Innovate!: Driving Actionable Insights for a Lean Government

Phill Thomas, COO
According to Phill Thomas, COO of Innovate!, Inc. (Innovate!), our company exists to transform the government to be a lean, exciting and empowering place to work. Thomas decided to put his years of entrepreneurial experience to use, which led to the foundation of Innovate! in 2002 with wife Lily Thomas, CEO and President.“Today, a major challenge that federal agencies face is having islands of information that lead to duplication of effort and missed opportunities to integrate data and make better informed business decisions. Most government agencies save their information in multiple data sources like spreadsheets, Microsoft Word documents and shared portals. In the case of an information request, there is a frantic search through all the disintegrated data sources to accumulate data, followed by the preparation of products that are often inaccurate, incomplete or almost impossible to have 100 percent confidence in. Agencies can’t think about big data or knowledge management until they get their data into one place,” notes Thomas. Innovate! works with clients to bring systems together, so that all data on a topic is related and can be consistently, accurately and quickly aggregated. Armed with this new capability, clients can see trends, make recommendations, and take actions that directly drive the level of performance the organization is committed to achieving.

Fostering a Business Focused Culture

Having direct metrics that don’t drive actionable insights is a common pitfall with government IT programs and why 90 percent of government IT programs fail. This is where Innovate! steps in to build authentic performance measurement programs that consistently and accurately aggregate data points which are evaluated to deduce trends and facilitate decision making. Innovate!’s solution enables users to pull information more effectively and work in a much richer analytical environment. Innovate! built a connector that helps visualize data points on maps.“We answer pertinent questions like, ‘what factors are keeping a Director up at night and where does the weak link lie?’ This generates courage in organizational leaders to confront the constraints that surface in data analysis,” remarks Thomas. The COO credits collaboration with Salesforce and Esri as a crucial force behind the efficacy of Innovate!’s solutions, and says their partnership acts as a catalyst to operationalize such solutions. “We are looking for change agents in the government and private sector and teaming partners to bring about the breadth of transformation we are committed to bringing about,” he adds. Innovate! applies the same approach to their own internal operations, developing authentic performance measures programs that foster a corporate culture of integrity and performance excellence.

Innovation at the Core

Having made considerable investments in building their own Salesforce-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Innovate! runs every aspect of the business—personnel, contracts/ subcontracts, project management, staffing, strategic planning, opportunity pipeline, and Customer Resource Management (CRM)—on their solution, all enhanced with a Geographical Information System (GIS) interface. “A competent leader is governed by an unstoppable attitude, and adhering to this principle, we at Innovate! continually develop our solutions,” states Thomas. So far the company has developed an organizational performance measures toolkit, government performance platform, ArcGIS Online Jumpstart, Innovate! Server Monitor, and the Innovate! Business Operations Platform (IBOP). Always initializing all their solutions as pilot programs, new technologies are introduced to Innovate!’s customers only after a thorough round of testing and optimization.
The company demonstrates an acute tenacity for building solutions that optimize resources, ultimately decreasing the government’s dependence on contractors. A reflection of his strong business acumen, Thomas ensures that his entire leadership team participates in rigorous training that maintains staff motivation and self-awareness, which ultimately enhances the delivery of cutting edge solutions and services.

Innovate! works with clients to bring systems together, so that all data on a topic can be consistently, accurately and quickly aggregated

In one case for the EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), the client’s “Safer Choice” staff and management had an increasing backlog of incoming applications to review and approve. The program was being managed using a complicated system of databases, spreadsheets, Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, and email text that were being collected through multiple electronic and paper sources. “The client was looking for a way to streamline the workflow and shorten turnaround time,” explains Thomas. After implementing Innovate!’s solution, the staff at Safer Choice is now able to communicate with program partners immediately, receive critical documentation quickly, and seamlessly process submissions. The system facilitates program and project management, allowing data to be tracked historically, creating interactive workgroups, meeting agendas and action plans, and providing stakeholders the ability to monitor the progress of their applications and submissions. The system also reduces version control issues, thereby providing increased quality. “Other benefits included reduction in time previously spent drafting documents, reviewing incomplete submissions, and tracking reviews and audits. Safer Choice spoke with multiple contractors about many different options for resolving the program’s ongoing challenges. Innovate! proposed this solution with a 75 percent reduction in development cost compared to the alternatives and provided the first sprint of system functionality within 72 hours of receiving the requirements,” says Thomas.

Futuristic Tools Transforming the Government

To further leverage the rich functionality of their solution suite, Innovate! is currently investing in building a federal government toolset. “There are 8-12 commonalities that exist across the federal government and we are developing various functionalities into an integrated platform, which will be mobile and GIS enabled,” reveals Thomas. The platform will also be a source for knowledge management, analytics and social/ collaboration. In an attempt to cement their relationships with public sector clients, Innovate! recently leased their first formal office space at the Ronald Reagan building which co-locates them with federal government clients and potential clients like EPA, USAID, Commerce and Customs and Border Patrol. In the future, the company will continue to invest in their business platform for the benefit of government and private sector clients. Keeping in sight their operational values— integrity and impact driven services—Thomas’s visionary skills make Innovate! a one stop shop in all areas of business consulting solutions and services. Capitalizing on the current technological trends like mobile, cloud, knowledge management, and visualization, coupled with their passion for eliminating all performance measurement challenges, it is evident that Innovate! will continue to revolutionize the government sector into business-based, customer-focused organizations for years to come


Alexandria, VA

Phill Thomas, COO

Provides information technology, business consulting, geospatial and cloud advisory services for federal, state/local and tribal organizations