IBM's Prow keeps focus on customers and delivery

As the new managing partner of IBM’s Global Business Services Public Sector business, Charles “Chuck” Prow will oversee Big Blue’s services business in the U.S. federal, state, local, education and health care markets. 

He replaces John Nyland, who retired at the end of 2008. 

In an e-mail exchange with Washington Technology Editor Nick Wakeman, Prow described his goals and strategy.

Q: What are your responsibilities, and what do you need to do to be successful?

Prow: One of my most important responsibilities is to ensure that IBM consistently exceeds our clients’ expectations. My best days are working with those clients and our delivery teams to achieve performance milestones and positive outcomes.

The most important ingredient to our success is our ability to continually attract and retain top talent. Also, our approach to sharing IBM thinking with the broader government community is an important success factor. I’m particularly proud of IBM’s Center for the Business of Government, which continues to provide fresh and cutting-edge thought leadership on how the government can improve its processes and citizen services. This is a true differentiator for our organization.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Prow: At the moment, it’s helping our clients maintain a long-term view of the importance of their program missions while keeping a laser focus on budgets.

Our clients are expected to do more with less, so IBM must help them merchandise the enormous short and long-term value technology innovation and process improvement can deliver to their organizations.

All of our clients understand the importance of partnering with a best-in-class organization during these challenging times. To maintain our success, IBM must maintain its focus on continually improving the performance of our clients business and mission.

Q: You have steadily risen to higher levels of responsibility throughout your career. What was the best advice you received, and is that still good advice for someone starting his or her career today?

Prow: Professional growth means learning every day. It was true then and remains [true] today.

We expect most professionals now will have several distinct careers — not just employers, but careers — during their working years. This will push professionals to carefully manage their development, including constantly acquiring new skills, taking advantage of training and networking opportunities, and challenging yourself.

I encourage young professionals to be flexible and comfortable with change. The pace of globalization will continue to have an impact in ways that individuals need to better understand and embrace.

Flexibility may translate into where you physically work, office environments and cultural differences, and new business models. The ability to view these changes through an optimistic lens will help ensure young professionals can turn every experience into a unique and valuable professional opportunity.

Q: What is the most important thing that IBM or any large prime contractor can do for their customers in today’s market and economic conditions?

Prow: Consistently deliver value and innovation so that agencies can improve the effectiveness of their mission. The president and his team have been clear that speed and transparency are priorities. IBM has some unparalleled technologies and services that clients can leverage to achieve this.

For example, financial management dashboards to track economic recovery spending and collaboration tools to share information across agencies and among citizens are just two important areas where we can help customers.

IBM will continue to draw on our expertise in software and technology, as well as 3,000 researchers; 1,500 engineers; and more than 60,000 experts in areas such as business modernization, dynamic and secure infrastructure, business intelligence, and energy and green practices. These capabilities make IBM a trusted partner in the government contracting community, and one that can be depended on to deliver results in challenging economic times.

Q: How will contractors help the new administration deliver on its commitment to improve the nation’s infrastructure and economic competitiveness?

Prow: For IBM’s part, we were asked [by the White House] to provide recommendations on 21st-century economic growth to the new administration.

In January, IBM’s chairman shared his views, the key message being the country needs high-impact stimulus programs that address future needs and national competitiveness.

So as we repair the national physical infrastructure, we need to also prepare and build out the digital infrastructure to help transform and modernize.

The economic recovery programs that are under way represent a significant opportunity for IBM to continue our work with federal, state and local clients. Transportation, water, power and utilities, education, telecommunications, and health care are all areas in need of "smarter" technology. IBM is working in each, helping government organizations transform the way citizens receive and use these services.

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