Want to Implement Emerging Tech Successfully? Start Small

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The best bet to get the best bang for your tech bucks is by piloting smaller projects, DOD strategists say.

In government, fully implementing new technologies can take a while – months and years – and even then, those projects fail at alarmingly high rates.

As government agencies increasingly delve into new technologies like big data, increased analytic capabilities and cloud computing, the best bet to get the best bang for your tech bucks is by piloting smaller projects.

“The reality is, if you want to accomplish stuff, you have to do it in small chunks, you’ve got to get the right folks in the rooms,” said Gary Blohm, director of the U.S. Army’s Architecture Integration Center. “We do pilots at first. Pilots are learning events, and it takes work to expand them across the organization.”

Blohm, speaking Thursday at an event in Tysons Corner hosted by immixGroup, said pilots can address key questions early on. The phrase “fail small, fail early” applies here: It’s much better to test an unproven technology in a small project and find out it isn’t what it was billed to be than to fail late and huge.

Even in the face of industry criticism, the Defense Department has stuck to its guns in piloting cloud computing projects. The dichotomy is obvious here: With potentially billions of dollars in sales at stake, cloud service providers want Pentagon business yesterday. The Pentagon, filled with perhaps the largest cache of sensitive data and military secrets in the world, wants to find the ideal balance between security, risk and efficiencies.

To DOD’s credit, it's getting there. It has tweaked some of the early governance structures that bogged down early efforts between cloud providers and DOD customers, and that’s led to an increased number of pilots across the agency. These early pilots will shape how defense and military branches use cloud computing in the future.

Pilots have become so integral within DOD, some of the folks there aren’t even calling them pilots anymore.

“How do we begin to structure what we no longer refer to as a pilot, but as an initial implementation,” said Tom Morton, cloud strategist from DOD's Office of the Chief Information Officer. Since DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen came on board, the very definition of “pilot” has changed to include more detail.

Initial implementations “have objectives we use to find out about information we aren’t sure about and explore in greater detail,” Morton said. At the moment, early pilots in cloud computing are helping shape, for example, the way cloud service providers connect to DOD systems through cloud access points.

Like watering plants in the garden, you’ve got to get the kinks out of the hose and work through other pressure points. Pilots – or initial implementations – are the best way to do that, he said.

(Image via kentoh/ Shutterstock.com)