Are These Collaboration Platforms Key to Improving Federal IT?

Federal CIO Tony Scott

Federal CIO Tony Scott Susan Walsh/AP

Federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott announced the winning teams of the first-ever CIO Council IT Solutions Challenge.

What could help fix some of the longstanding issues in the way the government builds and buys IT systems?

The six-month “IT Solutions Challenge,” which just wrapped up, has come up with an answer: more cross-agency collaboration.

The federal government launched the challenge in April. Nearly 40 mid-level and front-line IT staff from 19 different agencies were sorted into six different teams and tasked with identifying bottlenecks in the IT-buying process and coming up with innovative solutions.

Federal Chief Information Officer Tony Scott announced the two winning teams on Monday in a blog post.

The judges awarded top honors to an eight-member team that came up with “FedIT,” a social network and communications platform that allows both federal IT and acquisition professionals to collaborate with other agencies in real time.

“Agencies need a better way to communicate with each other and the employees need a better way to collaborate,” Joshua Brightwell, a Web and new media IT specialist at the Transportation Department, said in a July blog post about his team’s plans.

A “people’s choice award” went to a seven-member team that devised “Project GEMMAA,” a cloud-hosted test environment where federal IT workers can collaborate and contribute to the implementation of cross-agency IT initiatives.

The project is meant to create a virtual brain trust “testing, developing and implementing emerging technologies across the federal government,” said Lori Alfred, an IT specialist at NASA and a member of the team.

The six teams were instructed by Scott to be bold and take risks as they hunted for innovative yet sustainable ideas. The solutions proposed “can significantly enhance the work we do by fostering collaboration across the federal government and enabling us to drive greater value for the American people,” Scott said in a blog post.