Across the GovCon space, there are companies that catch our attention for a variety of reasons. One that recently made us sit up a little straighter is an SBA-certified 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB) Economically-Disadvantaged Minority Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), TechSur Solutions. An interview with Amit Yadav (co-founder and Chief Technology Officer), Craig Park (Senior Vice President of Operations), Jessica Gressett (Director of Growth), and Jen Falcone (Director of Marketing), provided insight on how this team is growing and winning. The team also shed some light on DevSecOps opportunities for Government agencies and how industry can help move the needle forward.
The Benefits of DevSecOps for Government Clients
More Excited Federal Employees
One of TechSur’s founding goals was a desire to make the work life of government clients easier, more efficient, and even fun – really! “Whether it’s a worker at NOAA excited about tracking and counting fish to ensure the size and health of fish populations, or a civilian employee in the health sector concerned with service delivery to beneficiaries, people who work in government are often passionate about their specific mission.”
Recognizing that if people could be freed from routine tasks, unburdened from having to work in multiple systems for each task, and having IT work for them so they can move faster, the evolution of DevSecOps has created an environment for better-enabled and better-served Federal employees.
“Younger Federal workers have expectations for how they will complete their daily tasks. This next generation of government workers simply will not tolerate clunky systems built over a decade ago that have been hacked to fit together. We need to energize these new users – if they are freed of some of their burdens, they can really harness the passion, the mission, the bigger picture view they have.”
Safe Space for Innovation
Within TechSur there is a mantra that leadership never expects perfection from employees, only continuous improvement. “Working under a fear of failing is not a comfortable place for anyone. There must be discussions about what has gone well, or not as well. But that discussion should be done within a framework that avoids blame and is positioned to take lessons learned and move forward from those lessons.”
Within a DevSecOps environment, where models are set and feedback is gathered along the way, agencies can move quickly, learn from stakeholder feedback and from issues noted along the way, then pivot quickly.
“Whether it is a senior manager or a junior developer, this safe space changes the conversation to one in which no one person failed. Rather, a lesson was learned, and the team can move forward from there.”
The “Sec” is no longer an optional component of Development, Security, and Operations (DevSecOps). Security is a mandatory component in TechSur’s software development fast-release cycles and present at the heart of all their DevSecOps initiatives. “Security cannot be an afterthought. Security must be baked into what you do from the start and be part of the direction of everything you do.”
There exists within government the dual challenge of getting new products into the hands of users fast enough to satisfy their demands, and the challenge of ensuring the high levels of security any government product, application, or digital experience must meet. “DevSecOps creates a repeatable process for capabilities focused on quality and security that allows the capabilities to move faster and with the assurance that security has been considered at every step along the way.”
Understanding that no government agency is a single entity – that all have multiple levels, subagencies, and layers of engagement – the ability to work from a place of platform delivery that successfully connects and meets the requirements of all those touchpoints is key.
“Government wants the ability to deploy in any cloud of their choice. TechSur has observed that DevSecOps is moving from being a capability to representation as a platform. When we think of DevSecOps from this lens, we can start to think of it as a product, of how we can improve on it, how we can engage users for the best experience, how it can continue to evolve as the industry changes and as technology changes.”
Avoiding Ground Zero
TechSur’s view of DevSecOps as a platform (which they term their “DevSecOps REPLAY Platform”) also avoids the time and money required when starting from scratch time after time. It saves the client cost and effort when DevSecOps is viewed as the engine that powers product delivery.
“It can be challenging for small companies to make the investment to develop something ahead of time, but we are evolving into a space where we cannot just walk in, ask our client what they need, and then start inventing on their time. Instead, the focus needs to shift to coming to the table with a capability – with the thought process – and something that will demonstrate capability already in place. Though challenging, this must be a priority for industry and will take commitment from a vendor’s leadership to ensure they are prepared. We are deliberately at a point with this platform where we can simply demo the one-click platform by running a quick command prompt.”
Improved User Experience
The commercial sector has long challenged the user-experience of the government client, pushing the boundaries of what is expected. COVID shed a light, both on user-experience gaps and on those agencies that were able to meet the demands of customer experience abruptly. That user, whether citizen or government employee, is the most important element to every agency.
Through a DevSecOps framework, agencies can take feedback from users along the spectrum and act on that feedback in an Agile way. Users across the agency benefit from faster rollout, more up-to-date and current versions, and can see their concerns or challenges being addressed, leading to greater confidence and satisfaction with the agency.
Within TechSur, a passion for the mission results in decisions across the company that are made with the customer in mind. That same ability to put mission and people first can help government better engage with and deliver to its stakeholders.
Delivering, Guided by a Culture of Ownership
TechSur was founded with a view of ownership, of enabling decision-making. This foundational view creates a culture of supporting a greater passion. Taking it a step further, TechSur extends that same opportunity to those within the government space. “When the systems are in place, when there is input and a direction has been set, people are encouraged to act, to move forward on their own, knowing their role as part of the whole, and as leaders.”
Stretching their boundaries because they believe in the mission – because they are part of the team – sets a foundation for creative energy, for bringing their best to the table every day. “People stretch to improve, to do better, because they are in it together. As a company, we are deliberately building a system of systems to ensure there is alignment and that processes are met across delivery, marketing, operations, etc. – but then our TechSur employees are the owners of those systems.”
That view of culture also ensures conversations are ongoing. Rather than waiting for an annual review to check in with team members, ongoing dialogue means challenges are resolved as they happen, feedback is available as needed, so everyone is continuously growing and improving.
The Lens of Partnership
Still a small business, TechSur has followed a path that is common to many – starting with multiple subcontracts, then graduating over the past year to securing six Prime contracts. Whichever role they play, their role as a partner does not change. “Whether we are there as the Prime or the subcontractor, we are there for the client and we meld with our partner to act as one team. We are not there for short-term relationships but instead develop strong partnerships with our partners so that no one is part of this team or that team. We are all one. We support each other mutually and both sides are better for it.”
As it grows, TechSur is eager to grow in its relationships, with partners and with clients, as is always open to new introductions and new partners.
In August 2016, a wife and husband duo in the D.C. metropolitan area had grown increasingly frustrated by the conversations about government IT modernization. They formed TechSur Solutions with the belief that government agencies deserve a better answer to their complex technical challenges. There is a path forward to transform Federal work life without sacrificing requirements or excluding current contractors or platforms. Government deserves better engagement.
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