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Innovation in technology is becoming almost commonplace in the private sector, but the public sector is still struggling to catch up. That’s because federal agencies can’t just jump at commercial innovations without first reconciling the unique security requirements they have. That’s why Microsoft has worked so hard to achieve the Defense Department’s Impact Level 5 Cloud Computing Security Requirements Guide (CC SRG) authorization on its Power Apps, Power Automate and Dynamics 365 low-code/no-code platforms.
“We’re ready for those DoD customers in that level of classification to finally enjoy commercial capabilities that other folks have,” said Javier Vasquez, general manager for Solutions and Technology at Microsoft Federal. “We’re already engaging on things like task management, case management, personnel readiness, equipment maintenance and other sorts of process automation. We’re enabling users to access modern, intuitive business applications which insulates them from dated systems. This accelerates adoption and usage of the software, and allows decision makers to quickly gain business insights and analytics that impact mission effectiveness. So those are some of the customer business challenges that we’re addressing right now.”
One area where Microsoft specifically sees the necessity for connecting data sources is in human resources management modernization. Personnel information is frequently siloed, with different information in different places. The idea is to connect those data sources and streamline them so that DoD agencies can track an officer’s entire career, with such varied information as education, training and deployments, accessible in a single app that has access to all the necessary databases.
“What we’re doing in these environments is basically isolating that back end with a front end that’s intuitive to get to insights quicker,” Vasquez said. “I think, candidly, there is an expectation with the consumerization of IT and what folks are used to being engaged with day to day in terms of clicking and toggling buttons and intuitive interfaces. This will unleash and democratize a lot of the access to these back end systems in the DoD environment. This is about the user experience of a soldier, an airman, a Marine or a sailor that wanted to interface with an HR system, or to look at their training plan, or to document something on their personnel readiness. They would be in an environment that would be, I would argue, much more intuitive and more like the ones that they use in their personal lives than perhaps what they’re used to be able to do that.”
Part of the equation here is that the average end user these days is far more tech savvy than in the past. They’re used to smoother, more streamlined interfaces, and low-code/no-code environments are an easy leap to make. That means these applications are easier for them to use, and the business owners don’t have to deal with the delay of going through a more traditional development process. They can create something on the fly.
“On the customer side of that continuous innovation loop, it’s going to drive compression and the latency from one version to the next simply by the velocity they’re able to achieve in a low code, no code environment,” Vasquez said. “And then certainly on the developer side, you’re going to have the ability to drive much more velocity in terms of insights, new applications, more intuitive applications, and to be able to continually innovate inside a disparity of systems where there’s such an innovation tax in the current environment, where either the skill sets that you need aren’t there, or the back end sort of customization you have to do. Or if the availability of talent isn’t there for some of the legacy stuff.”
Power Apps and Power Automate work intuitively and natively together to access legacy data sources, together making up the Microsoft Power platform. These capabilities will help bring DoD customers speed and security to help modernize all of its customer facing systems in one easy-to-use platform that integrates smoothly with legacy systems.
“Right now a lot of our customers are experimenting in different pieces and parts,” Vasquez said. “We’re truly able to integrate a lot of this low-code/no-code development inside of applications and integrated with applications that the DoD already owns. For example, you can generate a new application pointing and clicking inside of Microsoft Teams, which is rapidly becoming prevalent across the Department of Defense. And what does that mean? That means that the DoD personnel are able to work inside of environments they are already getting insights, inside of a user interface, and inside of application environments that they’re familiar with and using every day.”
And that means it doesn’t require special training, schooling or experience to use. Business owners can develop their own applications to make their jobs more streamlined and intuitive, in ways that make sense to them and that they can easily adjust.
“That’s why it touches several key drivers of DoD,” Vasquez said. “It’s got to check the security box, it’s got to be easy to implement, it’s got to be intuitive, it’s got to support the mission, where we don’t have to basically depend upon a specialized group of people and personnel that we can’t afford to lose. This is the ability to leverage existing templates, drag and drop, hide the complexity of all the application stuff so that I can get quick to market applications to do that. And we want to generate a new level of DoD developers that don’t all come from tech school.”