Why I Joined Idea Entity

By Nathan Atherley, COO @ Idea Entity

Have you ever wondered about the challenges faced by the US Government in understanding and applying technology?

Tim, Jason, and I found ourselves delving into this during a recent conversation, reminiscing about our time at Gartner. We had a great team, a good business, and the opportunity to shape how the US Government understood technology to advise them on their future goals and address current challenges.  We fondly remembered our customers, the tough national security challenges, and the effort of those clients to make a difference no matter what their obstacles.  

One of those obstacles that Gartner could help with was providing situational awareness on the state of technology and how to utilize that technology for specific problems.  The army of analysts that Gartner employed was world-class and could usually provide significant value within a short 30-minute interaction.  

As our time collectively came to a close at Gartner, we all started understanding a fundamental challenge the US Government faced – even with access to thousands of highly skilled analysts. Their day-to-day lives were not only complicated by internal government challenges such as producing a requirement, but accurately describing a problem in terms that translate to the commercial world.  

Another challenge we witnessed, is that many lacked a sufficient technological background to truly utilize the information that they had at their disposal with a Gartner license.  Gartner was originally targeted towards corporate CIOs who had teams of people in all IT areas, and we would spend a great deal of time customizing that research for Federal/DoD Missions.  It wasn’t the government’s fault and it wasn’t Gartner’s.  Officers and Government civilians are asked to do various things and wear multiple hats.  Most notably to lead an organization to accomplish their respective mission.  Secondary, was having a specific background in the area they were assigned.  

As former Air Force officers, Tim and I and Jason with over 20 years helping the US government, we understand the need for good leaders and have seen firsthand what happens when that’s not in place.  The right leader can create the most well-oiled & productive unit to accomplish any mission.  

One of my favorite leaders of all time, and a hero of mine, was Dick Winters who many know from the “Band of Brothers” movies.  Truly an inspiration and his autobiography was exactly the same as the movies.  I could see why his troops would follow him even when faced with probable death.  One challenge that the government currently faces, as technology rapidly progresses and specializes it is difficult for the government to obtain technology and market intelligence information that allows the government to build the most effective solutions.  Compounded with contracting issues which have become a fundamental problem for almost all organizations it becomes almost an unsolvable solution.  Gartner did provide a valuable service, but the treasure trove of information possessed in the reports and the analysts was at times difficult for government offices to digest and act appropriately.

The conversation turned to the opportunity we have at Idea Entity.  The products Idea Entity offers aren’t rocket science on the surface.  In fact, we consciously design our products with a 2-click methodology utilized most famously at Apple to create an intuitive, natural workflow that requires little to no training.  

That intuitive UI has been put on top of archaic government processes that most inside the Government had become resigned to deal with or my favorite, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  I illustrate this to people that I talk to about Idea Entity and our product Rhybus that the US Government at times operates as we once did when there was no internet or application enable banking. You had to go into an office, stand in line, talk to someone, fill out paperwork, and wait until the paperwork got processed.  That is EXACTLY how our fighting force, unfortunately, must still operate in a vast majority of areas.  I was a finance officer during my time in the US Air Force and it never occurred to me that printing PDFs and hand carrying them and having them potentially sit on the next person’s desk for weeks or months wasn’t the only way to do it.

Idea Entity is delivering solutions to solve age-old issues in a 21st-century approach.  We have essentially delivered internet and application banking-type solutions to the Government.  Our Customer Service Portal (CSP) solution that is deployed to over 1.2M users in the Air Force has become the “app” of choice to remove personnel roadblocks that until a few years ago you had to stand in line, talk to someone, fill out paperwork, ensure it was getting done, and hope for no mistakes.  Don’t even get me started on arranging travel on DTS.  I recently had a conversation with a former student and current reserve F-15 pilot who told me “I have never used DTS and have not filed a travel voucher since I’ve been in the reserves.  It is more painful and costly for me than if I just eat the costs myself”.  That comment blew me away.  He is essentially paying the government to let him fly F-15s on his reserve duty.  

At Idea Entity we solve problems that every person at all levels within the government knows about and have grumbled about during their careers.  Acquisitions processes, Personnel issues, Finance and pay issues, Tasker tools.  This was exactly the problem Tim, Jason and I thought the government needed to address most of all.  Not necessarily bending new physics to provide new hypersonic weapons (though we need that too) but eliminating costs, increasing efficiencies, and providing invaluable insight into processes and how commanders might improve the “10 months” it used to take to get a $250K acquisition through the door.  A favorite question I like to ask my friends is how much of the $800B DoD budget (and $2T+ federal budget) is wasted per year?  The answers I have heard are at least 15% and some say as high as 40%.  That is a lot of money that could be deployed somewhere else.  Maybe national debt service or even reducing taxes?  

The future at Idea Entity is great, we have the means and the solution to solve something as simple as creating a funding document that complies with all rules and regulations and incorporates the organization’s current workflows to ensure all airmen, sailors, and soldiers get paid appropriately.  But our opportunity is more significant than that.  We saved $34M in conjunction with Army MEDCOM by providing them with visibility on what they were purchasing.  MEDCOM immediately saw duplicative contracts that were either eliminated or consolidated.  MEDCOM also reduced their acquisition cycle time from 10 months to 3-4 weeks on the back of our automation.  

We knew the government needed technology.  With Gartner, they possessed the knowledge for anything that they could likely need.  What Idea Entity addresses is the tremendous insight Gartner provided our previous customers and many of our current mission partners and puts into action some of the basic plumbing that is needed to immediately and positively affect the mission.  

The small crew that has already come over from the preeminent advisory company in the world knows how valuable what we’re doing will be for our mission partners.  We are excited for the future of not only the success we can have here at Idea Entity but more importantly helping to contribute to the mission and the defense of this great nation.  Saving money, and time and creating efficiencies is our specialty here at Idea Entity.  We would love to work with and support each of you.  We are happy to talk to anyone even if we are not the solution you need, and we will tell you that also.  If you want to join us, we are growing rapidly (40% last year in headcount), and send our HR an email to start that process.