Top 100: Accenture fuses commercial chops with government focus

Accenture applies lessons from its commercial business to capture what customers want today and where they are headed in the future.

The traditional business formula of meeting customers’ demands while anticipating what they’ll want next drives Accenture’s success in the federal marketplace. Additionally, applying best practices from its work with commercial clients to public-sector ones and offering end-to-end products and capabilities have kept this company growing.

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“When we talk about what it is that differentiates Accenture in the marketplace, we focus on three things,” said John Goodman, chief executive of Accenture Federal Services. “First, we bring end-to-end capability, operating from strategy through systems design and engineering all the way through the operations. We can help our clients wherever they are in their transformation journey in developing in their strategies and road maps and building the capabilities operating them.”

In fiscal 2018, the Dublin-based company had all-time high net revenues of $41.6 billion, up 14 percent from fiscal 2017, and delivered record new bookings of $42.8 billion.

For the Top 100, Accenture landed at No. 12 with $2.4 billion in prime contract obligation.

Accenture’s recent notable contract wins include a $2 billion blanket purchase agreement from the Energy Department to help modernize its IT and cybersecurity capabilities under the CIO Business Operations Support Services contract and a $577 million deal from the Education Department to revamp the Office of Federal Student Aid’s web portal to provide a single access point for all student financial aid services.

“It’s going to help students better manage their financial aid, and it is the first part of the transformation of the Federal Student Aid Program,” Goodman said.

It’s also an example of Accenture’s commitment to human-centered design. “We start focusing on what is the experience of the user and the customer, and we build our solutions capabilities around that,” he added.

Other wins include a spot on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s $2.5 billion ONE IT strategic sourcing vehicle, a $501.2 million award to build a new cloud solution for the Agriculture Department’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer and a $62 million deal to upgrade the Veterans Benefits Administration’s information technology infrastructure.

Accenture spent 2018 achieving synergies in the acquisitions it made in 2016 and 2017. For instance, Goodman said the company is now the leading provider of Salesforce to the federal government after its 2017 acquisition of Phase One Consulting Group, which specialized in federal modernization and digital transformation.

The addition of several cyber firms in the past two years increased the company’s offering in that area. Accenture expanded its Cyber Fusion Center in Arlington, Va., and opened the Accenture Federal Services Cyber Center in San Antonio, Texas, to provide cybersecurity capabilities on an as-a-service basis and other advanced solutions such as adversary simulation, orchestration and automation.

With an eye on the future, the company has made significant investments in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, cyber and digital platforms. In AI, the company is zeroing in on how the technology can be used to redesign government processes and rethink what’s possible, said Ira Entis, Accenture’s managing director for growth and strategy

“One of the most significant areas for growth is definitely around artificial intelligence,” Entis said. “While the technology’s adoption in much of the federal government is new, it’s already been pioneered in the commercial marketplace, so this is where that model of us taking the successes that we had in the commercial world and bringing them to our federal clients is key.”

Overall, the company has more than 1,000 people focused on AI, data science, data engineering and analytics, he said.

Still, a challenge is attracting top talent, especially as new technologies emerge. Goodman said Accenture is well positioned for hiring, however. “In this environment, we have advantages in acquiring talent for a couple of reasons,” he said. “First, our strategy is built around leading in these new technologies and incorporating these new technologies. We’re focused on and we’re winning exciting work that attracts talent. Second, the fact that we are connected to a 477,000-person global company means that our people have a broader set of potential career opportunities, and that’s very attractive as well.”

Looking ahead, Entis sees huge opportunity in helping federal agencies on their path to IT modernization. He likens the development to cloud’s progression.

“It includes the disruptive effect of artificial intelligence, it includes an increased focus on the experience of citizens, the experience of interacting with government, the experience of what it’s like to be a government employee, particularly as government workers are aging and so they’re trying to attract the next-generation workforce,” Entis said. “We see those as key continued growth levers for a number of years to come.”

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