Crisis and the Role of Digital Transformation
Speakers: Gary Brantley, Commissioner & CIO, The City of Atlanta; Cigniti Speaker
Here is the Transcript
You are listening to QA talks, a podcast for quality assurance executives implementing digital transformation in their organizations. In this show, we focus on the unique pitfalls inherent in quality assurance and quality engineering and how these executives are navigating them to position their organization for the future. Let’s get into the show.
Logan: Welcome back to QATalks. My name is Logan Lyles with Sweet Fish Media. I’m going to be your host for today’s episode. I’m joined today by Gary Brantley with the city of Atlanta and Cigniti speaker.
Few brief introductions before we get into our conversation today on how I.T. leaders can manage the current pandemic and much, much more. First, I want to introduce Gary Brantley. He is an innovative technology strategist, renowned for his financial acumen and expertise in cultivating productive collaborations. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the technology sector. In addition to 17 years of leadership to the city of Atlanta, as the chief information officer of the Department of Atlanta Information Management before joining A.I.M., Gary was the CIO for one of the largest school districts in the United States.
While he was there, Gary spearheaded the district’s largest technology overhaul, Digital Dreamer’s, which included the distribution of over 70000 end user devices to teachers as well as students. Quite a task as I’ve seen some technology work in education before. Gary’s career has also included time at IBM, MCI World.Com and the Ohio State Department as a trailblazer in the industry. Gary has received a number of awards. He’s a sought-after speaker and is also the author of The Art of Organizational Transformation Seven Steps to Impact and Influence.
Gary, welcome to the show.
Gary: Hey, thank you for having me. Logan
Logan: Absolutely, Gary. Let’s introduce the co-speaker for this episode as well. Cigniti speaker. He’s an industry thought leader in software testing with over 20 years of experience. He has strong experience in setting up testing centers of excellence around testing management, quality engineering, test automation, mobility and functional testing.
He is a keynote speaker at several industry forums workshops and is also an award-winning CTO of Texas and was also recognized recently as Top 100 best CIO of Pan India. Welcome back to the show. It’s always a pleasure to speak with you.
Cigniti Speaker: Thank you so much. And looking forward to the session.
Logan: Awesome. Well, let’s dive right in. Gary, my first question today is for you as the CIO of the city of Atlanta. You’ve faced two major crises and both with different types of viruses in these types of situations. Not only are there a lot of expectations, there are a lot of eyeballs on what’s going on, but the stakes also are very, very high. Can you give us a few keyways you and your team have been able to overcome challenges during these trying times in different scenarios?
Gary: Well, yeah, I think that we had a lot of practice with the last virus, which was a computer virus. It seems like since I’ve walked into the city, all we’ve been dealing with his viruses. And so, as we started to move forward with this one in particular, we had developed, in my opinion, a lot of muscle memory, a lot of repetition, a lot of tabletop exercises to really deal with these types of situations. The good thing about this and what was different is that normally when you have an I.T. crisis, you know, there are things that are extremely broken within the IT infrastructure. It was something was done wrong or it was something that you have to fix purely related to the infrastructure or things that really affect business operations with this. None of that was happening. This was really a time to really allow CIOs to step to the forefront as it relates to their leadership ability. And in most cases, it presented an opportunity for extremely rapid innovation. And that is it is the difference there. So, at this particular moment, we were really focusing on making sure that our communication was on par, that our mindset was where it needed to be. That everybody because when you look at this, this virus really affected families. It caused massive casualties and death across the United States and both in this and also in the city of Atlanta. So, it’s a different it’s a different reality that many of us have had faced. I think the last big epidemic was like 1918 or around that time with the flu. And so, we really wanted to focus on making sure our people were OK. And once they were OK, then we knew we could really jump in to leading the city and really start to focus on innovation.
You know, new ways, best practices really taking advantage of the time that we were in at that particular moment. So really see, hey, how can we make the most of this opportunity? So those are some things that we really looked at that we’re a little bit outside of the technology piece, which we’ll get into at some point, I’m sure. But those are areas we really started to look at. As far as I needed to make sure the team was mentally prepared and mentally ready to step into what would be some uncharted waters as we started to move forward through the city.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. I think uncharted waters. This is definitely the way to put it for both I.T. teams and just us as people in general. Right now, as you mentioned, this is going so far and wide as it comes to the impacts. I think you’re definitely right there, Gary, when it comes to any sort of crisis or major obstacle, especially one that’s unforeseen as this one has been, it can expose some flaws in your I.T. landscape, in your infrastructure, in different policies, those sorts of things.
