We recently covered an event that embodies a key tenet of Software AG Government Solutions’ core beliefs about government IT procurement: the importance of “try before you buy.” To gain more insight on this philosophy and why it’s so important for government agencies, we had a chance to sit down with Tod Weber, chairman and CEO of Software AG Government Solutions.
MG: What is “PlugFest Plus” and why is it an important concept for Software AG Government Solutions?
Weber: Looking at the IT landscape over the past 10 years, there has been a propensity for agencies to invest before proving out technologies. The PlugFest Plus concept (here is a series of videos that explains the concept in more detail; this recent GCN article is also a good resource) essentially builds on the traditional PlugFest model where IT vendors are given a specific challenge to solve and invited to “plug in” their solutions to prove out their technologies with regard to the challenge at hand. This “prove it first and prove it fast” type of challenge aligns perfectly with Software AG Government Solutions’ “special forces” approach to solving complex IT challenges quickly and efficiently. The PlugFest Plus concept that Air Force is launching where actual solicitations are tied to the competition represents a shift towards a more committed “try it first” mentality that we believe is a smart one, especially for government agencies.
Another reason PlugFest Plus and even the traditional PlugFest concept mirrors our approach to delivering IT solutions to government agencies is that it’s about using technology to solve a particular problem. When we work with government agencies, we aren’t looking for a set of technology requirements but at a real problem the agency is trying to solve. We propose a short duration stress test of the software, and we are involved with these proofs of concept for the few days that we are on the ground. We show them how to do it on their premises, which is a very important piece. By operating this way, we take away the mystery and the risk inherent in the traditional IT procurement process.
MG: Why is the PlugFest Plus concept so promising for government agencies?
Weber: Government agencies are being tasked with doing more with less, and the PlugFest Plus, or try it first, concept aligns perfectly with this shift to becoming more budget-conscious. Rather than investing millions of dollars up front to procure a solution that an agency uses for several years before realizing it doesn’t actually do what they thought it would or doesn’t address the problem it was intended to, we believe a smarter approach is proving out a solution before procuring it. This method is quick and efficient and, most of all in terms of budget, cost-effective. With increasing pressure on the budget, government agencies need to find ways to do things better, faster and with short-term quantifiable ROI in mind; the PlugFest Plus concept addresses all these needs.
Agility is another important concept in the government today, and this approach is all about being agile and designing solutions that address a particular problem effectively, efficiently and in a way that paves the way for future modification and growth as requirements evolve.
MG: Is the Federal Government moving towards a PlugFest Plus mentality?
Weber: We are definitely seeing a shift away from big buys in the government, which bodes well for proving out technologies before investing and considering multi-vendor solutions for maximum efficiency rather than traditional single-vendor procurements that maybe don’t fully address all requirements. The try before you buy mentality is gaining momentum, and I believe it will continue to gain traction as more agencies see the benefits of proving out technologies before investing.
An additional benefit of this model of procuring IT solutions is that it emphasizes the importance of collaboration between an agency and IT vendors. When we work with agencies to design the solutions that best meet their needs, the question “can you do this?” typically comes up a few times. Working together to address their specific challenges builds confidence and credibility. An agency should make it a priority to get to know and trust the integrity of their IT vendor partners.