Wade Allen, vice president of Defense for Applied Information Sciences, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the work that AIS does to ensure the long-term success of its workforce as well as the impact that emerging technologies are having on the company’s business and its company culture to drive growth in the federal sector during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full Executive Spotlight interview with Wade Allen below:
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?
Wade Allen: “The AIS core values include delivering customer success, cultivating long-lasting and trusted partnerships, continued learning, sharing, and technical excellence, and citizenship and community.
I’m over the Defense side of our business, which is about half of our overall portfolio, with regulated enterprises in the commercial sector accounting for the rest. We are hyper-focused on driving forward our customers’ missions through cloud and data solutions built atop Microsoft technologies. This sets us apart from other larger companies. We are always focused on the mission and the people that are at the heart of that.
Our top priority is ensuring our customers and our people have the support they need to drive digital transformation efforts and build the cloud, data, security and other IT capabilities they need. A lot of that process is listening to our customers’ mission objectives. It’s easy for companies to deliver people aligned to project staffing requirements, but we take it a step further and ensure the people and solutions are driving their strategic goals.
For example, AIS was recently on the ground floor with an Army customer that was standing up its brand new four-star command, and we helped to build out their entire data and cloud infrastructures as well as the necessary Authority to Operate in Impact Level 5 and 6 as soon as it became available. Those efforts used to take a lot longer for organizations to adopt the cloud.
Since 2019, we have grown from roughly 500 people to 1000. I would attribute a great deal of that growth to our mission focus. It’s simple. If our customers don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. We have shared outcomes and we all have the same mission, which is why achieving our customer’s mission is so pivotal. That’s the driving force of everything we do at AIS. And it helps that our teams really care about and are passionate about the work they do.
In terms of warding off the competition, we are often disrupting the status quo of incumbent service providers. We are not afraid to innovate ourselves out of a job if it means our customer can meet their mission objectives faster, cheaper, more securely, and so forth.
What this does is create a true sense of partnership and trust between us. Follow-on work will come with the next mission, and we will be prepared for it through heavy investments in the next innovation, necessary skilling, and early adoption experience implemented in the commercial sector. But our customers know they have a co-pilot for their next mission-critical endeavor. This keeps AIS in the cockpit working closely alongside our customers and mission owners.”
ExecutiveBiz: With the influence of emerging technologies impacting every aspect of business, how has AIS been able to drive digital transformation efforts to stay ahead of innovation in the federal landscape for yourself and your customers?
Wade Allen: “AIS invests early in innovative technology for the privilege of experience, gaining deep expertise in new, differentiating capabilities. In 2008, AIS invested heavily in Azure, which it was called ‘Project Red Dog’ and it was still in development.
One of our largest commercial clients helped transform AIS into what it is today. That success has extended into the federal space.
We were one of the first Microsoft partners that have been certified and deployed Azure cloud capabilities. AIS has been at the forefront in terms of compliance for cloud adoption from the very beginning. Now, it’s time to take it another step further to incorporate data as well.
AIS recently released Datalance, a new product of ours that is taking data from the edge and combining it with cloud capabilities in real-time along with artificial intelligence and machine learning to some of our largest clients. We’re looking forward to bringing us into the DoD space. We have several customers that are interested, but the next big thing is data.
It’s easy to make a mandate and tell everyone they need to develop the cloud, but that’s a lot more difficult to implement in reality. When cloud first came into play, it seemed like everyone’s move was to shift their data centers into the cloud, but the move to cloud is really a complete digital transformation for the organization.
When it comes to security, compliance, and zero-trust, that goes all the way through operations and maintenance as well as existing legacy applications that need to be upscaled into the cloud, which is where it eventually saves the company some money.
In the short term, it’s very expensive to lift and shift your servers to the cloud. The real value is that as your business grows and the processes change you’re beginning to get the scale that’s been needed across the organization, especially as your business modernizes its applications.
With your business at scale, your people can focus on their jobs and in AIS’ case, the mission of our customers. That way your people are solving business problems as opposed to maintaining the day-to-day all day. Everything is automated through DevSecOps, zero-trust and it’s all tied to the company’s infrastructure.
AIS has been operating networks in one way or another for more than 30 years. We share our outcomes with our customers. Sometimes, we’ve been asked to train people for our customers and even our competition. Our goal is to help our customers upscale their workforce because people will need to be retrained and repurposed in the future.
We have had a lot of success with this model. The trick is looking at training from the technology perspective, not from a classroom perspective. It’s one thing to learn from the book and receive a certification, but another thing entirely is working in the environment itself.”
ExecutiveBiz: How does Applied Information Sciences (AIS) ensure long-term success for your workforce and drive value for your employees as you continue to face the uphill challenge to recruit and retain the best talent in the federal marketplace?
Wade Allen: “On the leading technology side of our business, it’s difficult. It’s hard to find the top talent in our sector, but it’s also hard to keep talent in general. The best solution is developing homegrown talent who learn the business with AIS. We’re looking for attitude and aptitude across the board.
We’ll train everyone to enhance their strengths and develop the areas we need to thrust AIS into success. We’ve found that people often spend some time with us and come back later in their careers if other opportunities present themselves in between.
That speaks very highly of what we offer our employees for the long term. I want our new people to come aboard AIS with an understanding of what they’re getting into here.”
ExecutiveBiz: An important part of a company having strong business ethics in the federal sector is about helping and giving back to the greater community. Can you speak to the various charities and work with other organizations that your company does to make a difference and how people can get involved?
Wade Allen: “As citizenship and community is one of our four core values, we stood up a program at AIS fully dedicated to engaging the community and giving back called aisGives. This group seeks out opportunities for charitable corporate investments, but also has designed ways to enable our network of employees to give back through things like our charitable donation matching program.
aisGives allows our people to find and support the nonprofit of their choice, and have AIS match the donation. Some of the significant contributions to nonprofits include regular support for Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors, Watsi, crowdsourcing for healthcare platform, and pro-bono work for local organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center. Giving back to the greater community is one of the hallmarks of AIS.”
A big part of giving back to the community is knowledge sharing and collaboration across the industry and government communities. Our CTO, Vishwas Lele, who is also a Microsoft Regional Director and MVP, is a shining example of this value that has had a ripple effect across our organization.
We are always looking for opportunities to share approaches and learnings. Once a month, AIS sponsors a government meetup alongside Microsoft to unite a lot of the people across the government space.
In a few short years, that group has grown to over 4,000 contributors. We’ve done these events with everyone across the spectrum that you can think of and it’s one of the best ways we know how to give back to the community.”