Top 100: SAIC takes 2017 momentum forward

The last year has been good to SAIC and the company's leaders see more opportunities to protect its business while expanding into new areas. Here's a look at how they are doing it.

At Science Applications International Corp., 2017 was simply a good year. It brought in $6.7 billion in net contract bookings – its strongest yet – and consolidated customer-facing organizations and market segments to home in on agility.

What’s more, SAIC experienced 2.5 percent organic revenue growth while also winning recompetes and 16 contract awards worth at least $100 million each, up from 11 such awards the year before. It’s also got a contract backlog of $10.2 billion, compared to $8 billion the previous year, and revenue of $4.5 billion, earning it the No.9 spot on the 2018 Washington Technology Top 100 list.

“First and foremost, we are a people-centric business and so I think our success is always directly related to the talents and the caliber and the work ethic and all the great attributes of our people,” said Nazzic Keene, SAIC’s chief operating officer.

The company’s Ingenuity 2025 strategy, which SAIC updated two years ago to drive strategic, cultural and financial changes in the long term, also contributed to its accomplishments last year, she added. “That really positions us as we go forward. Taking that strategy, it translates into the customers that we serve,” Keene said.

To better serve those customers, she restructured SAIC’s organization last year -- her first as COO -- into what she says are more cohesive teams. She consolidated customer-facing organizations into three groups from five, and seven service lines into three market segments. The idea was to align groups based on commonality, such as those focused on the Defense Department, Keene said, “ensuring that we have a really dynamic and agile organization so that we could be responsive to our changing customer demands,” Keene said.

These organizational changes translated into some leadership changes through new-hires and internal promotions. For instance, in SAIC hired former CSRA executive John Walsh to lead its IT Solutions market segment, effective April 30.

In addition to using Ingenuity 2025 as a guide, SAIC also breaks down its business approach into three parts: protect, expand and grow. Protect means protecting current business by winning recompetes -- something SAIC did to the tune of $1.4 billion. For example, the company has provided critical technologies to warfighters for 20-plus years, and the Army Software Engineering Directorate awarded SAIC a $980 million task order to field new technologies to warfighters and provide systems and computer resource engineering services. 

In the “expand” area, SAIC won a $620 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for mission support. That’s a change from the IT work that the company typically performs for federal civilian agencies, Keene said, which is important to SAIC’s goal of diversifying its portfolio.

“Making sure that we have a diversified portfolio in who we serve as well as what we do is important to us,” she said.

The “grow” aspect refers to finding opportunities to work with new customers. To that end, SAIC extended its cyber capabilities via a $93 million task order from U.S. Cyber Command, and its work in the health field with a $74 million task order to provide IT services to the Health and Human Services Department.

Future areas of opportunity include modernization, not just of IT, but also digital infrastructure, Keene said, adding that SAIC is also watching the space and missile defense, data analytics, and machine learning arenas. Overall, though, the government has a growing sense of urgency, particularly for bringing solutions to market quicker, and that’s something SAIC is well-suited to meet, she added.

“We really see that as a great opportunity for SAIC with our focus on technology integration, and that really is one of the underpinnings of our strategy, Ingenuity 2025,” she said. “In our position as a technology integrator, we’re in a great spot to be able to bring whether it’s commercial technologies or whether it’s our own technologies to bear to be able to solve some of those quickly.”

One challenge that SAIC is tackling relates to its biggest asset: its workforce. The company is setting up an innovation facility called the Technology Integration Gateway in Cookeville, Tenn., which has partnered with Tennessee Tech University there to bring in new talent and create new solutions.

“One of the [challenge] areas that we do see as we continue down this journey with our customer is just the access to talent,” Keene said. “SAIC is looking for great new ways to bring talented individuals to serve our customers.”

The culture of the company’s 15,000-person workforce is crucial to its success, she added. That’s why Workforce Development Teams help employees progress and develop in their careers, and the company established interest-based Business Resource Groups about a year ago to provide networking, mentoring and knowledge sharing opportunities, with the end goal of ensuring an inclusive and engaged workforce. The four groups are: military and veterans, millennials, women’s and the Equality Alliance.

“Our men and women are very aligned to their customers’ missions and overall aligned to supporting the mission of whatever agency or organization they support,” Keene said. “We’re a very collaborative culture. Part of it is just the nature of how we’re organized, and the nature and the spirit in which the leadership puts the priority.”

Looking to 2018, Keene is positive. For one, she said an increase in the number of requests for proposals and awards coming from the federal government could increase toward the end of its fiscal year as budgetary restrictions ease. But mostly she’s building on the energy from last year.

“One of the good things that happens with a successful year is the momentum it gives you going into a new year,” Keene said. “As we’re looking at driving new business and being able to bid [on] and win more work in our protect, expand and grow [business approach], that momentum is strong for us.”