Authors:  Helene Johnson, President, Bid2Win Consulting & Deirdre Murray, Principal, Deirdre Murray Consulting LLC

On July 27, 2021 we enjoyed a lively conversation with ACT-IAC’s CEO, Dave Wennergren who expanded on why associations matter, why ACT-IAC is unique, the impact of the pandemic, and more… Here are the results of our discussion:

Q: Why do associations matter in the federal space?  

A: Most challenges we face in the federal market today are big, complex and span across organizational boundaries – such as IT modernization, cloud adoption, cybersecurity, acquisition reform and shared services, to name a few.  Associations help to facilitate the exchange of ideas, leverage the sharing of best practices, thus leading to better results and building trust between agency and industry partners. The ultimate result of greater collaboration between government and industry is generating new ideas and approaches to help government move boldly into the future to improve operations and deliver results.

Q: Why ACT-IAC?  What makes ACT-IAC unique in the federal government market?

A: For over 40 years, the mission of the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council has been accelerating government mission outcomes through collaboration, leadership and education.   We occupy a fairly unique position in the market with the twin strengths of over 8,000 government leaders engaged and over 400 member companies and another 8,000 industry thought leaders involved working together on the top issues of the day.  All of our projects start with a need by government along with a government champion. Recent ACT-IAC work products include:  Zero Trust Report: Lessons Learned from Vendor and Partner Research (May 2021); Technology Business Management Agency Best Practices, Lessons Learned (April 2021); Emerging Technologies and Acquisition:  How Block Chain, RPA, Data Analytics, and AI are Enabling Federal Procurement Transformation (April 2021), IT Modernization:  Lessons Learned and Best Practices (Feb 2021), and several important papers as a part of our Agenda 2021 Presidential Election Project.

ACT-IAC offers a range of unique ways to get involved and “make a difference” including our eight Communities of Interest, or “COIs,” that are focused on the key topics that matter most to government leaders – Cybersecurity, Networks and Telecommunications, Emerging Technologies, IT modernization, Acquisition and more.   The association also offers the “Federal Insights Exchange” program with 10 specific federal agency teams that engage with agency leaders on their agency priorities, upcoming procurement plans and information exchange.   ACT-IAC also showcases several highly touted professional development programs (Partners, Voyagers, Associates and Growth in Women Leadership (GLOW)). ACT-IAC also takes on a number of special projects, recently offering insights on FedRAMP and CPARS lessons learned, and offers a number of additional ways to engage through our Institute for Innovation and Small Business Alliance.

Q: With the Biden administration’s strong focus on small business, what value and advantages does ACT-IAC bring to the Small Businesses?

A: ACT-IAC has always been a welcoming home for small and mid-tier businesses that make up most of our membership. The association offers a wide range of resources and support for small businesses including the Small Business Alliance, programs engaging government small business leaders discussing procurement vehicles and approaches, opportunities to find partners, and specific programming on doing business in the federal market.  

Q: Looking back on 2020 and Covid-19 and the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, how is ACT IAC adapting to the new normal?   How is the association continuing to bring value to its government and industry members?   What is the biggest pandemic related surprise?   What are your biggest lessons learned?  How can/will ACT-IAC remain relevant?

A: ACT-IAC made some quick adjustments to its program offerings when the pandemic hit in March 2020 and we shifted to a virtual world. We found new and creative ways to share information and

stay connected, expanding ACT-IAC’s “reach”, breaking down barriers to participation, and finding new ways to collaborate. Before the pandemic, we had a few webinars. Now we have them weekly and will continue to do so post-pandemic. Virtual engagement helped support our goal to expand our reach nationally. We were able to increase participation in our professional development programs, and also now offer a weekly podcast series called “The Buzz with ACT-IAC,” and a monthly radio show with Federal News Network called “Accelerating Government with ACT-IAC.”

We were delighted with how proactively and thoughtfully our staff and volunteers quickly shifted to the virtual world, and were also pleased to see an increase in government participation during the pandemic.  Clearly there are a lot of valuable lessons learned from the experience about being able to work from anywhere and how virtual solutions can help break down the barriers to participation, engage more people and help reduce costs in areas like business travel, commercial real estate, etc.

Q: How will ACT-IAC handle the year’s flagship event, the Executive Leadership Conference as a “hybrid” (in person and online)?

A: There’s a lot of enthusiasm to get back together again in-person, and so Imagine Nation ELC 2021 will be our first major “hybrid” conference with both the ability to participate in-person or virtually.  ELC will be held in Hershey, PA on November 7-9 with the theme of “Adventures in Change.”  The event will be slightly smaller this year (than ELCs of past years), with 600 or so in-person attendees, and we’ll use virtual tickets to accommodate the overflow of attendees in addition to folks who are outside of the DC area or who have health issues that might preclude in-person participation.  We’re encouraging companies to buy sponsorships which include in-person tickets and are setting aside tickets for our most active volunteer leaders and government attendees and then will soon be offering a limited number of general admission industry tickets on a “first come, first served” basis.   More to follow on all of that.

Q: How can members get involved?

A: There are so many ways to get involved, to include joining a COI, being a project leader, contributing to a report, participating in an FIE, being a participant or volunteer leader for a professional development program, attending events or helping with conference planning. The best way to stay connected is to read our ACT-IAC News Flash daily email to see what’s coming up and then raise your hand and bring a friend.

Q: ACT IAC offers the flagship and highly regarded professional development programs to educate, inspire and energize the next-era of government and industry.  What advice would you offer these up and coming professionals?

A: Times of change are indeed times of opportunity, and I’d offer that there are several things people should keep in mind, given the world we face. 

  1. Embrace Speed and Agile Government.  It’s a key topic of Agenda 2021 work, moving with greater speed in our acquisition processes, being much more customer experience-focused, and recognizing the power of optimizing our business processes.
  2. Trust.  Trust in government has been in decline for a long time and large organizations, both public and private, still suffer from low trust.  Greater transparency is such an important step to build trust, letting data-driven decisions and evidence-based policies replace decisions made from fear and anecdote.  Also, in a world of managed services & shared services, we must use outcome-based performance measures to get past our issues of wanting to personally control and do things ourselves.
  3. Innovation.  Leaders must give innovation the chance to flourish, encouraging a move from risk aversion to risk management and pushing for pilots and experiments to bring new thinking and ways to do business into their organizations.  We must reward, rather than penalize new ideas and approaches.
  4. Character.  Given the imperative to build trust, the power of agile government and the rapid pace of change we will continue to face, the one thing we must all focus on as leaders is Character.  Your actions speak far louder than your words and your actions have an amplifying effect on the actions of others across the entire organization.  Dr. Jack London noted in his book on Character that “your character will absolutely determine the kind of life that you will live.”

Q: What key message would you like to share?

A: When government and industry work together, outstanding results are delivered.  It’s all of our responsibility to make sure we’re stepping outside of our organization and hearing from others—recognizing that we’re not alone in this time of rapid change and that there are thought leaders all around us that we can work with to create new and better ways of doing business.  At ACT-IAC, our mission is clear—accelerating government mission outcomes through collaboration, leadership and education.  If you’re already engaged with us, thank you for your willingness to give back to the community and to be a part of an outstanding organization dedicated to good government.  And, if you’re not involved yet, then come get involved—help to pick up the brush and paint an even brighter future for government! As a member of ACT-IAC, you’ll stay on top of the government’s top priorities. You’ll build relationships that last a lifetime. You’ll help position yourself and your company or agency as thought leader, and you’ll be able to make a difference and have a positive impact on the nation.

Associations Matter, Blog Post




Why Associations Matter: ACT-IAC

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