Innovate Employee Spotlight: Mr. Michael Blair, GIS/IT

What is your role at Innovate?

I would say I have a diverse role at Innovate as one of the GIS/IT managers. Essentially, I do a bit of everything, from soup to nuts. I support various clients in everything from hardware, server, and network configuration. I gather architecture requirements. I operate as the Scrum Master and Project Manager. For application development, I primarily support the developers on the design, user interface, and user experience, which means taking my vision, building out the design, and turning it into reality. I also work with clients through training and documentation to integrate them into the final solution. I also assist the Business Development team by drafting proposals and offering technical perspectives.

When I came to Innovate, I self-coined my position as a Digital Strategist, which is just a catchy way of saying a liaison between non-technical and technical. I translate a client’s requirements and recommendations for our technical staff, like programmers and database administrators, so we can identify technical solutions and move forward from there.

What has surprised you about working at Innovate?

I wouldn’t say this was surprising—since it’s in our name—but I chose to work at Innovate because of our perspective on our solutions. We don’t look at problems as hurdles but as opportunities to deliver something great. Someone else may say a certain solution isn’t possible, but we make it possible.

What is refreshing about Innovate are our core values. It’s one of the reasons I joined the company. We have a great cast of people throughout the company who all feel strongly about what we do and have the technical chops to make the impossible possible. You give us a problem, and we’re going to try to figure out how to solve it for you. We bring that passion to our clients, which is why many of our current clients are long-time customers.

What have been some of your top accomplishments and success stories?

Our work with Engineering Consulting Services (ECS) is a great example of our innovation. ECS is a private business we’ve served for years. We started by supporting an existing application. We’ve since rebuilt and modernized the app. I’m talking about full-service; we worked through the requirements, engineered their backend servers and how the app would talk between databases, and brought everything together into a fully modern geospatial application that integrates into their business. We’re constantly building new functionality for it, and it currently services 5,000 users. I’ve helped grow the app with ECS, so it’s a project I’m proud of.

What are Innovate’s resources and opportunities for employees?

With Innovate’s emphasis on innovation, we have lots of opportunities to be on the cutting edge of technology. As an Esri partner, we have access to Esri resources, whether it’s early releases of software or direct access to their core developers. I recently completed a course on ArcGIS Enterprise through Esri. That kind of on-the-job training is invaluable, both for employees and our clients, who benefit from that knowledge. My team is also currently completing the AWS Cloud Certification. Innovate understands that training and certification are important for both staff growth and the maturity of the company.

What does Innovate’s mission and core values mean to you?

I would say Innovate’s value of “Love and Respect Human Beings” speaks directly to me. When you care about who you work with and who you work for, it speaks volumes. Clients appreciate that we want to get the task at hand done quickly and correctly. But we also value the client themselves and reach out to them on a human level. We have a client in Colorado who I reached out to during the wildfires to make sure they weren’t impacted. And it’s not just me who reaches out. I see it throughout the company, through our Slack channels when we celebrate someone’s work anniversary or birthday. That care matters. It’s not just, “Oh, I work for a company.” We truly are a big family, even though we work virtually.

Tell us about your career trajectory. How did you get to your position at Innovate?

I have a diverse background and have done a lot of different things, but I’m able to use those experiences and bring them to the table at Innovate. I earned my undergraduate degree in Human Ecology, so I am passionate about our place in the world and how we can make a difference, whether it is through recycling or building a new software technology. At school, I worked as a computer tutor, and the director recommended I take a course in GIS. I fell in love. At the time, I wanted to use GIS to track sharks and pelagic fishes, but it was too early for the technology. However, we recently modernized EPA’s sanitary surveys platform to help the Office of Water collect spatial data to maintain healthy waters and beaches. This project meant a lot to me because of my background in ecology and my love of sharks.

