Emerge: Vision Panel

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The first in GDIT’s three-part Emerge Series was kicked off in the beginning of April. This annual signature technology event has as its theme this year, “Bringing Vision to Life” and in part-one of the event, speakers focused on how to bring visions to life within the digital modernization arena.

A highlight on the action-packed and information-rich agenda was the 20/21 Technology Vision Panel, moderated by Kristie Grinnell, GDIT’s Vice President, Information Technology and Supply Chain and Global CIO.

Joining Kristie on the panel were Melvin Greer, Chief Data Scientist, Americas at Intel; Krista Kinnard, Chief of Emerging Technologies at the Department of Labor; Brigadier General Chad Raduege, Director of Cyberspace and Information Dominance, and CIO, Headquarters Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Force; and Mike Younkers, Senior Director, Systems Engineering, U.S. Federal at Cisco.

Together, the group talked about all that 2020 taught us (hello, overnight transition to teleworking) and looked ahead at how collaboration, paired with the latest technology, can propel IT modernization going forward.

Asked about what the future might look like, the panelists nearly all pointed to data and managing data workflows and being able to leverage data to advance missions and spur innovation.

Brigadier General Raduege said, in his view, the future is going to be about mobility and accessing data and securing it. He noted that users of all kinds have an appetite to access more and more data, faster and faster. As we go mobile, he said, our attack surface is getting bigger and broader. As a result, he and his team spend a lot of time looking at security and what the future state needs to be, examining things like ZeroTrust architectures, as an example.

“Data is the fuel which powers innovation, which is the mechanism we will use to drive all the advances that we’re looking forward to,” said Greer. “It’s the new weapons system that allows our warfighters to be more adept and agile and bring new capabilities to theaters that benefit them.”

He went on to note that we absolutely need diverse voices in the collection and use of data. Doing that will allow the data to fuel innovation even more effectively, he said, because we’ll be bringing a diversity of thought into how we look at and analyze data.

Kinnard, with the Department of Labor, agreed. She noted that agencies can sometimes be data rich, but information poor. In an ideal state you’d have different agencies with different priorities able to access data and make decisions, she said.

“Our number one priority is supporting workers,” she said. “We need to assure them that we have the data infrastructure to protect, secure and evaluate [their] data. When we leverage it to build a model or do automation, we want to guarantee [positive] ethical impacts and that our datasets represent what America looks like, and that we are having a responsible impact with the data that we have.”

Asked about effective collaboration and what that will look like in the future, Younkers said, “In the context of what we learned this last year… we’ve all figured out how to work and move forward in virtual environments using collaborative tools.”

He then cited tools and technologies that can make our interactions even better than they would have been in person – things like getting information on people you’re interacting with as you’re interacting with them, real-time transcription, or actioning things from a meeting. “We all spend too much time in meetings,” he said. “What if you could turn a meeting into a list of actionable items that get folded into busines processes, for example.”

These are simple things that we could do, he continued, and in this new construct, collaboration tools can actually become richer. “We don’t need in-person interaction to have rich engagements,” he said.

Brigadier General Raduege agreed. He said COVID forced a cultural change that has been eye-opening. “I believed in in-person engagements and saw value in them. Now, I see the value of virtual collaboration – coordinating across time zones and locations and geographies.”

“We were thrust into COVID response,” he continued. “But now we have an opportunity to take huge steps forward. It’s no longer about setting a 20-year vision, it’s about challenging the paradigm and experimenting quickly and then responding to that and incrementally getting better.”

In that vein, asked about driving change, Kinnard said, “The old days of ‘gather requirements, build, implement, and throw it over the wall’ are gone.” She pointed to two critical changes that are welcomed and having great effect: human-centered design and responsible implementation. Both, she said, are about bringing technologists closer to the people within an agency who really understand its mission so that they can partner together to assess the impact of new technologies and innovations.

Asked about governance and organizational change and what industry can do to bring about partnerships, Younkers said, “Industry needs to continue to lean in and collaborate; it’s no longer about industry building things that the government buys and then figures out how to use.”

Greer agreed. “Industry needs to be more authentic, more clear. Stop bundling things into a single bucket and be clear about how we apply domain expertise around government. We shouldn’t be just technologists. We need to understand missions and be domain experts within our technology roles.”

Rounding out the discussion, Brigadier General Raduege said. “We can learn from our industry partners. Show us the art of the possible, continue to innovate and show us where we can go.”

He continued, “It’s the dialogue afterward that helps us figure out how to reduce layers, reduce complexity and reduce churn in the IT products that are out there and get us to home.”

Didn’t get to attend today’s event? Watch the sessions on-demand and be sure to mark your calendars and join us for Part Two on May 26, which will focus on Emerging Technologies. Please also join us for Part Three on June 23, focused on the Defense Cloud.

Learn more about the GDIT Emerge series.