The use of different types of technical language by government officials and industry personnel continues to plague the government procurement process, said Soraya Correa, former chief procurement officer at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at the Feb. 22 Digital Transformation Summit hosted by ACT-IAC and MeriTalk.

That failure to achieve optimal communication comes up when government and industry tries to negotiate the purchase of tools and software, she said.

“Often we don’t speak the same language, and we spend a lot of time speaking in each other’s language at each other,” stated Correa.

“If we can start to understand each other, that’s what’s going to drive” improvement, she said, adding that “this is true also for industry and government.”

Correa, who now heads her own Soraya Correa & Associates consulting firm, found support for that view during the Feb. 22 event when she asked her former colleague Yemi Oshinnaiye – who is assistant administrator and chief information officer at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – about his experience with technical language barriers.

“There’s a language divide sometimes between Federal and vendor IT where we say, ‘I want to build something,’ but then vendors can say, ‘well, we don’t build it that way anymore,’” Oshinnaiye said. “So we need to know what to ask for.”

Correa continued, “Sometimes we get wrapped up in talking about the technology, not the solution. We focus on what is the technology, how are you going to build this thing instead of focusing on what’s the outcome.”

“So I do think the planning drives the train,” she said, “if we can start with a really good planning group of sessions … where we’re talking to one another, speaking in the same language, in the language that we all can understand.” Once that step is accomplished, “let’s have a conversation and let’s iterate,” Correa said.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.