Gary, you mentioned your team getting innovative once they started to be able to look at how do we how do we kind of plot that journey forward? What were some of the innovations over the last 60 days or so that you saw from your team that were ones that you might want to call out or that kind of surprise you, you guys along the way or had the most impact for the folks that you guys serve in Atlanta?
Gary: Yeah, I just think the ability to pivot quickly. You know, the way government is set up, it’s not as it relates to, you know, virtual and tell a of working is not the most friendliest environment for that. And, you know, the staff really taking the time to really understand the moment that we were in and having the ability to really adjust. What are our normal routine was I think the innovative piece was around their ability to make the adjustment quickly around something that was normally a routine practice.
And I think that’s one of the biggest things, honestly, on a day to day. You know, our moving date today that is has really been a big shift for me. And generally is just everything that I knew from, you know, that we had developed in a routine. It just really got changed up. And, you know, I think that most disaster recovery plans that were out there really didn’t take in a human take into account a human pandemic.
I’m sure some of them did, but some of them didn’t. And I think you’ve probably focused on what you traditionally talk about when you have business continuity plans and that’s, you know, natural disasters or things that go on with your I.T. infrastructure, such as, viruses and ransomware, those types of events. And I think, you know, from an innovation perspective, some things that were really cool to think about government and how long it takes to get things done.
And so, to go paperless, this is something I’m really proud about. I mean, to go paperless and scale rapidly within a week and a half time frame is just mind boggling to me when you talk about government. And I always say that just to have the conversation with them and allow that conversation to resonate through the entire organization, what it would have taken a year. And so, there were a lot of things that we were forced, forced to do.
Our support model changed up completely. I never would have thought that we would have been in a position where we really couldn’t see touch, talk to the customer at all without posing some type of danger. So really being able to support the organization, you know, just from basic break faith and basic break fix areas was something that we really had to switch up. But also expanding our infrastructure to really be able to handle, you know, devices that are pretty much everywhere around the city.
I think our environment, which was built to be more of a confined environment. We really had to expand that and become extremely uncomfortable with a lot of devices, you know, being put in situations where we felt, you know, as the end users as well with those devices and situations that were as controlled, like we had them before. And so those are you know, when you really look at some of the things that we’re doing shifting from I think we had. On average, fifteen meetings and teens before this happened and after looking at the data, we were averaging over 500 meetings a day just in teams. And so when you look at just the rapid adoption, allowing IDC to really jump to the forefront and show its ability to lead, you know, those are some of the things that I’m extremely proud of and just that the city just continue to operate.
Logan: Yeah, I definitely think that you should be proud of that, Gary. Because for context for listeners, I spent 10 years in the office equipment and document management software space. And I know for a fact from personal experience that a week and a half to move systems, paper lists that have not been there before is extremely fast. Especially in a government agency sort of environment. You know, I think even your estimated roadmap of that sort of project I’ve seen take even longer than that typical year or so that often takes there. So that your team was able to get adoption, push that sort of initiative forward so quickly, I think is definitely a feat. Just from my own personal experience. I can attest to that. You know, you alluded to the strength of the infrastructure earlier, Gary. And I wanted to double back on that. You know, from what I’ve read back in 2018, you’d created a twelve-month roadmap for really strengthening the I.T. structure for the city of Atlanta. Can you back up a little bit for us and elaborate on what that road-map involved and, how its implementation has really prepared you guys to better tackle crises like this one, especially as it relates to mitigating cyber risk and security vulnerabilities? You know, I hear you talking about getting uncomfortable with BYOB or bring your own device that was not kind of standard practice and operating procedure. So, where there’s some things you mentioned kind of having some muscle memory to lean on that helped you guys during this time. Can you tell us a little bit about that project and how it’s kind of set you guys up for maybe a slightly or easier road? Now, I won’t say an easy road because the last few months have not been easy for any of us or any I.T. leader. But I’d love to hear a little bit more about that journey.
