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Gov Tech and GSA Veteran Mark Headd Takes Job With Ad Hoc

The former chief data officer for Philadelphia aims to help public agencies deal better with data, tech platforms and service delivery. He talks about the challenges he faces and the lessons he brings to the company.

Tech Services
On the third day of his new job at Ad Hoc, a company that helps public agencies make the most of digital services, Mark Headd all but marveled that he had two decades of experience in government technology behind him.

A moment later, in fact, when he called himself a “government technology expert,” he had to pause and reconsider.

Sure, he has a long resume that includes private- and public-sector employment and such titles as technical evangelist for gov tech software firm Accela and chief data officer for the city of Philadelphia. His knowledge, expertise and reputation have led to his new job as gov tech subject matter expert for Ad Hoc after nearly six years at the General Services Administration (GSA) as a consulting engineer, innovation specialist and guild leader for the Technology Transformation Services (TTS) Data Services Guild.

But something didn’t seem quite right with his “expert” description.

“It feels a little funny saying that,” he told Government Technology.

How on earth could that be?

“We are still figuring out how to deliver services the best way,” he said. “We are still learning.”


Such is the fast-expanding world of gov tech, according to Headd, where even obvious experts and industry veterans feel as though they are barely keeping up with all the changes and digital progress — and with much more action to come as agencies emerge from the pandemic, respond to the demands of younger citizens and IT professionals, and use federal infrastructure money to further their tech efforts.

But it’s that sense of always something new to learn that, he said, will inform his new job helping federal, state and perhaps even local governments think more deeply about how to analyze and deploy technology.

“They’ve really done a lot of thinking [at Ad Hoc] about how to be more strategic in helping agencies deliver digital services,” Headd said. “That’s the approach I am really excited about.”

More specifically, he said that a good part of his focus will go toward helping agencies better understand and use technology platforms that can “accelerate the ways that customers deliver solutions.”


Look back at the last 20 years of gov tech, and you will find Headd offering views or guidance about some of the main issues the industry faces. Those include the ways in which a major city reorganizes its tech operations, how to construct a “data culture” in government and pulling procurement into the digital age.

Indeed, those issues persist into 2022, backing Headd’s contention that even the most notable experts are still learners when it comes to gov tech.

Take the uses and handling of data, for instance — where much has advanced but much remains to be done.

“When I was working in Philadelphia, it was a time when open data was new and the power of data was still something that governments were learning about,” he said. “Now, governments are routinely doing evidence-based decision-making.”

Pushing forward that trend will be among his tasks at Ad Hoc, Headd told Government Technology — for instance, he wants to help agencies better use their own data.

Other challenges he will face — challenges familiar to all gov tech experts — will include helping public agencies deal with legacy systems as new tools emerge, and upgrading those systems in a relatively short period of time. He also will help Ad Hoc clients figure out how to use tech in ways that can scale easily, he said, while also encouraging them to think about how to deliver their services more efficiently.


While Headd might feel at least a bit awkward with the term “expert,” he joins Ad Hoc as a younger set of IT professionals start to make their own marks at the GSA and other organizations. That is one of the reasons he decided to join the company, he said.

“TTS has a new cohort of employees, and it felt like the right time to move into something new and leave that new group of people to build on our work.”

He called his work at TTS “super rewarding” but said he was also drawn to Ad Hoc because of the opportunity to work with state and perhaps even municipal governments in the coming months and years.

“It’s a way to expand my reach into other governments,” he said, adding that it’s not impossible that one day he might return to the public sector.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.