Otto Berkes, the chief technology officer for CA Technologies, said to modernize its technology and deliver that digital transformation, agencies need speed to delivery.
The Evolving Need to Modernize
You really have to take a true outcome based approach and understand the business value of investment you will undertake.
Chief Technology Officer, CA Technologies
The Agile Development World
The pillars that I think are important to keep at the top of everyone’s minds are to move to more agile approaches and breaking down siloes, increasing customer focus, increasing automation to reduce the number of dollars going to maintain legacy systems, and trust and security are foundational.
Chief Technology Officer, CA Technologies
The growth and acceptance of agile or dev/ops to develop software and tools across agencies is both surprising and welcome.
Bloomberg Government found in 2017 that spending on agile services increased to $368 million in fiscal 2016 from $242 million in 2015 among the 40 biggest contract vehicles.
And we’ve seen agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration, which plans to transform more than 70 applications into a modern architecture through agile, or the Food and Drug Administration, which is moving one step further than agile and by moving to a micro-services architecture, dev/ops or iterative development is catching on quickly.
Within a microservices architecture, organizations build apps that are independently deployable, easy to replace, often times organized around specific capabilities, can be implemented using different programming languages and build using automated processes.
All of these efforts are helping agencies meet the goals of the Trump administration’s IT modernization initiative. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
One big challenge in all of this move to agile is agencies tend to take a one-off approach with contracting as every agency still is figuring out what agile means for them and how to incorporate it into their acquisition processes.
Otto Berkes, the chief technology officer for CA Technologies, said to modernize its technology and deliver that digital transformation, agencies need speed to delivery, which is what agile provides.
“You really have to take a true outcome based approach and understand the business value of investment you will undertake,” Berkes said on the discussion “Modern Software Factory for Government IT Modernization” sponsored by CA Technologies. “It’s important not to simply pursue technology because it’s in fashion, but look at the end-to-end system, the architecture what you are delivering and make a value-based decision.”
Berkes, who wrote a book about digital transformation called Digitally Remastered, said because agile breaks projects into bite-sized chunks, agencies can constantly deliver new value at a high velocity.
“Agile is heavily customer centric, delivers functionality and measures impact and takes data and turns it into feedback loop,” he said.
He said two private sector examples highlight the potential value of moving to agile—Williams-Sonoma moved to agile and went from one major release a year with minor updates to releases every three week. At PayPal, Berkes said before moving to agile, the company went from rolling out new three new capabilities over 18 months to completing 58 new capabilities in the next six months.
Berkes said one important key to having success with agile and digital transformation is for agencies to know where they are starting.
“Step one is knowing your inventory of hardware and software. Step two is choosing carefully the things you are going to change in a sequenced way,” he said.
Berkes said agencies have a huge opportunity with the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act and the associated $100 million governmentwide Technology Modernization Fund and agency-specific working capital funds.
“There will be some low-hanging fruit where you can have some small projects with real near-term impacts. There will be some projects that will be multi-year projects that will require multi-year focus and multi-year investments,” he said. “The pillars that I think are important to keep at the top of everyone’s minds are to move to more agile approaches and breaking down siloes, increasing customer focus, increasing automation to reduce the number of dollars going to maintain legacy systems, and trust and security are foundational.”
Berkes added agencies also have a real opportunity to create the feedback loop with customers to better understand the value of the services and where it can be improved.
Along with agile, agencies should develop and use application programming interfaces (APIs) to help create a conduit for information to flow from government to citizen.
A web API is for any system to exchange information with another over the Internet. Berkes said web APIs flatten the way systems can be connected together.
“You can take an older system, whether COBOL or mainframe, it doesn’t matter what the underlying technology or programming language it uses, and put a modern API interface on top of that and continue to use the value of that system in a completely, modern flexible way,” he said. “It can service hidden or trapped value that would otherwise be written off as a legacy system.”
Berkes added agencies need to ensure they have API management to ensure they are both protecting the data as well as controlling the flow of information to the right systems.
As chief technology officer of CA Technologies, Otto Berkes is responsible for technical leadership and innovation, further developing the company’s technical community, and aligning its software strategy, architecture and partner relationships to deliver customer value.
Otto joined CA on June 15, 2015. As a 25-year industry veteran, he has a passion for innovation and development. He has extensive experience leading the development of cutting-edge products and technologies. An early champion of mobile computing, he led the development of touch-based technologies, user interfaces, hardware architectures, and physical designs that were the forerunners to today's tablets.
Before joining CA, Otto served as the chief technology officer at HBO, where he directed efforts that created and delivered innovative digital technologies and products such as HBO GO®. During his tenure, HBO GO became one of the most popular streaming services in the U.S.
Previously, Otto spent 18 years at Microsoft and was one of the four original founders of Xbox. As Xbox's first architect, he led its technical direction. He started his career at Microsoft as a senior software developer, where he worked on the first version of the Windows NT operating system, and re-wrote Microsoft's OpenGL implementation. He led Microsoft's OpenGL and DirectX graphics development groups in Windows during the formative years of the evolution of the modern GPU.
Earlier in his career, Otto served as a senior developer at both Autodesk where he wrote the graphics engine and user interface for the first Windows-based version of AutoCAD.
An advocate of diversity, he is a member of the University of Vermont’s STEM leadership council where he is focused on addressing gender, racial, and economic gaps across all of the STEM disciplines.
Otto earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Middlebury College in Vermont and a master’s degree in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of Vermont. He is co-inventor on and holds multiple patents spanning design, mobile device interaction and core computing technologies.
Jason Miller is an executive editor and reporter with Federal News Radio. As executive editor, Jason helps direct the news coverage of the station and works with reporters to ensure a broad range of coverage of federal technology, procurement, finance and human resource news.As a reporter, Jason focuses mainly on technology and procurement issues, including cybersecurity, e-government and acquisition policies and programs.