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Overcoming Barriers to Adoption to Embrace Digital Transformation

IT and security

Technological innovation is fast-paced and complex. Not only are engineers, developers, and technology experts expected to learn and adapt to enable an era of digital transformation, but consumers too must rapidly adapt for fear of being left behind.

We live in an invigorating age of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and automated infrastructure, but when it comes to adopting technologies in the public space, certain barriers hinder full embracement.

I recently sat down with Darren Pulsipher, Chief Solutions Architect of Public Sector at Intel Federal, to discuss public sector technology adoption and barriers, priorities around digital transformation, and some ideas on what the future has in store for us.

Greatest barriers to adopting technologies

Steve Jobs made technology adoption simple. He was committed to listening to users and building tools, applications, architectures, and products that were just plain easy to adopt and use. You don’t need to be an expert to use an iPhone. The usability and enabling power of iPhones are what ushered in the smartphone era of today. The same is true when it comes to adopting technology in the public sector; we must be committed to making adoption easy. Examples include automation to remove human error and improve security, example-based introduction to accelerate value and use, and relentlessly keeping interfaces open and simple.

Adoption also requires communicating effectively with users. We need to be thoughtful in avoiding language that provokes fear when introducing new technology. Presenting AI products as “magical robots” that “think for you” can send consumers running the other way. Using choice words like “digital assistants” that serve up relevant and insightful information to help a user make a decision reassures them that they remain in control and drive value and trust.

We also should recognize the reality that experienced public sector talent can be inclined to be resistant to change and the adoption of new technology, fighting to preserve legacy systems and methodologies. Engineers and operators who revert to old methods sometimes just lack the drive to innovate and adopt new systems. Instilling a learning orientation in the workforce and setting expectations that change is the fuel that powers personal and professional growth are key to overcoming those laggards.

Important Technologies

Any list of important technologies is debatable – but I’ll start with AI and analytics, cloud, DevSecOps, and any technology that assists with flexible, secure remote work.

AI and analytics: Putting data to work is one of the most important priorities of our time. As a technical community, when we talk about AI and analytics, we must be committed to what I call liberating data. A barrier to adoption is any architecture and/or business model that locks up data. Free the data!

At CACI, we’re confident we can win and retain business based on data analytic outcomes rather than locking up and controlling the data. One of our mantras is that data analysis tools should be “for the analyst, by the analyst.” Leveraging liberated data and producing simple, intuitive, analyst-friendly tools enables actionable insights and outcomes from that data.

Cloud: It is incredible to reflect on the short lifespan of some of the technology that has come and gone in the last 20 years alone. Sometimes we make the error of thinking that because we’ve heard about it for years it’s not a priority. Not so! The cloud, while introduced over 15 years ago in 2006, remains one of the most transformational digital enablers of today – and we’re realistically still in the early innings of its adoption. But cloud just makes good sense with its reduced cybersecurity attack surface, automation that reduces human error, and flexible business model.

DevSecOps: Harken back to the “old days” of software development. We didn’t have DevSecOps. Our collaboration tools consisted of leaning out of a cubicle to talk to the programmer next door. Heck, we sweated about how our code could fit in a tiny footprint of just 8 or 16 KB of RAM. Now, we can develop software at scale. We have open architectures, Agile methodologies, and DevSecOps toolchains. Our developers can concentrate more on developing than ever before, and that means producing software that will meet end-user needs. Continued adoption of open architectures, Agile at-scale, and DevSecOps are key priorities for the public sector.

Remote Work: It’s not negotiable – to retain public sector talent, we must provide flexibility. The increased popularity of remote work and even work on the edge has revealed a deeper need for Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC). CSfC has matured to a point where users can access classified data in an unclassified world. The faster we adopt CSfC, the faster we retire clunky and complex alternatives, and the faster we provide solutions for a workforce that is demanding more flexibility.

The future of digital transformation

I’m excited to be at CACI where we produce new, unique technologies almost every week that many could never have predicted. We focus on investing ahead of need, addressing customers’ relevant pain points, and celebrating with our customers when new advances and efficiencies are made. Our company is excited as we look ahead to some of the near-term opportunities for digital transformation.

What is happening in the space domain is very exciting. Technologically, we can now provide economical laser-based communications with high bandwidths. We can rapidly innovate and build payloads for smaller, lower-cost satellites. Gone are the days of 5+ year exorbitantly expensive developmental programs to put something into space.

AI is part of everything we do. Increasing the speed of inference in smaller and smaller form factors for the edge will continue to transform what we can do and where we can do it. We’re even moving beyond traditional architectures to provide incredible capabilities on the edge. I hesitate to talk about full autonomy – but digital assistants that can aid in almost every task are within reach.

Kubernetes, DevSecOps, and low-code/no-code are all priorities for speeding efficiency, building in security, and enabling the talented workforce to do more faster and with less error.

Lastly, there is quantum. I’ve watched this technology for more than a decade. It will transform the technological world. But as a community, we must collectively push for the software development toolkits (SDKs) to harness quantum. It’s the only way to avoid choking and slowing its adoption. We must be able to rapidly enable talent that can leverage quantum, and good SDKs are essential to that.

Be sure to watch the full video for more insights and discussion and how the public sector can break down barriers to technological adoption.

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