I then moved to New Hampshire, and one of the professors at Keene State College asked me to teach a course on GIS. I taught part-time for 20 years, so when clients ask for training, it’s a skill I can bring to the table. I was also president of a nonprofit in-school dance program and chair of the school board, which gave me great project management experience. I eventually started my own technology consulting business. However, I needed high-speed internet, which I couldn’t access from my 300-year-old home on a dirt road. I worked with the mayor to increase access to broadband throughout the city. This turned into a conversation with the state GIS director, who wanted to do a pilot on high-speed internet. We received stimulus money that allowed us to map high-speed internet in the state, which led me to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and then Innovate. Experiences and connections seemed to fall into place serendipitously. And it’s not just me. Innovate is full of people with interesting backgrounds, which means we all bring unique experiences and perspectives to the company.

NITAAC Rescinds CIO-SP3 Small Business Stop Work Order

As of January 26, 2021, NITAAC rescinded the stop work order on the Chief Information Officer – Solutions and Partners 3 (CIO-SP3) Small Business category enabling Innovate! Inc. to perform work as a prime contractor under the vehicle.  CIO-SP3 is multiple award Government Wide Acquisition Contract (GWAC) under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Information Technology Assessment and Acquisition Center (NITAAC). In addition, Innovate! is currently an 8(a)-contract holder on the vehicle. Innovate services all ten (10) task areas of this vehicle, optimizing customer access and use of CIO-SP3. 

CIO-SP3 offers government agencies an unprecedented breadth of IT that supports the Federal Enterprise Architecture, the Federal Health Architecture, and the DoD Enterprise Architecture, and it can be used to meet the requirements of agencies with Data Center Consolidation, Cloud Computing, Health IT, Mobility, and Cybersecurity needs. Highlights of CIO-SP3 include:

  • Ceiling value of $20 billion, and it can be used by federal civilian or Department of Defense (DoD) Agencies to meet scientific, health, administrative, operational, managerial and information management requirements.
  • Easy-to-use, secure web-based e-GOS ordering system for automated task order completion, set-aside, management, and awardee selection and notification.
  • NITAAC customer service center can deliver a 1-hour response time for any contractual, technical or procedural question, and it provides 1-day turnaround on free, comprehensive SOW/SOO assessment for every task order.
  • No special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” required.
  • Streamlined ordering and procedures under FAR Subpart 16.505 save time, money, and resources.
  • Simplified evaluations at the task order level, resulting in significant savings in time, money, and resources.
  • Ceiling rates were negotiated at the Master Contract level to be the best available, so agencies start with the most competitive rates available; however, competition will only help to lower those rates further.
  • Innovate was awarded all 10 task areas for optimal access to our clients.

Under the NITAAC program, agencies receive an easy-to-use, secure web-based e-GOS ordering system for automated task order completion, set-aside, management, and awardee selection and notification. The customer service center can deliver a 1-hour response time for any contractual, technical or procedural question, and it provides 1-day turnaround on free, comprehensive SOW/SOO assessment for every task order. Finally, there is no special “Delegation of Procurement Authority” required. Meanwhile, the GWAC offers streamlined ordering and procedures under FAR Subpart 16.505 save time, money, and resources.

CIO-SP3 Small Business Contract Holders have gone through a comprehensive review process prior to award, which includes dimensions such as technical capabilities, past performance, price, and cost. This enables contract officers to use simplified evaluations at the task order level, resulting in significant savings in time, money, and resources. Furthermore, ceiling rates were negotiated at the Master Contract level to be the best available, so agencies start with the most competitive rates available; however, competition will only help to lower those rates further.

For details, please visit Innovate’s CIO-SP3 page or reach out to our team:

Innovate and Chesapeake Bay Program: Healthy Watersheds Assessment Application

The Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) is a unique regional partnership that brings together federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations, and academic institutions to restore the Chesapeake Bay. As part of their efforts, the CBP recognizes the importance of conserving and sustaining healthy watersheds.

The CBP recently contracted with Innovate to create the Chesapeake Healthy Watersheds Assessment (CHWA) application, a visualization tool for their watershed GIS data. The goal of the CHWA is to promote the improvement of Chesapeake Watershed health through the visualization of its watershed health metrics. The application takes complex data—60+ attributes for over 80,000 unique catchments—and allows users, specifically non-GIS professionals, to interact with and visualize the data. Users of CHWA will be able to access useful information to support watershed conservation strategies and identify signals of change in healthy waters and watersheds.

