The Department of Defense (DoD) has a long history of responding quickly and forcefully to crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Today, defense workers remain at their posts but there’s been a seismic shift in the physical location of these posts. The four walls of offices grew quiet as work was accomplished from living rooms, kitchen tables and home offices. Federal agencies and departments were quickly forced to combat their long-held mentality of physical accountability in order to adopt a new working mindset – telework.
This pandemic has the potential to permanently alter the future of the DoD workforce. The door might be opening for a new demographic of potential hires, individuals with the right skillset and mindset to integrate and adopt the emerging technologies needed to accelerate digital transformation. This is a group that might have been previously overlooked or, worse, not considered at all because they weren’t in the right zip code or physical location and were unwilling to relocate there.
In accordance with guidance from the Trump administration, federal agencies and departments currently offer “maximum telework flexibilities” for federal employees and contractors. Of course, with more than 4 million military and civilian federal employees now working from home, such remote access also puts the government at increased risk for new and emerging security threats.
In the transition to telework, federal employees have been supported by the COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force, whose primary focus is to support the workforce in areas such as equipment needs, network capacity, operational readiness, information technology personnel, contracting readiness, supply chain, finance requirements and cybersecurity. While much of the digital transformation government agencies and departments are dispatching usually takes months to plan and implement, the immediate needs of a COVID-19-era remote workforce have dramatically compressed that timeline.
Out of necessity, government agencies and departments are shedding traditional processes and embracing the future of remote workplace policies. That also means shifting its deeply ingrained mindset of physical accountability. It means officially cutting the cord between the physical workplace and the tech talent needed to help these government agencies automate their processes and truly transform the way they do business.
Powering Future-Ready Supply Chains
While the pace of innovation and the adoption of new technologies have accelerated, truly future-ready supply chains require a holistic approach. In the past year alone, the Defense Logistics Agency has improved efficiencies by deploying 82 robotic process automation (RPA) bots to reduce or eliminate tedious tasks freeing up their staff to focus on higher value work. The efficiencies gained by leveraging RPA to effectively automate tasks, streamline processes and increase employee productivity will only grow, and, with the right investments in emerging technologies, so, too, will increased visibility into the supply chains. Looking ahead, 86% of executives say that sharing of supply chain assets will be enabled by digital technologies. But where is the right talent to successfully implement those technologies?
Implementing Change: The Opportunity
Transforming longstanding, often manual processes into something more agile, accurate and efficient starts with the right people. However, by 2022, the global cybersecurity workforce shortage has been projected to reach upwards of 1.8 million unfilled positions. LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue reported that data science and machine learning-related jobs, taken together, represent five of the top 15 growing jobs in America today. There are thousands more jobs in the field than there are qualified professionals to fill them.
Employing the right tech talent is a decisive advantage. The challenge lies in being able to effectively compete for those most capable of analyzing data, building cybersecurity infrastructure and implementing emerging technologies. Yet, many government agencies and contracting organizations currently use decades-old hiring propositions to compete for a small pool of tech talent being aggressively pursued by private-sector employers using more progressive tactics, potentially widening the resulting skills gap even further.
Organizations are only as good as the people within them. To attract the right talent and strengthen its value proposition for potential hires, organizations must embrace the flexibility of remote work beyond the current COVID-19 environment. Once the coronavirus threat recedes, government officials have hinted that enhancements for telework will maintain some permanency, and, if so, the talent (and digital transformation) will no doubt follow.
Implementing emerging technologies designed to transform business operations requires proper design, planning and governance, among other things. Having the right partners with deep domain knowledge coupled with the technological expertise is just as important as having the right internal talent. The rise – and acceptance – of telework should allow organizations to feel comfortable leveraging the right partners based on expertise and experience, not just location or proximity to an office. Just as automobile manufacturer hires the right partner to engineer and build a specific part like Bang and Olufsen speakers for a luxury model, organizations shouldn’t be afraid to take the same approach to compiling their internal and external team and source the person or partner right for the job.
Competing for the right talent and partners that can unlock the full potential of data and digital technologies, and ultimately drive supply chain predictability, visibility and speed of delivery should be a top priority. Enabling a more innovative, modern workforce means embracing the changes ushered in by the current pandemic, which ultimately will usher in yet another era: one focused on accelerating digital transformation.