One of the Air Force’s biggest IT modernization priorities in 2022 will be creating an Agile culture. This will form the bedrock of all other IT priorities, such as implementing an iterative approach to software development, creating hybridized cloud environments, deploying zero trust and centralizing IT operations across the department.
Key to this will be communication, according to Air Force CTO Jay Bonci at a Dec. 15 Potomac Officers Club event. Major hurdles to 2022 priorities include user delivery and shadow IT.
“The human factors in the enterprise are going to be key,” Bonci said at the event. “Shadow IT is the result of heroism, people trying to get things done locally, make the mission, get done what they need to get done, and people who are trying very difficult in a well-intentioned way. It's that clash of well intentions that we have to think about when we deliver these services. Agile is the way to be responsive to customer needs — it needs to be transparent, quickly pushing capabilities from the core, and the heartbeat of innovation across the Air Force.”
Joe Besselman, who served as program director for the Air Force’s Global Combat Support System for four years and now runs his own IT consulting firm, said the Air Force needs to prioritize user delivery “in order for Agile to work.” Focusing on having the right tools for Agile methodology, he added, is “ludicrous.”
“You've got to be rolling change,” Besselman said. “A program can be Agile using old tooling. You don't need new tooling, you don't need Air Force to rip and replace their infrastructure. The culture is the most important element. Culture eats strategy for lunch every time.”
Brian Kropa, chief engineer at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, said the zero trust movement is “long overdue” as the federal government, including the Air Force, continues to work via remote network connections. One of Kropa’s top goals for 2022 is intentional design choices that prioritize security.
“We're 100% all in on supporting many zero trust prototype efforts,” Kropa said.
Kropa echoed Bonci’s and Besselman’s comments about the importance of culture and user delivery in 2022.
“In digital transformation, sometimes we get stuck talking about delivering emails and Teams capabilities and things of that nature when it's much broader than that,” he said. “Getting the tools and the pipeline and all the capabilities for our Air Force folks to effectively do their jobs — to them, that's what user experience means. I want to always push to keep that in perspective. Yes, we need to deliver generic IT services, but we also need to get on an innovative footing to compete in the future.”
In addition to communication, Bonci believes a smooth pivot to Agile methodology and substantial improvements to IT require transparency from leadership and keeping the mission front of mind.
“Transparency is really important to an Agile culture, being able to show what you're trying to do,” he said. “When we think about our role as a service provider, we want to think about four service outcomes: reduce risk, prevent people from doing their own thing if they're not going to do it well, efficient dollar purchasing, and we want to feature complete service so we don't have to make funding tradeoffs to provide a less robust service and also technology choices that have to drive collaboration.”