Time for industry to change its culture to keep pace with automation
- By Luther McGinty
- Oct 28, 2020
Too often, industry has delivered federal IT solutions designed to address only an immediate need. For decades, this short-sighted approach created siloed systems that take extraordinary and unnecessary costs to evolve. Well before the COVID-19 crisis shined a light on this old, tired, wasteful approach, we had a different, better way to serve government. Specifically, we had DevSecOps, with its emphasis on automation.
Automation in DevSecOps is at the core of a hugely positive disruption in government IT, and the possibilities are endless. Fueled by the combined maturation of artificial intelligence, big data, cloud and machine learning, automation in DevSecOps is upending old norms for systems development. The result is that government IT partners must change just as dramatically, down to the core of their organizational culture.
Today’s IT systems need to anticipate, prepare and facilitate the changes of tomorrow. Industry needs a collective focus on the ongoing modernization lifecycle for government IT that considers automation a core foundational element, not just an add-on or beta program.
Equally important are the mindsets and skills of the tech workforce. Operational processes, too, need to change. Starting as early as consultation, procurement, and sales, and moving through the program lifecycle to deployment, each stage of the customer lifecycle requires management, development teams and business professionals that understand and embrace a new reality of automation-based IT.
Here are the top three steps industry can take to keep pace with automation and other next generation technologies.
1. Adopt a Tech-focused Strategy: The stakes for federal customers to modernize are at an all-time high. Automation has accelerated the demand for government system advancements; the pandemic continues to add pressures around remote federal work; and global warfare is increasingly cyber-based. It’s time for industry to shift from a traditional sales-focused strategy to a tech-focused one. Every decision in every part of each company must hinge on the ability of the organization to advance technology that creates mission success for government customers.
The move requires a shift of everything in your organizational structure and internal processes to be tech-centric, from business development and growth planning to employee recruiting and training. Only then can your go-to-market approach successfully deliver the advanced IT solutions required to meet long-term customer mission needs.
2. Develop a Labs-based Culture: Every major IT integrator and even some mid-tiers have set up a physical or virtual R&D lab or center of excellence to foster collaboration and innovation around solutions, training or both. This commitment to R&D is an essential first step to creating and sustaining the kind of tech-focused strategy that’s needed for organizations dedicated to delivering government IT modernization success. Yet industry can’t stop there.
To meet the burgeoning demand for automation, companies of all sizes need to develop a labs-based corporate culture. R&D labs should serve as hubs for knowledge, enablement and collaboration beyond the IT team, to include the entire workforce. The lab keeps the focus on technology and bolsters the transformation of teams into highly tech-literate, tech-centric talent forces. If the entire industry takes this approach, we will collectively lift our human capital to become a resource that benefits the federal customers we serve for decades to come.
3. Evolve Business Development Practices to Match Speed, Agility of Automation: Even with a tech-focused strategy and lab-centric culture, it all comes down to people. It’s business development professionals that work with customers to identify needs, ignite conversations, spark ideas and foster technology solutions. Systems engineering and software development teams then do their part. To truly serve increasingly knowledgeable and discerning government customers asking for DevSecOps solutions, business development must carry out highly technical conversations extremely well. Many talented BD professionals today in our space will need to evolve to improve their level of technical expertise to keep up with rapidly evolving technology.
To this point, the explosion of automation is not only putting new demands on our industry’s delivery workforce, it’s also requiring a substantial change in our overall sales workforce. BD teams need to be recruited and trained to be extremely knowledgeable in digital transformation, becoming as aware as solution engineers. Supported by a core lab culture, BD teams can evolve to become a proficient element of your core tech-centric team.
Meeting and Surpassing Government Expectations
Ready or not, government customer expectations will soon force industry to transform the way we work, the talent we need, the level of advanced technology we deliver, and the reduced timelines tolerated for implementation. In fact, the shift has already started. As with any major disruption, it’s creating a stress around the need for new advanced technology and solutions, as well as a demand for knowledge, expertise, and fresh perspectives. It’s not easy.
For our industry to keep pace with the modern IT demands of our government customers, we must change. We must create a new culture across our organizations that will not only meet but surpass the expectations of the federal agencies we serve. We must. We can. Ready or not, we will.
Luther McGinty is the chief technology officer with Paradyme Management.