Innovate created CHWA using Esri’s WebApp Builder Developer Edition. The mapping application contains over 130 layers and 9 widgets/tools, which enable users to use specific layers, filter data, turn on satellite imagery as a basemap, and create bookmarks for easy navigation, all on demand. One of the key features of the application is a custom reporting tool, designed by CBP staff and built by Innovate’s Max Marno via a custom Web AppBuilder widget. This tool allows users to explore metrics and indices related to watershed health and generate a custom report for the selected catchment. The app will be used by CBP and other organizations to study and monitor the watershed catchments of the Chesapeake.

Innovate’s Salesforce Product Owner Team Lead Recognized as Salesforce MVP

Stacey Cogswell, Innovate’s Salesforce Product Owner Team Lead, was recently recognized as a Salesforce MVP ( for a 4th year. Salesforce MVPs are leaders in the Trailblazer Community, an online learning ecosystem for all things Salesforce. We had a conversation with Stacey about her Salesforce work and some of her favorite things about Innovate.

  1. What is your role at Innovate?

I am the Product Owner Team Lead. The Product Owner does just that; they own the product. A lot of my day-to-day work involves translating between the client and our development team. I meet with the client to understand their needs and pain points. I meet with the development team to make sure they have all the information they need to be able to build. I then listen to the development team about what they’ve built and translate that back to the client. And we iterate from there. Anytime we show the client something we’ve built, there are always aspects we can change. It’s a repeating cycle of enhancements and improvements.

In addition to being the Product Owner, I am also the Product Owner Team Lead. I lead people on the product team, which includes other product owners, business analysts, and support specialists. I streamline our processes, remove hurdles or obstacles our employees face, and am available to assist in any way that I can.

  1. What has been one of your favorite projects while working at Innovate?

I’ve been singularly focused on one large project the entire time I’ve been at Innovate. I’m working on the Mission Transformation through Salesforce pilot we’re doing for the Office of Pesticides Programs within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It’s actually been really fun to help them take a primarily paper-based process and turn it into a digital system. I get to watch the OPP embrace the benefits of this digital transformation, which has been incredibly rewarding. One unexpected benefit was the switch to telework due to COVID-19, which the EPA has never had to do before. But because of our digital transformation pilot, they were able to use our cloud-based system in Salesforce to continue operations.

  1. Tell us about your professional growth while at Innovate. How have you been supported throughout your career here?

Innovate has absolutely been supportive and encouraging of my professional growth. In my year and a half that I’ve been with Innovate, I began as a Product Owner and am now the Product Owner Team Lead. So that is growth right there.

Innovate has also been very encouraging of the work I do within the Salesforce ecosystem. Since I’ve been at Innovate, I have been designated as a Salesforce Analytic Champion ( and have learned more about Salesforce’s advanced analytic tools. I now get to share that by implementing Analytics Cloud for our clients and by hosting workshops for my coworkers to help them learn how to use these tools. There are certain things I knew I wanted to do to grow professionally—for example, I wanted to keep using Trailhead to learn more about the Salesforce platform—but there are other things that Innovate has suggested. Earlier this month, Innovate provided training in the Scrum framework for anyone who was interested. As soon as I heard about it, I knew it was something that I wanted to do. And so, thanks to Innovate, I am now a certified Professional Scrum Master, which allows me to run projects more efficiently.

And then there’s a whole third leg of growth that I see professionally, in the example set by my manager, Rebecca Thomas, and other managers like Eric Baptist, my counterpart on the technical side. They’re both phenomenal leaders and watching how they lead and help grow the individuals on their teams becomes inspiration for me to do likewise with my team.

