Thursday, July 25, 2024

Event Recap – 2024 FORUM Innovation Awards

FORUM Innovation Awards 2024 Recap: Empowering Innovation and Honoring Tech Program Excellence
The 2024 FORUM Innovation Awards event, held at the City Club in Washington, DC on June 11, was a resounding success. It brought together Industry leaders, Government officials, and forward-thinking and disruptive change agents to discuss the future of innovation in Government Contracting. The energy in the room was palpable, and the discussions were both insightful and inspiring.

The theme for the day’s discussions was “Empowering Innovation: Fostering Ethical AI, Amplifying Small Agency/Small Business Impact, and Enhancing Agency Intercommunication.”

In addition to honoring all the winning technology programs who received FORUM’s prestigious Innovation Award and the Innovator of the Year award (you can view the list of winners here), the keynotes, panels, and tech talks provided a wealth of knowledge to the more than 300 Government and Industry leaders in attendance.

Here are the major themes and key takeaways from the event:

Market Overview: Anticipating the Surge in Innovation Funding
SPEAKER: Blake Harvey – Vice President of Growth, Red Team Consulting

The event kicked off with a dynamic discussion on the anticipated spike in innovation funding post-election. Participants were urged to engage their contracting officers (COs) now and not to overlook the significance of major contracts, especially those related to Army Access. The consensus was clear: proactive engagement and strategic focus are critical in this evolving landscape.

Ethical AI Frameworks: Balancing Excitement and Fear

MODERATOR: Rabiah Sutton – CEO, FWDThink
Jennifer Ives – AI Strategist, Independent Board Member, Author
Raymond McCollum – Policy Branch Chief for the Division of Acquisition and Cooperative Support, National Science Foundation
Chidilim (Chi) Okonkwo – Director of Agency Financial Systems, National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA)
Lester Ingol – Assistant Administrator for the Resilience Office of Business Management (OBM), Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA)

The first panel delved into the complexities of Ethical AI Frameworks.
Key takeaways included:
• Addressing Data Bias: Recognizing that data is inherently biased and requires continuous monitoring and adjustment.
• Continuous Model Training: The importance of regularly training AI models to stay relevant and effective.
• Effective Data Management: Implementing controlled data strategies.
• Leading Change Management: The need for strong leadership in change management to drive AI adoption and oversight.
• Industry Collaboration: Increasing engagement with the industry to facilitate AI rollout.
• Government as a Shared Service: Promoting collaborative efforts within the government to optimize AI implementation.

The panel highlighted both the excitement and the underlying fears surrounding AI, emphasizing the need for balanced and ethical approaches.

Tech Talk

Tan Wilson – President, Entellect; Founder, Tan’s Two Cents (T2C) Podcast

Tan joined us to talk about her career journey, drawing from her many years in Government Contracting and her leadership at Entellect, where she and her team have focused on strategic growth to the tune of $150 billion in client wins. Her insights on everything from navigating challenging business environments to building and maintaining high-performing teams through strong communication, were a hit with the crowd.

Revamping FedRAMP: Empowering Small Businesses

MODERATOR: Eduardo Ortiz – CEO, Coforma
Gerald Caron – Chief Information Officer, ITA, Department of Commerce, OCIO
Calvin Mitchell – Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions, Grants and Risk Management, US Department of Education
Jane Hite-Syed – Chief Operating Officer, National Government Services
Chanaka Perera – Chief Technology Officer, LCG

The second panel focused on the crucial need to revamp FedRAMP to better support small businesses, which are recognized for their agility and innovation.
Highlights included:
• Flexibility in Contracting: Advocating for more flexible contracting mechanisms, particularly in pricing.
• Hybrid Contracting Methods: Exploring innovative hybrid contracting approaches.
• Agency-Wide BPAs: Implementing blanket purchase agreements across agencies to streamline processes.

The discussion underscored the importance of empowering small businesses to enhance government agility and efficiency.

