Wyn Elder, managing director of Global & US Public Sector at Box, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz for the publication’s latest Executive Spotlight interview detailing the challenges and major trends within the federal government over the last 18 months as well as Box’s unique positioning and strategy to address those challenges for the company’s customers.
In addition, Elder also discussed the recent contract wins from the GSA and Air Force Reserve Command that is driving cloud content management and Box Sign technology as well as hybrid workforce changes and the drive for innovation heading into 2022.
“Technology is going to continue to advance quickly. Different applications will come and go. As long as Box’s platform can establish a level of being ‘future proof’ and maintain its security and compliance standards, that will make it very easy for the people who need our services to access them regardless of how technology develops in the future.”
You can read the full Executive Spotlight with Wyn Elder below:
ExecutiveBiz: Given the challenges faced and resulting change that occurred in the past 18 months for all industries – what would you describe as the major trends that emerged in the federal government?
Wyn Elder: “The first major trend is the need to provide access from anywhere. The hybrid workforce gets mentioned a lot, but I think it’s actually a broader trend. Both employees and citizens are demanding something different from federal agencies. So, not only do agencies have to enable employees to work from anywhere and from any device, but they also have to enable citizens who are expecting services to be provided 24/7 from wherever they are as well.
In terms of focus, I think there’s currently a slight over-indexing on employees and the ability to work from anywhere. But the more important long-term trend might actually be the expectations that citizens now have of their government to deliver services and benefits within the hybrid model. They will need to be delivered in person and online in an accessible way to all citizens, regardless of circumstances, which presents a range of challenges if agencies are not set up to do that.
The second big trend is digital-first. The realities of the pandemic have solidified digital transformation as more than just an aspirational goal. We’ve hit the tipping point for costs and funding of emerging technology as well as legislative support. I’ve been in the sector for 30 years and I can say that a lot of these phrases have been circulating for a long time, but now there is no going back. I think the pandemic has fundamentally changed the priority level of digital transformation for agencies.
Finally, it should come as no surprise that cybersecurity and risk management frameworks are the third trend for me. It doesn’t matter if they’re being driven through executive orders or potential leaks or internal concerns.
It used to be that agencies predominantly worked in the same building on the same network. Now, there is a responsibility to provide secure access for every employee from everyone’s home wifi network, VPNs or even the wifi at Starbucks. That’s just the footprint that IT departments and CISOs have to deal with now – then you throw in citizen engagement with however they’re connected to their services and you can see the massive cybersecurity risk facing agencies now.
The threat is increasing rapidly from a technological perspective and also it’s become a numbers game. The footprint that needed to be defended is just a monumental challenge. Those are the three trends that are driving most of what’s happening in the federal marketplace, but also are a major driving force in the commercial market as well.”
ExecutiveBiz: Given these macrotrends, what is Box’s unique positioning, how would you describe Box’s strategy and philosophy to address the challenges facing your customers and deliver on their critical mission objectives?
Wyn Elder: “The differentiation for Box is that we’re focused on the entire lifecycle of content from the creation of a document, all the way through the signature and disposition, etc. There are a number of things that have to happen for any content. We believe that content is at the core and heart of whatever your agency’s mission is moving forward.
At the end of the day, the creation of content, the collaboration, the storing, sharing and moving it to wherever it needs to go is how an agency accomplishes its mission. And unfortunately, some it is still paper-based which is extremely costly and inefficient. But even if the agency has started going digital, many times they have dozens and dozens of separate software systems to manage different types of content resulting in a very cumbersome architecture.
These software programs are extremely well designed and do what they were designed to do very well, but sharing content from one business application to another can be quite a challenge. Where Box has positioned itself is, ‘Let’s build a highly secure and FedRAMP compliant platform, with every standard that exists, that is cloud native and agnostic to whatever your IT architecture is.’
The Box content platform can store all of that data and content and share between whatever software stack you have, which is an enormously powerful advantage. The inefficiencies of trying to collaborate and share content is exceedingly difficult when you have all these different data silos is exponential the more non-connected apps you have. And since the average federal agency has well over 200 software applications…well, you can see the issues.
We at Box saw the trends surrounding software applications and agencies and companies were not setting themselves to have a way to successfully manage content from start to finish. That’s been our philosophy for the past few years. We’re finishing out that ability to take any content, unstructured or structured, and share it seamlessly across a federal agency’s software setup – all set inside a secure boundary. That’s a really powerful and critical tool to offer, especially in the federal landscape.”
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ExecutiveBiz: With recent contracts from GSA and the Air Force Reserve Command helping Box to drive cloud content management and utilize Box Sign Technology, what can you tell us about the progress that federal agencies are making to adapt to the digital world and address the challenges of digital transformation of its key processes?
Wyn Elder: “Those two wins were really significant for Box in two different ways. The GSA contract was a great indicator to us that the agency sees the enormous value that all federal agencies and the entire federal workforce can capture with having one platform to handle all the content needs instead of having to transfer data from one software application to another and back.
Electronic signatures are so fundamental to what the government does every day for its citizens and employees, right? You think about it and you realize that there are thousands of different types of content that need signatures like contract awards, citizen applications, performance reports for employees, recruiting, audit trails and all kinds of different use cases. All of these are based around signatures – and, sadly, in many cases, still on hard-copy signatures.
GSA choosing box Sign to put on their ‘schedules’ and providing the ability for any federal agency to use Box Sign is a massive indication that they are taking the necessary steps into the digital world and acknowledging that the paper-based process is no more and there’s now a need to make signatures very easy to integrate.
Our contract with GSA demonstrates that the agency sees where digital transformation is going and is working to fill the critical gaps in its digital transformation efforts to allow native digital signatures for anyone, regardless of software, in any federal agency.
The Air Force Reserve Command is significant in a different way for a couple of reasons. The first being that the work is focused on the reserves. If you’re unfamiliar with the reserves, many of them work full-time civilian jobs and work all kinds of different days and scheduling, which includes gaining access to their mission needs and training even when they are not at their unit facilities or buildings.
So the reserves turned to the Box platform so that Reserves will be able to access important data they need to do their jobs for the military from anywhere.
Many of the reserves might need to do some work before their mission. They could be flying for Delta today and the Air Force as a Reservist tomorrow. Box’s platform allows them to access their information securely, which presents a major opportunity for the reserves to prepare and train no matter where they are physically located. . I’m quite proud of the impact that Box will have on the mission-critical space and the help our platform can provide. It shows the power of our platform and the trust we have with our nation’s warfighters as well.”
ExecutiveBiz: With 2021 coming to an end shortly, how will you continue to drive innovation for the federal workforce as we continue to adapt to the hybrid workforce challenges at hand?
Wyn Elder: “We want to continue to stay at the forefront of certifications and security compliance. We need to ensure that we’re fully integrated with all lines of business applications and software that federal agencies are using to perform their tasks and drive innovation.
Technology is going to continue to advance quickly. Different applications will come and go. As long as Box’s platform can establish a level of being ‘future proof’ and maintain its security and compliance standards, that will make it very easy for the people who need our services to access them regardless of how technology develops in the future.
If all your information is kept on one platform, it makes it so much easier to keep up with the compliance standards regardless of the new governance laws or changes that will occur in the future as well. We believe that’s really powerful. If we stick to our principles and our core pillars, that’s going to help drive innovation and the ease of use more than almost anything else.”