Government IT Innovation To Go Commercial

Is automated case management the Tang of the 21st century?
Is automated case management the Tang of the 21st century?Tang-for those of us old enough to remember Project Gemini, the second American manned-space-flight program of the mid-1960s-is a powder that when mixed with water creates an orange drink with flavor reminiscent of St. Joseph Aspirin for Children. Supposedly NASA invented Tang-not true-to allow astronauts to have their "orange juice" as they orbited earth. Still, legend has it that General Foods [now Kraft Foods] took space agency technology and converted it into a successful commercial product.

But I digress. Today, it's the IT services firms that may profit from converting government technology to private sector use. At least, that's what IT advisers Forrester Research suggests. According to Forrester's top government prediction for 2005, IT consultants will start to pitch innovation projects based on their government work. In the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many IT services companies and other tech vendors established government and homeland security units as they aggressively pursued government contracts.

In recent years, the government has been on the forefront of innovation, especially at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, while many private companies moved more slowly as they dealt with a soft economy. But as companies raise their discretionary IT spending for new projects, some will turn to consultants that have had success in government. Forrester cited Computer Sciences Corps's work with the Air Force Office of Special Investigation that transformed, rather than simply automate case management. "Innovation-minded services providers are applying out-of-the-box thinking and producing results well beyond initial expectations," Forrester says.

As a result, Forrester sees top players such as Accenture, CSC, and Unisys parlaying innovative government contracts into bids for commercial accounts. Initially, Forrester says, these firms will likely concentrate on finding solutions to business problems through supply chain and radio frequency identification tag technologies.

Let's lift a class of Tang to honor this American tradition of innovation.