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Talking AI, Company Culture & Differentiators With VivSoft CEO Navin Gunalan

Talking AI, Company Culture & Differentiators With VivSoft CEO Navin Gunalan
Navin Gunalan, Co-Founder & CEO, VivSoft Technologies

Navin Gunalan, co-founder and CEO of VivSoft Technologies, has led a successful 18-year career in government contracting, specializing in providing technology solutions using his capture and business development skills for state and federal markets. His time supporting the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs a decade ago was particularly instrumental in shaping his passion for serving government customers. Those four years were the first time he remembers really enjoying his work, because it felt like he was making a significant impact on both the industry and the country.

Since 2014, Gunalan has steered VivSoft’s growth, drawing from his experience with systems integrators and government missions. His approach emphasizes the human element—building relationships and mutual trust. By melding his problem-solving skills, pay-it-forward mindset, along with a focus on solving government use cases leveraging emerging tech like DevSecOps, cloud and AI, he’s not just building a company to support government missions, but also creating meaningful opportunities where technologists and others passionate about building mission-focused solutions can come together and innovate in a collaborative environment.

In a recent Spotlight interview, Gunalan sat down with ExecutiveBiz to illustrate VivSoft’s rise to prominence, chat about its use of AI and the proliferation of the technology in recent years and more.

Which emerging technologies do you anticipate will have the greatest impact on our standing in the great power competition in the next few years? Where are you seeing opportunities for accelerated, meaningful tech growth for the U.S.?

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud, cybersecurity and data, we believe, will have the greatest impact. The convergence of these technologies along with human machine teaming will drive new methods for decision-making. We must balance human engagement with mission autonomy to drive new platforms, offering more opportunities for meaningful technology growth within the U.S. Particularly, initiatives like the Air Force’s Operational Imperative 7 aims to identify gaps in our mobilization readiness and prepare us for global advancements, including those from China. Contributing with meaningful and responsible technology and emerging tech capabilities will play a vital role in the U.S. maintaining our global superiority.

Talking AI, Company Culture & Differentiators With VivSoft CEO Navin Gunalan - top government contractors - best government contracting event

If you want to go deeper on AI, don’t miss the most essential GovCon AI event of the year: Potomac Officers Club’s 5th Annual AI Summit. On March 21st, POC will gather top officials from the DOD, the CIA, NGA and beyond for a day of exciting networking, dialogues and collaboration. Register here now!

How has the rise of AI over the past couple of years affected VivSoft and how are you harnessing AI to serve your customers’ missions?

We are deeply mission-focused and keenly aware of the challenges presented by the evolving technological landscape. While we don’t claim to have solutions for every challenge, we thoroughly understand the twin challenges of balancing responsible AI with trusted AI in solving the obstacles faced by our federal customers. We understand the different roles of personnel such as operators, data scientists, application developers and security professionals and their unique pain points in the AI landscape. Our primary aim is to assist these end users in quickly leveraging AI responsibly to minimize the cognitive load, enhance user experiences and provide a decision advantage in complex operating environments. We’re selective about where we apply AI, focusing on specific projects that align with our expertise. This includes ‘shift left’ automation for setting up responsible AI platforms, such as data science platforms, and developing interfaces for efficient AI consumption.

We prioritize meaningful AI utilization. This approach guides our exploration of internal initiatives. Additionally, we’ve integrated AI into various aspects of our operations, including recruitment and quality assurance measures, to enhance the quality of our deliverables.

What’s the most impactful trend you’re currently seeing in the GovCon market? How are you seeing GovCon organizations respond to that trend?

Whether it’s on the civilian or the Department of Defense side, the presence of siloed processes and data poses one of the most substantial obstacles. However, within these challenges lie numerous opportunities for data engineering leading to decision support and action. We recognize the potential to innovate and standardize government practices and transform them into consumer-grade experiences, which we believe is pivotal for success in government contracting.

Drawing inspiration from the practices of entities like the USAF PlatformOne, CMS, U.S. Digital Service and GSA FAS, we aim to implement best practices, including those from past digital service initiatives. Our internal discussions are deeply rooted in this ethos. Our goal is to dismantle data silos and prioritize human-centered design principles at the forefront of our endeavors. By consolidating repetitive patterns, we aim to streamline processes, ultimately saving time, money and cognitive load for our government clients.

Tell me about VivSoft’s culture. What aspects of the company do you think are contributing most to its success while helping to attract and retain top-level talent?

Our entry into the federal sector in 2019 diverged from the traditional request for proposals route. Instead, we engaged with the Air Force PlatformOne on the Small Business Innovation Research program. I say our company was built on that one contract with PlatformOne, which gave us a chance to shine. We had a research and development team long before we had a proposal team and built our credibility not just with our services but by continuously investing to codify those solutions to our software/data/AI factory accelerator ENBUILD—a no-license software and a delivery differentiator—which underscored our commitment to advanced technology. This culture of advanced tech permeates our organization and is crucial for attracting top talent. We strive to maintain an environment where cutting edge and meaningful work entices individuals to join our team.

To uphold this standard, we embrace a management discipline called the Entrepreneurial Operating System. EOS emphasizes accountability over hierarchy, with each team member having clearly defined responsibilities outlined in an accountability chart. This approach fosters a positive work environment and generates traction where employees are aligned to the same direction, vision, plan and values.

Our hiring process is deeply aligned with our core values of responsibility, curiosity and empathy. These are not values we created but values that have always existed in our organization since the beginning. We seek individuals who absolutely embody these values, creating a cohesive team capable of delivering innovative solutions. These values are non-negotiable while skill gaps are absolutely negotiable. Additionally, we prioritize cultivating a consulting mindset among our staff. That’s what our government stakeholders need. This mindset, combined with a focus on continuous improvement, enables us to solve problems effectively for our government clients.

At VivSoft, we offer opportunities for career growth and development, irrespective of one’s technical background. We engage in mentoring, coaching and building individual relationships to understand each team member’s aspirations and provide support in achieving their goals. This proactive approach has led to a high retention rate.

Furthermore, we have heavily invested in an R&D department. Although we are primarily a services company, we have a productized services niche where we have developed new products that allow us to differentiate our value proposition in the GovCon space. Our R&D product teams prioritizes using human-centered design in the application of emerging technology against mission-based use cases. This deliberate investment has yielded significant successes, including winning our first SBIR award in December 2019. Our ability to rapidly prototype and co-create solutions with customers has been instrumental in building our credibility and securing new work, such as with Platform One, the enterprise DevSecOps division for the DOD.

In essence, our commitment to innovation, coupled with our customers’ willingness to collaborate, defines our approach. We welcome individuals who share our mindset and are eager to embrace new challenges and opportunities.

Talking AI, Company Culture & Differentiators With VivSoft CEO Navin Gunalan - top government contractors - best government contracting event

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