Top 100: Deloitte's success tied to rising wave of transformation

Deloitte Consulting's public sector leaders see growing opportunities in the federal market as more agencies take on projects focused on modernization and transformation.

These are exciting times not only at Deloitte Consulting, but for the government contracting industry at large, says Dan Helfrich, a principal at the company who leads its federal government services unit.

“I believe we are at the early point of the most transformative time for technology modernization in the government in the last 50 years,” Helfrich said. “I think there will be more technology modernization that happens in the next five years than has happened in the last 15.”

At Deloitte specifically, he cites the fact that the firm didn’t even have federal customers as recently as 2000 and now its federal unit employs 8,000 workers. It also sits at a great vantage point to watch government agencies pursue information technology modernization efforts.

“The practice is a growing, vibrant practice that at its heart is trying to transform government, often through modern technology, and it’s a pretty exciting time for a variety of reasons because there’s so much change going on,” Helfrich said.

Dan Helfrich

Dan Helfrich, Deloitte Consulting

Deloitte holds the 20th spot on this year’s Top 100 list on $1.4 billion in prime federal contracts. Worldwide, the firm hit revenue of $36.8 billion for 2016 to represent 9.5-percent growth and the seventh straight year of growth for the company.

Helfrich attributes that success to the set of issues the firm identified as “the most complex and transformative, and therefore require the most in-depth expertise to solve.” Those issues include cybersecurity, shared services, technology modernization, digitization of citizen and customer experiences, and analytics to combat waste, fraud and abuse.

“That set of issues has generated a lot of great client interest, and it has generated a lot of new programs starting, old programs getting re-engineered, so at the end of the day, that leads to our own growth,” Helfrich said.

Deloitte’s emphasis on hiring and retaining top talent is another contributing factor to the company’s success, he added. Companywide, headcount grew by 72,000 new workers – or 8.5 percent -- to a global workforce total of 244,400.

In recent months, Helfrich has brought on former ASI Government CEO Kymm McCabe to focus on agile, digital and IT acquisitions; Dave Wennergren, formerly of the Defense Department, Navy and Professional Services Council, to shape future federal chief information officers; and Cynthia Vitters, former chief risk officer at the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid Risk Management Office, to bring fresh perspectives to enterprise risk management.

“It’s not about restructuring at all,” Helfrich said of the new hires. “It’s about expanding the set of issues we’re going to dive into in tandem with our government partners.”

He also touted Deloitte’s work with NASA on deploying automated process robotics, or bots – a topic that has brought about 68 client demonstrations and presentations in just six months, he said.

On point with Deloitte’s focus on innovation is the Center for Government Insights, which the company launched last September to test IT solutions with government agencies. One project playing out there is applying the idea of smart cities to military bases.

“We are calling them smart bases and talking about making bases the smartest cities and communities in the world,” Helfrich said. “It’s a great example of what I hope the Center for Government Insights can do on a wide variety of topics going forward.”

He sees industrywide growth potential in the fact that more commercial platforms are accessible to agencies, having been vetted for security and privacy before entering the federal market.

But more exciting to Helfrich is Deloitte’s June 6 acquisition of innoWake, a German-based company that can modernize old software code such as COBOL and Natural, helping agencies leapfrog to a web browser-based modern technology environment.

“That, I believe, when done right with the right partner is going to allow agencies that have been clinging to the importance of the mainframe to run the business of government to actually have a real path and a proven way to modernize out of that environment,” he said. “That’s never happened before. If and when we get the momentum I believe will happen, this industry will change fundamentally.”

Another industry change is shifting from being people-centric to incorporating more aspects.

“I think for so long the government contracting industry has been only about people – who are the best people, who are the most experienced people to bring to solve a government problem?” Helfrich said. “Now, I think it’s about people plus ideas plus assets plus technology plus data, and so that’s a fun marketplace.”

The challenge lies in finding the government organizations and employees who are open to such major change. “What you hope is that you time that and make those selections in the right way,” he said.

Although Helfrich puts more emphasis on other accomplishments, contract wins also played a role in Deloitte’s recent successes. For instance, it was one of five companies to win a $155.8 million contract in August 2016 to support the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s cyber program.

Looking ahead, he’s bullish about Deloitte in 2017.

“A disproportionate amount of our investment resources are going to go into non-people-related investments: assets, solutions, the configuration of platforms -- those kinds of things that when combined with people make a big difference,” he said. “I predict a high degree of change within the government contracting or government consulting industry, and absolutely I think that Deloitte thrives in times of big change.”

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