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Capital Business
Posted at 01:30 PM ET, 06/22/2012

TechAmerica restructures to focus on public policy, networking

Industry group TechAmerica is restructuring and plans to shutter some of its offices and end programs that no longer fit its central mission to
Shawn Osborne is president and CEO of TechAmerica. (Courtesy of Tech America)
provide a place for members to network, talk about business trends and shape public policy.

The changes follow the arrival of Shawn Osborne, who took over as president and chief executive of the group in March. He was previously president, chief executive and director of software firm Ulticom.

TechAmerica was created from a combination of multiple industry associations. In 2008, the Information Technology Association of America merged with the Cyber Security Industry Alliance and the Government Electronics Industry Association. Then in 2009, ITAA merged with the American Electronics Association to form TechAmerica.

The organization’s members now span a broad range — from Facebook and Google to Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics as well as smaller companies.

“There were a lot of assets and programs and services that came with it over the years that are still around today,” said Osborne, in his first interview since taking the helm of TechAmerica. “I don’t want to say that they’re not necessary, but in some ways we were trying to be everything to everybody and we were trying to do too much.

“We weren’t necessarily modern, integrated and nimble,” he added.

Now, Osborne said he is reshaping TechAmerica to focus on the two areas it sees as most valuable to its members: business networking and intelligence and public policy and advocacy.

“Anything that doesn’t fit into that category — whether it’s a program or a service or even staff or a location that we might have from the merger — will no longer be part of TechAmerica,” Osborne said.

To do this, he said, TechAmerica will instead partner with other groups on some functions it used to do, such as hosting financial conferences or providing advice to organizations trying to set standards.

“It’s programs and services like that that ... [TechAmerica is] not necessarily unique and ... can’t be the best in the world,” Osborne said. They “don’t really fit with the strategic direction.”

Osborne declined to say what locations would be closed and how many employees would lose their jobs. The organization — which has eight offices around the country — will maintain its D.C. office.

The industry group is also trying to bolster its online presence. TechAmerica already has a social media presence and it produces Webinars, e-newsletters, videos and blogs, Osborne said. But he said he hopes to reinvest some of the savings from shifting out of other areas into beefing up TechAmerica’s digital assets.

“We’ve been known for our awards dinners ... our road shows ... and our conferences,” he said. “But what most people didn’t realize is that we have a fairly good suite of online programs as well.”

Though Osborne said the changes weren’t motivated by a need to cut costs, he said they will provide efficiencies.

“Even though we’re going to lower our operating costs ... we’re also going to be reinvesting some of that,” he said, noting that the organization will hire new talent. “There was excess, and we weren’t operating as efficiently as we should.”

Industry associations — particularly national ones that reach across communities — face challenges in finding a niche, said Bobbie Kilberg, president of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

“The consolidation was necessary. I don’t think that companies had the financial wherewithal or the interest to belong to myriad technology associations,” she said. Now, TechAmerica needs “to develop their own niche.”

By  |  01:30 PM ET, 06/22/2012

 
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