Digital Modernization with Doug Jones
On this episode of MindSET, we speak with Doug Jones about digital modernization and how it supports our customers' missions.
Doug has spent almost 20 years working in this arena. He started off with a focus on large scale, mission critical, software systems for the government, in particular for DHS and the FBI. He then pivoted into information technology and cloud DevOps, before taking a sojourn into running cyber operations for DHS.
Now he’s working out of the Leidos corporate technology office, and has a focus on innovations and identifying innovations. He discusses seven main categories of digital modernization and how they can be applied across government agencies to accelerate their ability to deliver mission value.
On today’s podcast:
- How Doug got into the technology field
- Why he thinks digital modernization only exists to support customers in their work
- The high level challenges in digital modernization
- Which technologies are getting the most attention from the industry and customers
- Where the big transformations will be happening in the next 5 years
- How Doug stays at the leading edge of innovations
Doug Jones (00:00): Innovation is not just about technology, it's about process. It's about how we interact with our users. I think focusing on understanding our users and their mission and then bringing the right technologies to them is the best way to focus in on innovation.
Bridget Bell (00:21): Welcome to MindSET, a Leidos podcast. I'm your host, Bridget Bell.
Meghan Good (00:26): And I'm your host, Meghan Good. Join us as we talk with pioneers in science, engineering, and technology to understand their creative mindset and share their stories of innovation.
Meghan Good (00:40): This week, we caught up with Doug Jones to talk all things digital modernization, including mobile, apps, cloud, SecDevOps, and more. As the director of Leidos' digital modernization accelerator, he knows innovation.
Bridget Bell (00:55): And he had some interesting thoughts on that word, innovation, and what it truly means. We also got to hear about his mindset on technology and how it exists to enable the mission, not the other way around.
Meghan Good (01:07): We made sure to ask him about what tools and technologies he thinks will be obsolete with the digital revolution, and what resistance he's seeing to these changes.
Bridget Bell (01:17): Let's dive in. Today we're speaking with Doug Jones, director of Leidos' digital modernization accelerator. Doug has nearly 20 years of experience in government digital modernization. Welcome, Doug. Would you like to give a brief introduction and tell us a little bit about yourself?
Doug Jones (01:39): Sure. So I'm director of our digitalization accelerator, and a little bit about my background. I started off focused on mission critical systems coming out and doing large-scale software systems in the federal government, and then moved into doing enterprise IT and even did a little bit of a brief sojourn in terms of running a 24-by-seven cyber operations floor for DHS. I've got a broad breadth of experience over 20 years of really helping transform our government customers from both a security perspective, a software perspective and an IT perspective.
Meghan Good (02:11): So with that, Doug, over the course of your career, you've certainly had a lot of work with technology and different kinds of technology over the last 20 years that we've seen really invade our personal and professional lives. Now I'm curious, what first got you interested in working in this field?
Doug Jones (02:28): I kind of had a unique introduction to this field. I majored in materials engineering and science. And coming out of college, I graduated right around the dot com bubble burst. So the semiconductor market, which was my focus here in materials, was the first area to crash out of that. But while I was in college, I helped run NC state's network, where I went to college. And so I picked up networking and IT modernization. And then, when I moved up to DC for an original job that then fell through, I sort of pivoted into that focus area. And then 9/11 happened and really wanted to focus in on giving back to our country, and helping support, and how do we leverage technology to enable our mission and to protect our nations' individuals, as well as help empower and protect the rest of the world.
Meghan Good (03:17): So it sounds like a lot of your career has been focused on applying technology to help government agencies or the broader world make better decisions and really invest in technology. Can you tell us how that fits into digital modernization, and how you define modernization?
Doug Jones (03:36): We really focus on defining digital modernization in three main ways. First is it's all about the mission and the user. So when you think about digital modernization, the entire reason it exists is enabling a mission, making our users more productive or improving their capabilities for them to deliver a mission or a business outcome.
Doug Jones (03:57): Second, that it's all about data, and really about leveraging that data to inform those decisions. And then it's about things such as software and automation to be able to get speed and an improved resiliency and capabilities. So how do we leverage the technology to deliver that automation, deliver that capability, so that we can focus on that mission piece, so that we can deliver cheaper, faster, more secure, and more resilient.
Meghan Good (04:25): So what specific areas are we focusing on?
