-related activities. Interestingly, though, there's much more of an even split for civilian and defense planned spending in the other categories, says John Slye, the Input senior analyst who authored the report.

During 2006, contracted federal IT spending is expected to reach $64 billion, with software accounting for nearly $4 billion of that, Input says. (The lion's share will be for services, followed by hardware and then software.) There is some discretionary spending allowed too, which means the actual spending total will be higher than that.

Over the next year, it seems like agencies will focus on putting processes and systems in place to collect and share information, including deciding which employees have access to what. One model for what this might look like: the Army's knowledge portal, called Army Knowledge Online (AKO), a Web-based system to provide E-mail, health and personnel records, and other information to the Army's soldiers and civilian employees.

Some four years in the making, the system now has over a million registered users. One huge benefit is that now soldiers can have one static E-mail address for their entire Army career. Used to be that anytime someone was assigned to a new base or command, his or her E-mail address would change, too. Things got so bad that not even the Army's personnel office could track down some of the folks, and that was the original impetus for moving to a Web portal approach.

There are many opportunities throughout the government for this kind of streamlining and sharing. Assuming federal agencies follow through, and there are of course no guarantees, I'm heartened by what I see. Here's hoping.

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