Gary: Yeah. So, what you walking into the city? One thing was clear, and this was kind of our thing as we navigated through really trying to make sure that the city was strong and a lot of areas that they were we began that thing was getting back to basics and was really around getting back to operational basics. You hear a lot of talk, especially in government, around smart cities and those types of things. But my focus was really getting back to the core basics of how we operate, how we support while we’re here. And a lot of that had to do with making sure that we had a culture that was in place that really understood that the little things matter. And so really taking the time to instil that into the staff, in my opinion, has paid off on the long run.
It was it was really about attention to detail. It was really about data. And it was around changing the mindset of a lot of the employees within the city of Atlanta as it relates to infrastructure and security. And so, we came up with this. You know, when you walk into an organization, most times they say, hey, you know, we want you to dive in after your 90 days. Then you start to look at your planning and strategic plan.
And so, in this case, I didn’t really want to jump into a long term three-year strategic plan. I wanted to take a different approach and one that could yield a lot of benefits very quickly. And we looked at a couple of areas that was what can we do in five days? What could we built five weeks and what can we do in five months? That was our five–five–five plan that was in place. And you would say, hey, what could you possibly do in five days?
I remember having this conversation with my staff off site, and when we really huddled up and put our minds to it, it really started to concentrate and leverage each other from, you know, how we could do this. What ended up happening is we had sheets and sheets of paper of what we could do in five days, what we can do at five weeks, what we could do a five month. Well, that turned in to 50, about 50 to projects.
And the majority of those 52 projects were all infrastructure related. And we took a chance to a moment to look at it and we said, hey, can we get all of this done within twelve months? And so, one of the things that we started to do was we started to measure and track our performance, and that even included. Meetings with me, all performance, I was holding my staff, my team was holding the organization accountable every single week for making the most out of the week and getting things done. And within that time frame, we were really able to clean up a lot of operational things. I think one thing that you have to look at around making sure that infrastructure is stable is turning things off, like there were so many things that were all on that weren’t needed. And I would say one of the biggest areas that we made a lot of improvement, it was just simply turning it off. They were exposures to our infrastructure. But also, you know, it allows for cracks and leaks inside of it. And so, we really went and took a look at a lot of our end of life, areas of strength and knows we worked on this, you know, just the health of our network, making sure we had a patching program and making sure we put the security program in place. And also, one of the most important things that I am most proud of since March, and it’s not a sexy topic is, but it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of process re-engineering and it’s a lot of just, you know, hardware, re-engineering and segmenting the entire city network. Huge.
I mean, you’re talking about hundreds upon hundreds of devices that had to be put in place reconfigure, including, you know, firewalls, etc. And so that was really huge for us, but also expanding our capacity by 10 times to what it was before I walked in. And we strengthen those areas. We strengthen our policies, our remote policies. And what you see right now is the city really functioning well off of just some basic groundwork that was done, not knowing that we would be in this situation down the road.
And so, you know, we were able to really kick into gear with a lot of confidence, you know, knowing that while we have the infrastructure in place, man, wow, we have tools in place that we need. We have the support tools. And then lastly, but I’ve talked about it at the beginning, was the mindset was right. They knew it. They felt extremely confident in their ability to continue to support the city. And so that is how we got into this whole area of the 12-month road map, which in my opinion has been it was right on time. And it has provided benefits a lot earlier than I thought that it would.
Logan: Yeah, that’s really interesting. It seems like it had benefits for not only the folks that you’re serving by just having a lot of that work done. But you mentioned, Gary, that it instilling your team with confidence, knowing that, hey, we’ve got the basics covered. We can do this. Right. And I think that motivational factor for your team, we shouldn’t just skip over it. I love that you called that out. And I think it’s really interesting the way that you broke down. What can we accomplish? You know, they say that we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term and underestimate what we can accomplish in long term. Sometimes it just takes breaking it down. And I love your five,–five–five. What can we accomplish in five days? How about five weeks? How about five months? And let’s start there and get started with some low hanging fruit, like turning things off that weren’t needed.
