Digital transformation: ‘technology first’ vs ‘people first’
Digital transformation is a leading phrase. The mind is drawn to digitalisation and data, and the technology that has made it possible to mine ever deeper into corporate models in the name of efficiency and profit. But change is coming to the mindset of CTOs.
What’s ‘technology first’ digital transformation?
It’s the shiny. You hold out the new technology, tell people what it can do and the CTO clamours to hold it aloft at the next board meeting promising everyone it will change the course of history. Then everyone desperately works to integrate the technology into the business. It’s digital interference, not digital transformation.
Why are attitudes changing?
Because everyone has had enough of bad implementations that don’t help the company. On paper, a feature may look nice to have, but without the employees being invested in the change, integration tends to be clunky and often much of the functionality of Technology X is ignored.
Hence ‘people first’ digital transformation
Correct. This is about getting people to sign up to a digital transformation. The technology, while important, is secondary. You work on the basis that whatever you want to do will be technologically possible, and concentrate on working out what you want to do, not what you could do with the available resources.
What’s caused the shift?
Capability. The luxury of assuming there will be technology capable of doing what you need it to is new. In fact, the technology may not exist even now. But a fulcrum point has been passed where most technologists think you’re better off planning with the assumption of ‘can do’ than ‘what’s available?’
Bring on Industry 4.0?
It’s been talked about for a long time, but this finally feels like a sustainable direction of travel.
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”