Twenty years ago, Excella started with the belief that organizations could realize their futures through the power of technology. Today, agility, better ways of working, and technology are the fuel that propels companies forward, creating better speed to value, faster deployments, and more. But tech adoption is not without its challenges.
In a recent podcast, Excella CEO and Co-Founder, Burton White, sat down with CTIO and fellow Co-Founder, Jeff Gallimore, to discuss technological changes over the past 20 years and the biggest considerations for IT leaders today, including:
- Creating Equity and Accessibility in Technology
- Implementing Artificial Intelligence
- Evolving Technology and Teams with DevOps
Designing for Equity and Accessibility
With the rapid advancement of new technologies, organizations must be mindful of technology equity and accessibility in tech. According to Delia Neuman, “Technological equity is a complex issue that encompasses disparities in access to and uses of powerful learning tools because of differences in socioeconomic status, gender, ability level, racial and ethnic identification, geographic location, and handicapping condition.” While this concept has been around for 20 years, disparity in access continues to increase as the level of complexity and influence of technology grows. In 2021, the Executive Order on Racial Bias directly referenced technology’s role in reducing the gap in access to services provided by agencies, as well as the awareness of potential bias.
“There are many others out there who are excited about using technology for good. But unlike 20 years ago, today we’re much more cognizant of the potential for unintended negative consequences. We need to be much more thoughtful about the risks associated with the systems and technology we create,” says Jeff.
In response to the increased need to solve for technological inequity, many organizations are placing an emphasis on creating impactful user experiences. As organizations work to design technology for a wide variety of users with different needs, experiences, and capabilities, we start to see the prioritization of customer experience.
“We want to delight our customers and the people who use our technology and that takes a lot more effort and expertise today than it did 20 years ago,” says Jeff. “User expectations have evolved quite a bit in two decades. This is another one of the many reasons for inclusion, diversity, and equity (ID&E) —to better understand, value, and design for different individuals and communities.”
As the industry continues to address tech equity, special consideration must be given to the awareness and control of bias—particularly in Artificial Intelligence. Responsible AI, Explainable AI (XAI), or ethical AI are all factors in increasing transparency and being cognizant of potential biases in the data, model, and outputs. Companies embarking on AI should develop and utilize AI Ethics Guidelines to guide their efforts.
Tackling the Next Frontier: Artificial Intelligence
As it is becoming more common for organizations to incorporate AI into their processes, they must take precautions against potential pitfalls of implementing AI technology. These pitfalls span beyond bias and ethics around AI in implementation but can be deeply rooted in their data quality and security.
To meet goals and enjoy the benefits of AI implementation, agencies and organizations must begin by adopting a data governance framework. Having such a framework in place will allow agencies and organizations to build AI models, modern analytics, and data visualization grounded in quality and secure data.
Once access to quality data is established, the next challenge is developing AI models. While many struggle to integrate Agile with their AI projects, Excella has proven time and time again that Agile for AI is possible. As an Agile first firm, we have shown that adopting lean principles is highly effective in the exploration of model development. Our Agilists and Technologists tackle client challenges using Excella’s Rapid AnalytiX Framework to accelerate learning and harness the power of data to deliver rapid improvements to clients’ software performance.
Finally, organizations must address data security and cybersecurity during software development. Adversaries target data and machine learning (ML) models in a variety of ways, making security an essential part of AI adoption. Incorporating security measures in DataOps and MLOps solutions can prevent attacks before they happen.
Evolving with DevOps
With the rise of DevOps and DevSecOps, organizations now can transform and increase their performance. By adopting a DevOps approach, organizations consider not only the technology involved but incorporate the cultural philosophies, practices, and tools necessary to increase an organization’s ability to deliver applications and services with more efficiency and stability than traditional approaches.
“The more I’ve learned about DevOps and the movement, and what’s behind [it], the more I understand how much that term ties things together. How broad a reach that movement has into such disparate areas that [targets] the people and the process and the technology. It just brings it all together,” says Jeff. “There’s a big myth there, which is becoming less prevalent than it used to be—and that’s that DevOps was really all about technology. Technology is certainly a part of that, but really, it is about the ways of working, the mindsets, and the practices that we use to do work—humans doing stuff with other humans.”
Maintaining a balanced and positive relationship between people, process, and technology is essential when adopting new technology. Establishing a generative culture through safe-to-fail experimentation and breaking down functional siloes with cross-functional teams are excellent ways to get started evolving your organization and teams with DevOps.
Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The past two decades have seen the Digital Revolution in what some call the Third Industrial Revolution. We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which trends towards automation, interconnectedness, information transparency, and more. In addition, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and low code/no code bring a new wave of imagination and possibility. According to Burton, “The great thing about technology is that it’s always changing. And so, we always have new challenges and ways of applying what we’ve learned from the past into these new frontiers.”
Excella continues to embrace the challenges that come with exploring these new technological frontiers. With the purpose of cultivating exceptional careers for Excellians through creating meaningful solutions for our clients, we will strive forward and help agencies and organizations realize their futures through the power of technology.