  1. What are some of your passion projects?

My passion is all things Salesforce! I have a Salesforce podcast called Salesforce Campfire Stories. My co-host Justice Sikakane, Sr. and I share stories of Trailblazers in the Salesforce ecosystem and how they have overcome obstacles—personal, professional, or environmental—to reach incredible heights. The Trailblazer community is an incredible group of people with remarkable stories full of inspiration and encouragement.

My other passion project is Salesforce Saturdays, a monthly networking event I host in Wilmington, North Carolina. We meet the first Saturday of every month (right now we’re virtual but will meet in-person again once it’s safe). It’s for locals who work with Salesforce in any capacity to come together, network, share what we’ve learned, and maybe learn something new together. I am passionate about what Salesforce can do for people, for professions, and for companies that I’ll share it with anybody who will listen and give people a microphone to be able to share their own stories.

You can listen to Salesforce Campfire Stories here. (link:

  1. What are the main career lessons you’ve learned so far?

One area I’ve learned grown in recently is my confidence to speak up more. This may look like having the confidence to make a case for a new tool I know will be beneficial for my team or speaking up to a client when they want to rush through a vital quality check. Using Innovate’s value of “Love and Respect Human Beings,” I’m learning that speaking up confidently allows me to improve my and my team’s work.

Another lesson I’ve learned is to allow myself a bit of grace to fail. With innovation, there is potential for benefit, but there is also risk. As long as you’re innovating in a safe, responsible way—by communicating with a manager, doing research, getting proper approval, understanding risks, and putting safeguards in place—it’s okay to take small, incremental risks.

This growth has come from time and experience, as well as surrounding myself with support. I have incredible teammates who have my back even if my innovation does fail, a manager with whom I have a good working relationship who is incredibly supportive, and a challenging environment that inspires me to try new things. I have my own back, too, because I planned ahead and put safeguards in place. Then I move forward, boldly but cautiously, and iterate from there. There will be failure, but it’s not the end of the road. Take the lessons learned, apply them, and keep moving forward.

Interested in reading more of Stacey’s career lessons? She recently wrote a blog post for Salesforce Admin about how she got involved with Salesforce and her top three ways you can take your Salesforce Administrator career to the next level. (link:

  1. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?

When people ask, “What is your favorite thing about Innovate?” I always mention the culture. While our three core values are not your typical marketing-approved buzzword-heavy values, they are genuine and authentic. I love being part of a company that lives out their values every day and in every project. And yes, we’re hiring! (link:

Innovate! Proud to Launch Drone and Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) Services

Innovate announces the launch of our drone and small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) services as a powerful, cost-effective method of aerial data collection. We have FAA Part 107 certified pilots on staff with the skills and know-how to produce a range of products. A drone can generate high-resolution orthoimagery, elevation products, point cloud, 3D models, and other high-resolution static imagery. These products can be used for a variety of purposes, such as inspections, architectural planning, asset inventory and management, and marketing materials. Using drones and sUAS can also drastically reduce costs when compared to conventional surveying inspection or mapping workflows.

Innovate leverages our experience as a geospatial company to provide expertise in post-processing and analysis while maintaining a customer-focused perspective. We have certified staff members with a combined 14 years of piloting experience who can take customers through the process and spectrum of products and help evaluate the best fit for the customer’s needs. Additionally, as an Esri Silver Business Partner, we are experts at Esri technology throughout the drone workflow, from Esri Sight Scan to Drone2Map to ArcGIS Pro.

How does it work? First, Innovate performs a project evaluation to understand what the customer wants and determines whether drone services are the best fit. The next stage is flight planning and area of interest selection. Detailed flight planning allows us to estimate flight time and end-product characteristics, such as overlap, resolution, coverage, and ideal ground control point (GCP) placement to improve the accuracy of end products. We then place survey-grade GCPs. After GCP placement, we fly our drones and collect the data. Finally, we process the data and meet back with the client to explain the final products.

For our pilot flight, Innovate’s Max Marno worked with the Community Development Department of the City of Driggs, Idaho to utilize drone services for planning and marketing purposes. The City is developing a new aquatic center to be constructed summer 2021. Using drones at the future site of construction, Max was able to use sUAS to produce several key deliverables for the City. These deliverables included a 3D model for marketing purposes, a digital elevation model (DEM) for architectural planning, and other integral decision-making data on site selection.