Doug Jones (04:27): We break it into the seven main categories, starting with the classic end user support pieces. So think of your call centers, your service catalog, those areas, and taking a user-centric approach to that support, and making sure that we can still enable supporting those users in a more effective and in a transformative way. Then we look at the digital workplace and that's how do you collaborate? Whether it's your laptops, your Skype or your Slack in supporting that workforce so they can deliver that value in that digital workplace. And then we look at mobility, really a transformative technology in terms of now we have a highly mobile workforce. How do we enable that mobility? How do we bring in mobile devices to deliver mission value, enable folks to make those informed decisions when they're on the run?
Doug Jones (05:17): And then the other technologies are really more around your backend support areas, starting with cloud, again, a major transformative technology from a cloud perspective that we're really seeing change how we do business and how we deliver IT and software and technology services. Then moving into DevOps, and DevOps is more about a culture and a mindset change. It's about delivering value and speed and getting those constant feedback loops so that we're delivering the right thing, and empowering that for how we deliver software and IT capabilities to focus on making sure that we're delivering those outcomes and we're getting that constant feedback and hitting to the right things to empower those mission elements.
Doug Jones (06:00): Then we move into application monetization, which is an area I'm passionate about because I've lived through that early part of my career and modernized those applications. And we started with mainframes, went to client servers, then web enabled, and we keep modernizing applications so that we can take advantage of technology and leverage those capabilities to really empower those mission users so they can focus on making those informed decisions, or enabling our citizens.
Doug Jones (06:26): And then lastly, it's about the data center and the network modernization. So how are we monetizing all the technology in the data centers? Everything from your servers and your compute and your storage to your networks and things such as software defined networking, and how we optimize the actual processing of the data in these applications to deliver value to our customers.
Bridget Bell (06:47): Wow. That is a huge spectrum of capabilities and services. And so, and all of these components across all these areas, which ones are you seeing really getting the most traction and attention from our customers? From the federal government?
Doug Jones (07:02): Well, definitely cloud. I mean, the government's had a cloud first strategy for a while, and it's taken a while to take hold, but it's really, the momentum's there now in terms of cloud adoption, so that's a major one that we're just seeing a tremendous focus on the continued leveraging of cloud, and I'll say even a more intelligent leveraging of the cloud, moving more towards how do you take advantage of the new capabilities to give that that speed and innovation. Then looking at DevOps is another major one in terms of, again, driving that speed time to value, which I think is absolutely critical piece. And then, lastly, is probably in the mobility space as we're starting to see a major change in adoption profiles in terms of the amount of folks that are leveraging their mobile devices across the spectrum to start performing their work.
Meghan Good (07:51): So in this conversation so far, and we've talked a lot about the word change. So where are you seeing the most transformation occurring in the next five years as these kinds of technologies get implemented more broadly, such as SDN and cloud and different mobility first measures. Where do you see that big source of transformation happening?
Doug Jones (08:13): I think it's definitely in the mobility space. With LTE coming out, we finally saw the speed in lack of latency to enable people to really on our personal side, leverage mobile phones to do a tremendous amount of activity on them. But really, in the enterprise space, and more so in the federal government space, today we're only using mobile phones really for productivity. It's for email, it's for basic activities, and really phone calls. And now with LTE being adopted out there, and now with 5G coming, which increased performance and even less latency, we're really going to see a major adoption. As I mentioned earlier, we've already seen applications being modernized from mainframe to client server to internet. I anticipate we're going to start seeing a next wave of modernization where it's going to be mobile ready. So how do we make sure our mission apps and our mission data at the edge is there so that we can actually make those informed decisions at the edge, leveraging our mobile devices?
Doug Jones (09:09): So we're going to start seeing mission data on the mobile devices. But when you think about modernizing applications for mobility, you have to do something differently. And we've seen this in the commercial space, in our personal lives and our personal phones and the applications on it is that you don't do every function that you have in an application today on your mobile device. You do things that are, how can I make quick decisions? What am I doing from a time slicing perspective? Are there other activities or workflows or decision points I make that I'm going to be doing on a small screen with potentially intermittent communication? And it's going to be really impactful when you start thinking about how you leverage that to empower our nation's users, right?
Doug Jones (09:51): So whether it's healthcare and making sure that citizens have the data on their healthcare and their history at their fingertips to be able to share with their doctors immediately. Or whether you're talking about customs and border protection agents, boarding ships in our nation's ports and inspect them and having that data at the edge. That may be intermittent communication sometimes because you could be in remote areas, but how do you then cache it and make sure the data is available in a way that they can be effective?
