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We’re doing some really incredible work to help the Federal Government transform how it serves citizens and our nation in this digital era. Helping them accomplish their goals to make our country a better, safer, and more prosperous place is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
When I'm not helping federal clients adopt digital solutions, I enjoy turning off my devices and reading a book—one made out of paper.
Bill Ott is a senior vice president leading the delivery of the firm’s Digital Solutions capabilities to the Federal Government. He enjoys partnering with clients to integrate business strategy, creative design, and modern digital technologies to create innovative solutions for today’s challenges.
Bill is an expert in user-centered design, agile software development, and DevOps. In 2017, he co-authored the book Enterprise DevOps Playbook, which provides a practical roadmap to defining the steps necessary to meet DevOps goals. The playbook distills DevOps into seven adaptable, key practice areas and provides an understanding of how company culture plays a fundamental role in the ability to use DevOps effectively.
Bill has 25 years of professional experience working with clients across commercial and federal sectors. Prior to joining Booz Allen, Bill worked for IBM Global Services, Sprint, and an e-commerce strategy startup.
Bill holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Drexel University and an M.B.A. from Emory University.
What excites you about working in Digital Solutions? I get really excited by using modern tech in novel ways to solve really hard problems. Another great thing about digital is that it's not only about technology. Digital is about changing culture and how we work together as a multidisciplinary team, so I really enjoy getting to work with many different people, from strategists and creatives to engineers, every day.
Why is Booz Allen an ideal firm for someone with expertise and skills in your line of work? Our firm’s purpose is to empower people to change the world and this purpose drives everything we do. If you are someone, like me, who likes to apply their digital expertise and skills to help people have better, safer lives, then Booz Allen is a great place for you.
How do you help your clients prepare for the future? A lot of consulting firms take a client’s problem, go back to their studio, build a product, and then ship the product back to the client. That’s not our model. We work side-by-side with clients to envision and create digital solutions and in the process we help train them and, in many cases, learn from them as well. It’s a “we’re all in this together” mentality, which involves cultural, long-term change.
What are the three most pressing needs in digital within the Federal Government? Today, a lot of dollars in the federal government go towards maintaining existing systems, which makes it difficult to start new programs. So the first need is to help the government figure out how to reduce O&M costs so they can better realize today’s mission needs. The second pressing need in digital has to do with leadership and culture change. Digital is about working across organizational boundaries to collaborate and develop solutions that put the user (citizen, warrior, employee) first. To make this happen requires strong leadership and a focus on the people aspects of digital. The third pressing need in digital in the Federal Government is to recognize that while Agile and DevOps are important techniques, they are not sufficient. There needs to be a greater emphasis on delivering more value to users, not delivering more features. Thus, measuring and tracking value metrics is crucial but very limited today.
What is the biggest untapped opportunity in digital within the Federal Government? Mobile—and I am not talking about simple standalone apps. Mobile changes everything. I think there’s huge opportunity for mobile to really transform how the government does everything, from improving public health to protecting our borders to providing access to our 59 national parks.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating your people? First, I think it all starts with passion and providing a compelling vision for the future. As a leader, I think it is really important to give your people something to find purpose in and rally behind. My second tip seems obvious but is often overlooked—speak to your team. Having conversations about the business is critical to keeping everyone motivated while providing the means to get to know everyone on an individual basis. For my third tip, I’d like to share one of my favorite quotes from General George Patton: “Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” The military calls this Mission Command. For our purposes, this means leading by specifying your business objectives and then let teams figure out the plan—the how—to deliver the key results required for the objectives. This leads to really creative solutions and empowers your teams.
What’s the best business advice you’ve gotten in your career? The best business advice, which also happens to be great life advice, I received from my mother early on in life. Too many times she had to remind me, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it." Words matter, but when it comes to leadership how you deliver the words is even more important.
What mentorship advice would you give someone who took on a new leadership role? To be successful as a leader, you need a strong "second team" to work with you to achieve your objectives for the business. So my advice for someone who has taken on a new leadership role is to figure out who is on your second team and if this means going outside and hiring, then you need to do it.
What advice would you give yourself as a young professional? Early in my professional career, I learned a lot on the job and read only a few books every year. About 10 years ago, I became an avid reader. Today, I read a book a week and this has really helped me grow as there is so much to learn from others. My favorite genres are of course technology/digital, but I also enjoy books on leadership, productivity, self-improvement, and nutrition. So my advice for myself as a young professional is to read, read, and read some more.
What is one thing you always have with you? I’ll tell you three things I always have with me: my FitBit, my iPhone, and a picture of my family.
What’s an obsolete or outdated item you can’t get rid of? A notepad. The action of writing something down, at least for me, really helps me remember and work through problems.
What are you nostalgic for? I know this is going to sound strange coming from someone who works in the digital world, but I’m really nostalgic for good ole' fashioned board games. My family loves playing board games and I cherish that time without our phones or laptops, where our kids aren’t staring at their iPads and you’re just hanging with family and friends.
What’s the most influential book you’ve read? Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a collection of short essays where he provides insights and practical guidance on everything from living to coping with adversity to interacting with others. This book really helped broaden my mind and to grow as an individual.
What’s an idea or invention you wish you’d thought of? I wish I developed Angry Birds. It’s the number one mobile game of all time.
What motivates you? My motivation lies at the intersection of design, business, and technology. I really enjoy working with great people—strategists, creatives, developers, engineers—to co-create solutions to today’s problems with new cutting-edge technologies and techniques such as human-centered design.