Industry Insights: Open Source Innovations

Andrea Fletcher – Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services
Remy DeCausemaker – Open Source Lead, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services

Andrea and Remy described the work they carry out for CMS using open source innovations, and they showed a motion graphic that depicted 12 years of open source activity to show the audience the vast amount of data that is shared within the agency. While open source is a more seasoned methodology and tool for many agencies, Andrea and Remy showed the importance of using open source to spur continued growth and innovation at CMS, and provided their insights on its use and maintenance.

Tradewinds: Leading with Kindness and Resilience

SPEAKER: Bonnie Evangelista – Acting Deputy Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, Acquisition Directorate

Bonnie joined us to talk about the Tradewinds Solutions Marketplace she leads for the CDAO at Department of Defense, and a recurring theme was the importance of leading with kindness and resilience in the face of challenges. Traditional acquisition methods are no longer sufficient; there is a pressing need to adapt and scale rapidly.

Key points included:
• Accelerating Acquisition: Reducing friction and expediting business deals to get emerging technologies into the hands of warfighters.
• Contracts as the Ultimate Goal: Focusing on securing contracts as the end objective.
• Pitch Videos: Utilizing the submission of pitch videos with feedback and guidance to improve proposals and expedite processes.

This session highlighted the need for a compassionate and resilient approach to drive innovation and efficiency, and showed how it works very well on the Tradewinds effort.

Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council and Interagency Collaboration: A Unified Vision

MODERATOR: Dolores Kuchina-Musina – Chief Disruptor, REXOTA Solutions LLC
Maureen “Marty” Fromuth – Chief of Staff, Legislative Liaison, US Cyber Command
Karla Smith Jackson – Assistant Administrator for Procurement Senior Procurement Executive, NASA
Janice Glover-Jones – Senior Executive, Defense Intelligence Agency
Kristin Ruiz – Deputy Assistant Administrator, Deputy Chief Information Officer, Transportation Security Administration

The final panel brought forward the importance of a unified vision and cross-agency collaboration in acquisitions.
Major takeaways included:
• Protecting Regulators: Ensuring the integrity of regulatory bodies like the FAR Council.
• Unified Communication: Achieving consistency in language and approach across the NCMA and FAR Council.
• Cognitive Diversity: Leveraging diverse perspectives as a force multiplier.
• Interagency Collaboration: Encouraging collaboration within and across agencies, with HHS’s COVID grants management as a prime example.

The panelists emphasized the value of diverse thinking and the need for internal collaboration to drive successful outcomes.

Keynote: What Makes Machine Intelligence?
SPEAKER: Shane Morris – Senior Executive Advisor, Devis

Our final speaker of the afternoon, Shane gave a lively and hilarious look at Machine Intelligence from his unique point of view. As a former record industry executive, Shane may not look the part of a typical leader in GovCon…but he offered up a wealth of knowledge about using machine intelligence to a business’s advantage while using funny and memorable anecdotes to make his point.
His revelations included:
• The history of machine intelligence and “making things fast,” which began in 11,000 BC, and culiminates in the current Kendrick Lamar vs. Drake rap battle (number one hits produced in lightning speed)…
• How intelligence is not intuitive (after all, the most profitable food sales concept ever, McDonald’s, is made by a clown!)
• How systems using Model, View and Controller (MVC) are not always reliable as you think (there’s probably a lot of garbage in there!)
• How causal systems driven by events are more closely related to human intelligence. (Shane’s analogy using the TV show “The Bachelor” was brilliant; in essence, machine intelligence systems require a lot of care and feeding to become “the right one.”

Shane’s keynote was both entertaining and informative, and garnered many insightful questions from an audience who appreciated his laid-back, funny and knowledgeable demeanor.

The FORUM Innovation Awards truly showcased of the power of collaboration, innovation, and strategic thinking to achieve unforeseen success in Government Contracting. The event provided a platform for meaningful discussions and actionable insights, setting the stage for future advancements in our growing business landscape.

The enthusiasm and expertise shared by the participants, along with their dedication to their current Government and Industry roles in implementing advanced technologies, will undoubtedly propel the industry forward in the coming years.

FORUM Innovation Awards Event Page
2024 FORUM Innovation Awards Event Photos


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FORUM Editor
Content Analyst for FORUM and Author on the Daily Take Newsletter for G2Xchange Health and FedCiv.

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