Doug Jones (10:18): And that's where I think you're going to see a change. There's some architectural changes, some ways you want to display data differently that lend themselves to the small screen and how you're really empowering decision making real time with data. And that's where I think we're going to see this major change over the next three to five years from how we leverage technology at the edge with our mobile devices.
Bridget Bell (10:39): So I'm going to switch gears a little bit and ask you that. In your role as the director of our digital modernization accelerator, you're really focused on innovations and finding that next innovation and identifying that, so how do you stay on the leading edge of what's coming and what's really innovative,
Doug Jones (11:03): Innovative? That's interesting word and a lot of people use it for a lot of different things. Obviously I read a lot. I stay up a lot on what's going on in technology and the commercial world and the enterprise world and the government space, but what I really think is what is important is to think about innovation is about problem solving. It's about how do you use technology to solve our user's problems because it's all about the mission and the users.
Doug Jones (11:27): When I think about what we do, and I think about IT, we have to always remember that the only reason why IT or digital modernization or technology exists is to empower our users to do the mission. That's it. We don't exist for a technology to bring interesting technologies in. We exist to solve problems so that our users can do what they're really good at. Whether that's making hard medical decisions in terms of how the best way to treat a cancer patient, right? Or it's empowering counter-terrorism analyst to determine how do we determine if this person's a bad guy and we can let them into our borders through TSA or through immigration services? Or empowering our soldiers on the field of battle.
Doug Jones (12:12): So technology is there to enable them to do their job better, to keep them safer or to push the bounds of research and science or to heal people. So when I think about innovation, it's about how do we apply technology to solve this problem. So to me it's all about listening and understanding what other problems? What are our users trying to accomplish? And then bringing the art of the possible, what technology can actually do. Because they don't always understand the art of the possible. They don't understand how we could leverage technology out there to solve their problems.
Doug Jones (12:46): So, when I start thinking about innovation, it's where do we bring even commercial technologies in to solve their problems? Or innovation from how we deliver capabilities? If you look at a lot of the innovation that's come about in the commercial space, it's even about how we do customer service, how we deliver our support, our users think about things like Apple's Genius Bar where people would walk up with mobile phones and there's not a central desk and they check you out and they check you in. Or if you think about, you know, how you interact with amazon.com and how they support you.
Doug Jones (13:17): So I think we've seen a change in innovation is not just about technology, it's about process, it's about how we interact with our users. And I think focusing on understanding our users and their mission and then bringing the right technologies to them is the best way to focus in on innovation.
Doug Jones (13:35): An example of where we've done that bringing commercial technologies into a [inaudible 00:13:40] space was when we were supporting our NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory customer in California. They were struggling with assembling satellites. So they go into a clean room and they're assembling like the Mars Rover or they're assembling things that they're doing space exploration with and when they run into a problem, they have to leave the clean room, go get on a teleconference with people that are all over the country that built the different sensors or capabilities inside that space vehicle and then work through how to go fix it and then go back and they're looking at schematics and then they go back in the clean room. They have the decontaminated from a dust perspective, put on the bunny suit and then go in there and try to troubleshoot it.
Doug Jones (14:15): We said, "Hey, maybe we could do something different to try to help them". So we've focused on bringing a bunch of technologies into the clean room, leveraging wireless battery power. So we had a VTC screen running on battery that we would charge when they're not using it, connect over wireless. And then they had iPhones and iPads where they could literally just show them up inside an apparatus where they weren't getting something to connect correctly or they couldn't get install or it wasn't fitting correctly. On a live video conference with the engineers that had built the original pieces.
Doug Jones (14:46): And so they could troubleshoot it much faster and they were saving hours of productivity by leveraging these commercial technologies in a different way so they don't have to go in and out and they could have a realtime conversation using video to show what the problem was. So the engineers on the other side could help them troubleshoot and solve that problem. So it's how we leverage technology that maybe is existing today, commercial off the shelf that we use in our personal lives, but applying it through that lens of our mission problems and what are users trying to accomplish to then make their lives easier.
