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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Greg Godbout on career choices and agile development's evolution

Any job change is a very personal decision. You have career goals; you have family considerations.

Those things played a role in Greg Godbout’s recent decision to join TechFlow. But the career path of the co-founder of GSA’s 18F digital services office also tracks with the growing agile development trend in the federal market.

Godbout then went to the Environmental Protection Agency after 18F. The EPA had several projects in the works that could benefit from Godbout’s experience in harnessing digital services to modernize business processes.

After EPA he joined cBrain, a Denmark-based company with a software model for improving government operations.

Now he has left cBrain -- though he remains chair of their board of advisers – to join TechFlow as its chief digital officer.

He’s career moves in many ways mirror the maturing of agile development and digital services in the market, from pilot projects (think 18F and EPA) to software development (think cBrain) and now large implementations (think TechFlow.)

“They are all pieces of a complicated chess game,” Godbout told me.

He is still a strong believer in what cBrain has to offer but “they are a software company and approach the market as a small business,” he said. “TechFlow is big enough to address a wider range of needs.”

Software and technology are just a piece of what government agencies need, Godbout said. They also need domain expertise and consulting type services to establish a direction to head in, he said.

On the personal side, Godbout said working at TechFlow will give him the opportunity to work on larger projects. “I need more experience in that area,” he said. He joked that his move was similar to the continuous improvement loop in agile development projects.

To explain how he views the evolution of the market, Godbout uses a very non-tech analogy of collecting firewood to heat your home and cook your food.

“Every morning you had to wake up and get the wood,” he said. That took planning, energy and time.

But when electricity came into the home, the time collecting firewood was now free for other activities and contributed more than just heating the home.

He sees a similar phenomenon occurring as agencies move away from legacy systems by modernizing and automating them.

But it has taken a while to get to this point. The cloud has been a force in the market for many years but too often agencies just lifted and shifted workload from their own servers to an outsourced data center.

Real benefits and even cost savings were not realized, Godbout said.

“A lot of people have struggled,” he said. “Where’s the cost savings? Did you really change the way you work?”

But the foundation has been laid for infrastructure-as-a-service. Now Godbout and others have been evangelists for taking that infrastructure and improving how the government interacts with constituents.

“When the infrastructure becomes a utility, then you can truly change the way you work,” he said.

But getting there is hard. Each agency and even organizations inside agencies are unique.

Government customers need help understanding where they are now and support getting to them where they need to be. “It is like having a Sherpa getting you up the mountain,” he said.

He said the government too often starts with tactics -- how many servers do I need? What is going to the cloud? What software will we use?

That is a habit that needs to be broken, Godbout said.

“Very often they aren’t engaging with the mission side,” he said. And the mission side is where you need to start.

“You engage with the mission side first and back up from there to what your strategy is,” he said. “Then it is the tactics.”

That is the role that TechFlow plays. They bring their technical and process expertise and they partner with other companies as needed for more of the mission expertise, Godbout said.

Techflow offers services around agile development, platform modernization, cyber, cloud and mobile, C4ISR, and business process management. They have multiple contract vehicles such as Alliant, Schedule 70, Schedule 871 and Seaport-e.

There is one thing Godbout is adamant about avoiding. “We don’t want to build legacy 2.0,” he said. Systems need to be built with a process for continual improvement.

“If we don’t, in 10 years, we’ll be right back where we are now,” he said.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 30, 2017 at 11:48 AM

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