Verizon: Transforming communication at the Harris Center
Founded in 1983 in Delaware, US, Verizon Communications (Verizon) is a telecommunications conglomerate and industry tech expert with a dedicated mission: ‘deliver[ing] the promise of the digital world.’
“Verizon might primarily be known for its network, but we prefer to say that we’re a technology company that brings solutions to customers,” states Jason Taylor, Executive Lead for the Public Sector. Indeed, this perspective has never been more apparent than its collaboration with the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD. Offering a safety net for those experiencing significant mental health and developmental disabilities, the Harris Center provides an essential service within the communities it operates, and Verizon has made significant contributions towards that effort.
Both companies have now been partners for several years; Wayne Young, CEO of the Harris Center, reflects that, when deciding how best to implement remote evaluation capabilities for clinicians and police officers, the company was intent on only collaborating with well-established partners. “We began to think about how to breathe life into this concept. At its core, what we're trying to do is utilize technology to reduce the footprint of the criminal justice system and improve the lives of people with mental illness. To achieve this task, we needed a reliable partner whom we could trust.” The answer was Verizon.
The project was initiated before the COVID-19 pandemic, yet its applications have become all the more valuable now that face-to-face interactions have become difficult. “Verizon's focus was to make sure that citizens or patients that needed to engage with the Harris Center could do so while retaining that personal touch,” Taylor explains. This proved to be a complex task requiring rigorous planning that went beyond simply supplying technology, “We looked at getting the right connectivity, making sure we provided the correct devices, and then securing everything to protect the flow of communication.” Taylor’s latter point is particularly crucial in the highly sensitive, data-rich world of healthcare.
“If you talk to most law enforcement officers, they're very sympathetic [to mental health crises] but often don't feel adequately trained. Leveraging expertise and connecting them with technology is now critical. The Harris Center has certainly pivoted towards doing a lot of work around virtual care delivery,” says Young. Taylor adds that the company’s innovative approach makes it an ideological match for Verizon, positioning itself to always focus on the future, which in turn makes for a highly collaborative partnership. “We're both focused on making a positive impact and as we move into the world of 5G, I believe that solutions and benefits will open up for communities that we haven't even imagined yet.”
With the Harris Center’s large (2,400 employees) workforce now operating with increased mobility, Young praises Verizon for always providing a solid, ‘behind-the-scenes’ service that’s seamless, scalable, reliable, and most importantly allows the Harris Center to focus on what it does best: transforming the lives of patients. “We needed a partner who could think flexibly and be agile with us as we solve problems in new and innovative ways,” he concludes. “Working with Verizon, I think the future is looking bright.”
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.”