Meghan Good (15:19): Those are some really cool examples, especially the JPL and that blows my mind of the commercial technology aspect and how you're applying that in a much more regulated kind of environment. But one thing I always think when I talk with you, Doug, your energy about innovation is so contagious and we've worked together for a couple of years now, but never on a daily basis. And to take this question a step further, I'm just curious what part of your creative process you use or how you actually are applying that lens. You know, what's something that you do every day and you say, "Oh, I've read about this really interesting technology". How do you work that into a solution that you're coming up with?
Doug Jones (16:06): I love my job. I think I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to help solve some of the hardest problems that our country has and empower a bunch of our engineers to solve those problems. But when I think about your question, part of is it's an art, it's not a science and it begins with listening, listening to your customer, listening to the users and understand where their frustrations are. Because again, they don't always understand the potential for technology and where technology or some other capability could help them. So listen and understand their frustrations and then look for where you can connect dots.
Doug Jones (16:44): It's all about that sort of observation, that listening, looking for where someone solved a problem uniquely in another way, and then you can bring it into that space. You know, I mentioned earlier the Apple Genius Bar. How would you leverage technologies like that to then improve the user experience in a hospital? How would you leverage technologies like that to improve the user experience and our ability to impact folks in general? It setting inside a large customer building, right?
Doug Jones (17:13): So it's looking at where have I seen people use unique ways of solving problems. So, it really is about listening to your customer and seeing where they're frustrated and watching how they do their job. It's about thinking about what are unique ways that are out there and then being a very observant to what's going on in the world. Even outside of where you think your industry is. I mean that could be looking at a building and how they designed the way they come in and the way technology may greet you in the elevator in the building and then how would you maybe apply those things to another use case.
Doug Jones (17:50): How do you interact with an online vendor and how does that support, I mean I use an example, one of my favorite interactions online was I was having problems with my Fitbit. I went on to get support because it was within the first year of warranty and one other line I filled out a ticket and said, "Hey you know, I'm having trouble with my Fitbit" and I filled out some information about it and hit submit. Pretty much almost immediately I got a text from Fitbit saying John from Fitbit is going to call you in five to seven minutes. And he did. And he called me and had already looked at my ticket. He'd already looked at the errors that we were having with my syncing to the server and then over to my phone. And he knew exactly what the issue was by the time he called me and he basically asked me three questions, including what color band did I want and confirming the address to send my new Fitbit to since it was under warranty.
Doug Jones (18:37): So thinking about it wasn't some new technology that brought that to bear. It was how do you understand your user interactions, how do you understand the data you have access to, and then how can you use that to make the decisions faster that give you a better experience from a user as well as potentially save you money and cost from a provider and how you support it. So that innovation, that problem solving piece, that's where I think is the value we bring. It's about that mission lens, that business lens, that user lens. And then looking around the world of how do I, you know, look for technology or process improvements to just enable those users.
Meghan Good (19:17): And I love those examples because like you keep saying the technology is there to empower the mission and the users not the other way around. And so I think that while you're talking through is really providing valuable solutions. But I have to ask, I imagine you've been on rocky projects that maybe haven't gone so smoothly in the past. How do you rebuild your passion? What advice do you give to others to overcome those struggles if they're in one of those not so successful projects?
Doug Jones (19:48): You know, it's funny, I've spent some definite times on some, some red programs and some Rocky recoveries, especially early in my career, that was sort of my expertise. I... The first 10 years my career was mostly in red program recovery on major government systems for the FBI, for Homeland security and a couple of other ones. And when I look back at those, that's where I learned the most. And so I think that it's okay to do those and we shouldn't be afraid of struggles or failures.
Doug Jones (20:18): That's where you learn. And then that's why I'm a better engineer and problem solver now than I was, that those things are what shape us and we should not be afraid of them and not be afraid to talk about them because I don't want my customers to go through the same struggles. So the lessons I learned, I want to pass on to other engineers and to my customers so that we can enable them to avoid those pieces.
Doug Jones (20:40): I think it's really important to look back at that and not be ashamed of it. And I'm not saying we celebrate struggles, but we them from what they are, which is how do you learn how to do things better. And I've used those examples of then making a decision so I could be ahead of the next time and not have those problems again. And so keeping that passion alive, I think it's really important to understand what you learned from them, but then turn around and leverage those things to then solve problems better than the future and keep that passion going. Have a passing the torch of lessons learned on to all the other engineers or customers that you interact with on every additional engagement.
Meghan Good (21:17): And that actually gets to another question that I have for you. So one of my favorite ideas that you shared over the past is about the vending machine for IT gear. What are some of those interesting solutions that you guys have been noodling about? Maybe white boarding or connecting the dots on right now that you think are going to make a big break within some of our customer sets.