Wondering how to leverage drone services for your project? For more information, please contact us at or (703) 922-9090.

Innovate Awarded NOAA NMITS Contract 

Innovate is excited to announce the award of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Mission Information Technology Services (NMITS) $2.1B Small Business BPA as part of Reston Consulting Group’s (RCG) team. NMITS is a NOAA- wide contract for enterprise IT services that advances NOAA’s mission by achieving excellence in IT service delivery. 

The team RCG assembled is full of award winning and customer service-focused members that are expert in meeting essential service requirements both now and for the future. Innovate will provide focused geospatial and Salesforce related support for NOAA’s digital transformation journey.  Calling our on success with the NOAA Greater Atlantic Regional Fishing Office IT Support program, we look forward to reengaging NOAA.   

The NMITS team’s collective expertise and certifications are unparalleled and include CMMI-SVC, CMMI-DEV, ISO 27001, ISO 20000, ISO 9001, Highly Adaptive Cybersecurity Services (HACS) SIN, Managed Hybrid Cloud secure hosting platform; and ISO 27017 certifications for Cloud Security Management. A core strength is our experience supporting agency CIO and OCIO’s on over eight Cybersecurity programs and digital transformation solutions. 

Our excellent history with NOAA demonstrates that our team provides the full range of advanced solutions that the staff and line offices require including enterprise services; customer support services; mission and business applications, tools, and web services; enterprise computing; end-to-end Cloud; shared services; space based and field data management; network services; and cybersecurity and information assurance services. Our team’s experience in scientific and technical agencies demonstrates a deep understanding of the unique demands of NOAA’s mission to protect life and property.  


Innovate! Inc. Appraised at CMMI Maturity Level 3 for Services

ALEXANDRIA, VA – INNOVATE! INC. (, a premier Cloud and GIS Platform Integration Services Company, is pleased to announce it has been appraised at CMMI Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)® Level 3 for Services. An appraisal team led by Multi-Dimensional Maturity (MDM) performed a CMMI Institute Standard CMMI Appraisal Method for Process Improvement (SCAMPI) for Innovate.  Demonstrating appraisal readiness at the highest level in the company’s history, this successful CMMI® Maturity Level 3 appraisal is reflective of Innovate!’s commitment to continuous process improvement and mature process implementation.

An appraisal at maturity level 3 indicates Innovate! is performing at a “defined” level. Our organization’s processes are well characterized and understood, and are described in standards, procedures, tools, and methods. Our set of standard processes, which is the basis for maturity level 3, is established and improved over time.

Innovate Management’s demonstrated commitment to business and technical excellence and CMMI Maturity Level 3 helped to ensure this success. Auditor Dr. Richard Waina commented, “All levels of the organization are involved in and focused on continuous improvement. Every individual’s commitment to process discipline and improvement was quite evident.”

“The CMMI® Services Level 3 rating is a distinction that clearly demonstrates to our customers that we are fully committed to process improvements that assure the delivery of superior product, system and service solutions. This maturity level is an important competitive differentiator on many government programs and is consistent with Innovate!’s culture of continuous improvement and commitment to delivery excellence,” Phill Thomas, Innovate’s CEO commented.

This widely recognized model, in use for ten years, has been the basis of over 21,000 appraisals in 100+ countries on all seven continents. Companies and organizations using this model have achieved performance excellence as measured by increased productivity, improved quality, better control of projects, reduced cycle time and decreased costs through using the CMMI to guide process improvement. Organizations typically report productivity improvements of 10-50% and a return on investment of 4:1 (cost savings realized vs. process improvement dollars invested).

