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Emerging Technology Briefing

By Susan Penfield, Chief Innovation Officer

An aerial view from our tech scouts and analysts

I’ve been in the technology business for 26 years, and I’m used to change—in fact, my work as chief innovation officer depends on it. But the flash transformation that we’ve witnessed over the last year, to support critical missions under unexpected circumstances, was a first for all of us. 

There’s always some discomfort with sudden and large-scale change. However, the agility and pure innovation that was demonstrated by so many technology leaders to adapt their organizations during the pandemic offers a glimpse into what’s possible beyond COVID-19. I believe we can learn from this experience to push more boundaries in the future, create rapid cycles of innovation, and expand our innovation networks to support one another. 

At Booz Allen, we deconstruct, analyze, and evaluate emerging technologies so our clients can make the best decisions based on what we know today—and what we can project over the three to five-year horizon. Based on this research process, our technology scouting team identified and distilled key innovations that have immediate and long-term implications for our clients.

“The next 'chapter of transformation' requires technology leaders to be smart and deliberate about the investments they make to advance their business and mission priorities.”

What to Watch: Emerging Technologies That Will Change Your Game

To help our clients make investment decisions around emerging capabilities, our Innovation Hub in San Francisco launched a technology scouting practice around five years ago. Since that time, this team has impacted all corners of Booz Allen’s business by analyzing industry trends, forecasting what’s next, and mapping the innovation ecosystem for our clients to put solutions into practice. From digital twin technology and low-code platforms to edge analytics and 5G, the team monitors a swiftly evolving landscape as technologies emerge, converge, and connect in new ways.

We’ve rounded up key technologies from the group’s research. Chances are that your organization is already engaged in some aspect of the technologies we explore below—from initial discovery to full-fledged deployment. Whatever stage you’re in, it’s essential to step back and understand the bigger picture:

  • What are the latest market indicators and trends that can help you make investment decisions?
  • How are the technologies continuing to evolve and further integrate across the digital ecosystem?
  • What are some new applications of the technologies that could provide value to more organizations?

For each of the technologies explored below, we provide insights from our work with clients, the external innovation ecosystem, startup trends, and Booz Allen’s venture capital network. Check back as we continue to explore new topics in this 2021 emerging technology series. 

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How to Prepare: Take Steps Today to Unlock Tomorrow

While external forces like the global pandemic ignited the modernization we’ve experienced in the past year—the confluence of continuing market uncertainty and the acceleration of technological advancement will keep fanning the flames of innovation. Technology leaders must reduce the friction in their people and business processes to create the conditions for continued transformation.

Here are four places to take a deep look, and where Booz Allen is investing for our clients:

1. Reimagine the Workforce (and Workplace) of the Future: The adoption of new technologies will continue to increase demand for specialized technical skillsets—and organizations within and beyond government are already under pressure to recruit for technology positions. Success for our clients moving forward will require creative paths to workforce transformation and targeting segments that are ripe for "new collar" roles. 

At Booz Allen, we’re realizing this transformation through our training partnership with the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute, and our Mil/Tech Workforce Initiative—which connects service members who are transitioning out of the military, to upskilling opportunities in areas such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and digital platforms. This initiative was launched to help educate veterans about future-focused careers with significant growth potential and continue to impact the mission of the Federal Government. And while many of the service members we work with never imagined the possibility of a technical career path—our clients are now, without question, better positioned to meet their challenges because of this next-generation workforce.

2. Tap into a Broader Industry Ecosystem: As we look forward, mission advancement will increasingly depend on the integration of niche partners and technologies, including non-traditional government players. Federal leaders must be able to adopt new capabilities quickly and easily—and that increasingly means those that are interoperable, open, and container-based.

Innovative startups and solutions are emerging to meet this need, but the challenge for many organizations is gaining access to a diverse set of experienced suppliers—and then convening them for a unified approach. On the flipside, there are many technology firms that may not have experience with how the federal procurement process works. Booz Allen is working to bridge this gap, partnering with companies seeking to connect their services to federal business challenges. Our partner network is built to expand our employees’ knowledge of leading tools on the market and helps clients expertly select, integrate, and apply the best set of offerings for their unique needs.

3. Accelerate Innovation Through Modern Acquisition: The complexity, scale, and scope of government missions is truly unlike those of any other sector. To meet mission needs at the speed of relevance, federal leaders are innovating the way that they design and deliver new products and services—with solutions that offer long-term flexibility and agility.

One recent model of reimagined acquisition is how the Air Force has integrated partners to build Platform One. Instead of a traditional acquisition process, the organization issued a Basic Ordering Agreement with select vendors to significantly reduce lead time, rapidly support software DevSecOps services, and provide maximum flexibility to meet evolving mission needs. New approaches like this one are accelerating mission capabilities, while offering technology leaders more control as they innovate with partners across the industry.

4. Create the Conditions for Continuous Innovation: Ultimately, the most successful organizations will have more than just technical maturity in the future. And modern services and systems can’t succeed with a technology and talent infrastructure from the last decade. 

Leading enterprises will embrace ongoing transformation—so they are ready to adapt and innovate, without disruption, as conditions (internal or external) change over time. Booz Allen is ensuring that our clients have a digital-ready enterprise to balance constant transformation with resilient and stable operations. This means investing in areas such as DevSecOps, DataOps, and machine learning operations (MLOps), so organizations are set up for agility, continuous delivery, and modern operations with an infrastructure that supports and enables innovation into the future.

Emerging technologies are going to play a new and significant role in accelerating modern citizen services and the digital battlespace—and Booz Allen’s innovation agenda is in gear to drive this transformation. Our workforce is being challenged to seed the next generation of our client successes and create new value for the mission. Together with our clients, we’ll boldly push boundaries and harness collective ingenuity to create innovation that matters.

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