Doug Jones (21:44): That was always one of our favorite innovations we were working on and we start thinking about how much time we spend trying to just by basic IT assets whether it's time, it's delay, it's process. I like to think about even me as a user, how do I want IT to be delivered? And when I start thinking about I had to go to somebody with a P card, a purchase card to go get a new headset or to go get an approved thumb drive. And that could take several days to a week and sometimes you need that stuff immediately because something just broke.
Doug Jones (22:13): So the idea that we could give a vending machine that was stocked with headsets, iPhone cases, approved USB drives, make sure they're the correct ones from a security perspective or other low dollar value assets that you need on a regular basis. And then integrate that into your badging systems so you could badge it and they can determine if you've got the ability to buy those things and in whatever budget you have and then track it back and bill back to your department that you procured those pieces. And give that sort of Best Buy feel inside our existing it so people can get what they need, again, so they can focus on doing their job.
Doug Jones (22:52): So I think that that was a piece of it. We've also been looking at a locker concept, so we started thinking about my laptop screen broke at six o'clock at night, but I'm going to be on travel the next day. How do I get that support? So can we have a... especially in remote sites or other places, can we have a locker with return to service machines already in it that I can push your image to and your configuration and then send you a pin so you just go get that out of a locker. So I can give you that support even if I am five hundred miles away, you can get the laptop you need to go continue and go to your travels or wherever you're going to a customer site or going to perform mission right after that.
Doug Jones (23:30): So I think that sort of thought process of put yourself in the user's shoes, how do you make it easy so they can get the service so they can get back up and running. One of the things I think sometimes people forget about is, is IT used to be all about just sort of backend services, but now it fundamental to how we do our job. We use IT to do our job every day. Everything we do is empowered by some sort of technology. It's not a back office productivity aid anymore, it is the way we deliver our mission, the way we impact our business. So it's got to be there and we're relying on it being there because we always have it, we always have access to the IT. So we as it providers need to think about how do we put that mission criticality into our IT and in to our processes for how we support that IT.
Doug Jones (24:16): So, that's a couple of different ones. When you start thinking about some of the other ones we're looking at is can you do things simple again from that user viewpoint and said, you locked yourself out of your computer. I've done that. Locked my password out, coming back from a vacation, forgot about it. But then I don't remember what the phone number is to go call the service desk to unlock my password. Well we monitor when people lock themselves out from a security perspective because we're worried about people trying to hack into accounts.
Doug Jones (24:43): Could we just automate sending a text message to you saying, "Hey, we noticed you locked yourself out. Here's the link to the mobile friendly password reset site. So you can go reset your password immediately. And if you didn't lock yourself out, here's a link to the security organization to report that we have a potential issue". So, there's impactful ways we can do this by leveraging technologies. But again, thinking it through the lens of the user, thinking through the lens of the mission and how do we bring these types of capabilities to our users.
Bridget Bell (25:09): I love those examples, the vending machine, the locker, and then making it easy when you do lock yourself out or need some help because like we've talked about, it's using technology to solve problems and making sure people can focus on their jobs and on their missions and that they're not tripping over technology or it's not getting in the way.
Bridget Bell (25:29): So I think Megan definitely said it best when she said your passion for your job is contagious. You can tell how much you enjoy it and how you can then live out that innovation. So I want to go back to those various components of digital modernization that you listed earlier. So those seven, is there one that stands out that you're most excited about?
Doug Jones (25:53): I think it would be dev ops because dev ops is, is really about delivering value at speed and it's really that transformation of not just technology but leveraging process and even culture change so that we can deliver technologies in all the other areas. So the other six areas I mentioned, how do we deliver them faster and make sure we're delivering the right things. If you think about dev ops one is about how do you increase speed. So if you think about a process flow from left to right, then it's how do I make sure I'm delivering the right thing fast? So you want to get constant feedback loops.
Doug Jones (26:28): And then eventually to the point where we are constantly delivering and giving feedback so we're in a constant change because when you start thinking about it, technology changes the demands of what we need out in our workforce, whether it's on the... From an adversary in cyberspace, whether it's from on the battlefield, whether it's in healthcare that the needs of what we deliver change so fast. If we can start doing a better job of delivering at speed capabilities and be able to react to those changing demands faster, then we can keep up with technology. We can have technology move at the speed of mission. And that's why dev ops gets me really excited because it starts instrumenting our processes, our technology, and how we deliver capabilities in a way that we can enable that, that speed of mission.