Those sorts of things that led to a huge increase in capacity for your team, which, you know, was vital for these last few months. And definitely going forward, as we have talked a little bit about things going remote, supporting remote workers, strict social distancing is still the norm. There are still lockdowns across the country and across the world. Can you talk a little bit from Cigniti’s perspective, especially as a service-based business, what measures you guys have had to implement to ensure minimum disruption of workflow and service delivery for the folks that you’re serving as well? Coming from a different angle but dealing with a lot of the same realities that Gary and his team have just been talking about.
Cigniti Speaker: Yeah, absolutely. So, I mean, just to hear what Gary spoke about, the two viruses that they have handled and prepared themselves for facing the best. Of course, they know this is no one had expected it. And being a testing company, we realize that it’s a guessing game for the world right in the lives of people. Right. It’s not only the technology shifts that have happened. It’s a social shift that has happened. We realized the fact that they know it’s going to be a pandemic situation and it’s going to impact the whole world itself. One of the things that we have done is to look at what the business continuity for our clients. So, have been serving about 250 clients across the different business domain, so we categorize them into essential business and non-essential business, and some of them are a hybrid model as well, they serve to the essential model, although they are categorized under the non-essential industry sector, retailers that back know what are some of those priorities that we need to make in order for us to do this business resilience and making sure the continuity is established right. We took about three days to move the work completely remote. That means that the first and foremost thing that we need to do is the security. Right, because most of the clients have the personal information store and the compliance needs to be followed.
The regulatory compliance and being as the MMI and ISO standards, we need to make sure that although we work remote, look at all of these measures, controls, audit, establish data, other ways, that is a risk off the certification that is has got client data and that is that it’s got business company. Guess what? So those are the first things that we have done to make sure that the security standards and protocols are followed. And after that, that will be looked at how do we connect each other, so we had the remote systems with those remote meet ups with us. But we provide that much more software to all our end users. Our companies are company employees to make sure that they can connect remote. And start setting up the meeting and multiple ways, actually. So, because most of our clients have used one and many software to connect using to meet ups, actually. So, we quickly equipped all our employees with that globally.
So that’s the second thing that’ll be establishing that. The third is about how can we help our clients? So, in the situations they look back then on cost optimization, they looked at, OK, how can I release this during this situation, which would not impact the COVID crisis as well. So, we looked at certain technology such as zero touch actually so most of the clients are going through POA systems, point of sale systems with ties and that’s has touch applications in next week’s looked at How can we shift the technology towards zero touch? That’s right. And how do we test that? How to make it remotely? To test those applications as well. So, we come up with a lot of best practices around these technologies to enable the technology world to be prepared to be brought back for this type of a situation. So that’s on the cut. Best bet is to say that’s but the fourth and the final one is about, and all augmenting our team with the technology learning domain and prepare ourselves for the best to come, actually.
I’d be going through this crisis. We want to prepare ourselves for the best to come. So, we enabled them to go through online certifications on online training look at new technologies. This is a time for us to invest in upskilling of our talent pool, upskilling of all our associates with the domain knowledge and also understanding the new normal the world is going to face. Right? We are quickly keeping them at all of them. And again, this is a collaborative exercise.
We looked that our customers. We look at analysts. We looked at a lot of industry forums, such as what Gary mentioned about and all the concepts of looking at the new normal, actually. So, we went through all of this process to enable ourselves for now for the best to come actually.
Logan: So, I love the focus that you guys, that Cigniti have taken on upskilling your customers as well as your employees. Right now, I think we’re moving into a time where organizations are going to be asked to not only do the same amount of work but do more and oftentimes with less.
So, the more that we can equip our teams to be as efficient as possible is vitally important right now. You talked about redundancy a little bit there, which normally we think of the data backups and those sorts of things, but also just giving your teams multiple ways to accomplish things, whether that is starting a virtual meeting or scheduling something, those sorts of things as well. You know, Gary, I saw a cartoon the other day that was, you know, people sitting in a board room and saying you’re, you know, we’re at least five to 10 years out from digital transformation affecting our organization.
And then there was a big wrecking ball with COVID 19, stamped on the wrecking ball right outside the window. It feels like this pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation for folks across, you know, every sort of industry. Can you speak a little bit to where you guys have been in the city of Atlanta on that digital maturity curve and how your position has played itself out and helped in the current situation?
