All companies need to automate processes, reduce costs, drive revenue, increase customer satisfaction, and improve security to remain competitive in this modern era. When he founded ITSource Technology in 2006, Brian Arellanes set out to help mid-sized clients accomplish those goals by harnessing new technologies. Now, eight years later, his major clients include the US Postal Service, Wells Fargo, and Hewlett-Packard.
“It’s all about building a one-to-one connection with a customer through the use of technology,” Arellanes says. A banking client, for example, can receive an automatic and customized pop-up message when he enters a local branch. Tech companies can drive adaptation of their platforms through meet-ups and hackathons. ITSource is able to showcase its capabilities through a flurry of new projects including an open-source project with the USDA, a webinar series for minority-owned businesses, and a new cloud platform service with high performance and robust security features.
Road to the White House
Although the federal government is obligated to publicize data acquired from citizens, it can’t possibly keep up with emerging technologies. It’s simply too cost-prohibitive. Last year, ITSource connected with Steve VanRoekel, the Obama administration’s chief information officer, and Lisa Schlosser, deputy associate administrator in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology. “We’ve been studying what they’re doing with open data because we want to build a bridge between public and private sectors with this information,” Arellanes explains. To make the cumbersome data more accessible, the White House took an application programming interface (API)-centric approach. An API essentially creates a “wrapper,” or a set of commands and protocols developers can use to build software apps. In doing so, the federal government provides public data for private companies to mine. Harnessing the same approach, ITSource’s chief technology officer Tony Pujals worked in conjunction with Gwynne Kostin, director of innovation for the General Services Administration (GSA) to identify projects ripe for public-private partnerships.
Up Close & Personal with Brian Arellanes
What drove you to work in your industry? It was a deep passion for using tech to automate my daily business and life processes. Trying to stay ahead led me here. You follow what you love and what your passion is.
What are some websites that you visit daily? My Twitter feed to get caught up on tech or business leaders whom I follow—and pop interests, too. I’m try to always stay on the cusp. I look at other news, tech, and business sites as well.
What do you enjoy outside of work? My favorite pastimes are hanging out with my wife, Nina, and daughter, Isabella. Those really are the most cherished times in my life.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running your company? I would love to work more with nonprofits and find new ways to teach others how to reinvent themselves and seize business opportunities. I do some of that now, but I would love to do it more.
Gwynne Kostin then introduced Pujals to GSA’s API strategist, Gray Brooks. Pujals and Brooks met on weekly Google Hangouts to brainstorm and strategize. Their sessions centered around three goals: leveraging the government’s commitment to open data to make a positive contribution to society, demonstrating a successful model of collaboration between the public and private sectors, and building a high-performance API for continued use.
The sessions led to an important realization. Arellanes and his clients could harvest data from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service and create a NoSQL database of stores and retail outlets that participate in the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). “Previously, someone looking to find SNAP locations had to use a slow, flash-based web page,” Arellanes says. “We wanted to provide an open-source solution that anyone can access, no matter what type of device they are on.” ITSource did more than just complete the project. They built a road map, outlining how to build an API with public data. They then published it all on GitHub, an online repository of open-source projects. Other contributors can access the SNAPfinder code to add features to any of its three phases or use it to build new projects. Because the three phases are separate, a programmer can develop a new idea for just one phase without reinventing the entire system.
SNAPfinder, built with NoSQL, MongoDB, and Node.js, uses Google Maps location services and can instantly return countless SNAP locations. The project went live at the end of 2013, and ITSource is now working to transition it to the USDA, so the federal agency can continue to enhance it. Additionally, ITSource has created webinars and blogs to teach others how to replicate the model. “The whole point of the project was to build something that others can reuse,” Arellanes explains. “We’ve built a how-to for creating an API, GUI, and NoSQL database that utilizes government open data.”
The SNAP webinars are just the beginning. Arellanes and his team at ITSource are creating a whole series of similar programs designed to help Hispanic- and other minority-owned businesses use technology to their advantage. “Enabling others is my personal passion,” says Arellanes. “We want to create more opportunities for urban-centric businesses to help stimulate the economy, especially in urban communities.” Through the webinars, many company owners and entrepreneurs who typically avoid high-tech solutions due to perceived costs will learn how to use cloud providers, open-source data, and other free or low-cost options. Using SNAPfinder, they can even use these modernized approaches to leverage government data to build or expand businesses.
In The Cloud
Online transactions and data storage are big, expensive, high-tech undertakings, and security is more important than ever before. That’s why ITSource is unleashing best-of-breed security offerings for cloud and mobile platforms. These offerings will not only increase cybersecurity but also allow its clients to quickly scale their businesses and projects while ensuring that sensitive customer data is protected in compliance with HIPAA, SOX, and FedRAMP standards. These highly secure solutions are coupled with high-performance, technology-enabling developers to deploy apps quickly, drastically improving release cycles, and lower operational costs. Sound confusing? The bottom line is this: “Speed and security are top of mind for us because of the nature of our clients,” Arellanes says.
As these projects move forward, he’s looking toward the future. “We are heading to a more self-serving tech world in which people want to consume services themselves,” he explains. Thus, ITSource’s goal is to take an approach that’s less dependent on consultants and enables customers to be more self-sufficient. By helping clients do things themselves, the company proves it can lead the way as the technology revolution continues.