INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE INFOTECH
Agility Key to ‘Software Factory of the Future’ Concept
Today, the U.S. government’s technological stance could be described as static and inflexible, focused on defending the nation’s interests and executing missions but failing to evolve and proactively anticipate the next challenge.
This posture cannot continue given how rapidly new cyber threats develop — government must start thinking about how to be proactive and resourceful to become as “threat-proof” as possible.
To its credit, the department recognizes this. In its Software Modernization Strategy released last year, it sought to achieve “faster delivery of software capabilities in support of department priorities” and enable “delivery of resilient software capabilities at the ‘speed of relevance.’”
A part of the larger Digital Modernization Strategy, the Defense Department’s software strategy emphasizes the need for an approach to agility that a “software factory of the future” perspective can provide.
Software factory of the future is a development, security and operations mindset focused on standardizing and revolutionizing how organizations produce the best software from beginning to end, from conception to consumption and execution to testing. The idea is to create a software foundation that can be tailored to different agencies and industries while providing a common pipeline for development and a basic connectivity of software.
Instead of waiting for new technology or threats and then responding or changing the information technology network reactively, an organization with software factory of the future is updating and evolving quickly and building the future in the present.
For the Defense Department, this approach would allow all branches to maintain the highest security standards while providing a baseline from which to update, adapt and evolve. Currently, there is no standard way to repair issues or to handle older tech in the department, making it vulnerable as it struggles to update all its technology to combat new cyber risks. Software factory of the future allows for the widespread standardization of repairs and updates.
In addition, establishing a software factory of the future baseline will ultimately save the department money and time. It will need to spend less on maintaining outdated systems, buying new tech and keeping staff trained as the threat landscape changes. The software factory of the future will take on most of these tasks as it develops and evolves.
Although software factory of the future is designed to overcome some of the major obstacles hindering modernization and can be seen as a logical next step in the department’s IT modernization journey, like all innovations it will face some challenges regarding implementation.
First, the Defense Department faces substantial stove piping. Years of providing contracts to different vendors for various products and services means that technology is not as connected and faces larger barriers when it comes to frequent updates and evolution. Software factory of the future can often replace legacy tech, which is often outdated and requires lengthy and complicated updates, and provide a foundation for any new partners or technology to adhere to moving forward.
One of the largest obstacles to software factory of the future is cultural and organizational. It is a mindset — one that needs to be adopted throughout the agency to be successful. For defense personnel, this means continuing to move from a closed-door mentality to agile thinking.
While it is necessary to keep information confidential and need-to-know in many cases, agile design thinking supports and requires a top-down, bottom-up approach. Communication needs to be open from the highest officer to the end user on the ground to get a complete picture of the agency’s network and needs.
The right mindset for software factory of the future means sharing — but sharing because it’s the right thing to do for the strength and success of the organization, not just because it’s mandated.
Similarly, leaders may wonder why they need to adopt this progressive approach. If no one is explicitly asking for it, why do it, especially if there are more pressing info-tech needs? However, it is important to remember that software factory of the future is a mindset. Like zero trust, while it may seem advanced today, it is the future of IT and can be foundational in changing how technology evolves seamlessly to adapt to new missions, needs and end user demands.
Like most holistic organizational changes, software factory of the future adoption should begin with an assessment. Each organization should conduct a thorough study of not only where it currently is along its IT modernization journey but where it wishes to go. From there, leaders can develop a roadmap, factoring in a timeline.
In addition to defining what success means — and in what time — those responsible for implementation must maintain strong, agile thinking as both the end goal and ongoing mentality. Any modernization plan should evolve as it progresses to stay up to date.
Finally, throughout the implementation stages, there should be a consistent cycle of execution and testing. With every update and every new technology, testing must take place to ensure it works in the best and worst of times.
The beauty of software factory of the future is its agility and evolving nature. The future is not a destination but an ever-evolving state when it comes to effective cybersecurity.
Jonas Lazo is vice president of digital engineering at Sev1Tech, an IT services provider based in Woodbridge, Virginia.