Gary: Yeah, that that’s a good point. I guess all the experts got a huge wrecking ball on their on their predictions, which is always funny to me, because it just really tells you that you really never know.
One event can change how we operate instantly. And one of the things that I think has been valuable and I didn’t really talk about this because I’m also involved in an organization and that is extremely political. A lot of organizations are political, but I work in an organization that is rooted in politics and, you know, trying to accelerate some things. You never know who has what agenda. And so being able to work through that, to say, hey, technology is important and this is where your investments should be and this is how we should be trending forward in the long run isn’t always something that you can get pushed through just because there are so many other agendas out there that really affect the funding. And one of the things that I thought was really, really cool is we had a effort and it’s still ongoing around application rationalization.
And what we decided to do was leverage what we already had to really try to create funding opportunities based on what we were allotted. And that went back to turning to things off, reducing redundancy and a lot of different areas in example. You know, we could have five or six TRMs within the city. And so, we’ve really been working to cut that down. But also, a part of that application rationalization effort was not only just to turn things off, but it was to also figure out what we could tolerate and what we could innovate on.
And what we should really be investing in within the city of Atlanta to really help with this digital transformation. I think the cyber-attack was one of the best things that could have happened to the city. Number one, it was a wakeup call. Number two, it allows for the organization to really see how important IT is in general, not just the IT department to its ability to operate. And I think then, you know, that’s one of the first things I ask before taking this job, is it is the organization ready for the type of transformation that will be needed in order to get us up out of where we are?
And so, a lot of the things that we’ve been focusing on is digital transformation. When you look at what he was talking about, around redundancies and making sure that we have replications of our environment, when we talk about our strategy that we had in place, that was a hybrid strategy, not completely, but a hybrid strategy around taking critical enterprise applications to the cloud. Those are areas that we’ve really been working on and really have invested in.
And I think that not having to force everyone through VPN to get to their applications, but still being able to remain secure by using, you know, different security products and also different mobile device management products to really make sure that our devices were in a place where they could remain healthy. Well, you know, in different non normal environments, but and also really making sure that we have mechanisms to identify what was out there, because, of course, if you can’t, you can’t protect it if you can’t identify it.
And one of the areas that I didn’t talk about, you have two branches of almost government within a city of Atlanta and the other branches, city council. And we support them as well. And we’re talking about 17 to 17 city council members with different types of technology, really being able, I think the first week of March and we probably were the first city to do this. We hosted our virtual city council meeting and did actually just did a paper with Gartner around.
Because we were one of the first to do it and it really showed our ability for our infrastructure to really be flexible because we created a just for them VDI environment. Because in that was chosen just because of its simplicity for them, but also their ability to have a city council meeting from their homes for that meeting to be broadcast on social media and also for that meeting to allow constituents to not only listen, but ask questions was huge. I mean, huge for the city of Atlanta.
And so, what we’re seeing now because of the rapid digital transformation is our meetings are quicker. I got off normally when I’m in a council meeting, you could be there for hours upon hours upon hours. We’ll be doing our budget presentations in the next couple of weeks, which are huge. We’ll be doing all of those virtually. They normally give us about an hour each to do them. And now we’re down to about 15 minutes because we’re using virtual technology.
So just it’s amazing how much time we’re saving as well by having these types of meetings. And so those are some of the areas I really feel like, you know, from a transformation side of things. It’s really been about the technology changing how we do business. And we’re seeing it right before.
Logan: Yes. The old saying goes. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Correct. I love that, Gary. That paper that you did with Gartner is liable have to get a link to that, put it in the show notes for listeners is something to check out to go a little bit deeper if they’re interested there to hear how you guys went about that and some of the more learnings.
I want to kick it back over to you as we continue to talk about digital transformation. I want to ask you a question, kind of looking forward a little bit. We’ve talked about, you know, how digital transformation can come much more quickly for some organizations just in the last quarter than what some of the experts were predicting. You know, as you look forward and some emerging technologies that may become commonplace as we get to a new normal on the other side, this pandemic from AI, IoT, 5G, all of those sorts of things. What’s some of your advice for I.T. leaders now as they try to help their organization stand out and get ahead of the curve when it comes to digital transformation in their marketplaces and emerges as a leader in the months and years to come?
