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1.0 Dev-Bur-Ops

1.0 Dev-Bur-Ops

"I talked to <someone who wears a uniform> and they love it!". Great, you solved a small potion of your problem.

Selling tech to the civilian world is comparatively simple (simple, not easy), and there's a framework called DevOps where you find a customer, figure out what they need, and iterate through product-market fit and off to the promised land of sustainable growth, hockey sticks, etc.

We have these people in DoD too, they're called "end-users"; soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, guardians who actually do the business of war. In general terms your thing will be used by them to do the business.

But you picked DefTech, which is neither simple nor easy, because DoD has a sprawling bureaucracy. You knew this getting into, but you probably didn't fully realize that the "staff" has a huge say in whether your customer ever gets to touch your product.

In DoD there's a third category of people who get a vote: senior leaders. They get a vote because your users inherently don't do anything unless they're told (this is the military after all.

So here you have Development-Bureaucracy-Operations, how you really successfully get tech into the hands of end users and into the coveted program of record.

The way MOST developer folks do this (poorly) is they start with the end user, and they think that will work. There's good reason for this; developers are told by the DoD to "engage with us" and "talk to our end-users, they drive out requirements", which is true. So developers dutifully go to demo events, and expos, etc. End-users likewise reciprocate, they like new things, particularly those which promise to make their lives better. But there's a hitch: end-users don't BUY ANYTHING, the bureaucracy does.

So here's what typically happens:

There are variations of this model, there's the top-down approach, for those lucky enough to talk to a General Officer/Flag Officer (GO/FO):

There's also the middle squeeze, for those who have a connection to the top and the bottom:

The least common (because it's hardest and slowest) is the mountain climb:

But here's the thing, there's no shortcut to a real win, this is how you want things to go if you want to end up in a PoR:

Keep in mind, you'll likely need and end-user both to inform your product development and to advocate for your capability. But not all end-users are created equal. Ideally you want one who knows their job (can inform your development), who is passionate about new capabilities (is willing to spend their free time advocating for your capability), AND knows their organization (knows who to advocate with). These end users are admittedly few and far between.

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