Robert O'Keefe
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Put the Mission First: A 2018 Close Up

Technology can help get something done. This has been a common theme in my 29-year consulting career, whether it be preventing terrorist attacks, mitigating flood risk, making it easier for students to apply for loans, or combatting human trafficking.

Implementing technology for technology’s sake doesn’t work. Applying technology to increase capability and effectiveness in achieving mission goals is the place to start. It is about understanding the mission first and embedding that in everything we do for our clients.

Recently, I have been analyzing how Federal Government agencies adopt cloud for infrastructure, DevOps approaches, and even blockchain. Some organizations jump on a new technology too quickly –  without understanding what the benefits are or how it fits with their particular mission. 

Unfortunately, they then don’t get the expected benefits due to low adoption or missed opportunities. If you think of cloud computing as just another hosting option, you miss the power of dynamic infrastructure to speed mission deployments.

On the other hand, agencies that start with mission challenges in mind have a better chance at selecting the right technologies or methods that are a ‘fit” for their organization and meld with the mission and mission operators seamlessly. Think of a wrench in the hand of a mechanic or paintbrush for an artist. Both are tools that become one with the operator.

One thing that helps agencies assess that fit is Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that starts with empathy and is built on learning the challenges, goals, and motivations of the ultimate user of the product or service. We have used Design Thinking to help agencies identify bottlenecks and develop solutions to overcome those challenges.

We might use personas, user stories, or cases as part of our exploration process.

We encourage Chief Information Officers and program leaders to go boldly in their exploration of technology – with the only rule of using a ‘mission lens’ to do this. Mission first, people next, then technology as a supporting role to magnify what those people can achieve.