Wes Anderson, vice president of defense at Microsoft, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the core values that make up the company’s successful culture as well as how we can all drive greater collaboration between industry and federal government and address the challenges on the business side of innovation in our sector during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Wes Anderson below.
ExecutiveBiz: What are the core values that are important to Microsoft’s culture? How has your team developed its workflow and ability to drive success in such a competitive market?
Wes Anderson: “I have witnessed first-hand the cultural transformation our company has gone through under the leadership of our CEO Satya Nadella, and believe it’s a key differentiator for us in this competitive job climate.
I’d describe our culture as one of empowerment, of innovation, teamwork and a belief that we can change the world with the backing of the world’s greatest technology.
At Microsoft, we have the commitment from the senior leadership of the company to apply our brightest minds and collective resources to deliver breakthroughs enabling a decision advantage for the Department of Defense.
With the nation-state competition that exists in the world today, we have an imperative to act – and act quickly.
The focus on solving our customers’ hardest mission problems, enabled with a growth mindset and commitment to partnership for the long term, allows us to best serve customers. It’s why I joined the company 25 years ago – and why I stay: the ability to change the world and serve our country.”
ExecutiveBiz: How can industry and the federal government work together to increase greater collaboration and drive more innovative solutions for everyone to use to address the latest challenges of today?
Wes Anderson: “It is widely documented that Silicon Valley wouldn’t exist without historic investment from the DoD. In short, our industry and the DOD were inextricably linked at the start.
I am proud that Microsoft has been a strong partner to the DoD for more than 40 years and remains steadfast in our pledge to provide access to the best technology we create to the Department of Defense.
However, we know the “valley of death” is all too real for our industry – small and even large companies – landing the latest commercial innovation, are challenged in crossing it. We encourage ongoing DoD/Congressional efforts to think outside the box on how DoD procures commercial technology.
The warfighter would benefit from more nimble and flexible contracting authorities that allow for rapid prototyping, co-development with servicemembers, and expedited deployment of groundbreaking tech from the private sector.”
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about Microsoft’s recent growth initiatives? What do you hope to accomplish and any new markets that you’re keeping an eye on in the federal sector?
Wes Anderson: “In the inflationary environment we are facing in today’s world, the software proves to be a significant deflationary force, which is why tech spend is expected to double by 2030.
In the federal sector, Microsoft provides a comprehensive tech stack from on-premise products, to hyper-scale cloud and out to the intelligent edge with offerings tailor-made for the security requirements of the Federal government.
Through GEMS (Gaming, Exercising, Modeling and Simulation), we are bringing breakthrough capabilities to wargaming in the Department of Defense.
By leveraging our extensive gaming experience, Azure cloud capabilities and robust partner ecosystem we are providing the DoD with increased scale and higher fidelity outputs from GEMS activities that are more timely, actionable, and cost-effective.
We are revolutionizing the GEMS market from individual training to grand strategy by providing more realistic experiences that enhance the Department’s readiness, understanding, decision advantage and confidence.
The major technological changes are not only happening on earth; the transformation is extending into space as well. With a record $15B in private investment in space last year, there are new satellite constellations and technologies that can further empower the federal government.
Microsoft recognized this strategic shift and made a significant investment in establishing Azure Space to bring cloud computing and space technologies together with a partner ecosystem to better serve Federal customers. Our approach enables ubiquitous and resilient connectivity tied to compute and analytics that facilitate new insights and rapid decision-making.”
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?
Wes Anderson: “I’d like to see procurement move at the speed of technology. Too often, the federal government applies tenured analog processes and policies to the latest digital solutions, which undermines the speed of adoption, progress and innovation that these solutions can enable.
The bottom line is that procedure stifles innovation in the federal government. People are not the problem; it’s that contracting offices need different conditions to be successful. While I think current DoD leadership is taking a hard look at what needs to change, the pace of change is uneven – and we are acutely sensing this.”
ExecutiveBiz: With zero-trust technology becoming a major focal point moving forward, what can you tell us about the difficulties of implementing zero-trust architectures and focusing on data security?
Wes Anderson: “One of the challenges of implementing zero trust architectures is that every organization has a slightly different starting point. In most cases, zero trust principles aren’t being applied to net new environments but to existing systems that have evolved over a significant period of time from a unique assortment of various IT and security technologies.
Security vendor guidance on zero trust varies widely as well so it can be difficult to select the right partner for the journey. Organizations that have the most difficulty tend to be those that for simplicity only focus on a single pillar of zero trust such as data, devices, or identity and try to achieve results by investing in securing that pillar alone. This leads to limited protection against adversaries and won’t get you very far in a high-quality red team assessment.
Microsoft recommends a balanced approach to zero trust strategy and investment across all pillars. We provide a comprehensive set of zero trust solutions that establish a strong baseline while creating opportunity for additional enhancements with an open ecosystem of more than 100 zero trust solutions from other security companies.”