Cigniti Speaker: Yes. So, this digital transformation is going to be the topmost technology transformation that’s going to happen across the I.T., one across the world itself. And as you’d rightly pointed, the top priority of the CIOs is going to be this initiative. And most of the I.T. does will definitely change that data. And to add digitally into their portfolios, which is like, you know, chief digital transformation officer out to digital and information officer. So, this is going to be the major transformation that’s going to happen in the areas of digital, right. As some of the technologies, which was one of their top investments when it comes to industries like the manufacturing or the retailers are on the healthcare industry now across all of the industry domain, they are looking to evaluate topics on how can they enable you to touch through artificial intelligence all through machine learning, and how can it enable my network technology to adopt these 5G networks, actually. So that’s another of technology, broad initiatives to make your network much speed. And a lot of technologies that on 3D printing is going to evolve. 3D printing was an aspiration. Now it becomes a reality. And they want to be involved in all the mainstream production as well.
And the Internet of Things became a huge reality last year. And in 2018 as well, in 2020, it becomes a mandatory process for all of the devices, actually, so it can enable the Internet of Things to be part of my I.D. digital transformation. So, these are going to be the major transformation teams. And another area of change is the Blockchain. But you need to track every transaction in the world when it comes to an Airline transaction, or a pharmacy, or banking or every aspect of it.
Block chain is going to make a big impact in this digital transformation. So, these are some of the larger industry concepts became a reality. And it’s going to be a mainstream of investments for 2021. And for years to go. Needless to mention, cyber security, which Gary kept mentioning that’s going to be the key to change implementation for them. So, with all of them coming to a digital be it cloud migration capability or digital implementation are a multiple source of connect to their technology division.
Internet of Things, cyber security is going to play a major role, in not just from an application stack, but also from an infrastructure, but also from the people’s eye. So, the security needs to be strengthened. Largely in this digital transformation. How do you do that? Right. So, this devOps, DevSecOps and all these things are going to be mainstream. So IT leaders start to enable them to understand that, to make sure that each of their employees are certified with the DevOps or DevSecOps go through all the latest and greatest technologies with respect to the Artificial intelligence or some of the automation level concepts like RPA, robotic process automation or intelligent process automation, hyper automation.
So, these are some of those automation is going to evolve in much wider and going to be the top priority for the I.T. leaders to implement. And in order for them to go to market with their digital world.
Logan: Yeah, absolutely. Gary, I want to come back to something you mentioned a little bit ago. You mentioned, you know, the Atlanta being one of the first, if not the first city in the country to host a virtual city council meeting.
And whether you’re in government or manufacturing, whatever the sector is, Web conferencing, virtual collaboration tools are helping people get their jobs done and still function fairly smoothly in a lot of cases. Can you talk a little bit about the role of software quality assurance in ensuring smooth workflows, especially in this current environment?
Gary: Yeah, that’s extremely important. And conversations that I have with our staff all the time and so on. When you start to look at QA testing and you start to look at what you’re implementing into your environment.
If it’s not properly correct, it can be devastating, and it can also cause extreme security holes. I think one of the things that walking into the city, which runs and a lot of cases like corporations, you have your separate business units. You have I have several deputy CEOs who report through me. Of course, the airport water, public safety, et cetera. And so, what ends up happening in a lot of those cases is you have a lot of those business units.
And I think the cloud has enabled this that have really been able to stand up. A lot of environments without necessarily having to use any type of governance or quality assurance, best practices. And so, what Internet causes is major security holes. That’s number one. And number two, it doesn’t allow you to really leverage your buying power that you have within the organization. And third, most important, if it can become costly, especially when you’re standing up environments and such as AWS, and, you’re starting to look at environments that have the bar rates to start to go, because you don’t really have the quality assurance in place, you start to create redundant environments that aren’t necessarily needed.
And I think, you know, a lot of people talk about the quality assurance from an operational perspective. You can also talk about the quality assurance and from profitability and waste. And so, when you start to look at the amount of waste that can take place without having the proper governance structure in place to really look at that, what is coming into your environment? Not, you know, and also a way to really tell how that those areas are performing can be really critical to your success in this role.
