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Digital Transformation Demands a Unique Brand of Federal Contractor June 8, 2023

by Wes Postol

Digital transformation is one of those terms that defies simple definition ‒ or perhaps even a universally accepted one. Ask ten individuals its meaning and you will likely receive ten different answers.

That’s because digital transformation connotes something different to every person and organization, depending on where they currently stand. For some, it simply means automating manual processes. To others, it evokes large-scale change where intelligent technology drives every aspect of an organization in executing its mission. In between, there are those who consider digital transformation simply a shift to cloud-based services, a move toward interoperability and greater data sharing, or merely an effort to replace outdated legacy systems.

In many respects, digital transformation is all these things and much more. It involves organizations applying the latest digital technology so they can draw upon the best available information to maximize value, optimize processes, enhance interoperability, and enable rapid adaptation to changing conditions. An essential, yet often overlooked, element of digital transformation is that cultural change is essential to its success.

An essential, yet often overlooked, element of digital transformation is that cultural change is essential to its success.

Digital transformation is best described as a journey that draws on multiple disciplines. Ultimate success hinges on the orchestration of all the gears so they move in the same direction. When they do, mission success occurs because end-user’s workflows are more effective and efficient, yielding streamlined processes that enhance the organization’s overall capabilities.

One of the overarching factors for success in digital transformation is unlocking measurable and demonstrable value for customers. Stakeholders and end users must be an integral part of the process. It begins with a robust continuous communication plan. Such a plan is vital in garnering initial buy-in and ongoing support, both of management and staff. There is no substitute for comprehensive, bidirectional information flow throughout the transformation process.

Our ability to show them the “to be” value can be done by walking them through the approach – and the discrete steps for implementing it. The value and “buy-in” come from demonstrating the tangible pathway to success: the streamlined mission workflows. Here, the impact on organizational efficiency, mission performance and outcomes becomes real.

The words most associated with digital transformation are “at speed” and “at scale.” The at-speed aspect contributes to competitive advantage as it enables an organization to be agile and change direction quickly and seamlessly, which in today’s ever-changing digital environment represents critical survival factors.

Scaling IT modernization encompasses the universe of activities that propel an organization toward capabilities that are synchronized and comprehensive and make it enterprise ready. In other words, actions that position the organization to more quickly realize the transformative value that efficiencies bring to mission outcomes.

Experts agree that digital transformation is unlike past efforts where software and hardware drove automation efforts, often with the objective of achieving cost savings or some similar outcome. With digital transformation, ongoing innovation is the ultimate goal and, as noted previously, the ability to adapt to rapidly changing operating environments. In digital transformation, culture trumps IT technology in the sense that organizational leaders and staff drive the transformation, not the technology. IT reverts to the role of being the means to achieve the transformative vision or change enabler.

In digital transformation, culture trumps IT technology.

Federal agencies understand well the barriers they face in moving toward this new model. The oft-cited challenges to digital transformation include:

  • No centrally developed and deployed digital services, impeding their capacity to innovate centrally and deploy digital services at speed.
  • Multiple systems developed to address diverse ‒ and often unique ‒ business and mission functions, making it almost impossible to gain an organization-wide perspective on overall success in mission delivery.
  • Widely dispersed data assets maintained in diverse formats, often in siloed systems, limiting their ability to use available data to maximum extent.
  • The difficulty of meaningfully engaging and motivating internal stakeholders, dispersed across untold bureaucratic entities, to identify shared requirements and incorporate them in enterprise-wide solutions that drive innovation.

As if these factors were not enough, cybersecurity concerns raise the ante. Federal organizations need modern, interoperable systems. Yet greater interconnections heighten the requirements to protect the information and data these networks contain. Understanding zero trust architecture requirements and their implementation, as well as knowing how to assess and mitigate risk, becomes paramount.

Cybersecurity concerns raise the ante. Understanding zero trust architecture requirements and their implementation, as well as knowing how to assess and mitigate risk, becomes paramount.

Federal contractors that seek to assist agencies in their digital transformation can no longer be mere architects of out-of-the box technology solutions. They must possess the capability to develop a transformation strategy and the means to enable this vision across disconnected programs and groups with diverse missions. They must have the ability to identify shareholder needs and priorities, ways to improve service design effectiveness and the means to deliver consistent end-user experiences. They must possess the people skills to fully engage leaders and staff in the transformation effort. At the same time, they must hold expert knowledge of new digital solutions, DevSecOps principles, and cloud-based solutions such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, ServiceNow, and more. Last, but certainly not least, they must have finely honed project management techniques to keep the transformation on schedule and within budget.

Such skills are borne of experience and manifested in highly qualified staff who understand well the demands of not just effecting a digital transformation to meet today’s requirements but also delivering a solution that will enable ongoing elevation of these digital technologies tomorrow and beyond. The universe of such federal contractors is small, but Electrosoft is a key player among them.

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