Article - IT

Transformation at the U.S. Department of Defense

By Colin Cosell|21st December 2022

In what was an incredibly insightful, riveting, and entertaining three days of the GDS CIO Insight Summit.  Myriad lessons were learned from our key themes: 

  • Balancing Skill and Automation  
  • The Metaverse and Virtual World at Large 
  •  Data-driven Transformation  

One of our keynote speakers was the Honorable John Sherman, CIO for the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Sherman opened up about the transformation journey in one of the most dynamic environments in the world. His teachings gave the audience an invaluable roadmap to not only learn from but implement at their own organizations. 

We kicked off the conversation by launching an audience poll, “what must-have skill does every CIO, CTO, or IT leader need?” The results? 

44% of our audience responded: The ability to see the bigger picture. 

Sherman agreed, adding “you’ve got to keep the strategic picture in mind while keeping an eye on technical and tactical execution, day-to-day. You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, work with the stakeholders, and get down in the trenches to get things done.” Furthermore, he noted “in the Department of Defense, we have over four million people: service members, civilians, contractors, and others. It’s a very large enterprise with an IT budget of over fifty billion dollars, and we are tasked with working with allies to ensure our service members are safe against bad [international] states and extremists.”  

As for the subject of continuous transformation while running such a massive, dynamic environment, the ideals and concepts weren’t that different than what one might find in a much smaller organization. It all came down to the people, process, and technology, and how to empower and leverage all three of those things. For Sherman and his unique role, it begins with cybersecurity and a Zero Trust model to make sure his people are safe, both in the office and on the front lines. This also requires what he described as “the importance of being a vanguard on the innovation workforce” in order to shape the cyber workforce of the future. The same, he would say, holds true for any organization in this digital era, ensuring the safety and security of employees and sensitive data. 

Transformation Requires the Right Technology

With regards to the technology aspect of the Department of Defense’s transformation, Sherman once again built synergy between his role and the role of a typical CIO. Many of our audience members shared an interest in the Cloud, the Internet of Things, and the potential game-changing technologies that are possible with 5G and NextG, and it was revealed that the DoD is very much implementing all of these things. The caveat for such a unique and dynamic environment that Sherman oversees is that the DoD has significant interest in the electromagnetic spectrum and its use for international and domestic safety purposes. In fact, shortly after his keynote, Sherman was heading to the White House to meet with other CIO’s from Washington DC to discuss this very subject and to learn from one another (which he would add is another key component to any successful digital transformation – collaboration). 

Having the CIO for the United States Department of Defense join the GDS CIO Insight Summit was a truly phenomenal and unique highlight for our audience. The learnings will only help them enhance their own transformation journeys as we head into 2023. 

GDS Summits are tailored 3-day virtual event conferences that bring together business leaders and solution providers to accelerate sales cycles, industry conversations and outcomes. Regarding the CIO Summits 88% of Delegates said the overall experience of Digital Summit they attended was either Above Average or Excellent whilst 92% of Delegates said the Digital Summit provided them with actionable outcomes to support their current initiatives.​ 

For more, click here to hear from attendees on how GDS has helped them to achieve their business outcomes. 

Continue the debate at GDS’ CIO Summits where we bring together senior IT executives who are actively seeking to share, learn, engage, and find the best solutions. 

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