Brian Young is an information technology industry veteran with a particular knack for market expansion and client-facing services. Over the course of two decades, he has gathered experience at Washington, D.C. area government contracting organizations like SE Solutions, RGS Associates and Perspecta. Prior to his current role at Iron Mountain, Young spent nearly four years at SAIC, where he was vice president of strategic growth and operations, spearheading growth and a companywide deployment of commercial technologies to the government customer.
Young arrived at Iron Mountain in August 2022 as vice president of federal business development. In this position, he oversees the organization’s records management, data backup and recovery, document management, secure shredding and data center offerings to the public sector.
The executive recently sat down with ExecutiveBiz to chat about how the government needs the private sector to achieve effective and efficient digitalization, what he sees as the less-discussed challenges on the business side of innovation and more.
What can you tell us about your background and how you’ve been able to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of the federal landscape over the course of your career?
In the early part of my career within the commercial space, and as a former entrepreneur, I am passionate about bringing commercial capabilities into the federal space. With my background, I have been on the front lines of technology adoption, modernization and digitization initiatives and how they enable and enhance the modern user experience.
This is what really attracted me to Iron Mountain, especially their work in the areas of records management, digitization, intelligent document processing, data center colocation services, asset lifecycle management and other solutions that are truly transforming the way the government delivers its services. Iron Mountain has over 70 years of experience supporting public sector chain of custody and physical storage. We have already invested in the capital — people, facilities and equipment — so now we can adapt those supply chain capabilities across differing use cases. In today’s capital-averse federal space, most organizations are attempting to convert from a long CapEx strategy to an OpEx model. Iron Mountain has made those capital investments and positioned itself for the long term, and is in a position to be able to leverage these capabilities. I am excited to continue to support Iron Mountain’s vision for data-driven government.
If you were given free reign to enact changes in the federal landscape, what are the first three changes you would implement and why?
If I was given free reign to enact changes in the federal landscape, I would emphasize continued digitalization across all areas of government. However, in order to realize the full potential of data that agencies possess, the data must be digitalized in a high quality manner to a universal standard that enables aggregation, orchestration and management. With increasing digitalization, I would like to emphasize that due to the time constraints and necessary resources to complete this strenuous task, agencies should not and cannot complete it alone. They must look to the expertise of the private sector to help support.
Additionally, I would reinforce emphasis on the user experience. Many citizens can view interacting with the federal government — whether it be for taxes, voting or Medicare — as a negative experience due to expectations set by the private sector or simply the government’s lack of experience initiatives in place that focus on the user. Fortunately, with continued investment in technology, the use of digitalized data and eyes on innovation, government can reach its full potential, and in turn, create better trust and satisfaction with its citizens. We are already seeing change happen stemming from the Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and the various initiatives associated with it.
Within a similar vein of user experience, I would change existing processes to create a more streamlined way to tap into contract capabilities, such as seeking and acquiring capabilities.
Imagine if procurement activity was an online marketplace for acquiring products and solutions. You log onto the marketplace, knowing you’re fully authenticated to access, and then you can browse and compare services among many sellers, to get the exact capabilities that you need. The challenge is that regulations are highly prescriptive and reactive and change slower than the market moves to enable innovative ways to transact. An Amazon-like marketplace would allow for a better buyer and seller experience and allow transactions to happen closer to the speed of business.
With emerging technology influencing the federal government and industry more by the day, what are some of the challenges on the business side of innovation that aren’t always discussed as often as they should be?
The first that comes to mind is a lack of funding to fuel enterprise technology modernization that promises to reduce costs, increase operational efficiency and better the user experience. The target outcomes are highly desired, but the decision to divert funding from existing programs to fuel technology innovation is a hard choice and comes with a host of risks. When we move from a current state to a new technology-driven future state, there tends to be an increase in spending to stand up the new production environment while the legacy environment is running — until the decision to cut over to the new environment occurs. This “bubble” cost tends to be the single biggest hurdle to technology adoption at scale in an agency environment. It takes time and planning in order for this type of modernization to take place, especially at scale. This can conceivably jeopardize career advancement or the desired outcome if not handled properly.
From a different perspective, newer funding sources have varying levels of conditions and application approval processes that make it challenging for agencies to take risks with taxpayer dollars without some kind of guaranteed outcome that meets a minimum viable standard in the desired future state.
Tactical investments by siloed operations can make it challenging to adopt a new enterprise technology in a timely manner. Capability overlap, incompatibility challenges and moving to a single standardized technology can go sideways if the changes are not communicated properly (early and often) and does not lay out a roadmap for incorporation of expected people, processes and technology challenges and how to address them.
The speed at which technology adoption moves is often hindered by its ability to be incorporated into the typical workday or a new process that supports its use. New technology can be purchased, implemented and integrated into the IT environment, but are new processes adopted quickly enough to support its intended use and provide the expected value to the organization?
Onboarding and lack of training continues to be a problem. This means ensuring that a workforce is armed and capable of using the technology given to them, but also ensuring that the new technology is helping them perform their work in a more efficient and cost-effective way.
In addition to the training, another barrier lies in how this training gets funded. With tight budgets and conservative spending, it is important to show that this training will come with strong ROI. Investing in your workforce this way could improve employee satisfaction, retention and act as the foundation for the adoption of even more advanced technologies in the future.
The impact of government regulations associated with acquisition, environmental and employment areas affect how new technology can be acquired, minimum standards it must meet prior to agency use, how it will affect the workforce and the necessary skills required to successfully adopt the new technology.