Bridget Bell (27:16): Okay. So I'm going to take that question one step further that your part of the digital modernization accelerator. So there's three concepts built into that. There's everything going digital, everything modernizing and then accelerating. It's actually being delivered. So which of those three would you say is the priority area for your efforts today?
Doug Jones (27:38): I definitely have to say accelerator. If you think about the other ones, they change, right? So we went from analog to digital and even the definition of digital continues to evolve and change. So, that one changes a lot. And then monetization is just changing. But really it's about acceleration. How do we accelerate the time to value? How do we accelerate from flash to bang, from idea to value in a mission to improve safety, to improve mission outcomes, to improve citizen services.
Doug Jones (28:08): So I think it's all about the acceleration because we need to enable us to keep up with the speed of mission. As I mentioned earlier, the demands on our customers are changing so fast but we haven't been able to keep up in terms of how we deliver technology and capabilities. And that's where I think the acceleration piece is the most critical.
Bridget Bell (28:29): So with that, here's my somewhat cheeky question. Is there a future for paper or printers, pencils? What kinds of technologies do you think are going to change so much over the next couple of years that all of this digital modernization will replace?
Doug Jones (28:46): It's funny, we do think about things like that. I mean the printer piece has been brought up a number of times with customers in terms of, "Hey, this is a longterm contract. We want to sunset printers by some point in the middle of the contract" and we start thinking about it. There's a long tail cause you have to think about generations, right? When you talk about generations and their comfort level, they have different cover levels. I mean I am, I'll say part of the digital generation, I came up that analog to digital transformation and change. But even I can look back and watch the YouTube videos where you see teens struggling with a rotary phone, right? And I remember rotary phone at my grandmother's house and those things exist for a long period of time and you've got to be prepared for those.
Doug Jones (29:28): But we start thinking about those areas. You know, one area I think about is the classic sort of call center service desk. You know that is an area that we see a lot in the government space, but we've started to see a road out in the commercial space. When I tried to call Fitbit or contact Fitbit, they don't make the phone number piece easy. They want you to interact through their digital platform much more so. It's more scalable, it's more secure, you get more of a repetitive service. They get more data on what they're doing. So they can make better decisions and route the ticket to the right people.
Doug Jones (29:58): So we're starting to see more of that. So I think you're going to see... It's not going to go away, but you're going to see less of a focus in that and more of a focus on leveraging digital platforms to support. Another example when I start thinking about it is, you know I have an 11 year old daughter, she's sixth grader and you know, she's got a Chromebook at school where they work on different projects and I was at home with her and she's working on some homework and I mentioned something about maybe this summer we should work on a typing course. I remember back when I was in middle school, we learned typing and she goes, "I don't need typing". She presses her speech to text button and dictates into her Chromebook.
Doug Jones (30:32): And it got me thinking, is are QWERTY keyboards going away? Are people going to be dictating or using alternative forms to interact with their IT systems? And the answer is yeah, probably. If you look at over time where we're going, it may take a while, but that's one of those technologies that may start going away.
Doug Jones (30:50): But then when you start thinking about it there's the foldable screens that have been announced, Samsung, a number of other ones have announced them and is that going to really change sort of the paper view and in paper going away. And I think you're going to see, again a less of an emphasis. I think it will start going away, but that's going to be a 15 plus year journey as we start looking at how generations adopt things.
Doug Jones (31:11): But it is fascinating when you look at things like I would have never thought of the keyboard going away when I'm talking to my daughter and that was just sort of a shock. So there are technologies that will really evolve in the near future based upon the advances that we have.
Bridget Bell (31:26): And I think you're so right that it is that generational change because like you mentioned, the YouTube videos of the teenagers who can't figure out the rotary phones, or then as we see our children grow up with your daughter and the voice to text, or I know, I see my kids, they'll come up to any type of monitor or TV and expect it to be a touch screen. So, I can completely see a keyboard going away as people can just talk to it and move things around on their screens.
Bridget Bell (31:53): So with all of these changes being inevitable, and even if it is five, 15, however many years out, do you see a lot of resistance to these changes in technologies? So as the technologies of the past become more obsolete, are a lot of people resisting that change?