The SCAMPI was conducted August 31-September 4, 2020 in accordance with the model described in the CMMI Institute’s publication Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI-SVC) for Services, version 1.3. The appraisal was based on the previously agreed to criterion of thoroughly examining 100% of the specific and generic goals and practices for Maturity Level 2 and 3 Process Areas. The SCAMPI team consisted of four trained team members in accordance with the CMMI Institute requirements for conducting a Class A SCAMPI. The members of the team were Dr. Richard Waina (MDM Certified Lead Appraiser), Tom Perkowitz and Bobby Jo Britt of Innovate and Judy Rexin and Nino Guidry of Integration Technologies Group.

“Innovate’s earning CMMI 3 in such a short period of time is due to all the processes and systems that our team had already been using.  It is a validation of the quality of work that is being done daily to deliver Innovate services to our valued clients,” noted Tom Perkowitz, Innovate Quality Manager.

About Innovate! Inc: More Than a Consulting Company

Innovate! delivers elite Geospatial, Information Technology, Cloud Advisory, Management and Business Consulting services. The talent pool at Innovate, led by renowned industry leaders, consists of a multi-disciplinary team of analysts; information management and technology specialists (IM/IT); geospatial professionals; scientific and technical experts; regulatory specialists; and project and program management consultants. Innovate, established in 2002, is a woman and minority owned “green” small business providing results-driven solutions to solve mission-critical problems. Innovate! has an award-winning history of delivering state-of-the-art services and solutions to Federal, State, Tribal and local government clients and private industry.

Media Contact or for more information: Stacy Roux Business Development Manager, 703.922.9090 x749; Innovate! Inc., 6189 Cobbs Road, Alexandria, VA 22310

About CMMI:

CMMI Institute is the global leader in the advancement of best practices in people process, and technology. CMMI Institute promises to inspire cultures of continuous improvement that elevate performance and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

Innovate!’s Sanitary Beach Survey Application Proudly Featured on NITAAC’s CIO-SP3 Solution Showcase


The NITAAC CIO-SP3 Solutions Showcase offers insight into the innovative quality Information Technology (IT) solutions that CIO-SP3 contract holders deliver. The Solutions Showcase serves as a newsfeed that highlights new approaches to today’s more complex IT challenges. Innovate is proud to be featured in this edition’s Solutions Showcase for our Sanitary Beach Survey Application.

To learn more, check out the the NITAAC CIO-SP3 Solutions Showcase Blog!

Innovate acknowledged by Esri as a partner in the ArcGIS Indoors Specialty

 August 19, 2020, Innovate! Inc. was certified by Esri as a partner in the ArcGIS Indoors Specialty. The ArcGIS Indoors Specialty designation is the newest provided by Esri following Innovate’s attainment of ArcGIS Release Ready, ArcGIS Online, Local Government, and Small Business that Innovate currently hold. Partners in the ArcGIS Indoors Specialty are recognized for their knowledge and expertise in indoor mapping for use in creating connected workspaces. Innovate is an Esri Silver partner and was awarded the 2020 Collaboration Partner of the Year award for work in support of the Department of Interior (DOI). 

On ArcGIS Indoors mapping is a unique platform of opportunity designed specifically for interior use. The implementation of ArcGIS mapping in the workspace allows for smart building management, whether it be one or multiple buildings. Within ArcGIS Indoors, users can view a building in multiple dimensions including levels and attributes within the structure. ArcGIS Indoors allows organizations to strategically organize and allocate their space to increase productivity and collaboration among coworkers. It is important for organizations to have a full understanding as to where assets reside (e.g. shipments’ status, up to date inspection records, etc.) which can easily be tracked using ArcGIS Indoors. 

ArcGIS Indoors also ensures an organization’s safety is top priority; it can help managers comply with social distancing and building capacity guidelines during COVID.  Indoors is structured to serve all kinds of employees in the workplace to ultimately analytically navigate through their day to day space. 

Innovate leverages Indoors to produce floor-aware maps using CAD, BIM, and site scans as well as other datasets. This capability enables Innovate to provide improved spatial management, as well as safe and productive workspace. Indoor mapping is taking Innovate’s services to the next level (literally). We cannot wait to share our new service expertise in ArcGIS Indoors with our clientele!