And so, I think quality assurance, when you really start to break it down, plays just as an important part to your security success and your operational success than anything.
Logan: Yeah, it sounds like, Gary, you and he are very like-minded. They’re pretty. You know, as Gary’s been talking, I can’t help but think how, especially in the government sector, when there are times of crisis, so many eyes are on what’s being done there.
There’s very little margin for error in reality as well as public perception. So, what are some of your advice for folks, especially in that industry, but in others as well? As Gary pointed out, running I.T. to support a government entity is very similar to running an organization in the commercial sector. In your opinion, can taking a quality engineering approach and investing in quality assurance is, as Gary was talking about, hope these very sectors really ensure as little disruption as possible for whatever’s coming next.
Cigniti Speaker: Yeah, it’s great to see the equal priority, actually. It was not the case before. And I think for folks like Gary transformed the whole the I.T. sector to look at quality assurance and quality engineering and quality comes a priority now for CIO is this totally know a product to priority, right? So, when it comes to assuring quality engineering and adding quality assurance is about an all and making sure that you provide that software testing upfront in your IT lifecycle, not just an aftermath.
This has to be the top priority as much as you do it for your development, as much as you do it for the infrastructure and security aspect of it. Quality comes a priority and this crisis and post of this crisis, everyone will look up to the government and see what type of information are being available now, how quickly I can get that information and to making sure that they know how can I find myself useful with these information. Like for example, if you want to know where the testing happens with respect to this pandemic situation or, how can it track my stimulus package up in many aspects of it, all the information are people now looking at digital media software applications and tracking of the systems both on the commercial space and as well as the federal the state government space as well? So, this comes the priority that your application needs to be having all those consumer experience, customer experience being tested. And then also talk about the latest on the latest technology supporting across all the platforms. So, making sure that you are interoperability, your network, testing your multiple operating system, testing your multiple device, testing carried out, and to make sure that this is compatible with all sorts of devices and networking.
Right. And third comes your performance and resilience. When it comes to performance, often sometimes your application might be hit by thousand, ten thousand or a million as well. So, it depends on what information on hold and users are able to be ready for it or they know how to handle the performance under stress is the key to in order for you to test them correctly. And most of the IT organizations are going towards Cloud. So that comes the security aspect to make sure that their Cloud Migration happens well, your data is more correctly, and your data testing happens in the rightful way. And last but not least, is the security aspect and the prediction monitoring. So, making sure that your system is not vulnerable to all the attacks about happening, both in terms of infrastructure network and the application side of it. So, all these need to be seamless. All of these need to be end–to–end and all of these need to be an automation driven technology is right.
So that’s going to be the key for you to handle this quality engineering and quality assurance in the future with respect to handling your digital transformation.
Logan: It feels like this pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation for folks across, you know, every sort of industry. Can you speak a little bit to where you guys have been in the city of Atlanta on that digital maturity curve and how your position has played itself out and helped in the current situation?
You can’t you know, as much as the trick plays. And I know you know, Gary, you’re in Atlanta, so right in the middle of SCC country. So hopefully a football analogy is, OK here. You cannot those trick plays get a lot of eyeballs on them, but you never you never get to run them unless you have the basics down. The blocking and tackling that Gary talked about earlier that just become muscle memory. And then what you’re saying, in leveraging automation to go even further, faster?
Gary, this has been a great conversation. We’ve gone maybe a little bit longer than we have in some podcast episodes, but I think it is definitely warranted here. You have so much advice for folks. So, for the sake of time, I want to wrap with two final questions for you. You know, your recent book, “The Art of Organizational Transformation”, that we mentioned during the intro. If you could speak to a few key lessons from that book that I.T. leaders should have in mind if they haven’t read your book yet and some of the top priorities that should rise to the very top of their list as they look at helping their organizations not only survive but thrive moving forward.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on that as we wind down today.
Gary: Yeah. On that note, I know we talk a lot about digital transformation, but one of the things that I wanted to hit were the other areas around transformation that really make it possible. And those are areas around more so real people and less around technology. I can remember having a conversation with one CEO, of a large IT organization who was really upset around the fact that they put all of this money into digital transformation. But his organization did not take it on.
