Kerron Duncan, director of Technology for the Chief Information Office with Northrop Grumman, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his more than two decades of history with the company, the influence of its company culture and the challenges on the business side of innovation and emerging technology during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
ExecutiveBiz: Congrats on recently transitioning into your new role! What are the aspects of Northrop Grumman that have kept you with the company for 21 years? What do you hope to accomplish with the company?
Kerron Duncan: “I started my career with Northrop Grumman about 21 years ago and what attracted me to the company then is the same reason I’m still here today. I believe in our mission, our people and the drive to innovate. That’s always been the core motivation for me as an individual and as something that I’ve seen throughout my day to day within the company.
How many people can get up in the morning, go to work and solve some of the toughest problems in space, defense or cybersecurity? That plus getting to work alongside some of the most talented people in the world who I genuinely respect and love to work with every day.
In our company, we get to ‘define possible.’ We get to use science, technology, engineering and analytics to really create new things from new ideas and bring them into reality. That’s our approach to developing the products and systems that Northrop Grumman provides to our customers every day.
The air of innovation and the mission is all connected back to our customers, which is absolutely critical. On my first or second day with the company, one of my first managers said that ‘You will appreciate the mission here.’
We’re a little different than what you’ll find in other companies — the mission is truly what drives us and our people. It’s the passion to pioneer and innovate in this industry. That set the tone right from the beginning of my tenure here and I’m excited every day to get to work.
On my team, I lead a number of curious architects, engineers and project managers for our own mission. We embody these personas and explore key areas. Our team is made up of technology enablers, innovators and great advocates. We are all fiercely curious as individuals. This is where we can be visionaries and change agents for our company.
We really challenge our current approaches and try to create value driven solutions to address the ever evolving needs of the day. That’s always exciting.
That’s where my team comes in as architects. Northrop Grumman is leading the implementation of the next generation of systems. We look at digital technology and the areas that can expand across the entire enterprise to support multiple customers. We’re also very tied into our vision and our various business transformation initiatives.
At Northrop Grumman, we also develop strategic partnerships with our suppliers. We continue to optimize existing technology and there are also things they already have that we need to continue to take advantage of.
The fact is, there are always emerging technologies. This is a key area for us in terms of supporting our product development, monetization activities and maturation. There’s the technology side, but then I’ve mentioned the people side as well.
Our team also strongly advocates and are champions for technical talent development and ensuring that our talent has the right resources. We continue to enhance our recruitment and retention strategies, especially given some of these evolving needs in today’s landscape.”
ExecutiveBiz: With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has your company been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?
Kerron Duncan: “As we talk about the importance of delivering at the speed of relevance for our customers, at Northrop Grumman we are working to ensure that we’re always driving speed efficiency in our delivery. This is all about us evolving our digital transformation leadership in the aerospace and defense industry.
We’re leveraging various digital tools and platforms to virtualize solutions as we design them, which allows us to rapidly conceptualize, design, build and sustain the solutions directly for our customers. In addition, we provide our expertise as well that is specialized around integrating these digital capabilities.
Northrop Grumman has various functions and customers that we support. The question for us is how to integrate these digital capabilities that may have been developed to support engineering? Can all these pieces be stitched together as part of one full digital thread and a digital ecosystem? That’s our strategy, our mission and has been our focus for quite some time now.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to your company’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market?
Kerron Duncan: “Our company leadership fosters a strong culture that is grounded in ethics, integrity and a commitment to an inclusive, diverse and equitable workforce. Back in 2020, we adopted new company values. We recognized the importance of doing the right thing. We do what we promise, we pioneer and commit to our shared success.
These are the four core company values that we established two years ago to address the biggest challenges our industry faces in the present day. These four aspects really form the foundation of how I see Northrop Grumman as a company. We do the right thing and that’s based on earning the trust of our customers and acting with integrity and living by strong ethics.
We are true to our word about delivering for our customers and focusing on quality. At Northrop Grumman, we’re committed to our shared success through collaboration and partnering to develop new solutions. We pioneer and enable that curiosity and we’re always looking for new solutions and ideas to tackle the challenges influencing our business today.”
ExecutiveBiz: We often discuss innovation from the technical or capability side. What are some of the unique challenges that you’ve seen on the business side of innovation that haven’t been addressed or discussed enough?
Kerron Duncan: “I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many different industry forums and conferences where a number of these challenges have been discussed and one thing that comes up from people outside the company is that there are many different aspects of our business. Northrop Grumman has a comprehensive strategy that addresses the business processes and operations in terms of how we ‘define possible.’
We have a holistic view from the beginning all the way through the actual implementation of the product to see the full transformation and the impact it makes for our customers. Once I hear the word ‘transformation,’ I immediately think about company culture.
I think about our company values and going back to the fact that at Northrop Grumman, we pioneer. The first thing you say when you’re doing that is to pioneer and transform our company to address what our customers need from us. That’s about culture. That’s about our people and our processes.
Northrop Grumman brings in the technology capabilities along with the other elements of digital transformation that support our customers’ missions, but it always starts with business goals, process and business architecture.
During the forums and conferences, I’ve heard others talk about those challenges. For Northrop Grumman, we have a solid strategy that ensures we are ever evolving as we address them to meet the challenges of tomorrow. From a business process perspective, it’s all about addressing what our customers really need and the technology will always follow.”