In the latest Executive Spotlight interview, Andras Szakal, vice president and chief technology officer with The Open Group, discussed the company’s growth initiatives and its key efforts to drive a significant industry ecosystem transformation utilizing The Open Group’s OSDU Forum and other programs such as Mercury and the FACE Consortium.
In addition, Szakal also provides a look into the company’s work with zero-trust architecture as well as how The Open Group is driving agility for its customers and how AI, machine learning and other tech aspects such as quantum computing are helping them stay ahead of the speed of innovation during his recent Executive Spotlight interview with ExecutiveBiz.
“Having insight from both perspectives as both a contributing member and the chair has been invaluable. I see the challenges of what it means to use our systems from the point of view of both the members and our staff. This has informed my strategy for implementing and modernizing our IT systems in support of open source and standards development.”
You can read the full interview with Andras Szakal below:
ExecutiveBiz: What can you tell us about the company’s recent growth initiatives and how you’re driving value for your customers through contract awards, acquisitions and other aspects across the federal sector?
Andras Szakal: “Traditionally, The Open Group has been known for its work on international standards and certifications. More recently, our members have been moving to what we call executable standards, which often means open source development.
The great majority of these efforts are key to big industry ecosystem transformations like The Open Group OSDU (Open Subsurface Data Universe) Forum and their open source project called Mercury, and the FACE (Future Air Capabilities Environment) Consortium that is transitioning from pure specification to API open source.
These are not the only projects we are managing around open source. For example, we fully expect the Open Footprint Forum, which is focused on standardizing carbon counting, will quickly evolve into an open source project.
The other big project is the productization of the TOGAF® Standard, a standard of The Open Group. As folks might recall, the TOGAF initiatives originated as TAFIM donated by DoD, and is now the global standard for Enterprise Architecture.
We continue to see big uptake on our secure supply chain standard ISO-20243 as well. We are looking to update that specification. Another area that has been growing is the Open Professions Certification, which is the experiential professional certification offered by The Open Group.
Announced in January 2022, Energistics Consortia, which is focused on energy standards, is now formally an affiliate of The Open Group.
The Open Group and ZTA
The Open Group ZTA Work Group is hard at work publishing assets like the ZTA Commandments, Zero-Trust Principles, Zero-Trust Landscape, and the work we are doing on publishing ZTA reference architectures.
We have looked to harmonize with the work being led by DoD, NIST, and other agencies around ZTA, but we think we have a significant value proposition and member experience as we build out these global ZTA standards. We welcome participation from our partners across the government to define and influence this important work.”
ExecutiveBiz: After serving as the chair of the Governing Board for The Open Group, you became the VP and CTO of the company in Dec. 2020. What can you tell us about your first year in the dual position and the impact that you feel the company has made?
Andras Szakal: “Having insight from both perspectives as both a contributing member and the chair has been invaluable. I see the challenges of what it means to use our systems from the point of view of both the members and the staff.
And this has informed my strategy for implementing and modernizing our IT systems in support of open source and standards development.
One of the areas I have been most focused on is member on-boarding and creating a development platform that supports an agile API-based approach to systems architecture, design, and DevOps. We are eating our own cooking here by adopting standards for lean agile Enterprise Architecture practices.”
ExecutiveBiz: In terms of turning The Open Group into a digital enterprise and the challenges of digital transformation and IT modernization, how would you describe the company’s strides and struggles to ensure your customers are more agile and developing the tools they need for their missions?
Andras Szakal: “I think we’re right in the middle of implementing new tooling for digital that we would put into the bucket of digital transformation or agile architecture. We have a new initiative around digital practitioners.
It’s focused on ensuring there is an agile process for helping practitioners embrace digital transformation practices. As the expression goes, ‘we’re eating our own dog food’ by transitioning to a more agile development process based on several other tools to ensure that we were able to take a more holistic approach, create, and update standards to get them to market.
In the past, we had different systems that were more monolithic in nature. One would write a document, send out the document, get everybody’s feedback, and then gain consensus. Now, consensus is managed directly through a text editing system that we’ve developed.
Through this process, our members will be able to comment in real-time. We can make changes in real-time that will then go through the consensus process with less friction, and move directly into publishing in a template format. That puts everything in the publisher’s template right off the bat, instead of actually having to have another review of the documents.
All of this work we’re doing, in addition to the work we’re doing with open source, is really important. We call them executable standards, and most – if not all – of our Forums are moving from simple specification-based implementation to open source.
We’re continuing to grow and expand the tooling and platform for supporting the development of open source for release management ticketing, documentation and development tooling.
ExecutiveBiz: How would you describe the impact of AI, machine learning and other tech aspects such as quantum computing, VR and augmented reality on your business and how do you address the challenge of keeping up with the speed of innovation?
Andras Szakal: “I think in some ways artificial intelligence is being buffeted by the reality of ensuring the integrity of the outcome. The best way to characterize that as social media where it’s heavily used and being reconsidered in a way that doesn’t inadvertently cause harm.
This is going to be true for the next three or four years. We’re going to be looking at what we’ve done with open source, and reassessing its application to ensure we’re optimizing it in a way that brings the human into the loop instead of thinking about humans as just an external data source.
It certainly makes social media more palatable and more socially progressive. It’s accentuating the positive, and not the negative aspects, of human nature, because what’s driven people to social media platforms can be from a negative perspective.
It’s taking advantage of the way that you process information as a human, instead of accentuating the need to learn something different or discover something new. It was really being used as a way to drive you back to the platform to put more information and create this circular feedback, which is just a net negative feedback loop.
We need to create a positive feedback loop. We need people to actually derive real value from participating in social networks that are growing their careers and understanding their healthcare better. Any of these areas that we need to change, they need to be done socially in the human fabric across the United States. We need to accentuate the positive and remove the negative.”