Microsoft Exec to Government: Use Part of $3.1B IT Fund on Analysis

Montri Nipitvittaya/

The company’s CTO of federal, Susie Adams, says agencies need to spend some modernization money on prioritizing projects.

Though they might differ on how to update federal technology, Congress and the White House appear to have agreed the federal government needs a major IT makeover.

Between the White House’s proposed $3.1 billion IT Modernization Fund, to which agencies would apply for specific projects, and lawmakers' new proposal that would direct agencies to create their own IT capital funds, federal contractors seem poised to reap the benefits.

Nextgov spoke with Susie Adams, chief technology officer of Microsoft Federal, about the IT fund and the upcoming administration change. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

NG: What new trends are driving Microsoft’s federal business right now?

SA: The way we approach security as an enterprise has to change dramatically. Never more so than for government, especially the federal government. In today’s computing, it’s really all about mobility. You need to be able to work the way you want to work, on the device you want to work on, [so] how do you do that when most security systems are really wrapped around boundaries?

From Microsoft’s perspective, we said, “We’re still going to spend a lot of time investing in security in our products, but we really need to help our customers manage this world where there are no boundaries.” You really need an “assumed breach” mentality.

We used to think of it as a “secure network of devices.” Now, it’s a “network of secure devices,” because everything is an endpoint and you need to be able to protect all these endpoints.

How do you protect yourself in that world? Intelligence is going to be one of the ways you can do that. We now have something called “Advanced Threat Analytics.” This works for Windows 10 today. We hope to extend it long term --  no timelines announced -- to be able to incorporate it into other devices. 

Our goal is not to be the security company for everybody. We want to be able to augment whatever you have. We recognize there are all kinds of security companies out there. 

NG: How might the IT Modernization Fund Help Microsoft’s business?

SA: I don’t think we’ve looked at the details. I don’t think anybody’s sure how it’s going to roll out. It’s a good thing for federal agencies -- clearly, they need money to do this, but it’s going to be really important to see how it gets implemented.

If we were to give [agencies] guidance, we would tell them: Come up with that 1-, 3-, 5-year plan, actually do the analysis -- use some of that money to do the analysis up front. Figure out which apps are good candidates to move to the cloud, figure out which apps are good candidates to virtualize.

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NG: What’s Microsoft Federal doing to prepare for the upcoming administration change?

SA: We’re still waiting to see how things transpire. Clearly, it’ll be different depending on whether it is Trump or Clinton. I don’t think we’ve made any plans yet. 

There’s a changing of the guard. All the appointees have to leave, so typically … we have to meet a whole new class of CIOs. We have to find out who’s going to be appointed first, and we have to find out what the budget’s going to do.

When do we think certain CIOs are going to leave -- having those conversations now -- [and] making sure we get critical work done prior to their exits ... Eight years ago, it seemed like people were leaving sooner. [Now,] It seems like a lot of people are sticking around.