Doug Jones (32:13): I find resistance happens when we don't do it right. When we lead with technology, what we need to do is lead with mission, lead with the user. Leverage that lens, as I mentioned earlier. When I sit there and I engage users and I understand what they're trying to accomplish or what their struggles are and then bring technology and help them understand how technology can help them solve their problem, they get excited about it. They want the technology then.
Doug Jones (32:42): So, when we lead with empowering them, making their job easier, making it easier for them to make the hard decisions to have the right data at their fingertips. That's when we do well and that's when I find resistance sort of melts away. But when we lead with technology and we don't engage, and also I add, when we don't give them regular feedback, so if we do that engagement once, then they may still have resistance, but we do it on that regular basis, that constant feedback loop, like I mentioned earlier on the dev ops piece, that's when you see them energize and they're excited about the technology.
Doug Jones (33:15): I mean there's always going to be a subset that are resistant to change. Sometimes they just don't want change they like the way their, their job is today but 90% get excited about it when we show the ability it's going to have for them to focus on doing their job. You know, I'll use an example, early in my career on one of those problem programs from customs I had, we had rolled out something for processing every truck of the border into the US and we had some issues in our initial pilot site and we had agents from the field come back to our site here in DC and tell us about how we're actually making it harder for them to do their job because we had misunderstood what they were trying to do and how the adoption of certain technologies.
Doug Jones (33:56): So it was taking them longer to process because they were having to go from mouse to keyboard, mouse to keyboard instead of be able to type very quickly and shortcut around. And what they we wanted them to do was spend less time typing and more time listening and talking to the person trying to cross the border to understand if there were any... if the person was nervous or any tells the person's trying to smuggle stuff into the country. But we had made it so they were focusing on the technology and we ended up changing our whole design so that they were able to very quickly and easily assimilate the data and focus more on their interaction with the user so they can do that law enforcement piece.
Doug Jones (34:34): And that sort of understanding of is there a risk there beyond what the data was telling them, but also from what the environment and the setting and the context was telling them. So having that conversation with the users and understanding how they do their job is so critical to delivering the right technology. And we didn't have to make a major technology change. It was things that we had at our fingertips. It was just how we chose to implement them and what we chose to focus on.
Doug Jones (34:58): So I think it's just really important when we think about this is always through that mission lens, that user lens or that business lens because that's where we get that. And again, once we do that, if we do it right, the adoption actually ends up becoming pretty easy. And those folks become your champions throughout the rest of the organization to bring this technology and get everyone else excited about it.
Bridget Bell (35:21): So Doug, I feel like we could go for a very long time, more than one podcast on different kinds of technology, different customer challenges and problems, different program management approaches, different maybe data types, different OSI standards, different kinds of apps, all sorts of things. And with that in mind, the question that we have for you is, what advice do you have for the market for people who are setting out trying to figure out their digital modernization strategies? What would you recommend?
Doug Jones (35:55): It's all about mission. It is all about delivering value to whatever mission we're trying to accomplish. Again, whether that's helping treat patients in a VA hospital or it's enabling the war fighter, it's enabling our law enforcement to make more accurate decisions quickly so that they can determine if someone's really a threat or if they are a citizen. It is about that mission and we need to focus on that. And then I would say we need to spend more time thinking about how do you leverage and solve problems and in that listening to your users.
Doug Jones (36:34): So I think those are the key concepts I would focus in on is the, you know, it's about the mission. So, we only exist to deliver mission. IT doesn't exist for itself, we exist for the mission. It's about thinking about how do you solve problems in a different way. Thinking about what's out there in the world that people have already solved a problem that I could bring in to solve this other problem that maybe people may not have connected that dot or made that leap. And then, it's about really sort of bringing those pieces together and listening to what are the real domain curves and the needs so we can give them the art of the possible and make everyone's lives better.
Bridget Bell (37:12): I love that. And that concept of getting people to think more and then really empowering the mission and moving at the speed of mission so that technology is supporting that and not hindering that. I think those are really compelling components that have resonated with what you've said. So thank you so much. I've really enjoyed our conversation today and thank you for your time.
Doug Jones (37:35): Thanks Bridget. I appreciate it. And thank you Megan.
Bridget Bell (37:38): And thanks to our audience for listening to mindset. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your colleagues and visit leidos dot com slash mindset and if you are specifically interested in digital modernization, please visit leidos dot com slash modernize.