And so, I was explaining to him a couple of areas that I have in the book around, you know, did he take the temperature of his culture to really understand if they were ready? Was that a part of all of the work that was being done? Was any focus on that? You know, a couple of other things that we talk about in this book are your relationships within the organization, how you solidify those of the politics that arise as these are part of this.
These seven steps, how you get around that, having a little bit of sales and salesmanship and charisma around it. And that’s a really interesting topic for me, because when someone said that to me, I was extremely offended until I took the time to look up what it meant. And, you know, that’s a story around, hey, you only get this done because you have charisma. And so when I took a look at it, I said I would be some good to write about, but also a couple of areas that we touched on in here kind of indirectly around some of the work that we’re doing in the city of Atlanta.
Some of the things that he said really being intentional with a narrow focus. That was part of our five, five, five plans. That’s it. That’s in here leveraging what’s already available to you and how you look at that and how you determine that. And also, I think what’s important, you talk lastly about the eyes and being on government and especially big cities and is a lot of pressure. Right. And so, you have a lot of things written about you.
And one of the things that is really important is learning how to shape and control the narrative that goes a long way for making sure that your story is being told and that you are concentrating. But see, in this age of social media that you’re concentrating on those type of areas. It talks about transformative practices, but not necessarily from the digital piece, but it does talk about how to get that done. You really need those areas in order to create digital transformation that’s adopted.
Logan: Yes, absolutely. And as a great story about it’s not just the digital transformation that you can plan, you can map out, you can even implement. It really is about that adoption. So, I really appreciate that as we share with listeners a few parting thoughts. Gary, if anybody listening to this has suddenly realized how much value you have to add as an I.T. leader and they want to stay connected with you. Maybe they want to find your book.
Maybe they have a follow up question that they would like to post you if they’re going through something similar. Leading I.T. for another government agency or a different organization. What’s the best way for them to reach out if any of that is the case or find some of the content that you’ve shared out there already?
Gary: Yes, I’m a pretty active on Twitter, so I have a Twitter handle is pretty interesting. I get a lot of jokes about it all the time. But as a trendy CIO, which is my Twitter handle, also more linked than just under Gary Brantley. Be easy to fire. Just look for the bald guy with a beer. And also, as it relates to just the book and purchasing, it is sort of pretty much on all platforms. You can look for it on. It’s on Amazon with Barnes and Noble, is probably close to three hundred and fifty outlets. You can find it.
I just got an update on that. And so even at Walmart, if you go online, is there for you. So there’s several areas and avenues to be able to purchase that, if that’s what you want to do.
Logan: I love it. And I love that that Twitter handle trend CIO. Oh, we’ll have to link to that. And your LinkedIn profile make it really easy for folks. But that one is one that just sticks in your mind anyway. thank you again for being such a great speaker here on the podcast yet again. If anybody listening to this is if this is maybe their first-time hearing from you, they just found the podcast. What’s the best way for them to reach out to you or stay connected with this Cigniti team?
And I have been continuing to write some articles on the digital transformation as well. Glad to share those concepts too on social media.
Logan: Absolutely, Thank you so much for joining us on the show today. Thank you.
Cigniti Speaker: Thank you for hosting us.
Logan: Absolutely. Gary. Thank you again for being our featured guest today. For sharing a lot of knowledge, a lot of insights and some tactical things from the way that you approach the five–five–five thinking about the importance of segmenting your network and some things that led to greater confidence and capacity amidst the I.T. team that you lead.
It’s been a great conversation. We really appreciate you being our guest today.
Gary: Thank you for having me. You’ve been a great host. Thank you.
Logan: You guys are both too kind. For anyone listening to this, if you’re not yet subscribed to QAtalks, if you found this episode, but you’re not subscribing, getting every single episode of QAtalks in your podcast feed, just search QATalks you talks in Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast player. It’s available across every platform there. So, make sure you subscribe. And if you’re enjoying the show, leave a rating and review. As always, thank you so much for listening.
Quality assurance is vital to the success of an organization’s digital transformation. Lack of control can quickly derail a company’s technological presence, costing thousands. At Cigniti, our resolution is to build a better world with better quality software. Renowned for the global quality thought leadership in the industry, we draw expertise from over a decade of test engineering experience across verticals. To learn how we do it, visit cigniti.com.
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